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Resumé vs Eulogy

It happened one morning last week. Well, they all did actually, but that particular event was the saddest of all, which was totally unexpected. Life can throw curveballs sometimes!

The week started with an afternoon memorial service for Uncle Murray. He was my uncle by marriage and not someone I knew well growing up. I lived in Jamaica and he and my aunt lived in Ottawa. I’ve come to know them a bit in the past few years as I’ve lived in Ottawa on and off since 2011. They, however, can tell me stories of when I was younger from both their visits to Jamaica or our family vacations to Canada. A number of their friends I met at the service this week also ‘knew’ me and said, ‘You were a baby the last time I saw you!’

Both friends and colleagues of Uncle Murray attended the service. As I listened to them speak I was reminded of the book The Road to Character. It was all about our resumé virtues versus our eulogy virtues.

At the service we heard all of the resumé virtues of Uncle Murray’s work in public service – the work he had done in the community, the projects he helped bring to life, and the legacy many of those projects have left behind. We also heard of his eulogy virtues including: what a great mentor he was; how he loved to help those coming up behind him; and how compassionate and giving he was.

It got my brain percolating, wondering, could you separate the two types of virtues in living a life? I don’t think so. The eulogy virtues need an avenue through which to show up, they are at the core of your being. Kindness, for example, doesn’t show up unless you do something. Neither does compassion, dignity, or integrity. What you do in the world, the work you choose, is enhanced by the eulogy virtues you express. They come from within though you can practice and develop them over time.

The resumé virtues - the achievements, fame, or status – comes from how you use your gifts in the world, by sharing your creativity and passion, in whatever field you choose. But I think it will be a miserable existence, a real dead end job, if you don't use those eulogy virtues at the same time. Kindness, compassion, joy, and love in the workplace, toward your colleagues and clients, make a job much more than a job – it becomes a way of bringing meaning not only to your life, but also to those around you and the world at large.

This brings me back to something else I’ve talked about in previous posts – how you do anything, is how you do everything – because I believe that how you are at work should be how you are at home. I believe to truly be at peace in your life those virtues you cultivate in one area should be showing up in all areas of your life. How can you be a compassionate, respectful person, with friends and family at home, and not be that way at work? It would mean that you would have double the work to maintain two people in your one body!

And that leads me to the saddest event late that week. It was early one morning and I was in a food court in an Ottawa mall. I had a cup of tea and wanted to throw out the tea bag. For the life of me I could not find a garbage container but I saw a lady (obviously staff) clearing away some plates so I asked her where to find one. She looked up at me from the counter, glared really, but said nothing. I waited a beat. Another beat. Nothing. She just glared. As I turned to walk away she shoved an empty cup my way telling me to put the tea bag in it. I did, thanked her, and left. Her facial expression never changed. How sad if this is how her days go on a regular basis. How sad for the people who live and work around her. I hope I just caught her at a bad moment.

A memorial service, like the one for Uncle Murray, is always for those left behind. It gives us a chance to say goodbye, and an opportunity to consider how our own lives are going. We ask ourselves things like, ‘Am I happy?’ or ‘I may have X number of years left, is this how I want to spend them?’ Meeting that lady in the mall was another opportunity to ask again from a work perspective – “Do I like what I’m doing?”

Thought about the balance of those resumé and eulogy virtues in your life lately?

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