Resume and Eulogy Virtues

Last week I quoted New York Times columnist David Brooks’ philosophy in which he distinguished resume virtues from eulogy ones.

Résumé virtues are what people bring to the marketplace: Are they clever, devoted, and ambitious employees? Eulogy virtues are what they bring to relationships not governed by the market: Are they kind, honest, and faithful partners and friends?

This past weekend I received a copy of a funeral message from a friend I have known since college. His wife of 28 years had died in January.  She had been chronically ill their entire marriage–some of the times were good, but others in and out of hospital.

He celebrated her spirit with these words:

She was the most selfless person I have ever known. I really believe she hung onto life all these years for us, and I hope the rest of my life will be worthy of her sacrifice, because it was not easy for her to stay with us. She gave her life for her friends and family.

Organizations Do Not Have Souls

In the life witness of Jan Karski which I described last week, I quoted his observation that “Governments do not have souls. Only people do.”  I believe his words are applicable to any organization not just “governments” which was the focus of Karski’s anti-Nazi Polish underground activities.

Doing the right thing is sometimes very hard.   Especially when one’s views set them apart from the prevailing practice or beliefs of the organizations in which they work or are members.

Puritan John Winthrop in this lecture (A Model of Christian Charity) prior to sailing for the new world, warned his fellow Puritans that their new community would be “as a city upon a hill, the eyes of all people are upon us”, meaning, if the Puritans failed to uphold their covenant with God, then their sins and errors would be exposed for all the world to see.

That biblical reference of “a city upon a hill” has been later used by four Presidents to describe their vision for America.

Cooperatives were endowed with the hope of being  “a city on the hill” in a country where individuals were often taken advantage of by the prevailing economic system. That system still exists today.

What the above examples suggest is that credit union design is not what makes the difference.  Rather it is the quality of leaders chosen to continue a firm’s legacy.

Being in the minority, such as living at the boundary between health and illness in the circumstance referred to in the funeral, is never easy.  But examples of resolution and spirit should remind us of the aspirations of our own better selves.




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