November 19. “Make the most of yourself, for that is all there is of you.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)
Back in the 1980s there was a series of commercials for the US Army, with the tag line “Be all that you can be.” These commercials featured young men and women who were finding their fulfillment through the service of their country. Judging by how long those commercials aired, the campaign must have been successful at getting people to sign up to military service. Basically they were telling the young recruits to sign up so that the Army could make them into “all that they could be”. I am sure for many that worked well, and there is a generation of veterans who were inspired to join and found great success. In today’s quote, written more than 100 years before that ad campaign, Emerson is encouraging all of us to make the most of ourselves.
In life, whether we are inspired to do so by someone else, or we start with the ember burning within ourselves, we ultimately are all responsible for making the most of ourselves. Truth be told, none of us can be shaped into all that we can be by the hands of another. To truly make the most of ourselves, we must be committed to the process, we must be the ones who form the clay. Others may guide us in the path, but unless we are bought in we will never, truly find our own fulfillment.
As a parent I am keenly aware of this concept. My wife and I have, over the past 31 years, done our best to help shape and mold the young lives of our children. We taught them how to act, we modeled behaviors for them, and we encouraged and corrected them along the way. But none of them are exact copies of us. All of them have their own, unique characteristics. Each of them has become their own person, and has made the most of themselves. My wife and I both experience a lot of joy at the idea that when they come to visit we are truly in the presence of unique and wonderful individuals.
Each of us is dealt a different hand in life. But, unlike draw poker, we don’t get to pick off cards and shuffle them back to the deck. Our lot in life is to play the cards we are dealt, and to make the very best of our lives. And, no one else gets to tell you how to play those cards. You might find guidance or encouragement from others, but it is ultimately your hand that is played by you.
Today my reflection is on the beauty that is found in the uniqueness of us all. Today I am marveling at the beautiful tapestry of people in my life, all of whom have made themselves into the wonderful individuals that the world sees.