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Monday, January 20, 2014

Words to Live By 10: The Aim

by Seattle Jon:

Words to Live By is a series featuring short selections by eminent men and women from the mid-twentieth century. Originally published in This Week magazine, the selections represent a mosaic of what people were thinking and feeling in challenging times. Previous Words to Live By here.

The Aim
by George N. Shuster (Noted Educator, Notre Dame University)

"As for myself, I want to do my work well ... and to die well." - Unknown French Girl

In 1919, I lived in Poitiers as a student in a room looking out on the old street up which Jeanne d'Arc had come to see the Dauphin. Like many a soldier just out of the trenches, I thought of the place I had to make for myself in the world rather than of how I would go about it or why. early one morning I overheard two girls talking on their way to work. "As for myself," I heard one say, "I want to do my work well ... and to die well."

"To want to do one's work well." When you really want to do something well, whatever it may be, you can laugh, sing, drink a toast to life.

But that is only part of it; now think of the business of living as ending with a balance sheet to be looked at when the business is over. Mortality's best prelude to immortality would be to find nothing in life of which one had to be terribly ashamed: to be sure no other human being could justly say you had ruined his spirit or grossly betrayed his trust, and even to be able to say that enemies had not been hated. In the conversation of the two French girls I found the conviction that life must retain a quality only the word holiness can describe. And I began to think of what my story would read like at the end.

I had not managed as well as the French girl doubtless did. Even so, it has been increasingly evident that our human society prospers only when there are many who see life as she did. Her sermon was brief, but it still seems to me the best I have ever heard.

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