Gift from My Godfather
By Veronika (Ronnie) Noize
My godparents have always been very generous with me. Over the years, they've given me many gifts, from my first bible at my baptism to the purple velvet gloves they gave me for my birthday this year.
But in addition to these welcome and appreciated presents, they gave freely and generously of less tangible gifts, too--love, support, and encouragement, to name a few.
My godfather died unexpectedly last week, and in the sad days that followed, I often thought of the gift he gave me that changed my life, and that I will treasure always.
Everyone who knew my godfather Wayne knew him to be a good man--a man of integrity, honor and faith. Since I had known him all my life, as a child I never realized how special he was. But as I grew up, I came to realize how rare a man he was--and how special.
He wasn't a man of words, like my father. At family gatherings, my Dad would be the guy telling the funny story, and my godfather Wayne would be the guy chuckling. No, he wasn't the life of the party, but he had my respect for the way he lived his life, and the respect of his many friends and acquaintances.
Not being much of a talker, Wayne was a very good listener. One day many years ago at some family get-together, I found myself in the buffet line next to Wayne. He asked me how I was, and like the self-absorbed young wart I was in my youth, I began filling him in on all the fascinating (to me at least) details of my life.
He nodded and smiled, and asked good questions as I chattered on and on throughout our meal. By the time our plates were empty, I had just (rather exhaustively I am ashamed to admit) described a particularly bothersome problem I was facing, and had explained at some length exactly what I thought my options were.
At the conclusion of what must have been an excruciatingly dull peroration, I asked my godfather what he thought, and if I should go with plan A or B to resolve this issue.
He looked at me for a moment, and his face took on a thoughtful aspect. I could tell that he was giving my question serious consideration, and I was flattered that he would do so. I was looking forward to some good advice, and I certainly got it.
Not that I thought the advice was going to be a big deal. I had given him a choice of two very good possible methods of resolution, in effect providing the answer already, and all he had to do was decide which was the better option. I felt like I had already done the hard work of developing the options, and that he was getting the relatively easy task of making the choice. But I respected his opinion, and felt perfectly comfortable accepting whatever advice he gave.
After thinking for a few moments, he looked at me and said gently, "I think you should do your best."
"Do my best? Well, yes, of course," I said, a little impatiently. "But which should I do?"
He looked me straight in the eye, and said very clearly yet quietly, carefully enunciating each word as if there might be room for confusion about what he was saying, "I think you should just do your best."
A bit nonplussed, I somehow managed to thank him, and with a nod and a warm smile, he was off to do some more damage to the buffet table.
Do my best, I thought. What kind of advice is that?
For a few minutes I felt cheated. I had asked for advice, and had been quite specific about my options, and here my beloved godfather offered only the most hackneyed bromide imaginable.
Didn't he hear me? Wasn't he listening?
And then it hit me. Did I hear him? Was I listening to what he had to say? And then I thought, what if he were right?
What if those two options were not my only options? What would it look like if I did my best in the situation?
With a pang of embarrassment, I realized that my best certainly wouldn't look like either of the options I had planned out.
Over the next few days, I thought about his advice often, realizing that my best was probably a variable thing; it might not be as good as someone else's, and it might not even be what I might want to do, but to do less than my best was to cheat myself, not to mention the others in my life for whom my actions and decisions might have consequences.
Doing my best meant doing what I knew to be right, at whatever time, with whatever tools and in whatever circumstances there might be.
It was at that point I realized that my godfather's advice was really good advice. Not that others hadn't told me to do my best throughout my life, but somehow at that moment and in that situation, the reality of what that phrase truly meant became clear to me, and it is a moment I've never forgotten.
Over the years since then, I've used my best as my personal yardstick. I've found that although I might be disappointed because my best wasn't good enough, I could always be proud of what I had done.
But when I didn't do my best, even if I achieved my goal, I still felt that I had let at least myself down, if not others. I do my best with what I have, and if I fail to achieve whatever it is I've worked for, at least I know I've done what I could.
Of course there are times when I don't do my best, but I'm working on that daily (doing my best!). And for the past 46 years I've had some excellent role models to emulate, including my godfather Wayne.
As the guiding principle of my adult life, doing my best has served me well, and I am forever grateful to my godfather for giving me that precious gift in his quiet, gentle way.
I did not realize at the time what a gift it was, but today I understand that it is one of the most important gifts I have ever received.
And now that my godfather is gone, the best I can do to honor his gift to me is to share it with others, through my own example, and through the support and gentle encouragement that I can give others.
It might not be much, but it will definitely be my best.
Gift from My Godfather © 2003 Veronika Noize. All rights reserved.