Do we have a moral obligation to live well, and to present our best selves? Yep, I think we do.
I think we have a duty to choose grown-up words, to communicate responsibly, and to think about the optics of our actions. I think telling somebody how wrong they are is pointless, and criticism should be given kindly with the end goal of helping. I think what we do and say matters. And I believe that going through life without these things is, at best, a zero sum game – not making things better, not making things worse. Is that really what we want our legacy to be?
I’ve always felt that any thinking, capable person, in which category I generously include myself, has something to do with setting an example in whatever they do, since you never know who might be imitating your actions, good or bad.
My life has been shaped in many ways by people I have never met and whose names I will never know. Watching someone take the time to help a stranger. Seeing people being spoken to with kindness, when being otherwise would have been much easier. Elegant, put-together women I’ve observed in common places.
I’m sometimes struck by the overwhelming ability to influence each one of us has, if we just rise to the occasion. It used to be that only the recognized and scholarly possessed a broad platform to air their well-thought-out opinions. Now, anyone with a username and password has the power to influence, good or bad. We comment, post, and tweet, and forward memes which ridicule whole swaths of population, too often followed by the puerile disclaimer “I don’t care what anyone thinks about me.” Sorry, it’s irresponsible.
I’ve never had the luxury of feeling like I didn’t need to set an example. I’m not sure where that came from – certainly it wasn’t out of any sense of nobles oblige. My family would have had to stretch to aspire to “lower middle class.” Maybe that made me work a little harder, to prove that I wasn’t a product of my upbringing.
The real juice in life is living intentionally, choosing and pursuing goals, and inspiring others to do the same. How many people go through a day, a week, or even a lifetime with no goal, no objective, no dragon to slay or obstacle to overcome? Where’s the fun in that?
Small things matter. Things like being industrious. Praising someone for doing something right. Holding the door for someone. Not ignoring, the “ordinary” person you pass on the street. Making an effort to show up put-together in public, out of respect for yourself and those around you, and practicing good manners.
My husband and I have a policy, sort of a family creed, that we try to follow in any tough situation, and it is simply “just do what’s right.” Deep down, we always know what the right thing is, right? It may not be the easiest thing, it may not be what we want to do, and sometimes it’s a real bitch. But it cuts through any indecision, and best of all, there’s no regrets.
This, by Ralph Waldo Emerson, sums it up pretty well –
What is Success?
To laugh often and much;
To win the respect of intelligent people
and the affection of children;
To earn the appreciation of honest critics
and endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty;
To find the best in others;
To leave the world a bit better, whether by
a healthy child, a garden patch
or a redeemed social condition;
To know even one life has breathed
easier because you have lived;
This is to have succeeded.
What was the last thing that inspired you? Maybe it was a Facebook video of someone giving help to a stranger, or doing something kind for an animal or a child. Maybe it was a character in a movie who overcame unbeatable odds to succeed at something, or a teacher inspiring his students. Or maybe it was just someone putting some real effort into their job or life.
Do you realize how much influence you have over people? As much as anybody.
Now go forth and do something good!
Love it Kelley joone as always! Thank you!
Thank you Koko joone!
Beautifully said Kelley!
What a wonderful post. So well stated and inspiring. Thank you for sharing.
Thank you Judy!
You are a beautiful writer and a beautiful person…your story particularly resonates with me because my family too —well , I knew there was a bigger world and a life out there! A life expereince that I had not been exposed to — and was determined, on my own , to find the people and ideas I admired …and create a life that had nothing to do with my childhood environment. I have cherished the journey as I keep learning and living and fashioning a more ideal scene across the many aspect of life. Your blog always speaks to me —thank you for creating this and inspiring me and so many ( I am always promoting your blog as it shoule be a Viral Sensation as –you ARE making the world a better place ! ) Now I am going to share this on my FB ! ;-). Here’s to a million followers ( and that is just the first goal —may you have MANY MILLIONS !)
Bless you Christopher! Thank you so much for the kind words.
An elegant and eloquent post! I hope many read this as they will learn a lot!!
Thank you Lee! I hope they do too!!
I really loved reading your communication from your heart Kelley. Full of truth, love and inspiration. It packs a punch all at the same time & opens one’s eyes and mind. Made me smile and get lots of ideas on more ways to help others. Thank you and I agree with all you say!!! I also adore the quote my Ralph Waldo. Thank you for sharing. Hugs & kisses.
So glad you enjoyed it Barbie! Thank you so much!
I am her husband, and as an artist I tend to be critical about art, . Yet Kelley’s intelligence, wit, and decency seduce me again and again. I am an unabashed fan.
Kelley, I sent your link to my FB page with this message: “I’ve known Kelley for decades, but really, only as an acquaintance. She has, as many do now, been revealing herself, her values, intelligence and wit through a blog, a website and a book that you may also find delightful. Today, however, I want to share a link to her blog post: “Aspire to inspire, an elevated life.”
Here it is. Let her know what you think and copy me! Thanks”
And then I added: “In my best friendships, we share life realizations together. With blogs, you can get beneath the surface of social intercourse and get right to the heart of the matter. That’s why I am sharing favorite blogs from now on, to invite people to expand their hearts!”
So, this blog inspired me to create my blog in a more whole-hearted way. I put out a newspaper column a few years back–a column every two weeks for two years. Those were essentially blog posts. They aspired to inspire! The column was entitled “Tell me Your story” Anyway, I want to turn some of those into blogs and do a website and the whole bit. So thank you for adding your lit matches to the fire under my blog writing! Another thing, I love the Thoreau quote. Whenever I go home to the East Coast, especially to my Brother’s house in Wayland, Mass, I trek to his place, walk around that lake (pond)… even sometimes in the rain. So thank you for choosing that quote.
The beauty of your soul (well, of you, actually!) shines through this blog, especially. I love the self-disclosure and vulnerability. Thanks, again.
Thank you so much for your kind words and for sharing my blog! I remember so well working with you years back on a short film you were directing, you were so patient and professional and fun to work with. Hope our paths cross again soon XOXO
Kelley so well written and so very true. Every time I turn on my computer I see where someone is trashing someone – if it isn’t some famous person trashing someone or vice versa. I have never “raised” my eyebrows more than I have in the last few years. I really don’t know what to think – but there are a lot of angry people. I really appreciate what you said and it is a great reminder that we should all put away the hate and criticism and show love, respect and understanding. Thank you for giving us this bit of self reflection so we can move forward – we “all” can do better. It would be great if your message reached more and more people.
Amen and Bravo for saying it.