Earlier this summer, I visited my parents in South Dakota. We usually go out to the farm and visit relatives along the way. Visiting our mostly vacant farm still stirs an emotion of what was once there and what remains in our hearts.
Part of our tour took us to the graveyard in Bowdle, visiting where my grandparents are buried and my Mom’s sister and family. We went on to Java to also visit where my great grandparents are buried. Family tours sometimes take on the living and the dead. They are good reminders to the work done before us and the life stage set for where we are today.
Time passes quickly, and we need to determine what a life well lived means. We get cluttered up and miss the simplicity of what may really matter most.
Between Bowdle and Java, a flowing prairie offers an expansive, timeless view. A hundred years ago, there were many more farms dotting the landscape. Time has consolidated.
A Life Time
During this past week, we discussed life themes and the mix of happiness and meaning. Important topics to think through and ones that are better to think about earlier rather than later.
Times have changed. I doubt my great grandparents thought much about a life theme or meaning back then. Their focus was centered on raising a family, working the land, and sharing with a community. A simpler time.
Working on a farm connected a lot together into one large bale of life. Many strands rolled together — work, family, community, and life. Today, our lives happen in compartments. We treat life as drawers in a chest, pulling one out and then another. We open our work drawer, close it, and then open our family drawer.
Life was meant to be connected.
Two Principles for Life
In looking at the St. Paul Lutheran cemetery in the middle of flatness, it brings to life these two simple principles:
- What you do in your present matters.
- What you pass forward matters.
If we keep these two life principles in mind, we will do just fine.
On farms, people are present. Family is always there; we eat and play together. Work is present, daily chores to do. Making things better is present. Solving problems happens daily, fixing things broken.
And then there is what is passed forward. For farmers, putting in a good day’s work, keeping your family involved, and giving back to the land and community are all things passed forward. Building a foundation for the next generation to take forward and do the same just happens naturally.
For farmers, it is a plant-harvest life cycle. The horizon is the future, and the future is what they work toward through their family and community. Growth happens in much more than just crops; future generations are grown.
We need to be fully present in where we live, and we need to do and say things others will pull forward in a positive way. And the next generation up needs to continue to build and embrace the two simple principles of a live well lived.
A Life Well Lived
Stripping away all the clutter to our thoughts and actions bares the core to nurture and grow.
Being present translates into many things, depending on what your “present” looks and feels like. At the core, family, friends, and community are right in front and demand us to do more than pass by. The responsibility is to listen, engage, dig-in, plant, harvest, laugh, cry, act. Our responsibility is a mix of emotions and work and play. Being present matters.
What we pass forward contains a mix. There are tangible things like wealth, land, and whatever possessions we have. The bigger impact items are traits and examples. Words carry forward, spoken and unspoken. Actions, done and undone, echo. Our mission should be to pass forward far more good things than bad. Otherwise, the next in line will spend most of their time trying to re-live the past, getting bogged down in what should or could have been. What you pass forward matters.
A Life Library
As I looked across that cemetery on the prairie, I didn’t see what ended. Instead I saw what had been done to enable me to stand there now. I didn’t see blocks of stone with names on each. Instead I saw books with deep, meaningful stories and sacrifices lived.
Was there pain present in their day? Yes. Were there laughs and moments of joy? Of course. Was hard work done? Every day. Each were present in the circumstances that came their way, and most worked through them in the best way possible.
Cemeteries are where stories continue. I didn’t visit a cemetery. What I visited was a library. Across that prairie, I saw books lined up on a shelf. Each contains a story of a life lived. Embedded in us is a part of that story. We learn, understand, and then continue to develop it. Now it is our turn to be fully present and work to pass forward things that matter for the next. It is our time to simply live our life well.
What simple life principles keep you centered to live well?
Join the Conversation
Two Principles for A Life Well Lived
When the same theme keeps popping up, I know life is trying to message me. Your two principles for life has a kindred voice in Rob Poindexter’s “50 Years Worth of Lessons” at careertrend.net.
Your two life principles: (1) What you do in your present matters. (2) What you pass forward matters.
Rob’s Lesson 22: People teach what they themselves have been taught. This is an awesome responsibility. Taken too lightly, the effects can leave a society in ruins.
If you both don’t know each other, hope you’ll get a chance to “meet” at least in the digital world.
Enjoyed your post, Jon!
Thank you, Jackie, for the article and the connection to Rob. His lesson 22 is spot on and it is an awesome responsibility. Thank you for your feedback and comment. Very grateful! Jon
A lovely post, and I especially like your concluding paragraph. Live in the moment. Create your own path and leave a trail should others wish to use it. Cheers! Kaarina
Thanks, Kaarina. Appreciate your comment and feedback. You exemplify community and good paths to follow. Thank you. Jon
Jon, Such a powerful post. Sounds like a really meaningful way to spend a vacation. I am such a believer in living deliberately. It takes times like you share here… to slow down enough to consider how you want to live.
Slowing down to consider how you want to live… great advice and point, Karin. Thank you! Jon
Loved hearing about your visit home and all the emotions and feelings that the journey evoked in you!
I can still hear the words from my father who passed away a decade ago but still guide me. He would say: “Never be afraid of dealing with people, no matter who they are” or “Life is a game so have fun no matter what you are doing.”
The legacy we leave will hopefully empower our children and friends and colleagues to be their best, take on the big things and enjoy the road they choose to travel.
Terri, Thank you for sharing those two guiding words from your father. Those are essential words to remember and live, showing the wisdom for you to carry forward. What others pull forward in a positive way is the best legacy we can leave. Thank you! Jon
So appreciate that you shared this very personal journey, Jon. Being present for my grandparents, like yours, probably wasn’t a struggle but a way of life.
When we moved from the USA to Australia, I was excited to have less and let go of so much stuff (I admit, much of it is in storage). Still, my husband and I are investing in creating memories with no laptops, no email, no texting… just our family. It’s sad that today we need to make intentional choices to connect and create a family legacy… it doesn’t always happen in the flow of a too busy life.
I come to your blog not only because I learn so much but because it gives me a moment to pause and reflect too. Thanks, Jon!
Great point, Alli. Maybe we spend too much trying too hard and should just make the most of the time together… Focusing on the experiences fully will make the difference and sounds like you are doing that very well.
Really appreciate your feedback and comments! Always grateful for our conversations through our blogs. Makes it all worthwhile! Thank you. Jon
I know I sound like a broken record by now, but this is another beautiful post Jon. : )
What simple life principles keep you centered to live well?
Honesty is a very important principle in my life. Although I still stumble over occasions where I have difficult expressing honesty in the most appropriate way or feel like honesty is not wanted at certain times. Yet it is still my guiding ‘star principle’ in life.
Another guiding principle stems from the loss of my husband nearly a decade ago now. I do my best to not take those I love and care about for granted. I know what it means now to not want to go to bed angry without resolving things. None of us are guaranteed a tomorrow. Only the hope that tomorrow will be granted to us to have another day to spend with those we love.
This has been even more deeply ingrained by the loss of my next door neighbor this week. Her daughter (just graduated from high school in the last year or 2) found her dead… We wound up being related by marriage, my neighbor and I. My mother-in-law married her uncle. He passed away about 3 yrs ago now.
I just spoke with my neighbor not too long ago when we saw each other outside. It was then she told me the passing of her own mother and we talked about fitness and getting in shape and I even sent her an email that night!
There was nothing out of the ‘ordinary’ although I knew she had been suffering off and on from depression for years.
I’m struggling with a mix of feelings right now. Sifting through past interactions for signs that I ‘should’ have picked up on. I could have easily spent more time with her had I known she wanted it or needed it. Occasionally, I’ve asked her in the past to go on walks and little things, but didn’t want to overstep comfort levels or anything.
Right now I feel like somehow, we need to make it easier for people to tell the truth. I wonder ‘why’ my neighbor couldn’t tell me the truth. Or if it just didn’t matter.
Jon, this was someone who lived right next door. Not in another part of the world…another country.
We all have loved ones, family members, friends, and neighbors within our spheres of influence that we have to learn to live in the NOW for….and we need to learn how to stay present in the REAL world even as we navigate ‘cyber’ space to connect with others who aren’t ‘here’ or to interact for business.
We can’t forsake our REAL worlds and the real people around us.
More on your ‘story’ now…I loved reading a little about your own life. How close is all of that from Rapid City? I spent about 4 years living in a small town in Wyoming and I actually traveled with some friends to Rapid City to see Rick Springfield in concert back in the day! (early 80’s!) So we were neighbors and didn’t even know it! : )
Samantha, Thank you for your sharing your story and principles. Honesty and caring for those nearby are key principles to living your life well. Sorry to hear about the loss of your neighbor. During these times, we always wonder if we could have done more but, at times, we did do all that we could. It takes two to make a good connection and to take a give-and-take, caring relationships to the next level. Caring for the people next door in our community is essential, and you seem to do that in the same way you do in social circles. Keep doing these things!
Rapid City is about 6 hours from where I grew up. We spend many summer family vacations in the Black Hills though. It is a beautiful area.
Grateful for your insights and sharing your life principles. I know they will guide you through the challenging times as well. Take care, Jon
Thank you so much for your timely words Jon. I needed to hear them right now! : )
Especially the part you said here:
‘It takes two to make a good connection and to take a give-and-take, caring relationships to the next level.’
It’s an important reminder. None of us can push a rope nor is it a good idea to try to force things with people. I know in my heart I tried to listen and look for receptivity in my interactions with her and if she didn’t want to engage any further then the relationship we had, I respected that. And since she had the same ‘mannerisms’ for the entire time I knew her, there was not some huge red flag to me that things were progressively worse for her internally. There was just no real way for me to know that without her actually telling me about it since we didn’t spend huge amounts of time together as neighbors.
Thanks again for the kind words and reminders during this difficult time Jon. I appreciate it.
You’re welcome, Samantha. Sharing your experiences helps others to understand of making real connections in life. Jon