Most of us know where we want to end up in life. In addition to success and happiness, we want to be respected and admired. But not simply respected for what we’ve accomplished or how talented we are, but for what kind of person we have become. No one, after all, hopes to be seen as a villain—brilliant but mean.
Yet somehow we tell ourselves that the time for that is off in the future. Today, we have to focus on the accomplishment to the exclusion of other things. There’s plenty of time for generosity and goodness, those can come later.
In Philip Larkin’s poem, “The Mower,” he tells the story of accidentally killing a hedgehog in his yard. He’d seen the animal before, but not appreciated it, thinking it would be around forever. He gets to the essence of the problem with this perspective on life in the poem’s last lines:
“Of each other, we should be kind
While there is still time.”
Yes. Kind. Now. Not later. Today.
As Seneca said, wherever there is a person there is an opportunity for kindness. You don’t need to wait until you’re a millionaire to be generous or to spare a minute to give back. No one prefers that you be selfish now but selfless later. Don’t wait. Earn the reputation you want to be known for later in life.
Be good now. Be kind now. Help others now. While there is still time.
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