Sometimes it’s so easy to get lost in the mess of life and forget how blessed you are. I turned 50 today and for the most part I just thought of it as another day. Then my daughter did something so special I was reminded of what life is all about. My daughter loves acting and the visual arts. She makes short films that are often humorous and highlight her acting skills. For my birthday she decided to make a short film of people in my life recalling stories about me and wishing me a happy birthday. I watched the film she made and I cried like a baby. Over the past week all I could think about is how at 50 years of age I seem to have had little impact in any one area of my career and the future didn’t look like it was going to offer me much more. I was feeling trapped, unimportant, and like I really haven’t accomplished much in my life. Then, I watched her video.
In the video my children, my wife, my good friends, and some of the best people I’ve ever worked with wished me a happy birthday and said some of the kindest things about me I ever heard. It reminded me how much I love them all. More than that however, I was reminded what really matters in a person’s life. It doesn’t matter who reads my work, who hears me speak, and who rewards me for what I’ve accomplished. When I die my tombstone will look like a myriad of other tombstones and I’m actually okay with that. Let the tombstone reflect I was nothing more than another human being who walked the earth for his allotted period of time. What mattered most is that I walked it in a way people felt blessed I was part of their lives. I walked with them as someone who cared about them not as someone who thought he could do something great for them, impress them, or make them better people. What mattered most is they knew I cared for them and valued them as fellow sojourners in this journey of life.
After living fifty years I can say with some confidence what matters most is that I’m choosing to love the people God places in my life. The video reminded me what people most like about who I am is I care enough to be with them, share my life with them, and love them. I can’t thank each and everyone of them enough for simply pointing out this is what matters most. It’s not what a man or woman does or builds that matters most in this life it’s how frequently one chooses to show others how much they’re loved. I now know in my heart what St Paul meant when he wrote, “When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.”
I pray the Lord continues to teach me to love first and foremost above everything else. If all that’s ever written on my tombstone is “Here are the remains of Dominick Hankle, a man who truly tried to love all those he met.” I will have fulfilled the vocation God gave me. I pray all of you reading this will go home, embrace those in your life, and just love them. And if I have in some way ever not loved you, forgive me and let me do so now. Perhaps if we all choose to love one another we can change the world.