I attended two funerals this week for two extraordinary men. Tony King was my kid's guidance counselor and a former colleague when I was teaching. He was my age and died unexpectedly and too soon. Fr. Charles Sheehy epitomized the best of the "Greatest Generation." He had been ill for a while and his passing was sad, but lacked the sudden, shocked gasp emitted when anyone heard the news about Tony.
I found myself thinking about these two special men and how alike they were. I don't know if they ever met despite the fact that they both worked in the same community - but I am sure they would have liked and admired each other. Both were quiet and thoughtful listeners. They shared a strong, religious faith that guided them in their everyday lives. Whenever you spoke with either, you knew that you had their complete attention. They were men of purpose and you knew you could rely on them. Neither spent any time on the negatives but focused on what could be done and what needed doing. Of Irish ancestry, each had ready smiles and a sparkle in their eyes.
Both spent their lives in service to others. Fr. Sheehy ministering to the spiritual needs of his flock and Tony helping teenagers successfully navigate the stormy passage from adolescence to adulthood. Neither chose his career to accumulate wealth or power. It was giving that marked both men - not getting. Both lived to serve others and make the world they lived in a little better - quietly, gently and without calling attention to themselves. Both chose occupations that many today would eschew - preferring vocations with more prestige, excitement and earning potential than teaching or the priesthood.
I travel around the country conducting ethics training for financial advisers. I teach them to place their clients' interest first and to always do what is best for the client no matter the cost to themselves. That is the way Tony King and Fr. Sheehy were with everyone.
I also spend a lot of my time talking to clients about accumulating assets and managing investments. This focus on financial success may blind us to achievements like those exemplified by the two men who passed this week. While neither earned a high monetary reward for their labors, what they lacked in cash compensation they earned in the respect of everyone who knew them. The value of their lives of service cannot be measured like ROI or Alpha but, without doubt, my family and my community are their beneficiaries.