Lesson From A Traitor: Happiness and Doing Good

“An idle life in my present circumstances would be but a lingering death” – Benedict Arnold

I don’t normally quote traitors, but the line above was actually written by Benedict Arnold while he was still a national hero during the revolutionary war.  It is one of the real gems included in Nathaniel Philbrick’s excellent, “Valiant Ambition.”

I have been blessed more than somebody like me deserves.  I recognize the many forms of pain that so many people suffer through, and I wonder in amazement and gratitude why I have it so good.  Yes there have been, and continue to be, bumps along the way.  They are usually temporary.  However, I am happy, and trying to do a better job of expressing gratitude for the blessings I enjoy.

Therefore, I read Benedict Arnold’s line above as a warning.

He uttered it while trying to gain the recognition he felt he deserved (he was probably correct) for valiantly fighting for his country.  For him it was an expression of ambition.

I don’t want recognition.  However, I believe where much is given, much is required.  I believe possessions are largely useful only to the extent they are used to try and bless the lives of others – family, friends, and even (or especially?) complete strangers.

I have been blessed more than I deserve.  To spend my time only in ease and comfort, would be but a lingering death.

I will continue to do my best to try to help those around me so that they can experience some of the joy that I feel.

I’m proud of my children – they are all learning this lesson (whether they realize it or not is a different question).  Teaching this point to them is one of my most important jobs as their father.

The picture below shows their effort this year for Candy Cane Corner – a “store” managed by The Road Home, Volunteers of America, and the YWCA.  The store tries to put some dignity into Christmas “shopping” for homeless parents and others who wouldn’t have presents to open on Christmas morning.

For me, it is my favorite part of the holiday.


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