WARNING: This is a no-edit zone…
Once upon a time there was a man named Charlie. He had a wife, children and grandchildren. Charlie lived his values, and his children did, and he hoped his grandchildren would. He was blessed in life and so when his grandchildren were old enough to enjoy a family vacation together, he took the whole bunch of them on one.
During the vacation, he and his littlest granddaughter were walking together and she spotted a shiny penny on the sidewalk. She stopped, bent down to pick it up, but then paused and left the penny on the concrete then ran to catch up with her grandfather.
He asked her why she hadn’t picked up the penny, fearful that she hadn’t learned the value of money. That she’d come back with a comment about it being “just a penny” and of little value.
She didn’t. She smiled up at him, and said, “I’m leaving it for someone else to find, Grandpa. I’m lucky enough.”
Grandpa, in relating this story to me, had a tear in his eye. His granddaughter knew the value of a penny and the value of values.
Charlie has passed on now, but he was gifted with knowing his granddaughter would do just fine in life. She understood the value of a penny.
When he related this story to me shortly before his death, I was moved by it, and it raised a question in my mind. When do the rest of us decide we’re lucky enough?
By nature we’re ambitious people. I think that comes to us in the survival instinct package. Ambition is a good thing. It encourages us to strive to be better, to tackle that which others deem impossible. It gives us the determination and drive to keep trying in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles, to keep seeking solutions long after many would give up.
Ambition is a good thing. A healthy thing. But it is not blind.
Blind ambition not tempered by values—like integrity, compassion, ethics, morals—isn’t good or healthy. It is seeking some desired goal at any cost. Any cost. Hurting others, hurting yourself, leaving a heap of figurative corpses in your wake as you step over, around, or on them to get where you want to go. Blind ambition is shallow and the results, even if you manage to get where you wanted to go, are hollow.
You will never be fulfilled exercising blind ambition. It is the road to many things, but contentment or anything constructive is not among them. When you look back over your shoulder and see all those you stepped on, hurt, all the wrongs you committed to make the climb, you are no longer blind. You see every wound inflicted, every wrong done, and rather than contentment, you experience regret and remorse and self-loathing. You ask yourself, “How could I do that? Why did I do that? Look at the impact of what I did?”
Personal responsibility and accountability can be tough taskmasters, and you can’t escape them. They’re not coming from others, though they could. No, the toughest taskmaster pricking your conscience, weighing on your soul and wearying your spirit is within you. You can’t put it on ignore. You have to live with it. That’s the yang of blind ambition’s yin.
So the moral of this little chat is to address the question: “Are you lucky enough?”
Before you answer it, remember Charlie and his littlest granddaughter. Remember the penny.
But most of all, remember the value of the penny.
© 2011, Vicki Hinze