In later life French thinker
Michel de Montaigne
hid away in a room
and wrote all day long
for several years.
He penned wonderful essays
that remain rich with meaning
400 years after his death.
In one of his more personal pieces he wrote:
“He has spent his life in idleness,” we say;
“I have done nothing today.”
What, have you not lived?
That is not only the fundamental
but the most illustrious of your occupations.
“If I had been placed
in a position to manage great affairs,
I would have shown what I can do.”
Have you been able to think out
and manage your own life?
You have done the greatest task of all.
To compose our character is our duty,
not to compose books,
and to win, not battles and provinces,
but order and tranquility.
Our grand and glorious masterpiece
is to live suitably.

In one way or another
I’ve heard person after person say,
“On the grand scale of things,
I haven’t done that much.
Recently I’ve just been the caregiver
for someone who needed me.”
For those of us who make such self-evaluations,
and who use the word “just” so blithely,
I can imagine Montaigne lecturing us
across the centuries:
“What, have you not spent your days
adding to another’s life?
Have you not offered relief?
Have you not brought solace
where solace would help?
Have you not held hope
when hope was in short supply?”
I can imagine him putting his face
closer to ours and continuing,
“What, in the face of adversity,
have you not shown resilience?
In the midst of difficult times,
have you not demonstrated strength?
Have you not offered love
in one of its more unselfish forms?”
Were Montaigne alive today,
I believe he might offer his praises:
“Oh, you caregivers!
Yours is a grand and glorious masterpiece,
learning to live suitably
while caring lovingly.
I honor you.”

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