Through the trials and travails of life, we rarely stop to think of what we are doing or have done that makes a difference. A real difference.  Something that makes the world a little bit better in any way – no matter how small.

Something that leaves our slice of a fleeting, vaporous life better than before our first baby breath.  We’re so enmeshed in doing, doing and more doing, that we lose sight of creating meaning– usually until it’s too late.

But what does a real difference mean? Many times it bares no resemblance to what we might have thought at the time. Or others think. 

This is one such story.

The Great Divide Beckons

The old man sat down to write. His time was short, and he knew it. The Great Divide beckoned. He thought back through the events of his life.

An Amazing Life

From any perspective, it was a life of turbulence, war, love, grief, joy, industry and 50 years of public service. He’d been a writer, horticulturist, lawyer, philosopher, architect, political leader and revolutionary – an amazing life.

For the Ages

Many world-altering moments and events which he’d been involved would be inked into the history books for the ages—but not into this document.

So Simple – So Hard

He began to write. Short. Concise. His criterion was simple. How had he made the world a better place? And his words had to be worthy of being inscribed in granite.

Have you ever tried that? Sat down and recount what you have done to make this world a better place?  I did. And I sucked. 

Just Two Things

When the old man was finished, he realized that there were only two things: He was an author and a father. He put the pen down. He was done. Those things had made the world a better place. He left explicit instructions of how and where to display the document.

On the face of the Obelisk the following inscription, & not a word more – because by these, as testimonials that I have lived, I wish most to be remembered.


What was remarkable was what he left off … that he had been the third President of the United States and served two terms. Thomas Jefferson wrote his own epitaph.

What About You?

What would you write for your epitaph if you had to do it right now? Testimonials that you have lived? How have you made the world a better place? What’s your difference?

Shooting Blanks

I tried it. It’s a humbling exercise. My computer screen is still blank.

How do you know if  your mission in life is finished?

If you’re still alive, it isn’t. – Richard Bach

I guess there’s still time to start.


Flickr photo courtesy of H. Kopp Delaney  under a  Creative Commons License