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Values are 'riches we cannot lose'

The trouble with values is that they keep moving around as we go through life. The relative worth or importance of most things are different at age 70 than they were at, say, 30, or 21, or 14. I think our values and judgments mature as we do. Molière said, "Things are only worth what you make them worth." What you think beautiful, desirable, evil or good, is likely to change as we age.

For me, some values seem constant as I glance back through the haze of years. Others result from lessons hard-learned during the course of life. A key, I believe is to separate "things" from "values." The test of life, a preacher once said, "is a continual exchange of riches we cannot keep for riches we cannot lose." He was speaking of heaven, of course, and after seven decades, one's focus cannot help but shift to that direction.

As I look back and try to define the values that have shaped my life, I find the following:

I value mercy.

Partly because I expect to need mercy when I face my judgment; but also because I have, as far back as I can recall, tried to be merciful to insects, animals, plants and people. Once I stopped my son from killing ants in the yard. "They don't belong in the house," I told him, "and we kill them there; but they live out here and have as much right to be here as we do."

I value truth.

Here was a difficult lesson, and even now, I might fudge a bit when someone asks how I like a certain car, dress, hat or meal and the like. Truth is a hard master, but a worthwhile course to take. A liar's words have no value.

I value honor.

Integrity, that keen sense of ethical conduct, has been my ideal since youth, instilled by my father. He taught me to look people in the eye, shake hands firmly and to let my word be my bond. Honor, I learned, goes hand in hand with honesty. I have tried to be free from fraud or deception, and when unable, have done my best to keep my mouth closed. Being fair and straightforward, without stealing is a legitimate and respectable goal. A thief is a thief is a thief.

I value charity.

I believe if you are blessed with any extras, you have an obligation to share them with those in need. This is not limited to money, but also include using your other gifts, whether that be manual labor, words, deeds or just visiting the sick and the shut-in.

I value God.

Faith is the keystone to a complete life. Belief in the hereafter makes my life easier, and biblical guidance offers signposts along the way. Religion is more than a crutch, it is my salvation.

I value the past.

Four of every five books I read turn out to be histories of some sort. If we ignore what went before, we are destined to relearn old lessons. Our past is an honest teacher.

I value education.

My mother used to tell me, while pointing to her head, that "the only thing they can't take away from you is what you store up here." I have tried to get all the book learning I could, to go with a life of experiences.

I value peace and quiet.

Quiet time alone once in a while is a balm to a troubled spirit. It helps those stress knots in my stomach go away. I have learned to like my own company.

At this point you might ask about friends and family, money, travel, good food and comfortable living. Of course I like all those things, just like you do. But they are people and things, not values.

And how have I passed my values on to my son? Some of them, as mentioned, through quiet conversation; the rest through example. Like all children, he has to sort out the values that work for him. I don't believe you can force your values on another.