When Through One Man

“When through one man a little more love and goodness, a little more light of the truth comes into the world, then that man’s life has had meaning.”

My dear friend Maria Scaperlanda posted these words of Fr. Alfred Delp on on her blog yesterday. I smiled when I read them, as I have remembered those lines since they were first written to me as a graduating 8th grader in 1971, but I had never known the source. (I thought them to be the words of the person who wrote them to me.)

Not long after I started writing this blog six years ago, I shared some thoughts about what these words have meant to me. Here they are again:

I still remember the little autograph books we all had at the end of 8th grade, in which we wrote to each other clever little ditties like “Remember A, Remember B, but most of all Remember me.” Or “If in heaven we don’t meet, hand in hand we’ll fight the heat.”

In addition to my schoolmates, I had my autograph book signed by various teachers, family members and other mentors. Some of the messages people wrote to me in that little book have stayed with me all these years. One that comes frequently to mind is this one: “When through one man a little more love and goodness, a little more light of the truth comes into the world, then that man’s life has had meaning.” May your life have meaning.” (Don’t get side-tracked by the gendered language; insert “person” if you want in place of “man.” But this is the way it was written to me in 1971.)

It is a message that helps ground me. Sure I’d love to be able to cure cancer, bring about world peace, completely take away the sufferings of those I love, and a whole lot of other really, really big things. But, if I can spread a little more love…a little more goodness…a little more light…a little more truth…in ways that make some positive difference in the lives of those with whom I come in contact, then that’s good enough.

Of course, no matter how many times the message comes into my head, there are still times when I worry I’m not doing enough. Sometimes there rises in me a fear that I’ll get to the end of my life and feel that there was more I could have done…more I should have done. So my prayer and my hope is that when I reach the end of my human life, I can say, as Thurgood Marshall did when he stepped down from the Supreme Court, “I did the best I could with what I had.”


One thought on “When Through One Man

  1. What I find even more hopeful is that the words of Father Alfred Delp were written from a Nazi prison where he could do little but write and be a witness to his fellow prisoners (and, later, to the world).

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