Sunday, April 4, 2010


Editor's note: "It's awfully easy to become so obsessed with making good in the world that we're apt to forget we are supposed to be going a little good while we're here," Dad wrote as the introduction to this poem. Somehow it seems appropriate at a time when many of us are celebrating Easter and Passover.

"What good have you done,"
I inquired of a friend,
Who is getting along
Toward life's journey's end;
"What good have you done
In the years gone by,
What for the world
To remember you by?

Now, he knew that I knew
He had prospered in trade,
And he knew that I knew
Of the fortune he'd made;
So he thought I was speaking
In jest, and in fun,
When I asked him the question,
"What good have you done?"

"What good have you done?"
My query, this time,
Was asked of another
Good neighbor of mine.
He is well on his way
Toward making a name
For himself in the shaky
Political game;

He knows all the angles
And tricks of the trade,
And he cultivates well
The connections he's made;
And he bragged about all
Of the votes he had won,
When I asked him the question,
"What good have you done?"

"What good have you done?"
Perhaps you and I
Should examine ourselves
With a critical eye.
Do we measure success
By material things?
Do we cherish the status
Prosperity brings?

Do we want recognition
For the good that we do--
A pat on the back,
And a monument, too?
Can we answer these questions
All, one by one,
And still be content
With the good we have done?

The same criterion
Applies, you see,
To my friend, my neighbor,
To you, and to me:
Man was created
The brother of man,
To do unto others
The best that he can;

No matter how lowly
His station at birth,
Regardless of what
His estate may be worth;
It comes down to this:
When life's race is run,
We're all to be judged
By the good we have done!

--Acres of Verse (1994)

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