Retiring with grace
Posted: Wednesday, December 16, 2009 8:01 pm
By: By Lisa Smartt
I like ceremony. I don’t want to live in a society that is void of ceremony. We have funerals because we believe it’s important to acknowledge the life of one who has died. We have weddings because we believe the joining together of two lives is an important occasion. We have parties because when there is reason to celebrate we want to be together.
Every ceremony brings with it a multitude of life lessons. When leaving a funeral, I’m sure many of you have had these thoughts: “Yeah, that’s the way I want people to remember me. Those are the qualities I want to pass on to the next generation.” When Phil and I attend weddings, we’re often reminded of our own vows which were publicly spoken many years ago. Ceremony provides a graphic reminder of all that God has done in our lives and the way we want to treat each other in the future. It’s a reminder that what we do and say doesn’t just affect us. It affects others. Ceremony reminds us that the world doesn’t revolve around us.
Last weekend we had the privilege of attending a very special ceremony — a retirement celebration. As we were preparing to leave for the event, I reminded Phil that someday we would be attending his retirement party. What will that look like? What do we want to leave behind? What is our legacy?
Those questions were answered at the retirement party last weekend. As multiple people shared about the life of Dr. James Byford, we were both reminded of the things that would last. No one said, “He is the smartest man I ever knew” though he clearly is intelligent. No one said, “He’s great at making money.” The subject never even came up. At the forefront of the celebration was his humility. Over and over again, we heard about his desire to help OTHERS become successful.
I understood firsthand the words that were shared from the podium that night. When I began writing this column almost six years ago, Dr. Byford was one of the first people who encouraged me to keep writing. He reminded me that the world needed more laughter and an understanding of the joys of rural living. A few years ago, he approached me about putting the columns in book form. He convinced me that the project shouldn’t be put on the back burner. During those conversations, he never ONE time mentioned his own tremendous success as a writer. No. He focused his energies around promoting the success of others. He made his students believe that if a “good ol’ boy” like himself could find a fulfilling career, they could too. And many of them did.
When my Pappa retired from his job as a principal, several people said, “We can’t believe you’re leaving. You’re still really good at this job.” His reply was simple, “I’d rather leave while you want me to stay ... than to stay ’til you want me to leave.” Perhaps that was Dr. Byford’s sentiment. In January of 2010, Dr. James Byford will no longer be Dean of the College of Agriculture and Applied Sciences. But one thing we know for sure, when it comes to encouraging the rest of us, he’ll never retire.
For more information about Lisa Smartt, visit her Web site lisasmartt.com.
Published in The Messenger 12.16.09
Lisa Smartt, The Smartt View