Editor’s note: Mayer Smith and his wife Ruth, z”l, were approaching their 50th wedding anniversary and had done a pretty good job putting an estate plan together. Then Mayer realized they hadn’t written an ethical will. After a bit of quiet reflection on his family, life as a businessman and observant Jew, here’s what he wrote.
- Be open with your loved ones. Understand, comfort, console, support and encourage them.
- Be honest in all your dealings with others. But, above all, be honest with yourself. Don’t deceive yourself with rose-colored glasses when entering into ventures. Many real opportunities will present themselves in your lifetime.
- Be not too serious about life. Enjoy it and make the most of what it brings. It is not necessary to spend a lot of money to enjoy life but don’t be stingy either. Sometimes a wise expenditure can bring great satisfaction. Nothing is worth the price of worry. It doesn’t help and it saps your energy.
- Look about you and appreciate the daily wonders of nature in all sorts of weather. A good pair of binoculars often brings great enjoyment from watching birds and small animals.
- Prepare yourselves soundly with the basics. A good command of English and math provides you with the bases upon which you can build in any direction. The arts provide different kinds of basics that help you to enjoy life more fully … but be sure to get the English & Math down solid first. If these give you trouble, there are many audio-visuals available that will help simplify them for you. Also, there will be good people willing to help you. Ask.
- To have friends, you must be a friend. But, choose your friends carefully. Be not impressed with what positions they have held or now hold. Rather, consider what they have done and, more importantly, what they are doing now for the good of others as well as themselves … successfully. The exception is when life has treated another in a way as to prevent “success”. Then, you must truly be the friend.
- Always tell the truth unless volunteering the truth without being asked will needlessly hurt someone. If an asker is just being nosy about another party, just say you don’t know all the facts about the situation. This will almost always be the truth. If the nosy one continues to ask, simply say you do not wish to continue that discussion. If the nosy one still continues, you will know this is a person you do not want as a friend and walk away.
- Accept challenges in life. Do the things that others say cannot be done. As the old cliché goes: “The difficult we do immediately; the impossible takes a little longer.” If something difficult is worth doing and needs to be done, do it.
About the writer
After living and working in Northern Virginia for most of his life, Mayer Smith moved to Atlanta with his wife about a decade ago to be closer to family. Smith, a World War II veteran, life member of ZOA and the JWV, is also a cantor without pay, shofar blower extraordinaire, harmonica player, writer and poet, joke teller and peacemaker.