“Simple, genuine goodness is the best capital to found the business of this life upon. It lasts when fame and money fail, and is the only riches we can take out of this world with us.” ― Louisa May Alcott, Little Men
I had the good fortune of spending yesterday morning deep underground in Chattanooga, Tennessee. We went to visit Ruby Falls, a beautiful underground network of caves that include a spectacular 145 foot tall underground waterfall. The main cave was used by the Native Americans for untold years, both the North and South during the Civil War (including being a military hospital at a certain point) and it has been a commercial venture for over 80 years, boasting 350,000 visitors per year.
Seeing such a beautiful, natural sight that has impressed and awed countless people before me made me think of the constancy of nature and the vicissitudes of man. Nature is ever changing in the sense of its outer manifestation – its shapes, colors, sounds and smells – but the underlying forces which conspire to shape it seem so constant and sure. Man, too has changed in terms of his appearance over the ages, and he has had his good moments and his bad. Were it not for his redeeming qualities and the golden thread of genuine goodness through it all, he most surely would have destroyed himself.
Our tour guide was quite a character. He was originally from Dalton, Georgia and he loved to play up his “southernness” to the diverse group in our tour. I had to chuckle when he said things like “Thank about it folks, y’aint gotta be a rocket surgeon to realize that hittin’ yer head on a rock ain’t gonna end well.” What stood out about him most, thought, was not his practiced redneckisms, but his love for people. There was a simple, genuine goodness about him that he spent lavishly on us.
It pains me to think that children have to be exposed to the ridiculous ways that so-called adults carry themselves in the living of life. Like begets like. Goodness begets goodness. To see that either deliberately corrupted or chipped away by exposure to the foolish, selfish, short-sighted and fearful ways of men and women who leave goodness for more forceful and less careful means is perhaps one of the saddest things that can be witnessed or felt on earth.
If you are tempted to quest for fame and money, make sure that you don’t abandon genuine goodness in the course of your pursuit. At the end of the day, simple, genuine goodness is your greatest resource. It will get you through thick and thin. Like the stunning waterfall deep under Lookout Mountain, it will impress and awe by its endless generosity. Finally, it will outlast anything you might gather up from the earth as you claw and slave your way to fame and riches.