The true measure of a man

An local landmark for many years closes its doors. Photo from The Annandale VA Blog.

Annandale Florist, a local landmark, closed its doors on Dec. 31. Photo from The Annandale VA Blog.

The other day, I was at Annandale Florist, a family-owned business that recently closed its doors after 56 years. A group of us were helping the owner, Gary Sherfey, clean out the shop. While Gary’s retirement is well-deserved, I can only imagine what was going through his mind as he sorted through papers and mementos accumulated over a lifetime of service at a local landmark started by his father.

In every man’s life, there comes a time for reflection and taking stock. The arc of a career, the life cycle of a business, the ups and downs of raising a family, the running of the proverbial race from beginning to end—when it’s all said and done, when the finish line has been crossed, how do we account for the decades of living, working, loving and striving? What is the measure of a man?

When chapters in our lives come to a close, we often fret over missed opportunities, dwelling on what could have been. We sometimes fall prey to the false yardsticks of success: money, fame and power. We wonder if we did enough, earned enough or achieved enough.

My friend Gary is an incredibly successful man, but it is not the fleeting success that so many seek in vain or gain at great cost only to find that it is fool’s gold.

No, the kind of success Gary has achieved can best be described in Gene Getz’s book, “The Measure of a Man.” A few years ago, I was on a men’s retreat, and the facilitator for the weekend chose Getz’s book for us to read and discuss. It provides a timeless guidepost for measuring your life. Drawn from the teachings of Paul, the 20 attributes that Getz urges us to follow have universal application. Here they are:

  1. Well-rounded
  2. Above reproach
  3. Morally pure
  4. Temperate
  5. Prudent
  6. Respectable
  7. Hospitable
  8. Able to teach others
  9. Free of addictions
  10. Selfless
  11. Not quick-tempered
  12. Not abusive
  13. Gentle
  14. Peaceable
  15. Free from the love of money
  16. Manages his own household well
  17. Loves what is good
  18. Just
  19. Devout
  20. Disciplined

Anyone who has ever spent time with Gary knows that he and this list were cut from the same cloth. You won’t find a more generous, patient, thoughtful or humble man in all of Annandale. I suspect there was not a day that Gary did not do something special for one of his customers, an employee or a complete stranger.

In his 45-year career, Gary must have launched a thousand acts of kindness from Annandale Florist. The thing about kindness is that it multiplies—one act sparks another and then another, creating a chain reaction of goodwill.

For a long time, I treasured a message Gary left on my cell phone reminding me that it was a beautiful day and to admire the sunrise as I drove to an early morning meeting. I have to say, that one little message gave me great joy, and I would find myself replaying it when I needed a pick-me-up. One small gesture mushroomed into a large dose of generosity.

I wish Gary all the best in his retirement. As someone once said of transitions, “When one door closes, another one always opens.” I know there will be many new doors and new paths for Gary to pursue. And I also know there are countless people he has touched in innumerable ways. The true measure of a man is not what he has accumulated but what he has given to others. My friend, by that measure, you have been a success many, many times over.

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10 Responses to The true measure of a man

  1. frank svenson says:

    Jay, well said. Gary is a very giving man, and special.

  2. Rebecca Rumburg says:

    Best wishes to Gary as this new chapter in his life begins and continues! He definately is one of the most humble men I’ve met.

  3. Jo Ann McLean says:

    Wow – Thanks for writing that commentary on Gary. Men like him would never boast of their contributions or accomplishments. – Jo Ann McLean

  4. What an amazing tribute Jay…

  5. Alan Hahn says:

    Jay, very nice tribute. We need more Garys in this world.

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