“I could have got more out” and he cries … “I didn’t do enough …”

“I could have gotten one more person … and I didn’t …”

Oskar Schindler, in Schindler’s List

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These are the last words of Oskar Schindler in the last scene from the film Schindler’s List.  He utters these soul-gripping remorseful words to those Jews he assembled as his factory workers in order to save them from Nazi extinction.  These are his parting words on the eve as he leaves the factory and his workers.

I was moved to tears when I first saw this scene and heard these words, and have been moved in just that way whenever I see, hear or think about these words.

You see, this is the measure of a life.  This is precisely the measure of a life.

In the end we will die in the presence of this retrospective: what did I do with my life, my time here?

Greatness is born of these words.

We are never the end-game, rather what we do for others – that and that alone is the purpose, gives meaning … becomes a useful life, and well-deserved restful end, a dignified departure.

I heard the echo of these words in Congressman Paul Ryan’s comments about his willingness (spoken in sane and unifying, non-partisan words) to serve as Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives – a position that would place him third in line to the Presidency should circumstances lead to that Constitutional succession.

If you have not heard his short speech, do so.

He spoke as a public servant and family man should.  Reluctant to jeopardize his children’s and his wife’s needs, yet earnestly committed to his country, all its citizens – and our very serious needs.

He spoke as one who realizes that in the end we will face this question: What did I do with my life, my time here?

That, Dear Friends, frames who we must be, and how we must live.  That is the basis of good and of leadership – selfless service of others.


Postscript – Oskar Schindler appears to have been captured by the Red Army and it is assumed he died or was executed in Soviet custody.