Contributed by Vic Kohring
During my years in public office, I frequently witnessed politicians in Juneau touting their perceived accomplishments with the usual ballyhoo and trumpet call. Our state capital seems to lure a large number of egotists who thrive on self-importance and believe the earth revolves around them. It's a big reason why I'm relieved not to be a part of that culture any longer.
Like most, I got caught up in the excitement of politics and being in a position of power and authority. As hard as I tried to be humble and not abandon my Christian principles, I admit, my head swelled at times as I succumbed to human nature and found myself occasionally behaving like a big shot.
It's difficult to keep one's ego in check with so many lobbyists practically worshiping the ground you walk on and masquerading as your best friend. Multitudes pull your arm and nearly yank it out of its socket, yet usually, have ulterior motives that have nothing to do with friendship. It's because they want something from you, whether a special budget item or simply rubbing shoulders with a person they see as important or even a celebrity. I used to call them the "endless parade of supplicants."
As I reflect back, I realize how ugly the political arena really was and how pols pretend to be interested in helping their constituents, but only after screeching from rooftops to make sure everyone heard about their heroics loud and clear. I learned however that it was possible to accomplish things without grabbing headlines, yet still, get reelected. I'm surprised I had the patience to put up with the circus for so long.
I'm a regular reader of The Daily Bread, a Christian publication from which I draw inspiration. One particular issue, dated April 2, 2018, discusses helping others anonymously and how acts of giving should be motivated by humility and kindness, not by the desire to earn accolades and be showered with attention while shouting "look at me" to the world.
The gratification from giving and knowing you've helped someone is wonderfully rewarding - but one should watch from afar and expect nothing in return. Public recognition should not be the driving force, but rather an inherent desire to help others. It's the same desire that comes when God lives in your heart.
The Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans that when we are generous to others, we model the generosity and kindness our loving God has shown to us. These are words I try to live by. Be charitable, but don't take credit for things. Just quietly do what's right and not be preoccupied with being seen.
Life is much better for me after having left the rat race of politics, an environment I survived in for 16 years. I'm more relaxed, healthy and at peace without all the stress and pressure. And I enjoy doing things to make people's lives better, whether it's helping those in need or simply holding open a door for someone or offering words of encouragement. And doing so quietly and discreetly while remembering that even if others don't see you, God does.
Despite being content, I still count my time in Juneau as worth the grief even though it came to an abrupt end, because, through the help of my colleagues as part of a cooperative team effort, we were fortunate to achieve much good and improve the lives of many.
We live in a better community because of decisions made decades ago, from growing the Permanent Fund, to improving roads in the Valley, to helping the oil industry that creates good jobs so people can support their families prosper. If no one recollects who did these things, that's even better. Forget the plaques and citations honoring self-serving politicians.
My focus today is to lay low, learn from my past, always choose my words carefully, be kind, helpful and generous to others (while reserved and without fanfare), and above all, remain humble.
Vic Kohring is a 56-year Alaska resident who lives in Wasilla.