In Loving Memory: G. Thomas Kingsley
Category: Memorial Homilies
Speaker: The Rev'd Jim Quigley
A few years ago New York Times columnist David Brooks published a book called The Road to Character. In it Brooks contrasts resume virtues with what he calls eulogy virtues. Resume virtues are the things that you put on your resume; the skills you bring to the marketplace. Eulogy virtues are the things that get mentioned at your funeral. Eulogy virtues describe your depth and the nature of your relationships; are you bold, loving, dependable, and consistent? In a Ted Talk Brooks explained that he wrote the book because he struggled with tensions between these two poles in his own life and because he believes that we are living in a culture that foments resume virtues more so than eulogy ones. I did not have the pleasure of knowing Tom Kingsley but those of you gathered at St. Alban’s today in remembrance and thanksgiving for his life might already have a hint as to why in my eulogy for him I have begun by mentioning David Brook’s book.
When promoting The Road to Character Brooks said that he had been inspired by a book called The Lonely Man of Faith, written by Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik and published in 1965. In The Lonely Man of Faith Soloveitchik contrasts two ways of existing in the world. Those two ways of living are symbolized by Adam 1 and Adam 2. Adam 1 exists to live externally: to master the world, to build and create companies, to conquer. By contrast Adam 2 exists internally, in humility. Adam 2 is one that not only does good but is good; Adam 2 lives in a way that honors God, creation and possibility. While Adam 1 conquers the world Adam 2 hears a calling and obeys the world. While Adam 1 accomplishes Adam 2 savors and shows inner consistency and strength. While Adam 1 asks “How things work?” Adam 2 asks “Why are we here? Adam 1’s motto is success while Adam 2’s motto is love, redemption and return.
Soloveitchik maintained that these to mindsets, Adam 1 and Adam 2, are constantly at war within us. Brooks agrees: at war within us is one desire to live by external success and another to live by internal value, and posits that this war is driven by different logics: In Adam 1 and the resume life input leads to output and in Adam 2 and the eulogy life giving leads to receiving, losing oneself leads to finding oneself, God, and goodness in the world.
So if my simple point in this eulogy for Tom isn’t obvious yet, it seems to me that his life defied the logic that inspired Soloveitchick to write the The Lonely Man of Faith and Brooks to write The Road to Character. That in Tom Kingsley Adam 1 and Adam 2 weren’t at war at all; that his resume life and his eulogy life were one in the same… that both were marked by depth in relationship, in being both bold and humble in loving and by being dependable, committed and consistent. I once heard it said that a career is what one does to make a living and a vocation is what one does to make a life. Tom’s vocation was his career and his career was his vocation. What a blessing!
As I prepared this homily for Tom his son Matthew wrote me an e-mail saying that he enjoyed sharing any moment with his dad; that his father was funny, positive, upbeat and just easy to be around. Matthew ended the e-mail by saying that he frequently reminds himself “to be like Dad.” I also got an e-mail from Kathy Pettit, a colleague of Tom’s from the Urban Institute, in which she described Tom as the warm, generous father-figure and weaver who listened to us all, somehow making whole cloth out of all our disparate voices and needs; he was the mastermind, always shaping ideas and helping others see the potential in trying new things or doing things differently or better. In her e-mail Kathy included testimonies from people to whom Tom was a mentor – they are too numerous to mention.
Having never met him, as I prepared this homily and as I listened as well as I could to the stories about Tom his faith was never mentioned. One might wonder then why we gather to remember him this morning in this house of faith rather than somewhere else, the Urban Institute, or anywhere seemingly more connected to what Tom’s life was all about. But what you may not know is that Tom was baptized at St. Alban’s in April of the year 1979. I asked Rosalie and Matthew about why, at the age of 43, Tom had decided to receive the Sacrament of Baptism in the church. The decision to get baptized, after all, isn’t exactly like making a decision to order the soup du jour rather than a salad for lunch. But neither Rosalie nor Matt could say. And 39 years later we gather here to remember Tom’s life in this Holy place, the very place that on a Sunday morning he was symbolically anointed as one loved by God. One can only assume that we gather here because that was Tom’s wish. That we gather here because despite the fact that Tom didn’t wear his faith on his sleeve the way he lived his life was a gift of God, a gift of grace and the gift of a humble and quiet faith; that his undying endeavor to improve the lives of those living in poverty in urban DC or Indonesia or in so many other places and cultures in the world was his answer to a heavenly calling, a calling that he answered, and answered so very, very well.
All of you know that Tom never retired. In the In Memoriam Statement from the NNIP Tom’s latest research focused on analyzing patterns of neighborhood poverty and distress. In his final days he was investigating the impacts of the foreclosure crisis and assessing American Indian housing needs and programs. If only all who have been baptized in the church could live so well!
We say in the church that when our temporal journey ends a new way of living begins. Life is changed, not ended. Our memories of Tom will live on, as will the impact of his life and work in each of you and in God’s world. For his gracious way of living life and his humble, bold and dedicated witness to the living God we give thanks and praise. We thank you Tom, for your love, your life, and your example. May you rest in God’s peace.