Every evening, as the sky dims into a watercolor of twilight hues, I find myself sinking into the familiar embrace of my couch. It’s a ritual as predictable as the setting sun, accompanied by the soft glow of my phone and the distant hum of the world winding down. In these moments, I’m often reminded of Benjamin Franklin’s nightly ritual, a simple question posed to himself: “What good have I done today?”

Franklin, with his kite-flying antics and penchant for inventing things like the lightning rod, had a knack for making the most of his days. Me? I’m more adept at navigating the relentless tide of urgent emails and impromptu Zoom meetings that define modern hustle. By the time evening rolls around, my brain feels like it’s been through a marathon—one where everyone’s a winner, or perhaps no one is.

The irony of Franklin’s question in the context of my life is not lost on me. Here I am, sprawled on my couch, a monument to modern exhaustion, pondering the good I’ve done. It’s a question that demands reflection, a tallying of deeds that extends beyond the confines of work and spills into the realm of personal life.

You see, in the whirlwind of daily commitments, it’s easy to forget that doing good isn’t just about ticking boxes or meeting deadlines. It’s about the choices we make, the small acts of kindness and presence that often go unnoticed. And in my case, it’s about choosing to invest in the lives of my family, even when the couch and my phone beckon with the promise of mindless relaxation.

There was this one evening not too long ago when my son, with the boundless energy only a six-year-old can possess, asked me to play with him. My body was on the couch, but my mind was still in the office, sifting through a mental inbox of unchecked emails. The easy choice was to stay put, to offer a distracted nod and a half-hearted “maybe later.”

But Franklin’s question echoed in my mind, a gentle nudge towards a better choice. With a sigh, I peeled myself off the couch and entered the world of make-believe with my son. We walked on lava, conquered imaginary lands, and laughed—a genuine, soul-cleansing laugh that I hadn’t realized I was missing.

In that moment, the urgent emails and the meetings faded into the background. They were still there, of course, but they no longer seemed as monumental. What mattered was the here and now, the simple joy of being present for my son, of choosing to invest in his life and, inadvertently, in my own well-being.

As the day drew to a close and I finally returned to my couch, Franklin’s question came back to me. “What good have I done today?” The answer was clear and heartening. I had chosen good, not out of obligation, but out of love. I had stepped away from the hustle and invested in something far more precious—time with my family.

So, as we navigate the ceaseless demands of our lives, let’s remember Franklin’s nightly audit. It’s not just a question of what good we’ve done—it’s a reminder of the good we can choose to do, every day.

In the end, our days are indeed our lives in miniature, and it’s up to us to fill them with choices that matter, one evening at a time.

Stephen Boudreau serves as VP of Product + Content Marketing at Virtuous Software. For over two decades, he has helped nonprofits leverage the digital space to grow their impact. To that end, Stephen co-founded RaiseDonors, a platform that provides nonprofits with technology and experiences that remove barriers to successful online fundraising. He is an avid (but aging) soccer player, audiobook enthusiast, and the heavily-disputed UNO champion of his household.

Copyright ©2024 Stephen Boudreau.