“Take example, all ye that do hear or see how that I loved best do forsake me, except my Good Deeds that bideth truly.” So proclaims the dying Everyman, as he steps into his grave.

What can we learn from the protagonist of this anonymous morality play, The Summoning of Everyman, performed in Medieval and early Tudor settings? Aside from the Middle English in which it was composed and its allegorical richness, its lesson still speaks to those willing to listen.

Like us, Everyman is “finely dressed,” engaged in largely mindless pursuits each day until summoned by Death to get his “book of count’’ in order and follow him. Terrified, he asks if Fellowship and Kindred and Cousins and Goods can accompany him. Death approves. However, once his buddies learn of his destination, they slack off. Again undone, Everyman calls upon Good Deeds, but she is too weak to follow him. In a feeble voice she calls upon her sister Knowledge to move Everyman toward conversion of life. This happens, and Everyman continues his journey, accompanied, as well, by Five Wits, Beauty, Strength, and Discretion.

However, as Everyman approaches his grave, all his companions depart, except Good Deeds. After a short spell, an Angel escorts Everyman to heaven.

Like Everyman’s every-day world, ours bristles with distractions, with menace. Jesus reminds us in Matthew 24:42 to “…stay awake, because you do not know the day when your master is coming.” Such watchfulness deepens joy in our service of others.

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