Once again I had the privilege of being a judge in the Life and Health Insurance Foundation for Education’s RealLIFEstories program. (To call it a contest’ makes it seem a little too tawdry, although there is a definite competitive element involved.)

There a few things that bring you so close to the noble calling that so many long-time agents give as their reason for getting into-and even more important, continuing in-the life insurance selling business.

Having done this judging before, I was well aware that I needed to prepare myself for an emotional onslaught. Most, if not all, of these stories are tear-jerkers in the best sense of the word. They pack a wallop.

I’m not going to go into particulars here, but you can always count of a number of the stories recounting early and unexpected deaths, with grieving families left behind to grieve, but also in much better condition to bear that grief because life insurance proceeds took care of immediate and long-term financial needs.

One other consistent factor in these stories is how often agents go above and beyond the selling of a policy. Servicing the policy takes on a whole other meaning and dimension when you read about how involved some agents become in taking care of the survivors in the aftermath of a family’s tragedy.

(Just as an aside, I’d like to offer one bit of advice to any agent considering entering their own story: Presentation matters. Just as life insurance doesn’t sell itself, but has to be sold, so it is with RealLIFEstories entries. A well-told story creates much more resonance than a bare-bones accounting of what happened-thus upping its chances of being a winner.)

In any case, it is good to be reminded about the raison d’etre of life insurance and the good that it does. In this sense, LIFE’s program has a very important mission within the business.

The 4 finalists in this year’s round of entries will (as is customary) be featured in a special section in Newsweek sometime in the early fall, bringing these stories to a wide swath of the public. In addition, these stories will be available to agents to use in their own struggles to convince often reluctant clients to plunk down some premium dollars.

I know times are tough for many life insurers right now. And I’ve heard that some companies are cutting back on their budgets for LIFE. This may be understandable under the circumstances, but it is also short-sighted.

Agents don’t give up when the going gets tough, and neither should companies. In good times and bad, LIFE happens.