Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Going Up

“Every day is my best day; this is my life. I am not going to have this moment again.” ~ Bernie Siegel

Just a few days ago, one of my neighbors walked by my house while I was working in the yard, and we talked for a few minutes. When she got ready to leave, I wished her a good day and resumed what I was doing; before I could turn away, she smiled and said: “ Oh, please, don’t wish me a good day; I’m glad it’s almost evening and this day is over.”

I asked her if anything was the matter, and she simply replied that nothing particularly good or bad had happened, but it had been a long day. After she was gone, I thought about what my neighbor said. Nothing monumental had happened, but here she was, walking on her own legs, breathing, and able to freely move around in a nice neighborhood at a relaxed pace – all things that someone living a harsher reality might have considered a slice of Heaven.

Her reaction was not too different from the response I’ve had from other people before, when I have asked how their day was going. “I need to find something to do to pass the day,” said one; “If I stay busy, at least the day moves faster,” said another. Are we really in such a rush to use up our days? Then what?

The average life of a human being is about 80 years, or the equivalent of about 28,000 days. By the time we have reached mid-life, we have already used approximately half of our supply, and that doesn’t factor in the fact that our number of available days could be cut down even smaller by illness or accidents.

Beginning in early childhood, we rush time – as toddlers we want to be big kids, as kids we wish to be teenagers, as teens we count days until we are adults, and as adults we fantasize about the days we will be able to retire and enjoy our golden years. By the time we get to the golden years, we wish we could turn back the clock because, quite often, we have wasted our lives maintaining our focus on the next target rather than making the most of what we had when we had it.

Imagine being in an elevator car in a museum – all floors have interesting exhibits, but as soon as we get out on one floor we are already thinking about all the neat stuff awaiting at the next level, and rush through the displays; by the time we get to the last floor, we can’t go any further, and one of the employees informs us that we need to move forward toward the exit because we can’t use the same elevator to go back down to the floors we have already visited. We leave the museum feeling that we have missed out on a lot; we could have made the most of our trip if we had taken the time to enjoy the exhibits on every floor rather than rushing through them.

In the film “Meet Joe Black”, the angel of death is thrilled at the opportunity of experiencing earthly life; a spoonful of peanut butter is interesting to him because he has never tasted it before. By the time we reach our adult years, we have experienced many things, but there are just as many we have never tried. They don’t have to be big or expensive experiences, but maybe just something outside our average routines – bringing warm socks to a state-run facility for the elderly, going to play with animals at a shelter, going to load groceries for the Angel Food Network, running meals to the disabled, trying a new, exotic food; the choice is endless, and the time commitment can be very flexible. Even a smile, a hug, or a few words exchanged with someone we normally wouldn’t entertain could make our days different and interesting.

It’s not difficult to make today a special day, one worthy of being remembered through time; and if someone is willing to eat a whole spoonful of peanut butter to try something new, we can at least be willing to dispense a genuine smile to the stranger we have ignored until now.

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