And he said to them, "Follow me and I will make you fishers of men." Matthew 4:19

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Making the Most of Your "Dash": A Tribute Post to Help Keep It All in Perspective

The last few months have been sobering in many ways, to me.  First of all, with the tenth anniversary of 9/11, we were all reminded of just how quickly our nation, and our lives could change -- and end.  CBS again aired their excellent documentary filmed by two French brothers who happened to be filming the daily life of a new firefighter in New York.  The film really brought home the reality of that morning in New York, and how one Fire Department handled the chaos and disaster with bravery and duty to their mission.  The updated epilogue at the end, where they interviewed several of the surviving firemen today, really showed how much their lives -- and all of our lives -- are so different today.  Another news show about those that bravely died on United Flight 93, showed the lasting legacy of those that acted selflessly and sacrificially to save others.

Shortly after the commemoration of that date, everyone in my family was shocked when a dear loved one was diagnosed with MDS, or "preleukemia".  She has been very brave about her fight, but it brought home the reality that cancer is an awful, indiscriminate disease.  It has been both sad, to see her struggle, and yet also, inspiring, to see her fight and her spirit, as she is determined to beat this thing.

And then yesterday, I found out that an old friend and fraternity brother died of a massive heart attack the night before.  We had caught up with each other, and had a nice conversation last month at our college's Homecoming.  And every time I ever spoke with him, I was reminded of what a genuine, and nice guy he really is...  was.  I never thought it would be our last time together.  He leaves behind a wife and three kids.  He was three days older than me.  Reading his obituary this morning, I saw just how much he accomplished, both personally and professionally, in his all-too-short life.  Wow, talk about a wake-up call to the rest of us left on this earth with the gift of life!....

I guess my point is this:  every day we make choices as to what we are going to do, how we are going to act, what we are going to think and say.  Are we being short-sighted or long-sighted with our vision.  I contrast how our loved one has so actively lived her life, and how well-loved she is by so many, with that of another person I know, who would rather do nothing than watch TV, living life through other "fake" lives.  This person has no relationship with family, and is quite content with that fact.  It really is a sad situation. 

The firemen and those airline passengers 10 years ago had no idea one beautiful September morning, that it would be their last.  And my friend was planning on going to our last home football game today.  We just don't know what the future holds; but there is a lesson to be learned. 

It makes me think, am I serving God, or am I serving myself.  I truly believe that God is in control, and that we will not understand His purpose for why things happen, while we are on this Earth.  "We see through a glass dimly lit", 1 Corinthians 13:12 states.  But God IS in control, and we, as His children, should take comfort in that.

There is nothing that has ever happened, or will happen, that He doesn't already know about.  And everything is ultimately part of His plan.  But we don't know His plan, do we?  Well, yes we know the big details and the ultimate outcome, but we don't know how we fit into the puzzle.  All we do know is that our smallest choices in how we live, can and do make a big difference in our lives, and the lives of others.  It is the "Butterfly Effect." 

Having recently listened to the music of the play of Victor Hugo's "Les Miserables", I am reminded of the true hero of that story.

Jean Valjean is an unrepentant criminal who can't find a job, so he steals again and is caught.  Instead of receiving the punishment he would deserve through the justice system, however, he is shown kindness, mercy and grace by the Bishop, from whom he stole.  That changes his life, and changes the man who he is. 

That Bishop is the real hero of the story.  Had he not acted the way he did, then Valjean is sent back to prison -- end of story.  That means that Fantine dies with no assurance from Valjean, whom she never knew, and Cosette, her daughter, lives an abused, miserable life.  She never meets Marius, and they never fall in love, and Marius now dies in the resistance.  What a difference the Bishop made, by doing what -- showing a little grace?  A little mercy?  Wow. 

The story is fiction, of course, but the truth it upholds is real.  No small act or deed is too small to have an effect on your life, or someone else.  Something we all need to keep in mind every day, every time we interact with others we know and love, and those we don't know.  You just never know the effect your words or actions will have. 

I am far from perfect.  I know that.  And anybody who knows me, will attest to my failings, of which I have many.  (You need not make any comments here, thank you very much.)  But I strive every day to change a little, for the better.  Unlike what some believe, I do believe that people can change:  Maybe it is suddenly, like Saul/Paul on his way to Damascus, or maybe it is a little at a time, every day, a small difference.  A leopard can change its spots.  An old dog can learn new tricks. 

When you go into a cemetery and look at tombstones, what do you see listed?  The person's name, date of birth and death, and then maybe a phrase or sentence that sums up that person's life.  That person's whole life of however many years with which they were blessed, is surmised into a "dash" or hyphen, and a blurb on a stone.  But the effect of that person's life in the lives of others is what lasts.  THAT is that person's legacy.  I once saw a poster that stated, "When God measures a man, He puts a tape measure around his heart and not his head." 

So while we are all "dashing" about; let's take the time to think of others, and add worth to others' lives.  Not just as we are about to enter the Holiday season, but all year long.  We can make a difference.

Borrowing from literature again, think of Ebenezer Scrooge.  One of the last lines of that favorite story about the man who despised Christmas, is "And it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge.  May that be truly said of us, and all of us." 

But perhaps, Paul, said it best in a couple of his letters, first to the Philippians, (2:3), "Don't be selfish; don't try to impress others.  Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves."  And then, 1 Corinthians, 15:58 states, "So my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable.  Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for we know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless."

May we all learn from that.  And grow.  And change for the better.  To be there and be stronger for those that need us.  And when we are suffering, may we find comfort in Him and in others around us.

Thanks for putting up with this post.  My next one will be about fishing again.  I promise.

Until then,

Fish ON!

Matthew 4:19

P.S.  I guess I could add a little humor by adding one more well known quote, by that great author, Anonymous:  "God does not subtract from your allotted time on earth, those hours spent fishing."

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