Many years ago I was struggling with some difficult times, mostly financial. It was during my childrearing days and I did a lot of volunteer work as I was a stay at home mom (long before the term was coined), so I sat in on quite a few meetings for different organizations, like PTA and scouts. One day I was seated next to an older woman thinking more about how I was going to rob Peter to pay Paul that month than what was being presented to the group. We had exchanged the cursory gracious acknowledgement of each other but I could feel her looking at me during the meeting. I finally turned to her and must have had a look on my face “what?”
She smiled and said, “Your shoulders are carrying something heavy I can tell.”
I was both shocked and slightly panicked. I’m not one to air my personal issues and certainly not with strangers. I couldn’t think of anything to say, so, she continued:
“There was a young woman who was troubled with every right to be. Life had her pushed into a corner and she was losing hope of ever being happy again. One day, she was sitting on a bench in a park weighted down with her many problems when an elderly woman came and sat beside her and whispered something to her and then got up and left. The young woman suddenly stood up with clear purpose and walked quickly home.”
I waited for a few seconds and then, itching with curiosity for a punch line I asked, “So, what did the old woman whisper?”
The lady smiled and replied, “If you knew you only had 24 hours to live, what would you do with them?”
My worldly troubles eventually resolved themselves, as they always do, but I never, ever forgot the flush of changed perspective I felt sitting there, completely exposed and full of every kind of emotion. How many things can you think of that you would do, or would never be able to do, or how many things that seem so important you suddenly realize that just do not matter in the context of not enough time left?
Not only did I never forget this nugget of truth and how it impacted my perspective, I have felt an obligation to pay it forward as it was once, so long ago, graciously spent on me.
Figure out what really matters and suddenly everything else becomes irrelevant. The peace beyond all understanding that comes from this is a wellspring.