“Rage, rage, against the dying of the light” ~ Dylan Thomas
In one of life’s perfect ironies, at a time when I am awash in a sea of emotions, I am also full of a cold. Not surprising that my body should find a way to remind me to slow down, take better care of myself. Mind body and spirit are so intertwined that it is impossible for one system to be affected without impacting another. Emotional distress may manifest as a head cold. You may suffer from sciatica after a stressful day, or develop a tension headache.
When someone slips away from life without much warning, those left behind have much to sort out and sort through. You receive messages from near and far, and if you are lucky you hear stories of how the one who left touched the lives of others. A nephew sent a beautiful message he heard at the funeral of another uncle: “We all have our time, our place in the chain. What marks our life is the strength of the links we forge, with friends, with partners, with family and with children.” From the wealth of messages we have been receiving, Kojo forged many links.
When we live our lives to the fullest, we are not consciously doing things for effect. We do not do things to be recognized, to be rewarded. Those who have inner convictions do not expect the acclaim of adoring throngs. In a celebrity driven society it is tempting to believe that we need those grand gestures, golden statues and big speeches to mark our talent and skill. But the majority of us are not feted with long speeches, with purple prose and articles dedicated to our excellence. For many of us, those speeches are saved for our funerals, for a time when we are least likely to appreciate them.
We have been reminded of the impact Kojo had on generations of kids not his own, of children from the neighborhood, cousins, CC students who passed through our house. He was a man of strong convictions and absolute beliefs, and he loved nothing more than engaging others, to share some of the information he had learned. He was a voracious reader, read countless political and historical books, to better educate himself about the history of Africa, the long traditions that had been denied and stolen.
But I am back to asking the question: Do we ever realize the impact that we have on others? Would it change what we do, if we did know it? Is it necessary to get feedback, to be able to keep on doing what we are doing? Or is the act of doing enough?
Many years ago I heard a story about a woman overhearing a farewell between two people she did not know. One older woman was telling the other, possibly her daughter: “You are enough”. After they said farewells, the one who had overheard this asked the one remaining what they meant. So often we think we are not enough: not rich enough; not thin enough; not educated enough; not smart enough. We need to be reminded that indeed we are enough, and to relish that fact.
A young friend wrote a powerful piece on Facebook this week. He was reflecting on the times in his life when he may not have had the best paying job, or the one his talents were the most suited for. But because he looked for opportunities to learn from these jobs, and to do his best and beyond, he gained valuable experience which led to greater opportunities. When we focus on what life is not giving us, when we wait for better to come, we often miss the treasures that are right in front of our eyes.
At the beginning of the 20th century, a young man (Howard Walters), while working among the poor in India, sent his mother a poem for Christmas. He died shortly after, but his poem lives on in the lyrics of the hymn “I would be true, for there are those who trust me.” One of the lines reminds us to be “…giving and forget the gift.” Too often we keep track of things we have done for people, and notice that we are not paid back. We are aware of kindnesses we have shown others, yet we don’t make note of those shown to us.
How can we develop a greater appreciation for our role in the world, and the fact that we are enough? How can we make sure that we notice the blessings that are in front of our eyes, rather than spotting the imperfections and the things we lack? Some years ago Oprah suggested the practice of keeping a gratitude journal, one in which we document daily the blessings we receive. In fact she has often stated that it is those that are the most grateful that receive more. When you acknowledge the richness in your life (even though it may not translate into wealth or dollars), you are given more abundantly.
At this moment of my life, when I am reminded that all we know can be snatched away in a moment without opportunities for last gestures of appreciation, it seems more important than ever to stop and give thanks. To give thanks that each of us in our imperfect ways can be exactly what someone else needs one day. That even on an imperfect day there can be perfect moments. And that when all is said and done: we are enough.
May you have the opportunity this weekend to reflect on the wealth and riches in your life. Remember to let those you care about know how much they mean to you. We should not take these things for granted, and as we appreciate each perfect moment in an imperfect life, we should remember to “Look up and laugh and love and lift.”
One Love Family!