Last summer we attended the 50th reunion of my high school graduation. We now join the curious chorus asking, “Where did all the years go?”
“It seems like only yesterday…” when we were walking the halls of Central Catholic High School with 378 of our classmates. Although I didn’t know her at the time, my future wife, Marty, was gracing the halls of Central High School directly across the street from CCHS in Fort Wayne.
The world in which we lived in the late 1950s is so foreign to our children and grandchildren, and to us still adjusting to the 21st century. The average income in 1959 was about $5,000 a year. You could purchase a new house for $12,400, a new car for $2,250, a loaf of bread for 20 cents and a gallon of milk for one dollar. I thought if I could find a job after college that eventually paid me $10,000 a year; I would be set financially for life!
My thoughts at the reunion and presently are of the 71 from the class who have died. One, in fact, was buried on the day of our reunion. Sadly, the hopes and dreams of several deceased classmates probably never were fulfilled since they died relatively soon after graduation. But what about the rest of us? Have we acquired any wisdom and understanding in our lifetimes?
We take so much for granted: there will be another sunrise to witness, a chance to mend relationships, years to achieve our dreams, time to seek God’s forgiveness. But what if we are next in line to be called into the presence of our Heavenly Father?
“Most of us never truly experience life. We drift through life in a daydream, missing the true richness and job that life has to offer,” wrote Louis Jenkins in a poem titled, “The Speaker.” He states, “We don’t really have much of a grasp of things, not only the big things, the important questions, but the small everyday things…How many steps up to your front door? What kind of tree grows in your backyard? What is the name of your district representative? What is your wife’s shoe size? Can you tell me the color of your sweetheart’s eyes? Do you remember where you parked the car?”
There’s a small stack of newspaper and magazine clippings atop some file folders in my office. In the pile are “thought provoking” articles, the kind you just don’t want to discard because there’s something meaningful in each of them. Many were given to me by my wife, who, more than me, spots such things. Originally, I thought maybe someday they’ll come in handy for a column. And, in fact, three of the articles pertain to what we’re writing about here.
Leonard Pitts Jr., winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for commentary and a columnist for the Miami Herald, wrote a piece titled “Years of wisdom: The time to enjoy life is now.” When he was a kid he always figured one day he would “Understand It All.” But at the end of five decades, he says, “I’m still waiting for that day. I’ve come to believe wisdom begins with the realization of how little of It All (we) truly do understand. And how little (we) likely ever will.” He continues, “Do you want to know what I’ve learned at 50? That there is no finish line, nor finished state. There is only now.”
Similarly, international teacher, speaker and writer Geneen Roth wrote a good-advice article titled “The Thread of Life.” She relates a story of a 50-year-old woman who had been a member of a sewing circle for 10 years and currently was dying of brain cancer. She labored and sweated over her crooked stitches and always felt ashamed for not making stitches the right size or shape, as if making straight stitches actually meant something about herself or her life.
“Most of the people I see spend most of their lives worrying about their own version of crooked stitches – the size of their thighs, their hips, their abdomens,” writes Roth. “As if those things signify something true or real about their lives. As if when we get to the end of our lives, a number on a scale will mean anything at all.
“Even if you knew you only had six months to live, you might eat differently, you might even begin exercising every day, but it wouldn’t be because you were ashamed of your body,” Roth continues. “It wouldn’t be because your thighs weren’t thin enough or the stitches of your life weren’t good enough. It would be because you didn’t want to miss a minute of the time you had left.”
She concludes, “Why wait? Why not cherish every crooked stitch of your life before another moment passes?”
We conclude with a couple of quotes from American Humor Columnist Erma Bombeck, who died in 1996. “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left and could say: ‘I used everything you gave me.’” And, “There is nothing more miserable in the world than to arrive in paradise and look like your passport photo.”
We pray she got what she hoped for!