I lost someone special recently, and as with most things in our lives, it is not until it or they are gone that we realize what an integral part of our existence they have become. I volunteer some of my spare time cleaning homes/apartments for the elderly who can no longer afford it or are unable to clean for themselves. Most are shut-ins by nature of either physical impairment or mental difficulties that can manifest in later life. I admit, at first I would become a little frustrated at the need for tea, coffee, juice and snacks before cleaning – but I soon came to understand it was really the companionship I had volunteered, not my cleaning skills.
Tea and biscuits
The sweet lady that passed away was the worst of the bunch, consuming roughly an hour of time early Monday mornings just to get by the food and tea before I could get to the cleaning…I arrived this Monday to be greeted not by her wizened smile, but by the sombre faces of her family instead. I felt shell-shocked, she was so alive last week…frail, but alive. I travelled to the funeral at the behest of her family Tuesday, and cried alongside her brother and children. The tea I had first resented, and then looked forward to every Monday – was no more.
Life is not about lasting forever – nothing in this physical existence does, and for good reason. Each year the old gives way to the new and in doing so imparts wisdom and growth to the next generation. Live for the moment, feel every nuance and value every second of sharing with one another we are given. Thank you, Loretta. Thank you for teaching me that tea and hot biscuits are worth stopping for no matter how hurried our lives seem to be.
The depths of winter and the death it brings is not to be feared, for winter speaks of making room for the spring – where new birth and life rise from the remains of the old. The lesson is in how we manage and use time in relation to our priorities, before our own winter comes. The lesson is in the understanding that all must come to its end in its time. Below are a few inspirational stories from around the fire to give you pause and thought to what you consider important, how to accomplish it, and how to live.
Find your big rocks
One day, an expert in time management was speaking to a group of business students and, to drive home a point, used an illustration those students will never forget. As he stood in front of the group of high-powered overachievers he said, “Okay, time for a quiz” and he pulled out a one-gallon, wide-mouth jar and set it on the table in front of him. He also produced about a dozen fist-sized rocks and carefully placed them, one at a time, into the jar. When the jar was filled to the top and no more rocks would fit inside, he asked, “Is this jar full?” Everyone in the class yelled, “Yes.”
The time management expert replied, “Really?” He reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel. He dumped some gravel in and shook the jar causing pieces of gravel to work themselves down into the spaces between the big rocks. He then asked the group once more, “Is the jar full?” By this time the class was on to him. “Probably not,” one of them answered. “Good!” he replied. He reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand. He started dumping the sand in the jar and it went into all of the spaces left between the rocks and the gravel. Once more he asked the question, “Is this jar full?” “No!” the class shouted. Once again he said, “Good.” Then he grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour it in until the jar was filled to the brim. Then he looked at the class and asked, “What is the point of this illustration?” One eager beaver raised his hand and said, “The point is no matter how full your schedule – if you try really hard you can always fit some more things in it!” “No,” the speaker replied, “that’s not the point.
The truth this illustration teaches us: If you don’t put the big rocks in first, you’ll never get them to all fit. What are the ‘big rocks’ in your life – time with your loved ones, your faith, your education, your dreams, Yoga, a worthy cause, teaching or mentoring others? Remember to put these big rocks in first or you’ll never get them in. So tonight or in the morning when you are reflecting on this short story, ask yourself this question: What are the ‘big rocks’ in my life? Then, put those in your jar first.
Hot sun, salty air, rhythmic waves…
A little boy is on his knees scooping and packing the sand with plastic shovels into a bright blue bucket. Then he upends the bucket on the surface and lifts it and, to the delight of the little architect, a castle tower is created. All afternoon he will work, spooning out the moat, packing the walls. Bottle tops will be sentries. Popsicle sticks will be bridges. A sandcastle will be built.
Big city, busy streets, rumbling traffic…
A man is in his office. At his desk he shuffles papers into stacks and delegates assignments. He cradles the phone on his shoulder and punches the keyboard with his fingers. Numbers are juggled and contracts are signed and much to the delight of the man, a profit is made.
All his life he will work, formulating the plans, forecasting the future. Annuities will be sentries. Capital gains will be bridges. An empire will be built.
Two builders of two castles… They have much in common. They shape granules into grandeurs. They see nothing and make something. They are diligent and determined, and for both the tide will rise and the end will come. Yet that is where the similarities cease, for the boy sees the end while the man ignores it.
Watch the boy as night approaches…
As the waves near, the wise child jumps to his feet and begins to clap. There is no sorrow. No fear. No regret. He knew this would happen. He is not surprised, and when the great breaker crashes into his castle and his masterpiece is sucked into the sea, he smiles. He smiles, picks up his tools, takes his father’s hand, and goes home.
The man however, is not so wise. As the wave of year’s collapses on his castle he is terrified. He hovers over the sandy monument to protect it. He blocks the waves from the walls he has made. Salt-water soaked and shivering he snarls at the incoming tide. “It’s my castle,” he rages. The ocean need not respond, both know to whom the sand belongs…
I don’t know much about sandcastles, but children do. Watch them and learn. Go ahead and build, but build with a child’s heart. When the sun sets and the tides take it all from you – applaud. Salute the process of life and go home with a joyful heart.
A joyful heart
Now, I write this with a joyful heart. The sandcastles that were built for all those years by Loretta are all gone, washed back to from whence they came. She took her Father’s hand, smiled, and went home. The memories of the sandcastles she so painstakingly built last in the hearts of her family and at least one other person – never to be forgotten. The beach is clean again – smooth, just wet enough – perfect for starting new sandcastles in the morning sun…with tea and biscuits.