There are times in our lives when we are so focused on achieving our goals and obtaining our desires that we tend to forget what life is really about. We plan for our future; we are constantly preoccupied with success… our personal goals, making sure we complete each task in our agenda, caring about the way others perceive us. Life can seem as a race… running towards something… a goal, a purpose… whatever drives us at the time. It is important to have goals in life, but while we are running the race we tend to forget to smell the aromas of nature, to feel the sunlight warming our skin, hear the birds, feel the movement of the trees, become aware of the beauty in our surroundings … but most importantly, the people. When we take the time to notice the things we take for granted we are grateful for what really matters, especially the people around us and those we love. It is also important to take the time and notice the needs of those we don’t know; yet we may assist. Our world is full of people with different stories and different needs. Each of us has something to offer someone other than ourselves… to offer someone who is not in our immediate circle. It is important to take time to “feel” while you are running your race… to touch the lives of others, to make a difference, to fulfill a need. I believe that is the essence of living… the act of giving. Take the time to imagine how different our world would be if we would take the time to look at our surroundings, leaving our agenda on the side for a minute. We don’t have to look hard to find a person in need. Sometimes a simple word or a small act of kindness can make a difference in a person’s life.
I once had the opportunity to meet an extraordinary man while I was rushing to take my bus back to the suburbs; it was a cold winter night in NYC. He was in his mid seventies, had a cane, could hardly walk and was loosing his balance while carrying several bags. I asked if I could assist him and to my surprise he accepted. I helped him cross the street and then to walk an additional block to his destination, the McDonald’s on 51st St. and Broadway (later on I learned that was where he usually hanged out with his peers). As I walked that block with him he told me so much about his life. The intensity and passion he lived life with could be felt as he vividly described several stories while walking those few blocks. He talked about his travels, his family… how his mother died of cancer and so did his wife, he went to war several times, yet that was the only subject he said he rather not talk about. His name was Paul and he lived in a local shelter. I stopped by that McDonald’s several times looking for him after our encounter, I saw him a few times after that… I remember in one of our conversations he told me he wanted to learn to use a computer. I was so touched by his desire to learn… his age and his current situation didn’t stop him from looking ahead, he had a sparkle in his eye, a will to continue his race… he inspired me. I continued to stop by that McDonald’s from time to time, buy never saw him again. Many times I wonder if I could have helped him find some assistance for veterans so he could have a better quality of life, if I could have helped him get into a senior program to learn how to use the computer, if I could have taught him myself… I wish I could have, but at the end it was Paul who helped me. I took the time to notice people and not just walk by focused on my “to do list”.
With Thanksgiving being around the corner I wanted to share this story that inspired me and literally changed the way I viewed things in life. No matter how difficult life may seem at any time, there is always someone with a bigger need, a harder battle. It is when we learn to take our eyes off ourselves that we can start fully seeing. It is when we start fully seeing that we can make a decision to do something for someone. It is when this happens that we experience the true purpose of living. We have so much to be grateful for, just the fact that we are still here, we have an opportunity to start over again; we have the opportunity to make a difference. Hoping in this season of giving thanks we take the time to notice the things in life we should be grateful for… and also the needs in life we are able to fulfill.