“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery; today is a gift.” I first read this message on a plaque at a week-end religious retreat. These few words seemed to hold a profound meaning, and I purchased it as a gift for a friend.
History. We can’t undo the past, and psychologists say that memory tends to be selective. Perhaps is the reason that we can recall misunderstandings, misjudgments, wrongs done to us and cruel comments made about us—even from childhood—so clearly. At the same time, there were acts of kindness and times when we were forgiven, encouraged, supported and congratulated. Long ago, I heard that we often see knots in this handiwork of ours and fail to realize that the threads of our individual lives form a unique and beautiful picture.
Any bird builds its nest exactly as his ancestors did and sings the same song too, but we humans are different. We all leave out stamp on the world around us, build on the accomplishments of those who came before us, and strive to leave those who come after us a worthwhile heritage.
Mystery. The wisest among us plan for the future, but with the understanding that our plans are “subject to change without notice.” Until September of 2003, I hardly knew what people meant when they said, “We make God laugh when we tell him our plans.” Then, one morning, as I sat in my kitchen and knew that Friday would be a vacation day, I looked around and said, “Since I have the day off, I’m going to give this room a good cleaning!” Later on that day, I fell at work and broke my hip. Since I didn’t even see my kitchen for six weeks, the meaning of that saying is now crystal clear to me.
Gift. It’s hard to realize on a gloomy morning when the house is chilly until we crank up the heat, but time is so valuable that we measure it in a vast array of quantities, from “second” to “millennium.” The business world tells us that “time is money,” and we squander it if we spend it on regrets, revenge or recriminations.
As noted in the old Frank Sinatra hit, “All the Way,” we all experience “good years,” and they should be occasions of growth, gratitude and accomplishment. The “lean years” test our mettle, strengthen our resolve, and help us to realize how much we need the other people in our lives. The “in-between years” are the ones we take for granted, the ones that test our fidelity to whatever we believe in, and the times when we may become ungrateful and murmur something to ourselves about “same old, same old.”
Life truly is a journey, but as James Taylor said, “Isn’t it a lovely ride?” Without the many variations that come along, we might go through the days like robots, hide away in fear, or collapse from the burden—and the tapestry would be incomplete.
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