Don’t Finish Everything

Danielle - Gifu-ken, Gifu-shi, Japan
Entered on April 16, 2009
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: purpose

I believe that we are all here, on this Earth, because we have something left to do.

Back when I was 16 years old my Dad was diagnosed with cancer. If you can ever consider yourself lucky, getting cancer, he was. He had testicular cancer, and the doctors told us there was a high rate of survival. Even with the odds on his side, I worried about my Dad. I wondered whether he would be there to see me graduate from high school, walk me down the aisle, or hold my first baby.

On the day I told him about my worries he told me something that my Grandma had said to him, “God won’t take me unless I’ve finished everything that I need to do.”

To me, that statement wasn’t reassuring. In fact, it did just the opposite and brought tears to my eyes. Before I could get too worked up my Dad continued talking, “That’s why I’m not planning to finish anything. I’m only going to do half the dishes and mow half the lawn. That way I always have something that I still need to do.” It was so like my Dad to take a serious worry and turn it into a light-hearted joke. I couldn’t help but smile.

I’m not sure that it was the lawn and the dishes that my Grandma was talking about when she said that to him, but I do believe that what she said was true. We will still be here, so long as we have something worthwhile to do.

I believe that it is our job to find what it is that we are here to do, what we need to finish. Sometimes finding that purpose is a struggle, it takes soul-searching and reflection. Sometimes it requires us to try many different things on for size, until we find the one, or ones, that fit. The purpose doesn’t have to be extraordinary. It doesn’t have to move mountains. But it does have to ensure that someway, somehow we are contributing meaningfully to the lives and world around us.

Now, as a woman of 28, I am glad to have many things to finish. I am a teacher, and I believe that vocation will always keep me busy. There will be lessons to teach, papers to correct, and students to reach. I am also a reader and lifelong learner. My bookshelf is overflowing with books that I want to read, it will remain so, especially since I am always finding new things that I want to read and learn. Recently I became a mother. I believe that my journey as a mother will give me more things to finish than I can even imagine; diapers to wash, support to give, traditions to share, and bonds to build.

But, just in case all these things aren’t enough, I will always leave a stack of dishes waiting on my counter.