I believe that I have all that I need. These aren’t my words, though they have become my mantra. They are the words of Jai Pausch, the wife of Professor Randy Pausch, who became a heroic figure to the nation after giving The Last Lecture at Carnegie Mellon Institute following his diagnosis of terminal pancreatic cancer. When asked by Diane Sawyer on Primetime in April 2008 how she felt about the prospect of losing her husband, Jai responded that while this would be an immeasurable loss to her and her children, she knew that “I have all that I need,” and always would have.
I grew up in a quite religious environment; for part of my life my faith was everything to me. Along the way that faith in a personal, caring Being was lost. I did, though, retain a sense that, like the birds of the air and the lilies of the field, we are somehow taken care of. After several somewhat lucrative careers, in the 1990’s I made decisions I knew could have negative financial consequences for me—and they did. At age 50 I found myself half a world away, in debt and almost literally penniless, and without intact professional connections that might have given me a boost. At times I wasn’t sure how I would pay my meager rent or buy food. Then an article I’d written would be published. Or my aunt would send a gift. Or friends invited me to dinner. Despite myself, I was being taken care of. Some remnant faith in the providential character of life was confirmed, again and again.
Nevertheless I became less appreciative of what I had and more focused on what I didn’t have. I returned to the US. I could no longer afford a life in New York. I had a too-small apartment. My travel days seemed over. I couldn’t afford to visit friends. I didn’t have enough money to donate to causes. I wanted to be more productive but because of my financial situation, felt I couldn’t. There was so much I didn’t have and therefore so much good I couldn’t do. So I believed.
Then Jai’s words stopped me in my tracks. How could I be so forgetful of all that I’d been given and of what I do have? And why had I let my sense of empowerment depend on my material status? We live in a culture that conditions us, educates us, screams at us to want bigger and better and more of everything from food to fame to fortune. It’s easy to forget what we truly need and be blind to what we do have. Jai no longer has her husband / friend / breadwinner. Her children no longer have their father. But she knows she has all that she needs. What a remarkable faith for her to give her children. I thank her for the belief she’s reawakened for me.
Yes, I have all that I need. This I do believe.