I Believe in Grass
I believe in grass. The green everyday lawn kind—not the kind you smoke (although that has its place too).
At age 50, I suffered a heart attack and the doctors gave me a 40% chance to make it through the open heart surgery that was scheduled for the following morning. I did not expect to survive.
My biggest regret was that I hadn’t played more golf. I only golfed three to four times a year. Instead of relaxing and enjoying a balanced life of work and play, I worked 48–60 hours every week, turned down invitations to picnic or party with friends, truncated week long vacations to 3 days, and rarely visited ailing friends—ignoring their signals for my companionship.
I put ninety-five percent of my energy into work. I paid little attention to other peoples’ aspirations or needs—seldom valuing other people as I should have—expecting everyone to perform at a standard that even I seldom attained. I served the “success master” and I paid a huge price.
I remember lying on the gurney parked in a hallway outside the operating room for what seemed like hours, studying the dimples in the ceiling tiles and feeling so insignificant, so alone, so very alone. I was saddened to think “this is how it ends.” How I wished I could touch someone. Have someone hold my hand. Then I dozed off.
When I regained consciousness, I heard a voice say “Raymond, your surgery was a success.” I had survived.
In the ensuing weeks I filled my rehabilitation hours with music, comedy, exercise, and a new appreciation of my life. I changed my routine. I learned to give the first hour of the day to me. Then the world could have me the other 23.
I read poetry, toured art galleries, heard music and saw light as I never did before. My right brain became active. I began to meditate—focusing on a piece of bark or a leaf for an hour—seeing so much life that I had never seen previously.
Then one day I focused on a blade of grass in my backyard. I discovered that what I thought was one blade was really half of a grass plant. Each blade was a different hue. While I studied this blade of grass, it became the most significant thing in my life at that moment. Yet, when compared to all the other blades of grass in my lawn; and all the other lawns on my street; and all the streets in the county; and all the counties in the country; and all the countries on this planet, it would seem insignificant. But it wasn’t.
I realized then, that like the blade of grass, there were times when I was the most significant thing in someone else’s life, that a word of encouragement or timely act of kindness could—and often did—have a life changing influence on someone else. I believe there was my real value—my purpose in life: serving others.
I sold my business and my golf clubs. I visited friends. Twice a week I spent a half hour brushing my wife’s hair.
At 73, I still use my experience to serve others’ graphic needs, but I don’t obsess about it. If there is a friend who needs my support and encouragement, I’m there immediately—and the “work” stuff takes care of itself.
A blade of grass taught me that I am significant; and, I am no longer alone.