I Believe in Grass

Raymond - Webster, New York
Entered on December 3, 2008
Age Group: 65+
  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

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.