“Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.” – John Lennon, “Beautiful Boy” 1980
I recently glanced at the calendar and discovered that somehow, I got old.
I don’t mind birthdays. As a matter of fact, having them is quite preferable to not having them. It’s just that most folks, regardless of our age, never feel old. We may be old, look old, and act old, but inside, we don’t think of ourselves as aged.
In my head, I’m still a 16-year-old with my whole life ahead of me. On my driver license, I qualify for a discount at Denny’s and an AARP membership.
A couple of weekends ago, I attended a surprise birthday party for a friend. He turned 89.
I am punctual by nature, but more often than not, I’m early. Arriving almost 45 minutes ahead of the guest of honor, I was quite shocked to see that the venue where the party was held was already full. There were far more people than there were chairs in which to put them.
I decided to grab a glass of water and mingle, introducing myself to the others. I knew the birthday boy and his immediate family, but that was about it.
As I talked with most who were there, I discovered that some were family, but many were like me – friends that he’s made during his almost nine decades. What struck me was the wide age range of those attending and the distance that some had traveled to be there.
Some attendees had made a short drive to get there from other cities within Texas, or from towns in Arkansas, but others had come from much greater distances, including one man who had traveled all the way from India.
I couldn’t help but wonder if, by God’s will and grace, I live to be 89, would that many people make the effort just to wish me a happy birthday.
To me, the number of people at his birthday celebration was an indication of the kind of life this gentleman has lived and evidence that he made time for all of these individuals so that they felt that they mattered to him.
As I looked around the room, I wondered how many times in how many different ways he had positively impacted each of their lives.
Maybe it had been meals shared at holidays or possibly, he had stepped in at a time when they needed someone to fill a void. Regardless, the joy on the faces of everyone in attendance represented an obvious love, respect, and appreciation for him, and him for each of them.
Attending this special celebration made me take stock of my own life. My next birthday is just days after his, and seeing how special he was to so many made me wonder whether I had utilized every opportunity that I’ve been given to make my life matter.
Often, many of us waste far too much time trying to get to the next thing on our checklist of things to do instead of savoring what’s right in front of us. Some refer to it as stopping to smell the roses, but I prefer to call it, stopping to make people feel as if they matter.
A different friend of mine recently lost their job. After over three decades in the same field, they went to work one day, only to be told that they could go home. Their services were no longer needed. This individual has done much for many over their career. It’s hard to know what to say when someone shares with you that something like this just happened to them.
I reminded them that it’s called “life,” not because of any particular piece of it, but because of its entirety. Our time here isn’t defined by any window of our existence, but by how we use every chapter. The best part of any new chapter is that we get to write it ourselves.
Like my birthday friend, it was each chapter that he had written that told the whole story in one room, on one day, with those whose lives he had touched.
As I watched the joy in the face of my 89-year-old friend while he hugged, laughed, and joked with those who came to his surprise birthday party, I committed to myself that whatever time that I have left, I will try my best to make it about others.
I believe that God gives each of us not just one, but many purposes while we are here on earth. Some are obvious, while others may happen and we are none the wiser. But, I believe that focusing on others is the true key to happiness.
Because, a life well-lived is one that is spent making others feel that they truly matter.
©2017 John Moore
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