It’s not fair. You’ve heard that before. Probably said it before. And it’s true. Orphan children, starving elderly, homeless veterans, drug dealers with no soul, addicts with no dignity, no self respect, no hope. It all strikes me as terribly unfair. Life is a vapor and death comes for all of us, but we determine how we live. God gave us free will. We can love or not. We can help or not. We can care or not. The world we’re leaving for our young ones mirrors our choices. God tells us He will know us by our fruit. He watches as we turn away from opportunities to make a difference. Have you dropped anything off at your local food bank lately? Performed any random acts of kindness? Do you smile at the grandmother in line at the grocery or look past her? When was the last time you told a veteran thanks? No matter your station in life, someone less fortunate exists. Life isn’t fair but couldn’t we level the field just a bit?
It’s not easy. Your boss expects 12 hours a day. The kids expect iPads and a new car. Your parents expect you to come for dinner. Your priest expects you to show up Sunday morning. The guy on the corner wants a cigarette. So do you but you quit smoking 6 months ago. You expect to die of a heart attack from stress by the time you’re 50. But you keep showing up. Making an effort. Putting one throbbing foot in front of the other. Chasing the American dream…at a limp…hopefully the dream is close. Hopefully you don’t wake up screaming from the dream. Hope.
It’s not kind. I look up from my lunch. Through the window, I see a 40ish woman bathing in the fountain across the street. She has a grocery cart close by – its visible contents include cans, newspaper, partially wrapped food and a sleeping kitten. She modestly removes one sleeve at a time as she dips a sliver of soap into the icy water. Wash, rinse, repeat. Now her face. Her movements are graceful, giving no sign of awareness that she’s bathing in the open, in a city of 6 million people. People who are equally at ease, walk by as if she doesn’t exist. And I keep eating my lunch. It’s January. It’s freezing outside. My soup is getting cold. The woman across the street looks up and my eyes meet hers. She smiles. She waves. She pulls a threadbare coat about her shoulders, and suddenly she seems regal. Her hand pats the sleeping kitten, and her cart rattles around the corner. I missed an opportunity.
It’s not long. The days are ticking by. The older we are, the louder the ticking. Walk past the mirror and a glance at the reflection can take you by surprise. On the inside you’re still a size 6, long wavy hair, slender ankles, and eyes that sparkle with life. So who’s in the mirror? That woman wears a size 12, her hair is chopped in a simple style (and it’s silver), her ankles are swollen over her shoes, which are flat, comfortable…a far cry from the 6-inch spikes she wore at her wedding, dancing afterwards in her husband’s arms. Her life stretched out before her then, a vivid carpet, festooned with love and laughter, children and friends, the man she chose as her partner for life. Where is she? Where did the time go? How did it slip so quickly past? Deep breath. Breathe. Again. She has today. Startled, she realizes that’s all anyone has. Today. Twenty four hours. It’s not much. It’s a lifetime. It’s an opportunity.
It’s not bad. This little corner is mine. I’m in charge and I’m accountable. In my corner. Today I can smile at my neighbor. I can call my adult children. I can go to church and take communion. I can visit my sister, enjoy the sunset, volunteer at the shelter, have dinner with my husband. I can plan for tomorrow. It will come – with me or without me. So, I’ll be in the moment. Watch for my opportunities. Try to live God’s plan in God’s time.