It appears that we’ve finally made it to the finish line of the year 2020. To several of the folks I’ve spoken with (socially distant or via virtual conference, of course), the past calendar year has been one they would rather forget. The global pandemic and its ramifications have had far-reaching effects on individuals and families physically, emotionally and psychologically that will last for more than the next few months or years.
I’m not sure about you, but this year has been a lousy professor. Nevertheless, I have determined that one lesson learned from 2020 is the importance of appreciating each day for what it is. Perhaps this year has enlightened us to not take anything for granted, whether it’s a hug from a friend, a visit with grandparents and family, or the dependence of a stable internet connection.
This year has certainly been a year of change for many of us, which reminds me of a story I recently read from a gentleman named Peter Senge.
Senge is a senior lecturer at MIT who writes about how organizations and individuals experience change. In his book titled “Presence,” he tells a story about a Jamaican man named Fred who was diagnosed with a terminal illness, and told he had only a few months left to live.
After a season of denial, Fred finally came to terms with his fate, and then something amazing happened in Fred’s life. Knowing his time was limited, he simply stopped doing everything that wasn’t essential. And he began to do the things that matter the most.
He stopped arguing with his mother, for example. And he stopped getting angry in traffic. He began pursuing projects that were important to him, and he began working with kids.
He also fell in love with a woman who eventually encouraged him to get more opinions about his condition.
A consultation with some doctors in the United States led to a breakthrough. “We have a different diagnosis,” they said. “Your condition isn’t terminal. You have a rare disease, but very curable.”
Here’s the part of the story the author said he would never forget.
When Fred heard this, he broke down and cried. Were they tears of joy? Tears of relief? No. In his own words, Fred cried because, “I was afraid my life would go back to the way it used to be.”
He had learned — when faced with certain death — what it means to truly live. He didn’t want to lose that.
Can you blame him?
In a Psalm attributed to Moses, he writes, ”Teach us to number our days carefully so that we may develop wisdom in our hearts,” (Psalm 90:12 HCSB).
He is saying: Help us to remember that life is short, and our days are few. Grant us the wisdom to make the most of each day we’ve been given.
As we turn the page on this year and look ahead to the next, we would be wise not to forget the lessons learned from 2020, but we would be wiser to live each day as if they are numbered. We shouldn’t wait for a misdiagnosis, or a global pandemic for that matter, to see the value in all that we’ve been given.
This week, and for the coming year, let’s pray for the wisdom to make each day count, one by one. Let’s begin today. Happy New Year!