I keep thinking about Stuart Scott, the ESPN sportscaster who died of cancer at 49. He said, "When you die, it does not mean that you lose to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and in the manner in which you live."
This morning I woke up to see the star over the tall evergreen that shines down at me on clear mornings before the sun comes up. It is the most encouraging star. When I am laying there in the bed working on getting my rise-and-shine juices flowing, that star seems like a connection to God. Like that old game of telephone that involves two tin cans a long string. I can imagine the creator of the cosmos way up there, light years away, giving me words of peace and love all the down the string into my heart.
This is the day we are given, and we have been given everything we need to wake up today. Sometimes that knowledge makes me worry that I am going to squander this day. That I need to do something important to show that I am grateful for my time on earth. The old notions of worthiness, of striving to be good enough to deserve the love of God play on in the mind. I guess they are just part of the human consciousness, even though they are false. They get it backward. I don't have to try hard enough to earn grace, because it is a free gift. Once I let that mantle of forgiveness and mercy settle about me, then I can respond. Then, I am free. If I am obsessed with myself and being productive, being smart enough or any of the other "enoughs", the self absorption that results is a stumbling block. I can't see the small miracles all around me. Like walking through the woods with a mirror before my face, I can't see the beauty laid at my feet.
The wisest people I have known have found a way around the what-about-me part of the human condition. Not that they are perfect, either. But they have found the power in surrender of the will. Stuart Scott found the peace that comes with knowing we are not charge of life, even of our own life. Peace that allowed him to give hope to millions of people by his example of courage.
Work is one of the gifts that we are given. Being productive is as necessary to our search for meaning as education. Finding the work that fulfills us as people can be a life-long journey, and it can also change tremendously as we age. Raising kids was my heart-growing work, but that job ends earlier than some. Only when the kids were up and out did I find that writing is important to me. It is a gift to me. When I remember that I have that gift to unwrap every day, I understand that I am not earning my time on earth. I am given that time. Free and clear. One day at time. My most important work is still loving the people I have been given to love. That job is never-ending, and since I will never get it just right, I turn to that mantle of grace to deal with my failures. Finding the courage to work hard at writing, being willing to share my insides with total strangers, that is an ongoing project as well.
Stuart Scott, I am grateful for the grace you modeling in living, and in dying. You make me want to make the most of this day, and I understand that I begin that effort with gratitude. And gratitude is the middle. And gratitude is the end.