Our lives move so quickly. The days race on as we live them out. My father, maternal grandfather and paternal grandmother all passed away within a five year period. I consider the life investment we had put into each other and how they are now gone, yet their investment is still with me. Some of these memories were simply sitting next to one another towards the end of their life span. I consider my time with my own children and see how fast they grow, how ‘all of a sudden’ they are in new epochs of their lives.
What is important?
The successful English businessman, Richard Branson points out that he does not see work as work and play as play, but both as extensions of his life. The social enterprise I am forming with the people of various towns, a competitive skateboarding league training youth to develop executive function skills while creating social opportunities for typical youth and those with special needs to mentor and positively impact each other requires sowing seeds of vision, purpose and passion in a great number of people. All this takes an investment of time and energy. Days pass, years come and go, my children get older and the expectancy of reward for my efforts continues to push me forward. Daily, I question myself on what is most important today. How am I aptly balancing my time and energy investment? What are the rewards I am expecting? Sure, it is to further guarantee the financial security of my children’s welfare, but it is also the vision to create a mentally-physical environment that positively disrupts how we approach the life skills development of both typical youth and those with special needs. As an independent Special Educator and father, I empathize with youth and adults with special needs who have no friends and limited social interaction beyond their family circle. A reward for me then is to successfully create the conditions that not only bring together different elements of the community under the Olympic sport of skateboarding, but that in the process, other educators, parents, town governments and social entrepreneurs get inspired to think big on how to best answer some of the pressing social issues of the day. With the constant rise in vaccine-damage related autism, the need to answer how to reach out to individuals with severe special needs to me becomes one of human empathy. The passion and forward-momentum I bring to realizing this dream more and more is a very central part of my life, as are spending quality time with my children. So it is that instead telling myself that I will enjoy the rewards of my work at some appointed date, I cash in now daily and enjoy my life investment in the daily process.
In his book, the Miracle of Mindfulness, Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nat Han suggests that when we wash the dishes, that we be their wholeheartedly to wash them. That in whatever we do, we be present, rather than thinking about where we would like to be, like to be doing or how we would like our lives to unfold. He said, ‘be present.’ This moment counts, each moment we are alive is a blessing and not to be relegated on a scale of what is most fun and exciting or what is most rewarding or benefiting. In being present we honor our life and the life of those around us at that moment. In my last face to face conversation with my late-father, for example, I was too quick to depart from his presence. He was ailing and had three more weeks to live. He was in his bed. I had awoken him to say goodbye for I was about to get on an airplane that day. I had given him a hug, told him I loved him, maybe we prayed, and I told myself that he would live ten more years. He was calm and groggy from sleep. The moment lasted no more than five minutes. At the stroke of midnight on December 31st, 2015, he was gone. Just like my grandfather and grandmother. I noticed how tethered I was to these hree people. We had invested in each other through our time in the presence of each other.
What is important? What shall my life perspective be as I rise each day? Is it one of one day I will enjoy my life, or I will find gratitude in the small moments that I share with my children and community? I choose to carve out gratitude for where I am and that my heart is about looking to better the life of others. Life moves faster than we acknowledge at times. Looking at how short human life is, I focus on the big picture of what is of value every day and that mindset affords me a certain peace of mind and heart which I value as a luxury. I learned from my elders that the value of a life is not found in constant physical movement and worldly achievement, but more in the ability to be present in the moment, to be gracious for whatsoever station we may be in and to be about improving and caring for the lives of others.