Saturday, September 04, 2004

What's really important

Saturday morning. Once again I've been seriously slacking in the frequency of my posts. I am always thinking of things I'd like to write about and then don't do it quickly enough so that everything's left my head when it comes time to put fingers to keys. I don't want to write lifeless entries (which might come as a surprise to some, given my past track record), so I just skip it entirely instead. Yet more evidence of the role that (an apparent lack of) moderation plays in my life.

In any case, I was in the middle of my weekly one on one meeting with my newest team member when my former manager walks in and tells me that the wife of a former colleague died earlier this week after a brief battle with cancer. Her husband and I did some really great work together and were so completely familiar with our project, it's foibles, and each other, that we did things that shouldn't have been possible on a regular basis. When he told me last year that he was resigning, I was crushed, although his replacement has done a really great job and I've since moved on to head a different team, so, I confess, I hadn't given him much thought of late. It was 1:45pm when I found out that the memorial service was at 4pm that same day - Friday night on a get-away holiday weekend. Gack! I talked to my supervisor (who totally rocks, by the way), told her what had happened, and she told me that, if I thought I could get home and changed in time to be there that I should leave immediately, which I did. I raced home, changed into a black jacket, chocolate long skirt, and chocolate accessories, dusted on some makeup, and ran. I made it with about four minutes to spare and I'll always be grateful that I did.

My first sight of my former co-worker was shocking. He looked so old. He never looked old when we worked together, although he's in his late 50s, but he did yesterday. When he hugged me tight and whispered softly, so that only I could hear it, "I hear you want to bribe me to come back," my heart just about broke. This was not the man I remember, not the man I knew. In the next 45 minutes, I came to know the woman who was his life through her friends, her family, and the head of her church. It turns out that she was an incredibly generous woman and there was something the pastor said that has stayed with me ever since. I can't remember the exact phrase but, essentially, what he said was this: what's important at the end of our lives is what we've given others. I listened to his words and, as I am wont to do at funerals, started reflecting on my own life so far. Not for the first time, I realized that I'm living a very selfish life. I have few friends, I don't leave the house much other than to go shopping (for me) or workout (for me), and I don't do any volunteer work at all. If I were to die tomorrow, what would my epitaph be? I don't really want to think about that, honestly, because I don't think I'd like the answer. Off the top of my head, though, "She had a lot more purses than any one woman should ever own," comes to mind.

So, what now? I've written down "become a volunteer for adult literacy" on my big To Do list for years now and have done not a thing toward making it a reality. Until today. I just finished sending my information to the San Diego Council on Literacy through VolunteerMatch. I'm really hoping that I'll be able to do a few hours every week and help adults and children learn to read. Throughout my life, I've been blessed with a love of books and reading, and I want to help others develop that same passion. No matter where you live or what your life is like, you can travel the world, travel through time, and expand your mind beyond the boundaries of your current world just by opening the cover of a book. What a very worthwhile reason to get out of my house, off of my duff, and start making a difference!

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