Doctor Eclectic

Doctor Eclectic
Doctor Eclectic

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Sell-By Date

Although I think I can honestly say that I pay attention to the homily delivered at my weekly church service, it is somewhat less common for me to ponder an original thought that may come from the sermon. Recently I did just that.  I heard a new concept and actually gnawed on it for the better part of the next week.

The thought?  We all have a “sell-by” date, before which we are supposed to use the talents we have been given for the good of others,  and have the responsibility of working with those without knowing when our “use-by” date will come, essentially not knowing when we will die.

I think I was a late bloomer for my “sell-by” date, pushed to the back of my shelf by being self-centered, and lacking the maturity to feel empathy.  This, in spite of priding myself in college for knowing the Spanish words, “Alma Tu”, which loosely translates to “I share your soul.”

It wasn’t until several years of sharing a marriage and the introduction of two other lives into our lives that I began to appreciate the effects my actions might have on others’ lives. I tell a story of being at a Dental Meeting social occasion when Mary and I were approached by a sales rep, who used to be one of my technicians.  Through with the small talk, he excused himself, but not before saying, “I want you to know that you changed my life.”

When we were alone Mary asked, “What did you do to make him say that?”  I had to admit I had no idea. I think that was when I became conscious of the effects on others of how I lived my life and the need to understand the lives of those around me.

I have been fortunate to have lived through two professional retirements since then and have time now to contribute both through personal and financial talents to have a positive effect in the world.  We are never in a position to know what effects we have.  I don’t know now any more than I did at that Dental Meeting, but inwardly I feel I have moved off my shelf and am being useful.

While I hope that my “use-by” date is somewhere off in the future, I can live with what comes, feeling that my contributions have not left too much in my jar.

As I write this the country, no in fact the world is consumed with a need for information surrounding the horrendous murders of 20 schoolchildren from Sandy Hook School; to figure out why it happened.  My son, who teaches at a similar school, was approached by some of his students of a similar age asking why the flag was at half-staff.  I think Tim has taken his talents off the shelf because his answer was direct, informative, and sensitive to his audience.  He said that a very bad man had done some terrible things to young people in another part of the country and this was a reminder that they and their families needed our prayers.  He then led them in a prayer for the victims and their families.

And then, when the first parent of the victims spoke to the media, he noted that his dead daughter always had a smile, always had good things to say about people and was teaching her three year-old sister to read. In other words Emilie at age seven recognized that her “sell-by” date told her it was time to give back.  Perhaps that knowledge was given her because her “use-by” date was to come so soon.

I wonder if my sharing of this simple thought, inspired by a Priest’s feeling that recognition of a public recognition of an aunt’s good deeds while she was still alive would be better than eulogies after her death, that caused me to reflect on my life will stir up similar thoughts in your mind.

My next post will be a lot lighter and hopefully more informative.  I’ll share with you our recent experience going to an exhibit at the Bowers Museum: an exhibit on costumes used in film.  Check it out!

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