I tossed and turned last night. I finally fell asleep about three in the morning. It happens to me sometime. I can never predict when a sleepless night will occur. It does not seem to coincide with anything that I ate or my activities for the day. Suddenly and without warning my head is so full of ideas that I seemingly have to address them or my brain will burst. Mostly they are random thoughts that are disconnected from one another. All of them seem to be in need of attention. I lie awake dealing with them one by one and eventually am free from them and snoozing.
My calendar is full these days, not with exciting social events or trips, but with schedules to visit doctors and reminders of wakes and funerals. I remember my sweet mother-in-law describing her late life as a series of old people’s responsibilities. She died at the age of seventy six after attending more funerals in her last years than I was able to imagine. Now that I am in in my seventies funerals and visits to doctors have become regular routines in my life.
When I thought of my mother-in-law last night I was reminded of how important it is to do more than just exist from day to day. I thought of ways to enhance my life with more than the mundane. I want to put visits with living friends on my to do list. I want to embrace all that nature has to offer. I want to be sure that I have been responsible, but also that I have taken the most from every single day that I am able to grab.
I remember my brother taking my sister-in-law’s mother along with his family on trips. She was wheelchair bound but it never slowed her down. She was willing to roll along the streets of Europe to see the places that she had dreamed of visiting. She always found someone willing to carry her and her chair up stairs or hills so that she might enjoy a beautiful view. The innate goodness of the vast majority of humans blessed her again and again because she was fearless enough to go out among them .
My thoughts of the night moved to the many problems of my friends and family members and all people of the world. I know I can’t solve them all, but I can tackle the ones that are within my abilities. I can sit next to someone who is sad or just send them a note of encouragement if they are too far away. I can stop fretting about things that I can’t change and attempt to spread kindness wherever I go. Often it is in the tiniest moments that we make the most difference.
Somehow my mother-in-law came to my mind in between and toss and turn. Perhaps she is watching over me or maybe her wisdom has stayed with me in the years since she left. I remembered her talking about the death of Jesus Christ. She often noted how he had been spurned by his fickle followers in his final walk to the cross. His apostles were hiding. Still, there was the courageous man who helped Jesus lift the cross he was bearing when he stumbled. There is a profound message in that simple act of kindness. We all know someone who is suffering through a difficult time. We would do well to help them regain their footing.
I read a blurb about Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, one of the greatest basketball players of all time. I thought of how I saw him play when he was still in college at the old Astrodome in Houston. He was a stunning man who went on to achieve greatness. He has sold many of the trappings of wealth and achievement to fund youth education programs. He realizes that our earthly treasures are ultimately worth nothing to us, but investments in the well being of people live on far after we are gone.
I want to be like Kareem and unselfishly give of what I have. The day will one day come when it is my funeral that is on the calendar of the people I know and love. I would like to think that I have helped them in some meaningful way while walking and talking with them on this earth. Being more selfless should be the admirable goal of each of us. That favorite possession or price of a new pair of shoes just might help in changing the trajectory of someone’s life.
Maybe my thoughts were supposed to happen in the middle of the night when I could not be ignore them by busying myself. In really thinking about what to do about the difficulties that concern me I realized that I can only do so much, but also that I still have the power to do something, even if it seems small. Each of us has something remarkable to offer that will make the world a much better place. Once I reached this conclusion I fell into a deep and restful sleep. I awoke a bit later than usual, but that was okay. I feel refreshed and determined to make each day count by sharing my time and my treasures. My thoughts reminded me again of how to live well. I’m rested and ready to engage with the people I encounter. I plan to give more and worry less.