IN THE BLINK OF AN EYE...
I may have already told you this, but as a young boy I was a voracious reader. I read anything and everything I could get my hands on. I remember more than just a few Saturday afternoons spent at the James V. Brown Library in my hometown. And incredibly, much of what I read has stayed with me all these years...
some of which I’ve used to form my code of life.
There was one story I remember reading of an impetuous and impatient young boy whose name was Joseph. Joseph reminded me a great deal of myself at the time. I read his story in rapt anticipation of its ending. But when it finally came, I will tell you this...I felt a bit of a letdown...
It made no sense to me.
We get to a certain age when we stop playing and start planning...when we stop dreaming of tomorrow. We begin to dread what lays out ahead of us. I don’t know where I was along the time-space continuum when I read Joseph's story, but now that I am so much older, I’ve come to realize I was just too young and too inexperienced to appreciate it. It would take years of living and experiencing the ups and downs of life to understand its message.
Joseph was a young boy who just could never live in the moment for some reason. When he was in one place, he dreamed of being in another. When he was in school, he dreamed of being outside playing. When he was outside playing, he dreamed of being on summer vacation. Joseph was, for lack of better words, a daydreamer...
never taking the time to savor the special moments that filled his days.
One morning, he was out riding his bicycle on the country roads near his home. After a few miles he became tired and decided to rest for a while. Up ahead he saw a tall tree with a patch of grass beneath it. The tree gave lots of shade and so that’s where he went. Leaning his bike against the tree trunk, he laid in that grass, looking up at the sky...
thinking of being somewhere else no doubt.
Eventually he fell asleep. Soon he heard someone calling his name from above...
“Joseph! Joseph! Wake up!”
Slowly he opened his eyes, startled by what he saw. Standing there at his feet was the most peculiar old woman. She had long, flowing bright white hair. It extended well past her shoulders, to the middle of her back. She was holding something in her hand...something quite odd. It quickly got his attention...
“What is that you are holding?” he asked the woman. “May I see it?”
The old woman smiled. And when she did, he noticed her teeth were crooked and broken. In her wrinkled hands he could see she held a small, bright ruby red glass ball. There was a hole in it, from which dangled a long, slender golden thread...
“This is a magical ball,” she said. “It has the most amazing powers.”
“I’m sorry,” Joseph responded with a scowl, “but I am no longer a little boy. I don’t believe in such foolish nonsense. I stopped believing in magic a long time ago.”
“Well, I think you will change your mind Joseph,” she said, “Let me tell you what this magic ball is capable of.”
“I’m listening,” Joseph answered. “Tell me something first though. What is the thread that is hanging from it?”
“It is the thread of your life,” she answered. “The ball represents your world, and the thread...if you pull on it, makes time go faster. If you pull it just a bit, an hour will pass in seconds. If you pull it a little harder, whole days will pass before your eyes in minutes. And if you pull with all your might, months...even years, will pass by in a matter of days. You will be able to see what tomorrow has in store for you. There will be no surprises!”
Joseph looked at her and looked at the ball again. He was suddenly very interested in it...
“May I have it?” he asked. “You did say it was my life, didn’t you?”
The woman held out her arm and dropped the ball into Joseph’s lap. He quickly picked it up and began to look at it...
“Be careful with it, Joseph” the old woman warned. “The magic it holds is very, very powerful. More powerful than you know!”
And then...just like that, the woman disappeared.
Holding the ball in his hands, Joseph drifted back to sleep.
He woke hours later. Realizing he would have to hurry if he was going to get home before it became dark, he stuffed the ball in his pants pocket and pedaled furiously.
It was the next day, as he was sitting in the classroom feeling restless and bored, that he suddenly remembered the ball. He took it from his pocket and stared at it for a while. Remembering the old woman’s warning, he hesitantly pulled on the thread...
just a little bit.
Amazingly, in an instant he found himself no longer sitting at his desk but outside playing in his mother’s flower garden. Realizing that everything the old woman had told him about the ball’s powers was true and that the golden thread could make hours pass in seconds, Joseph wanted to see what would happen if he pulled on the string a bit harder.
“I am so tired of being a schoolboy,” he thought to himself. “I long to be a teenager. I want to know what driving a car and having a girlfriend will be like.”
So, he held on tightly to the ball and again pulled on the golden thread. This time much harder.
Instantly, years passed! He was a teenager holding the hand of a very pretty young girl named Elise. Together they were driving through town. Everyone was looking at him, admiring his car and his beautiful girlfriend.
But for some strange reason he still wasn’t content. Something was missing. He began dreaming of being an adult and having all the freedom that comes with it. So again, he pulled hard on the thread. Many more years flew by in an instant.
He found himself transformed into a husband and a father. Elise was now his wife, and he was surrounded by a houseful of kids. But sadly, he felt disconnected from it all. He could see that he was himself and she was Elise...his children were theirs, but the emotion and pride that goes along with being a husband and a father was sadly missing.
Joseph inadvertently turned his and caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror that hung on the wall. He noticed that his once jet-black hair had turned grey, and his once youthful face was showing signs of age.
Then he caught a glimpse of his mother, who stood before him in the room. She’d grown old and frail and struggled to walk with a cane. It broke his heart to watch...
I do not want to see any of this!” he said out loud. “I want to be somewhere else. Anywhere but here. “
So again, he pulled on the magic thread and waited for the changes to appear.
He found he had become a very old man. His once thick dark hair had thinned and was as white as snow. His beautiful young wife Elise was not with him...
“She is dead Joseph!” he heard a voice say. “She passed away several years before ago.”
He realized that his wonderful children had grown up and left home to lead lives and raise families of their own...
Joseph found himself all alone in the world.
For the first time in his entire life, he came to understand what he’d done wrong...
“I’ve never taken the time to just be...to just embrace the wonders of living,” he thought. “Now, my whole life has passed me by.”
He had never gone fishing with his son or taken a moonlight stroll with Elise. He had never planted a garden or read those wonderful books his mother had loved so much. Instead, he had hurried through life, never resting along the way to see all that was good life has to offer.
His sadness overwhelmed him. He thought back to the day he’d met the old woman at the tree and how she’d warned him about the magical powers of the ball and the golden thread.
Something told him to go back to that shade tree and find that patch of grass beneath it. And so, he did. He found the tree just as it was when he was a boy...not a single thing about it had changed.
He sat down to clear his head and try to revive his spirit. But he noticed that although the tree beneath which he sat had not changed, everything else had. The small saplings of his childhood had now grown into mighty trees. The forest itself had aged and become a paradise of nature. He lay back resting against the trunk of the tree and again fell into a deep sleep.
From the depths of his slumber, he again heard that same voice calling out his name...
“Joseph! Joseph!” whispered the voice. “Wake up!”
He opened his eyes and was astonished to see that it was that old woman again, the same one who had given him the ball with the magic golden thread so many years earlier.
“I see you’ve come back, Joseph,” she said to him. “I knew you would. And I see you are an old man now...old like me. Tell me something Joseph...have you enjoyed my special gift?”
“At first I did," he answered. "But now I must confess I have come to hate it. My whole life has passed before me, and I have enjoyed not a single moment of it. I feel empty inside. I have missed the great gift of living.”
“My, aren’t you the ungrateful one?” the old woman scolded. “I warned you about pulling that string! I told you how quickly time can pass. You did not listen to me and now you regret everything, don’t you?”
“Yes, I do,” Joseph answered. “If I could go back in time I would do everything differently. I would take my time and savor the special moments. I wish I could be young again.”
The old woman just smiled at him and disappeared. He lay there thinking about all he’d missed. Soon he fell back to sleep.
In a voice he thought he recognized, he heard someone calling his name again. He struggled to open his eyes...
“Who is there?” he asked. “Do I know you?”
“It is me Joseph,” the woman said. “It is your mother.”
He jumped to his feet, deliriously happy to see her...
“Oh mother!” he said, beginning to weep. “You are so young and beautiful again...just like I remember you. You are so radiant.”
Then he looked around and noticed all the trees in the forest had disappeared...even the patch of grass was gone. He realized he was back in his bedroom and was a young boy again...
“Hurry up, Joseph,” his mother was saying. “You sleep more than any young boy I’ve ever known. You must have been dreaming...you were talking in your sleep.”
“I had a terrible dream mother!” he said.
“Yes, you did,” she answered. “You were talking about being old and so unhappy. Such a dream for a young boy! Trust me my son, those days will come before you know it. Pay attention to things while you are young. Let nothing pass you by unnoticed! Now get up or you will be late for school!"
Joseph jumped out of bed and hugged his mother...
“I will mother,” he promised. “I will live my life exactly as you have told me. I will let nothing go unnoticed.”
The story goes on to say that Joseph lived a full life, a rich life with many delights, many joys and many triumphs. He took his time to savor what it felt like to hold a young girl’s hand and to be kissed for the very first time. He beamed with pride to watch his bride walking down the aisle to become his wife. He wept to hear his baby’s first cry and jumped for joy the first time his son called him Daddy.
Had it not been for the old woman in the woods he never would have stopped being so impatient and so impetuous. On that morning when his mother woke him for school, he vowed to never again sacrifice the present for anything the future might hold. It was at that moment that he began to live for today.
Many years later he was sitting with his daughter and giving her a bit of advice before she set off for college...
“The future will come soon enough, my dear child” he told her. “You should be looking forward to all that God has in store for you. But in the meantime, do your best to enjoy and experience each and every moment.”
My message to you this month is a simple one...
Time passes in the snap of a finger and the blink of an eye.
Do not allow a moment to pass without taking joyous, ecstatic note of it.
Do not waste a single moment of life’s beauty.
Pay attention, don’t cheat yourself out of today.
Today is calling us, trying to get our attention. But too many of us are stuck in the past or trying to look into the future. Our todays trickle away like water down a drain.
We will wake up one morning to find that we have wasted too many of them and they are gone forever. Some of those moments may have had wonderful things in store for us but sadly we will never know.
If we are smart and know what we’re doing, we will make today one of the good old days that we will reminisce about tomorrow!
If there is one thing I’ve learned since reading the story about Joseph, it is that it is me and me alone that has the power to make myself happy or unhappy today.
Not the things I’ve acquired.
Not the people I’ve met.
Not the things that have happened to me.
And it is the same for you. Only you can choose which it shall be. Don't live the same day over and over again and call it a life.
Yesterday is now behind you.
Tomorrow is still out of sight.
All you have is just one day, just today.
Life is about experiencing the moment.
Will you choose to be happy in it?