Joy in the journey (even if it’s just a 15-minute drive)

 

On Saturday mornings, I wake up dark and early to head to the temple. For previous weeks, it had started to feel like a chore. That was hard. And I did it every week. And I was just so tired. Saturdays are for sleeping! I could always tell myself. But something changed today. I started to see things in a different light. Not a new light, mind you. It was like I was seeing them for the first time again and appreciated them for what they were—or thought about the memories associated with them. As we drove past the Jordan River parkway, I remembered the bike rides that my family would go on when I was a kid. I drove past the turnoff to my parents’ house and remembered the time I nearly wrecked my dad’s car making a left-hand turn when he was teaching me to drive. I drove past the street to my elementary school and remembered the kind crossing guard who always stood on the street corner. Everything had a sheen to it that wasn’t there just the week before. What had changed?

Then I recalled something I had learned a while ago, but had somehow let fallen. I was living in the now, I was enjoying the moment. I was taking in the simple pleasure of driving—without letting myself get stressed out about the huge project I have due next week or the acceptance letters to graduate school that are yet to come or about the lesson I have to prepare for Sunday. Wow. Do I ever do that? I get so busy, that my life is one worry mess. You need to live life, and not just stress out about, plan or worry about it.

I put together some of my favorite quotes about this very topic and summarized a few of the lessons I got from each one. There’s a hymn, a talk by President Thomas S. Monson and a summary and excerpt of one of my favorite Chesterton books, Manalive. Enjoy!

Have I done any good in the world today?
Have I helped anyone in need?
Have I cheered up the sad and made someone feel glad?
If not, I have failed indeed.
 
Has anyone’s burden been lighter today
Because I was willing to share?
Have the sick and the weary been helped on their way?
When they needed my help was I there?
 
Then wake up and do something more
Than dream of your mansion above.
Doing good is a pleasure, a joy beyond measure,
A blessing of duty and love.
 
There are chances for work all around just now,
Opportunities right in the way.
Do not let them pass by, saying, “Sometime I’ll try,”
But go and do something today.
 
‘Tis noble of man to work and to give;
Love’s labor has merit alone.
Only he who does something helps others to live.
To God each good work will be know.
 
Then wake up and do something more
Than dream of your mansion above.
Doing good is a pleasure, a joy beyond measure,
A blessing of duty and love.
 

Life is more enjoyable when we take time to notice other people.
It’s not that you don’t have time to help or serve. There’s people all around you! Just talking to someone on the train will probably make their day!
Serving is a way of life and not something you can just budget time for. It helps, but you’d better be ready to help the neighbor with her groceries right then when she needs it.
Running through plans on your head of what you need to get done—“dreaming of your mansion above” (at least one of the meanings I take from it)—doesn’t get things done.

And now for some Monson:

This is our one and only chance at mortal life—here and now. The longer we live, the greater is our realization that it is brief. Opportunities come, and then they are gone. I believe that among the greatest lessons we are to learn in this short sojourn upon the earth are lessons that help us distinguish between what is important and what is not. I plead with you not to let those most important things pass you by as you plan for that illusive and nonexistent future when you will have time to do all that you want to do. Instead, find joy in the journey—now.

I am what my wife, Frances, calls a “show-a-holic.” I thoroughly enjoy many musicals, and one of my favorites was written by the American composer Meredith Willson and is entitled The Music Man. Professor Harold Hill, one of the principal characters in the show, voices a caution that I share with you. Says he, “You pile up enough tomorrows, and you’ll find you’ve collected a lot of empty yesterdays.”

My brothers and sisters, there is no tomorrow to remember if we don’t do something today.

I’ve shared with you previously an example of this philosophy. I believe it bears repeating. Many years ago, Arthur Gordon wrote in a national magazine, and I quote:

“When I was around thirteen and my brother ten, Father had promised to take us to the circus. But at lunchtime there was a phone call; some urgent business required his attention downtown. We braced ourselves for disappointment. Then we heard him say [into the phone], ‘No, I won’t be down. It’ll have to wait.’

“When he came back to the table, Mother smiled. ‘The circus keeps coming back, you know,’ [she said.]

“‘I know,’ said Father. ‘But childhood doesn’t.’”

If you have children who are grown and gone, in all likelihood you have occasionally felt pangs of loss and the recognition that you didn’t appreciate that time of life as much as you should have. Of course, there is no going back, but only forward. Rather than dwelling on the past, we should make the most of today, of the here and now, doing all we can to provide pleasant memories for the future.

If you are still in the process of raising children, be aware that the tiny fingerprints that show up on almost every newly cleaned surface, the toys scattered about the house, the piles and piles of laundry to be tackled will disappear all too soon and that you will—to your surprise—miss them profoundly.

Stresses in our lives come regardless of our circumstances. We must deal with them the best we can. But we should not let them get in the way of what is most important—and what is most important almost always involves the people around us. Often we assume that they must know how much we love them. But we should never assume; we should let them know. Wrote William Shakespeare, “They do not love that do not show their love.” We will never regret the kind words spoken or the affection shown. Rather, our regrets will come if such things are omitted from our relationships with those who mean the most to us.

Send that note to the friend you’ve been neglecting; give your child a hug; give your parents a hug; say “I love you” more; always express your thanks. Never let a problem to be solved become more important than a person to be loved. Friends move away, children grow up, loved ones pass on. It’s so easy to take others for granted, until that day when they’re gone from our lives and we are left with feelings of “what if” and “if only.” Said author Harriet Beecher Stowe, “The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and deeds left undone.”

Small moments now are more important than big moments you plan later.
Setting aside time for family means so much more than just having fun.  It means love.
Remember your mom telling you, “Oh, I wish you were one again and we could start all over.”  Yeah, that’ll be you in a few decades.  Make the most of the time now.
Reaching out to people takes a conscious effort.  When the thought comes, “Oh, I should call this person,” do it.

In G. K. Chesteron’s Manalive, the main character, Innocent Smith, is accused of a series of crimes. And the evidence against him is alarming. First, he attempted to kill a man. Second, he robbed a house. Third, he abandoned his family. And forth, he was a polygamist, marrying at least four different women. But as the defense takes the stand, each of the accusations is seen in its true light.

His attempt to kill a man was actually a reminder to the man being shot at that life means something. It ended up totally changing his life perspective, and now Mr. Smith always carries a gun to remind people that life is important whenever someone starts whining that life is meaningless.

His attempt at burglary? He was actually robbing his own house. Because he wanted to see his house from a different perspective. He’d never come in through the chimney before.

Yes, he did run away from home and leave his wife and children without a father. But he actually ran away from home so he could come back to it. Being away made home strange, new and important again.

How can you fake polygamy? He married his wife four separate times. So they could re-experience the joy and the love they had for each other on their wedding day again and again.

While the events in the book seem exaggerated, the message is important. When we let things become nothing more than routine, we lose sight of what’s important. We need to remember that our family is always special. Their quirks are what make them unique! You love them, and seeing them every single day shouldn’t diminish that.

This scene from the book occurs while he is circumnavigating the globe to get back home to his family:

“The man silently stretched out his rake in that direction, and before he spoke, I knew what he meant. Beyond the great green rock in the purple sky hung a single star.

“’A star in the east,’ he said in a strange hour voice like one of our ancient eagles.’ ‘The wise men followed the star and found the house. But if I followed the star, should I find the house?’

“’It depends perhaps,’ I said, smiling, ‘on whether you are a wise man.’

I refrained from adding that he certainly didn’t look it.

“’You may judge for yourself,’ he answered. ‘I am a man who left his own house because he could no longer bear to be away from it.’

“’It certainly sounds paradoxical,’” I said.

“’I heard my wife and children talking and saw them moving about the room,’ he continued, ‘and all the time I knew they were walking and talking in another house thousands of miles away, under the light of different skies, and beyond the series of the seas. I loved them with a devouring love, because they seemed not only distant but unattainable. Never did human creatures seem so dear and desirable: but I seemed like a cold ghost; therefore I cast off their dust from my feet for a testimony. Nay, I did more. I spurned the world under my feet so that it swung full circle like a treadmill.’

“’Do you really mean,’ I cried, ‘that you have come right round the world? Your speech is English, yet you are coming from the west.’

“’My pilgrimage is not yet accomplished,’ he replied sadly. ‘I have become a pilgrim to cure myself of being an exile.’

So wake up! And do something more!
Have joy in the journey!
And love your wife like you did on your wedding day.

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