I think, now, more about what I've learned and what I must still discover about life.
|Life Lessons From Email Forwards
by Marilyn Mackenzie
Today, after waking and spending time with God and with God’s creatures (I'm easily amused – daily – by the birds and squirrels as they sing and romp), I sat at the computer. Many new email messages arrived, some junk mail, but others some wonderful forwarded messages my friends from all over the world send. Some I had seen before. Others were new messages. A few were personal messages to me, even more wonderful than the things others had cut and pasted into a message for me.
One of the forwarded messages really touched me. I had seen it before, but hadn't saved it for future pondering, so I was thrilled to receive it again. It deserved pondering, for it was about the things we learn at different ages in our lives. Perhaps since I've hit the half-century mark, I think more about what I've learned (or haven't learned) and what I must still discover about life. I'm concerned more about whether I've made an impact on the world around me, especially on my friends and family.
Some of the lessons in that email deserved pondering, expanding and explaining. One read, "At age 49, I learned that singing "Amazing Grace" can lift my spirits for hours." Isn't that true? Perhaps the song or hymn is different for you, but surely there is a tune that touches your heart and spirit in ways no other can. In mid-life, different things become important, and songs and hymns have historical meaning. Sometimes they remind us of places we've been, people we've met, or experiences we've had. Someone else called them "heart tunes," and I'm sure we all have them.
Another read, "At age 51, I learned that you can tell a lot about a man by the way he handles these things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights. What a statement!
For Ms. Merry Sunshine, rainy days are not always my favorite days. I do thrive on sunshine. But I can also enjoy a soft, gentle rain, one that undoubtedly results in a rainbow. Spring rains bring with them some wonderful smells of the season, and afterwards the birds rejoice even louder than before. Perhaps, that is because they know that gentle spring rains bring out the worms.
The way we deal with having our luggage lost on a trip can certainly tell something about our character. When I was a regional sales director, I learned too late that about 1/3 of all luggage is lost entering Puerto Rico. Perhaps it has something to do with the customs procedures and delays there. Perhaps not. Sure enough, I made 3 trips to Puerto Rico and on one of those trips my bags were lost. What an experience!
Fortunately, my sales training that year was held in the home of one of my sales managers. It was going to be a more laid-back training session than the one the previous year where we trained 40 people in a fancy hotel. I had my training materials with me in my briefcase and my make-up in my carry-on bag. But all of my clothes were in my checked bags. Carol and I were the same size, though, so she offered to let me borrow some of her clothes. Instead of donning my usual boring navy suit, I stood in front of that class dressed in Capri pants (didn't we used to call them pedal pushers?), a wild print top, and a pair of high-heeled sandals Carol insisted made the outfit "come alive." No one back home would have believed the transformation in me that day, but the training session was a good one. And the next day as I waited for my taxi to arrive to take me back to the airport, another taxi arrived first with my lost bags.
Tangled Christmas tree lights? I've heard the rantings and ravings of people trying to put up a tree with last year’s lights. There have even been a few times in my own house in years past where the event of putting up the tree was not a happy time. I've learned that Christmas tree lights are quite inexpensive now and not at all worth fussing over. If they are tangled, it’s much easier to throw them away and buy new ones than to become frazzled over making the old ones work.
The list continued. "At age 58, I learned that making a living is not the same thing as making a life." It’s unfortunate that we don't learn this lesson early in life, but most of us don't. I know I didn't. That sales management career I mentioned above is a good example. I did eventually learn that my son and family were more important than the job, the income, the free trips to Hawaii and Caribbean cruises, and the recognition that job offered. It’s also why, when I've been asked to go back and speak at sales rallies for that company and others, my favorite topic has been "Balancing Career and Family."
Another on the list was, "At age 62, I learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance." How true. Unfortunately, sometimes we cannot erase the affects our mistakes have had on others in our lives. But our life is full of second chance opportunities.
If only our world offered good advice to young people entering adult life, and entering college or the workforce. Good advice would be that earning an income doesn't have to be a chore or something we dislike doing. Our life’s work can and should be something we enjoy, not something we dread doing.
Isn't it amazing that numerous people in mid-life change careers and are finally finding the work that they should have been doing all along? Isn't it sad that we tell our young people, "You can't make a living at journalism. Why don't you study something you know will earn a good living." Or we tell young people with superb art talent, "There are so many starving artists in the world. Why don't you study something else and just paint as a hobby." It’s great that second chances can happen, but it wouldn't be necessary if we allowed people to follow their heart and their passion from the very beginning.
"At age 65, I learned that if you pursue happiness, it will elude you. But if you focus on knowing and loving God, your family, the needs of others, your work, meeting new people, and doing the very best you can, happiness will find you." Absolutely! Finding true joy, finding happiness doesn't happen because we pursue it. It happens because we are involved in the world around us. It happens because we awaken thanking God for each new day, then entering each new day wondering what we can do for God and those around us.
"At age 72, I learned that everyone can use a prayer." Yes, they can. And when we don't know what to pray, the Holy Spirit is there for us, praying for us, interceding for us. Many of us are chagrined at the way the world has turned out, but there is something we can do about it. We can pray. I read recently about an easy way to pray for our neighbors. The suggestion was that each day we should walk our neighborhoods, praying for the people in the houses as we pass.
"At age 90, I learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone. People love that human touch - holding hands, a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back." Of course! There are too many lonely people in the world around us. I would add as well that sometimes a simple smile is all that someone we meet in the grocery store or the bank needs. Sometimes a kind word shared will make a difference in the lives of those around us.
The last line of the email message was one of the most important messages. "At age 92, I learned that I still have a lot to learn." Oh, that each of us would realize this at age 22, 32, 42 and 52. There is still so much for each of us to learn. We can learn from reading, from watching Discovery Channel, from observing the world around us. And, sometimes, we can learn volumes from the stories written by others just like us here at Writing.Com.