Sunday, May 07, 2006

Time is Priceless

A very rich, powerful and famous man was near death. He had all the material possessions most people spend their lives trying to gain: money, castles, pleasure boats, planes, a beautiful wife...

Yet, as the end of his life approached, his last words from his deathbed were, “All my possessions for a moment of time.” The wealthy man now saw time as the most precious thing in the world. Unfortunately, all his material possessions could not buy time.

Idleness and foolishness in life can steal our time. And since thieves are attracted to valuable things, it’s no surprise that idleness and foolishness launch continual attempts to steal our time. But if we can spot thieves before they reach our valuables, we may be able to do whatever is necessary to prevent the theft. The crucial question then becomes, “How do we stop thieves of time?”

Before committing our time to any activity, we should ask two simple questions. The first question is, “What will be the fruit of this activity in five years?” That is, five years from today will it matter if I do this activity or if I don’t? If the answer is, “Il won’t matter,” or if there may be negative consequences, we need to commit our time to something else.

When I examine my own life over the past five years, I am sometimes frustrated that I don’t see greater results today. But when I ask myself what will be important in another five years, what comes to my mind is my three children and other children around me.

Today my children, ages ten and under, are young enough that their hearts are naturally tender toward compassion and wisdom. In the next five years I may never speak to halls full of people, write a best-selling book or do any of the other things that are mark of “success.” But if five years from now my children and other children around me are taking meaningful and thoughtful actions in the world, I will be a success, no matter what else does or does not happen!

But in order to help my children learn to take meaningful and thoughtful actions in the world, I need to spend time with them. And that doesn’t always happen naturally. Rather, I must train myself to spend time thoughtfully and intentionally, remembering that some day I will have to give account for “every idle word and action.”

The second question is, “What will it matter in eternity?” We receive just one life that soon will be over, and only what we’re doing for all the future generations will last. We need to invest time, which we can’t keep anyway, to make an eternal treasure that we will never lose. Think about it—eternity is a lot longer than the years that we will spend on earth. So doesn’t it make sense that we focus our time on guiding our children toward important universal values such as love, compassion, wisdom and respect for life, the things that matter for eternity?

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