Life is a journey and not a destination. Wasn't that a car commercial? Whatever, but if you think about it, it's a pretty profound statement, no matter where you think you'll end up when it's over.
What distresses me, and I am sometimes included in the bunch, that there are still some people who don't realize that there really is going to be an end. They stumble through life, kind of like me waking up at 4am to turn on the furnace which always seems to need resetting about that time of night when it's 20 degrees outside. . Half asleep, not knowing where they're going, and not really sure how they got there or what they are
supposed to be doing. Fortunately many of us wake up, eventually.
As adults, we know all of the sayings, some of them kind of dark and morbid:
"Live every day as though it will be your last. "
"You never know when your time is up, a vague transition, like growing up. " I added the second part of that one because I think it's cool.
"If you died today, would your family have enough life insurance to carry on without you?" I borrowed that from a radio commercial.
"Time waits for no man (or woman. )" Not sure what that's from, or who said it, but it's a good one.
So let's talk a moment about time. In particular, the dreaded Spring Daylight Savings Time when we set the clocks ahead and lose an hour. What really happens during that time, and where did it go? Do you really have to get up at 2 am to set all the clocks, or can they be done the night before, or even the next day?
I think the worst part about the actual clock setting is that no one can remember how to set the clock in their car. It usually stays at the old time for a week or so until you, or someone else, figures it out. And finally, since we have gotten sidetracked and we're on we're still on the subject, we only lose a single hour. Still, everyone complains that it takes them a week to get used to, and recover from. If you come from a part of the planet where you don't have to do this, you have been blessed that you don't have to go through that hell twice each year.
And now, to the journey and destination part of our little article.
It is common belief that our final destinations are either heaven or hell, and the journey is all about how you live your life. Although if my friend George is reading this, I should let him know that the type of journey to heaven we are discussing has absolutely nothing to do with how many Journey concerts you've seen, how many recordings you own, or how much memorabilia you have. To some, that would offer a sneak preview of hell, to others it might be Peter Allen, but to each his own.
Speaking of hell, that is a viable and likely destination for some of the population. Some believe it is here on earth, so that would take care of the journey part. But are our lives really that bad? Or have we done something so unspeakable that hell is the inevitable and only destination? For those folks, maybe you should have thought of that first. So if it's true that hell is on earth, where do you go when you die. Las Vegas?
For so many others, heaven is the goal. The coveted final destination. You can only get to heaven by making a righteous and holier-than-thou kind of journey. But just as some claim that hell is here on earth, there are others who claim that heaven is here on earth, and that would take care of that journey also. (I already told you about George. ) So if heaven is in fact here on earth, where then would one go when you die. The Virgin Islands?
There are even a few lost souls who wonder if there is a rock and roll heaven, and how they must have a hell of a band, but I won't even touch that one. But I will say a few other things that actually may be worth thinking about.
Life really is a journey.
For some, particularly in troubled countries, it is a very difficult journey filled with poverty, suffering, pain, violence, starvation and so many other unthinkable obstacles and horrors. For them, the final destination is a welcome end to the misery.
For others in developed countries, even in our own cities and towns, we have those who suffer daily. The impoverished, the homeless, the struggling families and single parents, the unemployed. For them, the journey isn't quite as extreme, but still consists of days upon days of general problems and unpleasantness and stress. Not being able to afford food or basic utilities for those lucky enough to even have a home. Those that struggle with illnesses and addictions with no one to help them. Good people who just need a hand up, a little encouragement, a little hope and support.
If each one of us did one little thing each day to help others, it would make such a huge difference. It could be something as small as donating a dollar a day to a worthy charity, both local and overseas organizations. But please, please investigate first. There are some huge charities out there that only help to fill the pockets of the founder(s) and some even help provide military funding to third world countries. I'll tell you some horror stories one day.
Donate clothing and unused household items to shelters and known local organizations. Donate directly to help prevent skimming. Coordinate food drives at your place of worship, your workplace, school or social organization. Volunteer in “soup kitchens" and kick in for a turkey or a sack of potatoes once in a while. Shelters and kitchens don't have a lot of money.
Don't deny or ignore the homeless. Would it kill you to give them a dollar? Even if they do use it to buy booze, that might be the only thing that helps get them through the day. It doesn't hurt to offer a smile or a kind word either. It's all about empathy.
Then there are the rest of us. The lucky, the healthy, the people with jobs and houses and cars and kids and lawns and furniture. It's not all about things. It's not all about work. It's about our families, ourselves, our neighbors and friends and family. Be kind to yourself and stop once in a while to notice all the wonderful and beautiful things around you. Think of how lucky you are to have such great people in your life. To have food and clothing, furniture, electricity and heat. Don't work so hard all of the time. Make time to count your blessings and spend it with those you care for, or those who need it.
In the workplace, in schools, in the grocery store, on the street. All things apply. Make someone smile and make their day with a kind word, gesture or compliment. Remember the pay it forward concept. Make every day count. Not because you might die today, but because you actually do have a day, and actually get to make it count. Do the best you can, be the best person you can. Don't be a jerk or a hard-headed tyrant. Be fair and honest and helpful and genuine and caring.
If you can do just a few of these things, and I'm sure you can think of quite a few more, your journey will be pleasant, fun and fulfilling. You will be accompanied by people who love you. You will have made a difference in many people's lives, making their journey a little easier.
When all is said and done, your journey is coming to an end, and your destination is at hand, how do you feel about yourself and what you've done in your life? How do other's feel about you? No matter what you believe, you will be at peace with yourself, knowing that you have helped make the world a little better.
Matt McKay is a songwriter, musician and author from New England.