Today I’m going to write about someone I don’t know. I’ve never met him and I don’t know his name. We have a mutual friend, which is how I know about him. For simplicity’s sake, I’ll call him Bob.
Bob is going to have heart surgery in the near future. It’s a risky, you-might-not-survive-this sort of surgery. I picture Bob being young-ish, in his thirties or maybe forties. Apparently he had at least a bit of warning, so he’s been doing some of the things he’s always wanted to do: jumping out of a plane, traveling, spending time with loved ones, etc.
He wrote an e-mail to his friends to give them information on the surgery and tell them what they could do to help. And he asked his friends for something important to him. He asked them to go and do some of the things they had been putting off. Go live some of your dreams, he said, and do it for me.
Every time I think of Bob and this story, I get teary-eyed. Here is a man forced to face his mortality. It would be completely understandable if he turned inward and focused on himself during such a difficult time. But instead, he looks out to the people he cares about, and he puts his energy towards trying to have a positive impact on their lives. Even if, for him, it might be the end. He has made meaning out of his illness. And in so doing, he has succeeded in touching lives, even lives of people he doesn’t know. Like me. And maybe you too.
So yes, do what Bob asks. Go out and take advantage of the opportunities you find. Instead of putting off, figure out how you can make a cherished dream happen. Maybe not all of your dreams, maybe not your biggest dream, even. Just one. Go to a baseball game for the first time, or learn how to cook beef bourguignon, or fall in love. Look at the stars through a telescope, or go see the Taj Mahal, or test drive a car you could never afford. Lend yourself for an afternoon so that Bob’s meaning grows.
And then, think about how to create your own meaning.