by Kent Sterling
Nothing like a loudly ticking clock to make people recognize every second is precious. Most of us careen through our lives – in denial that our own clocks are ticking toward that moment when what will define us is the way we lived – past tense, not what we plan or what the future might hold.
Lauren Hill, a teenager from Lawrenceburg, Indiana, figured it all out far too young as she was diagnosed with untreatable brain cancer 15 months ago. She died this morning leaving behind the wisdom she gathered under that duress as well as the money she raised for cancer research.
We dread cancer, and loathe it. But one thing it does is expose us to the bravery of those forced to embrace today because tomorrow is everything but guaranteed. The promise of another day becomes a craving for moments of joyous love in the present. The desire to relax, nap, and take it easy evolves instantly into hard work to build a legacy that will last far beyond the expiration of our physical beings cannot wait for a convenient beginning.
Lauren lit the way for us in how to make 15 months count.
Lauren scored the first points of the 2014-2015 college basketball season left handed because her cancer robbed her right side of the strength to make a layup with her previously stronger hand, and with that basket she affirmed that cancer could not take her dream and her life. And rather than wallowing in self pity, she raised more than a million dollars for cancer research because the dream of helping someone like her live a longer and better life became her driving motivation.
“Life is precious. Every moment you get with someone is a moment that’s blessed, really blessed,” Lauren said trying to teach us that today is what’s important. She was committed to stuff as many of the hard earned lessons brain cancer brought her into our consciousness.
We will pause this morning, acknowledge Lauren for a few moments, mourn for her family, and then climb into a car where we will swear and scream at the idiot who cuts us off while texting – or worse, we will be the texter who endangers others and is sworn at.
Old habits die even harder than Lauren did, and the oldest of human habits is to live like our expiration will never come, like we will have another 10,000 days to laugh, cry, learn, and hug. It’s hard to embrace the value of anything when you believe there are 10,000 of them left.
The least lucky of us will have a doctors appointment today when a diagnosis will be shared, prompting a journey similar to Lauren’s where the end comes too soon, but their journeys will light the way for those smart enough to embrace life as a moment by moment opportunity to make a difference and to welcome those who can make a difference for you.
It’s not enough to give and give and give. That’s a one way street that selfishly excludes others from being able to give to you. Saying thank you as a recognition of the generosity of others is every bit as critical as providing reasons for others to thank you. Generosity and gratitude should be exercised in equal measure.
After that game when Lauren achieved her dream of playing college basketball, Lauren said, “Everything that happened today was amazing. I’m truly happy, it’s a really good day.”
Wouldn’t it be a wonderful world if each of us embraced today’s potential with the same awe as her dream was realized?
(Kent hosts the Kent Sterling show afternoons from 3p-6p on CBS Sports 1430 in Indianapolis.)