Nobody's handing out more time

So I'm sitting down for Thanksgiving dinner the other day with the extended family and looking around the room, I was struck by the impermanence of life. It occurred to me that it is quite possible that I have many fewer Thanksgivings left with some of the people in that room, such as my dad, than what I have already had with them. That's just the reality of life, I know, but it's not a fun thought, nevertheless.

Next to me sat my kids, ages six and three. It occurred to me that my girl, the oldest, has already been in my life for one-third of the time that I likely have with her living at home. I have two six-year increments left with her at home before she likely moves out at age 18 to pursue her own adult life, whatever that may be.

My boy, 3, is now likely one-sixth of the way through his time living at home with us.

I myself am staring down the barrel of age 40, which I will turn in April. I like to believe I have at least as much time ahead of me as I have behind me, but one never knows. The reality is there are three quarters of a million people in this country alone that didn't get to celebrate this Thanksgiving, casualties of the current pandemic. A year ago, did their families realize that would be their last holiday dinner together? For many, I bet not.

One never knows how long we have.
Image source: In Time movie on Facebook

It got me to thinking that if my end was imminent, would I be satisfied with how I have lived my life? Would I be satisfied with how I am currently living it? Would I be happy with the legacy I’d leave behind in terms of my kids, my family, and my community?

It's easy to get lost in the day-to-day struggle. It's easy to grumble about having to endure time with cantankerous relatives, long hours in a too-hot kitchen, or too many people packed into too tight of a space. But would you look at it differently if you knew it was the last gathering of its kind you would ever have with some of those people?

I've come to realize that time is the one truly non-renewable resource we all have at our disposal. We can make more money, get more things. But nobody is handing out time. So I’ve tried to prioritize mine as best I can based on that which is important to me. Last year for Christmas, instead of buying him some item from the store or some trinket online, I scheduled a fishing trip with my dad. I suspect neither he nor I can remember what I got him any of the Christmases before, but we both certainly remember that trip. And probably will forever.

That’s the value of experiences over things. And for my family, that’s the value of parks.

This summer, I went on as many camping trips as I could with the wife and kids. Towards the end, the grandparents even joined us on a few, having finally gotten around to getting their own camper. I had started out the year with the goal to go on at least half a dozen trips. We squeezed in ten. Granted, several were only twenty minutes from home, but it was outside, away from our normal routine regardless. We made memories, new friends, and got to see places we otherwise wouldn't have, had we been sitting at home on the couch watching TV.

I volunteer with multiple local organizations in hopes of leaving some mark on my community, in hopes of leaving it better for my kids and future generations. I feel that’s important because in many ways, we are all family. And while it's important to take care of those closest to you, it is also important to take care of those further out around you, even though you may never have dinner with them during the holidays. I like to think that the time I spend with those community organizations makes for a better place for other families to live good lives. I know it does for me and my family. It’s part of the legacy I want to leave.

But like I said, time is a limited commodity. Not everyone has the luxury of being able to serve on community organizations or volunteer their time. Instead, many have left their signature on their communities in other ways. There is hardly a park or trail or natural resource area in this or surrounding communities that have not been impacted by various sizes of donations, memorials, or legacy gifts.

That's one of the things I love so much about this little area of the planet on which we live. Folks care about this place. They want to improve it. They want to leave it better for future generations. And in that respect, we, as extended family of sorts, have something in common.

So as you navigate the hectic holiday season, take some time to put it all in perspective. We're not here forever. Those around us aren't either. Our community doesn’t improve without its members being active in its betterment. I think the best gift we can give each other right now is to appreciate the time we have, and be cognizant of the legacy we leave.