Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Making the Most of the Time

Making your mark in Washington, D. C. is no easy thing, I learned two summers ago during a stint working at the Folger Library. I thought especially about this as I would run past Abraham Lincoln’s Memorial most mornings—a President shot down just as he was about to have a respite from the agonies of war. Or, a bit further down the road at Haines Point as I rounded the newer Roosevelt Memorial—a President who, likewise, died in the saddle before peace could be declared. Though we remember and honor them, their stories remind us just how short life is and how every moment is precious. Buried somewhere in the recesses of our minds are those infamous words uttered by the young English teacher, John Keating, in the film, “Dead Poets’ Society,” as he lines his students up in the hallway to gaze at the photographs of their predecessors, many of whom are now long dead. “Carpe diem,” he breathes into their ears, “seize the day. Make your lives extraordinary.”

Professor Keating is not the first, nor the last, to attempt to create an apologetic for “making the most of the time." All of us, whether old or young, perhaps feel the hoofs of Father Time as we slide over the next few weeks into the frenetic pace of fall and towards the Thanksgiving Break. For those of us who have recently lost loved ones, there is the added recognition that the one who was with us this time last year during the holidays is no longer here, that life will never quite be the same. Even if we are still in the same community or workplace where we have labored for ages we may suddenly look up and realize all those who are now gone with whom we associated the place and discover that we are the old codger, the icon, about whom others chortle when they think of this particular place.

As I prepare to speak in chapel on Monday as a prelude to All Saints' Day, I am freshly aware of those I used to think of as being the mainstays of Greenville College. My wife and I enjoy visiting their graves and asking ourselves what they would do if facing the challenges of our times. As I watch the leaves turn colors and begin to fall, I realize just how short the time is and how important it is to be about those matters that are most essential. After all, someday somebody else may be visiting my grave and thinking these same rather somber thoughts. I hope no one will be able to accuse me of not making the most of my short time here.