We take so much of life for granted. Especially those of us blessed with good health. We charge through each day with our schedules, commitments, to-do lists and sundry activities, tumble into bed – and start it all over again the next day. We rarely pause to appreciate life’s little blessings, such as being able to see a pretty flower, listen to birds chirping nearby, or even take a deep breath.
Not everyone is so fortunate. We observe people that are sightless, others that sign to communicate because they can’t hear. And occasionally we learn about individuals for whom the seemingly simple act of breathing is a challenge.
My friend David is one of the latter. At 18 months old, David was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, a genetic, incurable disease that affects the lungs and digestive system. Initially he wasn’t expected to survive childhood, but thanks to very supportive parents, medical advances, excellent healthcare – and God’s grace – he has reached his 46th birthday.
He’s got a beautiful family – a wife and five children – and has achieved a successful professional career despite his disability. But David never takes any of that for granted. Just inhaling and exhaling serve as constant reminders.
David is now in the process of qualifying as a candidate for a double lung transplant. He doesn’t seek pity or sympathy. To the contrary, he’s the first to insist how abundant his life has been. He’d like to remind each of us that every new day is truly a gift. Recently he wrote the following:
“Got to spend time with the family at the lake house. I love (our children) slalom and wakeboard, riding the tube and doing flips off the boat. Things for me are not as easy as they use to be, but no less rewarding. Every day is a gift.
"Life is not to be taken for granted. I am reminded that breathing is essential. Today I jumped into the lake. Actually, I did a flip. After hitting the water I realized I had trouble catching my breath. I used to swim for hours in the water and never tire. Times have changed, but the desire to live and fight is still here. My kids have to do more themselves, but they know I am out there with them and that's what matters.”
For years I’ve made a practice of trying to keep the value of each day in the forefront of my mind. Most mornings I recite the biblical reminder, “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24). From God’s perspective, each day is a gift He has freely given, filled with opportunities, challenges and surprises. When we awaken each morning, we discover He’s given us another day. We shouldn’t squander it.
Another passage underscores the importance of being good stewards with the time we’re given: “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise, but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16). Another translation calls this “redeeming the time.”
That doesn’t mean frantically trying to squeeze every ounce of productivity out of every 24-hour period, but it does advise making the effort to appreciate each day, because it’s all we’ve got. Yesterday’s gone; tomorrow might never come. All we have is today.
Some moments are breathtaking. And sometimes physical exertion leaves us momentarily short of breath. Nevertheless, if you can take a breath at all, stop and be thankful for that. It’s a gift. Just ask David.
Robert J. Tamasy is a veteran journalist, a former newspaper editor and magazine editor. He is presently vice president of communications for Leaders Legacy, Inc., a non-profit focused on mentoring and coaching business and professional leaders. Bob has written hundreds of magazine articles, and has authored, co-authored and edited more than 15 books. These include “Tufting Legacies,” “The Heart of Mentoring,” “Business at Its Best,” and “Pursuing Life With a Shepherd’s Heart.” He edits a weekly business meditation, “Monday Manna,” which is translated into more than 20 languages and distributed via email around the world by CBMC International. He also posts regularly on two blogs, www.bobtamasy.blogspot.com, and www.bobtamasy.wordpress.com. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.