By Alan Hope
Just this last week I was watching a film called ‘Revolutionary Road’ starring Kate Winslett and Leonardo de Caprio. If you haven’t seen it I can recommend it and I challenge you not to be affected by it. It is a hard and disturbing film to watch, but worth it in the end.
The film is about a young couple, Frank and April Wheeler, living in a Connecticut suburb during the mid-1950s and their struggle to come to terms with their personal problems and frustration at the mundane day to day routine of their lives whilst trying to raise their two young children. April yearns for something better and more fulfilling for them all and during one of her heart to heart talks with Frank over the kitchen table she says they should just sell the house, Frank should give up his job in the city and they should just pack their suitcases and take the kids off to see the world. Frank says she must be crazy to be thinking that way and risking the security they have got. April replies, “If being crazy means living life as if it matters, then I don’t mind being crazy.” When she spoke those words they leapt out of the television screen at me and winded me like a punch to the stomach.
Living life as if it matters! It really made me think about what really matters in my life and have I got my priorities right.
In the whole expanse of eternity our lives are lived in the blink of an eye so in that context what is it that really matters in life?
Of course the responsibilities of day to day living are a concern and need attending to but above and beyond all of this it’s the loved ones in our lives that matter and I don’t mean just our family and friends. Maybe we haven’t made the time for getting out and meeting and helping others and being compassionate and passionate about lives. Maybe we have shut ourselves in somehow and we don’t seem to have the time we want and need to spend with them.
When was the last time you told your loved ones you loved them or spent good quality time with them, being in the moment?
For many of us, doing work that matters might mean helping others, making a vital contribution to society, or creating something inspiring – it’s the impact of the work that matters.
For many of us, experiencing life would matter, really being in the moment, finding passion in our lives, seeing the world and travelling, or just being aware of the world that’s around us right now, being with people, doing amazing things.
But what would matter to you?
How do we live a life that puts a greater emphasis on what matters? I would like to suggest that we start by prayerfully thinking and praying about this question, finding out what really matters and living a life that reflects this.
Let’s make the time for what does matter – today. Put it on our list of priorities to make those tough decisions because choosing to live a life that is filled with the important stuff means making choices, and they’re not always easy choices. But it matters.
Let’s spend quality time with our partner, make sure that they know how important they are. Take the time to cuddle with our children, no matter how old they are. Take time to appreciate the beauty of the world around us. Take time to savour the little pleasures in life.
Changing Lives, Both Ours and Others
As you know, I was a teacher for almost thirty years and over those years attempted to teach many hundreds of children ranging from young primary children up to strapping fifth years. Many of their names I forgot over time but their faces always remained with me. One day whilst out shopping a smart young businessman came striding towards me with a beaming smile on his face. I recognised him as an ex-pupil but his name escaped me completely. Seeing the look of confusion on my face he said, “I don’t suppose you remember me.” I had to admit that I couldn’t remember his name so he introduced himself and we then spent five minutes reminiscing about ‘the old days’, He then, shyly, went on to explain to me that I had once said something during a lesson that had changed his life. I had no recollection at all of the occasion but he explained that his life was forever altered by what I had said – altered for the better.
Many of you may have had similar experiences – being thanked for something that in your mind was trivial, but in the receiver’s mind was huge. We think we understand the weight of our words and the importance of our actions. We are wrong. Everything we say, every decision and choice we make has an impact on others and it is often more than we could ever imagine.
I have to admit that without doubt my favourite film of all time is that old Christmas cracker of a movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” starring my hero, James Stewart. As his life hits a major crisis and begins to fall apart around his ears James Stewart’s character contemplates suicide but is held back from it by his guardian angel who goes on to show him how his life has touched so many others, how he has changed people’s lives in so many small ways. He is stunned to realise that he has meant so much to so many people. That he in fact, mattered.
The truth is we all matter; we all touch other people’s lives in so many ways; we have had opportunities to matter today, to make someone’s day better, to help move the world along in some small way. Did we do it? Look around you right now for someone you appreciate. Do they know it? Tell them. Just blurt it out. Be silly, just tell them. If you get good customer service when you’re out shopping, tell them. Look at your typical weeks shopping and look at the shops that you choose to shop in. Does what you buy and where you shop reflect your real values? If you drove a few more miles, could you find things and places that suit your values better? Try to buy Fair trade items when you can.
It matters if you are kind to someone less fortunate than yourself. Christine always buys a copy of the ‘Big Issue’ from the same young man in Cleveleys, even though she never reads it, and she always buys a special treat to give to him at Christmas. Speak gently to someone today – it matters. In the busyness of our lives we often forget to matter. We forget to leave a kind imprint on the world. We forget to say a simple thank you. Yet all those things matter a great deal to those who receive such kindnesses from us.
We all of us fly through our days thinking of all those things we have to do. Our mind is everywhere but here and now. Our lives are a gift from God. Let’s cherish them. Enjoy them now, to the fullest. Let’s make sure we do what matters. We can change our lives, starting today, starting right now.
Let’s live our life as though it really matters.