A couple of months ago I stumbled across a picture that was quite moving. The picture was slightly blurry and the angle was terrible, but the emotion contained in it was quite heavy.
There was an elderly man sitting in a booth of an In’n’Out burger. He was alone. In the aisle between him and the empty bench across from him was his walker and he was eating a simple meal, burger, fries, soft drink. On the table between him and the empty bench was a picture. It was sepia colored, and framed in wood and glass. A picture of two lovers in their mid thirties, smiling and posing for the photograph.
The picture of the elderly man eating with a framed photograph was snapped and posted to social media by someone who had apparently seen the man there frequently with a woman, his wife, at that very booth. They ate there regularly and she had passed away a few days earlier. And now the man carried on the traditions and daily routines that he had shared with his lifelong lover, only now he did it alone. With only her picture and his memories.
All of this begs me to ask questions about the people sitting around him. Normal resting faces, eating a meal with friends, family, or alone. Completely unaware of the sacred moment that was happening in that booth just a few feet away. A man. Remembering. Loving. Missing. Mourning.
I would argue that several times every day scenes like this play out all around us and we, wrapped up in thoughts far away from the present moment, are completely oblivious to the sacred souls and their loss and desperation.
Most of us never imagine that there could ever come a day when something that was a simple routine today: changing a diaper, sharing a meal, pushing a swing, hearing a familiar voice on the other end of a the phone, could tomorrow be something that they would give anything just to experience one last time.
The task might be menial, even arduous, but the depth and weight and sacredness of that moment is all contained in the context of that moment. Is it done in the service one someone that you love? Then it is sacred. It is not small. There will come a day where will matter to you far more than it does now.
I know of a man who cleans port-a-potties for a living, and he loves his job. He loves using the equipment and driving the truck. He also loves the pay and benefits. And he talks about how he is waging a war against disease and illness that people, especially children, are susceptible to. And, in his words, “there comes a moment in your life where the most important thing to you in that moment is finding a port-a-potty, and I give that to you, me!”.
On the flip side I have met people who work at IBM who are miserable. They hate their jobs.
You see, there is no correlation between task and depth. There is only context, thankfulness, and a firm understanding that life is most fully lived moment by moment. When you become aware that life is fleeting, that, as the prophets used to say : “All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades…” (Isaiah 40) Then you start to realize that even though the grass is fading, there are flowers on it from time to time. And they are beautiful and they are wild and they are fleeting!
So today, pay attention to what is going on around you. Notice that there are sacred moments. They are happening in the lives of others who are learning to adjust to new seasons of life, either through great loss or great blessings. They are happening to you, right now, because even though you look forward to and even long for future days, there will come a day when you will remember and even long for this day. A day when you had life, love, health, friends, faith, hope…
And you will wish you had realize the sacredness of this very moment.