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August 29, 2015 / 14 Elul, 5775
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The Most Important Things In Life Are Invisible


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In today’s world of mounting pressures and continuous change, we need to take a few minutes to reset our perspectives and figure out what matters most.

Each stage in life is fraught with challenging – challenges that have the potential to make or break us. Life is all about choices – and when we know what is essential, our hard work and energy gets streamlined in a crystal-clear path to help us achieve what we want most.

Most of us, at least to some degree, are guilty of wasting time focusing on the trivial things; we let ourselves be blinded by all the power, prestige and material things that seem to surround us. And once we lose focus, we tend to forget the significant things, such as our relationships and our own personal development. Often we channel so much of our energy and time into matters that, in the long run, don’t really matter. Running late for work, someone cracking the bumper of our car or getting the wrong item in a long awaited package may cause us a lot of distress. Stressing out about having nothing to wear, what other people think about us or making sure we do everything we can to keep up with the latest fashions can keep our mind whirring for hours. Perhaps we have been spending too much time at the office, in front of the computer or the TV and haven’t been able to take the time to focus on what really matters.

Imagine if there were a bank which credits your account each morning with $86,400, carries over no balance from day-to-day and allows you to keep a zero cash balance. What would you do? You would draw out every dollar, of course!

Well, each of us has such a bank; its name is Life and its currency is time. Every morning, it credits each of us with 86,400 seconds. Every night it writes off, as lost, whatever time we have failed to invest towards a valuable purpose. It carries over no balance; it allows no overdraft. Each day it opens a new account for us; each night it burns the records of the day.

If we fail to use the day’s deposits of our imaginary bank account, the loss is ours; there is no going back, there is no drawing against “tomorrow.” Therefore, we would empty out every dollar and buy the most precious of items. Same too in life, we must draw out every minute and spend it in the best way possible.

Often it takes a wake up call to help us reprioritize. Events such as a job loss, a new baby, being diagnosed with a terminal illness, a birthday or a near-death experience tend to hit us like a ton of bricks. These wake up calls make us stop and consider what s truly important. Very often we realize that we have had our priorities mixed up. When that happens we can set our priorities by separating that which is important from those things which don’t hold much significance.

After graduating from nursing school, Daniella started work in the operating room of a local hospital. She was very enthusiastic about her new career; she worked tirelessly during her long shifts and was enthusiastic about every task she performed. However, like with many new jobs, the novelty soon wore off and she found herself in a slump.

One night, while working a double shift, Daniella was feeling aggravated – she didn’t like the doctor she was working with, her feet hurt, it was late, and she was “doing eyes.” Every operating nurse has a preferred, and least preferred, body part to operate on, Daniella most disliked operating on the eyes-she felt that these operations were both boring and repulsive.

Her patient that night was an elderly man; he was there to have his cataract removed and new lenses implanted. When the procedure was completed, Daniella started to pull the bandages off to put drops in the patient’s eyes. As she was pulling off the bandages the patient made instant eye contact with her.

“I can see!!!” he exclaimed emphatically and excitedly, “And you are beautiful!”

At that moment Daniella realized what a truly significant thing she had just done. She realized what this meant to the patient and how truly grateful he was. She helped him see! She quickly mumbled some response to him about how he must still be feeling the effects of the anxiety medications. However, he adamantly proclaimed again, “No, you really are beautiful!”

Daniella no longer felt tired, her leg pain seemed to disappear. She had helped him see and that was a truly beautiful thing. Daniella realized that she had not understood what true beauty really was. There was nothing repulsive about the work she was doing – helping another human being was a beautiful thing.

Every moment in life counts and if we spend our moments worrying about, or even merely thinking about, matters of little significance, then we are losing precious time that we could have used to move us in a positive direction in our life. Will it matter what we were wearing today ten years from now?

A philosophy professor stood before his class with some items on a table in front of him. When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with rocks.

He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

So the professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles, of course, rolled into the open areas between the rocks.

He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else.

He then asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous “Yes.”

“Now,” said the professor, “I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The rocks are the important things – your family, your partner, your health, your children – things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.

The pebbles are the other things that matter – like your job, your house, your car.

The sand is everything else. The small stuff.”

“If you put the sand into the jar first,” he continued, “there is no room for the pebbles or the rocks. The same goes for your life.

If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you. Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take your partner out for a walk. There will always be time to go to work, clean the house, give a dinner party and fix the disposal.

Take care of the rocks first – the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.”

Focusing on what truly matters is what truly matters. Remember, life, this incredible gift from Hashem, is what we make of it. Our life account has a limited capacity, there is only so much time deposited for us each day, let’s be sure to invest it wisely.

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