“I will pass this way but once.
“If there’s any good that I can do
“Let me do it now
“For I’ll never pass this way again.”
More than 35 years later, I still remember distinctly when Pam Simpson sang those words at the final assembly of our senior year at Lamar High School in Arlington, Texas.
It’s been replaying in my mind constantly since the reunion in September that our classmate Chris Vale organized and herded almost half our 400-member graduating class to, with help from generous donors of money and time.
The marvel of Google led me to a YouTube rendition of the song, which was written by Ronnie Gaylord and recorded by Glen Campbell in 1972.
“I will see this day but once.
“If there’s any kindness I can show
“Let me show it now
“For I’ll never see this day again.”
The first time I heard the words, they seemed a poignant farewell. I’ve since realized they map a strategy for living. But it’s a daunting one. Think about what it asks for.
A gracious response to the crank who persistently sends hostile or annoying e-mails as if you don’t already have plenty to do.
A calm, loving hand of guidance when your children make you want to pull your hair out.
A caring acknowledgment of the panhandler who approaches on a downtown sidewalk, instead of averted eyes and a retreat across the street.
A patient yield to the driver who selfishly barges to the front of merging traffic lines.
A polite “no, thank you” to the solicitor who calls at dinnertime – because even telemarketers need to work for a living.
A sincere kindness to that co-worker or relative or acquaintance who sets … your … teeth … on … edge.
This ideal requires that we not yell at the obviously blind, boneheaded ref.
That we listen respectfully to ridiculously misguided political views. That we just hush when we can’t say something nice.
That we treat even the most irritating, idiotic or despicable human beings like what they are: children of God.
These might appear to be trivialities. They aren’t the serious moral dilemmas and crises of faith that try our souls, but that makes them seem easy to dismiss when they shouldn’t be.
On a day-to-day basis, this is hard stuff. Because most of us mere mortals aren’t saints.
Oh, there are saints among us. And thank goodness. They go out of their way to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, comfort the afflicted, sow peace where there’s conflict, turn the other cheek, give voice to the voiceless and generally make the world a better place. They do it with happy hearts because it’s the right thing to do.
The rest of us have to remind ourselves every single day that we’ve been given a gift that shouldn’t be wasted, spoiled or ruined through pettiness, impatience, incivility, cruelty, callousness or thoughtless indifference.
On too many days, we forget.
That’s why I like the idea of New Year’s resolutions. Not because they provide a chance to set wildly impossible goals that won’t be pursued any longer than it took to write them down – but because they represent the opportunity for a fresh start on the daily challenge of living well.
So I resolve, among other things:
In addition to hitting the gym regularly, to find a new community volunteer project.
In addition to acting less grumpy when tired, to grouse less often.
In addition to being more organized and efficient, to be more reasoned, fair and understanding.
And every day I fall short, I’ll get up and try again the next.
“Tomorrow may be too late my friend to do all the good that you planned,” the song goes.
Why not do it now? Because I’ll never pass this way again.
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