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What’s Truly Important For Happiness

Jim Kershner The Spokesman-Revi

Lately I’ve been thinking less about the things I usually think about - softball, home repair, car insurance, lunch - and more about this question: What is truly important in life?

This is the kind of thing we start thinking about in our 40s, probably because it suddenly occurs to us that we don’t have much life left to waste. Prior to this, most of us are confident that we will live forever due to amazing medical advances or, barring that, special exemption.

But now I realize that exemptions are granted only in the most extraordinary cases, so to put my priorities in order I’ve been making a list of the important, and the unimportant, things in life. Here’s what I have come up with:

Important - Savoring your time with loved ones. Try imagining that you are floating somewhere in the ether, spying on yourself as you sit at the dinner table. Will you see yourself enjoying the company of those you care about? Smiling at them? Laughing at their jokes? Enjoying the privilege of being with them? Or will you see yourself carping at them, arguing with them, or even worse, ignoring them?

Unimportant - Overtime pay.

Important - Treating those you love with kindness. Too many of us are thoughtless to those around us. Believe me, you don’t want your epitaph to be, “Too busy to be bothered.”

Unimportant - A well-manicured lawn.

Important - Raising children thoroughly and well. No task compares with that of providing children with the security and love all growing things need. Maybe, from the broadest possible perspective, our main job on earth is to create and sustain life. If we do this job right, maybe the best part of us can live on after we’re gone.

Unimportant - The corner office.

Important - Providing memories for our children. Take that trip to Washington, D.C., or Seattle, or Disney World, or Europe or Glacier National Park. The Visa bill will be paid off in a year or two (we can hope) but the memories of the trip will stick with our children far longer. Their memories will shape who they are.

Unimportant - Nagging those you love, even with cause.

Important - Doing things now. If you want to take your daughter on a backpacking trip, do it this summer. If you want to write that children’s book, do it this year. If you want to treat your parents to a special dinner, do it today. How much time do you think you have? Eternity?

Unimportant - Bad haircuts.

Important - Immerse yourself in the world, in nature. Hike a ridge, stand knee-deep in a river, taste some Pacific salt, climb a mountain, sit quietly in a forest for three hours. See what it feels like; find out what happens. Learn the names and songs of birds. Catch a fish. Find a trail on a map and walk it. Find a patch of forest or meadow near your house, and learn what’s in it.

Unimportant - Keeping score through possessions.

Important - Reading good books, surrounding ourselves with good music, seeking out good plays and supporting good movies. Why waste huge chunks of life on forgettable junk? And while we’re at it, how about creating our own art? Unimportant - Mindless ambition.

Important - Taking care of those we love when they are most in need. For some, this means caring for elderly parents; for others, small children; for others, sick friends or spouses; for some, all of the above. If taking care of one another isn’t our purpose on earth, then what use are we?

Unimportant - New cars. Not that I’d actually turn down a Jaguar XKE. But I suppose I can live without it.

, DataTimes MEMO: To leave a message on Jim Kershner’s voice-mail, call 459-5493. Or send e-mail to, or regular mail to Spokesman-Review, P.O. Box 2160, Spokane, WA 99210.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Jim Kershner The Spokesman-Review

To leave a message on Jim Kershner’s voice-mail, call 459-5493. Or send e-mail to, or regular mail to Spokesman-Review, P.O. Box 2160, Spokane, WA 99210.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Jim Kershner The Spokesman-Review

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