Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Life within that Dash....

At this time of year it is my task to listen to the exit presentations of learners who have completed our Management Development Programme - working people who have invested two, sometimes three years of their life in their development. Without exception they experience a great change in their lives during that time and I am happy to say that the biggest part of that change happens within themselves as they emerge as confident, rounded and enlightened professionals. One of them compared their journey to that of a caterpillar being enclosed in a cocoon and emerging as a colourful and beautiful butterfly.
As you can imagine this is immensely satisfying for us who have had he privilege to be involved with this journey. Perhaps what is unknown to others is how much we learn from them! Each one of the twenty four presentations contained some reminder of how tough growth can be, how immense the human capacity for endurance is and how fragile the balance between work and personal life.

I was reminded today about the timeline that represents our life. If you walk around a graveyard you will see the headstones of people with their existence represented by a date - a dash - and a second date. The game of life is short in comparison to the time that stone will identify us and the life contained within that 'dash' remains a mystery to those who come after us unless we make a record of how we spent our time here.  Of course, there are historical and legal documents, but these don't define the person that lived since what is recorded on paper is abut a diluted version of the event it commemorates. Even if we knew the person there are so many things about him or her that we will never know; the feelings of pride, joy or sorrow at each milestone of their life; the dream, goal or wish that was put on hold for more important life events or reasons of survival; and the exciting, embarrassing or trusted secrets that were too personal to ever share. I guess that's why photographs and capturing the moments are so important to me as they provide a visual record of what life is and the essence of that person.
I also reflected on the fact that the word 'dash' is for many of us, what life has become - a dash from one event to the next, from one activity to another, from one day to the next. This was my last day of work for the year and I was reminded not to go dashing anywhere for a while - to enjoy and savour each moment of the festive season and my well earned rest and to resolve to take more care in creating a lasting legacy from my gift of life.

I guess this poem says it all!

I read of a man who stood to speak
At the funeral of a friend.
He referred to the dates on her tombstone
From the beginning….. to the end
He noted he first came to her date of birth
And spoke the following date with tears,
But he said what mattered most of all
Was the dash between those years.

For that dash represents all the time
That she spent alive on this earth…
And now only those who loved her
Know what that little line is worth.
For it matters not, how much we own:
The cars…the house…the cash,
What matters is how we live and love
And how we spend our dash.

So think about this long and hard….
Are there things you’d like to change?
For you never know how much time is left
That can still be rearranged.
If we could just slow down enough
To consider whats true and real,
And always try to understand
The way other people feel.
And be less quick to anger

And show appreciation more
And love the people in our lives
Like we’ve never loved before.
And more often wear a smile….
Remembering that this special dash
Might only last a little while.

So when your eulogy’s being read
With your life’s actions to rehash
Would you be proud of the things they say
About how you spent your dash?

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