“I shall pass this way but once; any good that I can do or any kindness I can show to any human being; let me do it now. Let me not defer nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.” --Etienne de Grellet, Quaker missionary
Do you know what time it is? For me it’s time to ride my bike!
In the time it took me to ponder and then type those first two sentences—fifteen seconds or so—around the globe, fifty new babies were born, lives which just milliseconds before did not exist outside of the womb. In that same fifteen seconds, 18 people died, folks who one moment were breathing in a breath of life, alive and then in the next: they were no more. They are gone, never to come back to this side of existence.
That moment, that chunk of time, that passage of seconds, that reality when birth and life danced with each other: it will never, ever happen again in the exact same way. That slice of time is gone forever, vanished. We mortals stand on a riverbank of time, watch in awe as a great torrent of life and death and existence flows on by, with nothing to staunch its power and momentum.
Time approaches. Time arrives. Time departs.
As the poet Geoffrey Chaucer wrote, “Time and tide waits for no man.” That’s a big reason why once again I’ve decided to ride my bike to fight against cancer, in the Pan Mass Challenge (PMC), the largest athletic fundraiser in the world. The PMC hopes to raise $45 million for cancer care and research on the first weekend of August.
Cancer: it’s already taken time away from many of my loved ones, taken them from this world. Cancer: it threatens to steal time away from folks I hold dear right now. We’ve all only got so much time and cancer teaches us surely, that sometimes this time, our time, all time: it cannot be controlled nor easily predicted in its duration.
Scary? Yes. Sobering? Absolutely. Motivating? I hope so.
For one of the most important of our daily spiritual challenges is to somehow finally and fully wake up to time. See that time is a gift from the universe, our Creator. Time is precious and often short. Since the time we are given is limited, is literally here today and gone tomorrow, is unpredictable, even capricious: how well, or not so well, do we use it? Cancer confronts us with this question, reminds us that time is a miracle.
Time. So I’m 54 years old. As an American male, according to the actuarial tables, I’ve already used up about 19,710 days of the 28,470 days (78 years on average) I can expect to spend on this earth. Wow. I’ve burned through almost 70 percent of my allotment! Do the math. Time is time. It cannot ever be changed or stopped or manipulated or fooled.
Back to the bike. I only have so much time and so how will I use some of it? Hello PMC! More than 5,000 riders and 3,000 volunteers helping the work of Boston’s world class cancer treatment and research facility, the Dana Farber. Bikers spinning with 160,000 pedal strokes of human power, getting us all the way from the hills of Sturbridge to the dunes of Provincetown.
For me, the PMC is about time. Wishful, poignant time. I so wish I could have had more time with folks whom I loved who died from cancer: Nora, Dottie, Kathy, Fred and Sue, to name a few of the angels who will be with me on the PMC. Immediate, life extending, life saving time. I so want more time with friends and family who are struggling against their cancer now: Bill, T-Michael, Jena and Donna.
Time. What are you going to do with the time that you have left on the earth? The clock is ticking. No turning it back. Here’s a suggestion. Use some of the time given to you by God in service to some noble cause like the PMC, a hopeful and loving activity to make this world a better place. Ride a bike. Feed a hungry person. Shelter a stranger. Defend the weak. Assist the sick. Stand up for justice. Visit the lonely. Serve your country. Do something!
For time and tide waits for no man, woman or child and none of us will pass or ride this way again.