There is a quote from the writer Marc Levy on the different ways we appreciate time which reads, in part: “If you want to know the value of one second, ask the person who just escaped death in a car accident.” I couldn’t help but think about these words as I listened to our member Kim Pimley speak about her heart transplant during our latest MOSAIC speaker program last Sunday.
Her story, which was featured in a number of articles, commercials and videos, teaches the importance of time. After feeling sick she went to the doctor and was lucky enough to eventually be properly diagnosed with an extremely rare disease. The staff took action quickly and within days she had a new heart.
Without the quick thinking of her doctors, she would not have survived. Time, in such a case, matters greatly. We are all on earth for a limited period of time; in a sense we could think of our lives as including a giant countdown clock that happens to be invisible to us. Sometimes, however, we become aware of the limited moments we have left.
Three years ago, Kim came face to face with the countdown clock and got to add some more time to it. How often can one say that? She learned the importance of thinking and acting quickly because seconds matter, but she also learned to appreciate the time one has and live life to the fullest.
How we respond to the fact that our time is limited is the key to a successful life. I had heard much of Kim’s story before the presentation, but one new wrinkle I learned was the response of her competitors. She made sure to post a picture of herself looking healthy and strong only a short time after her surgery in order to reassure her clients. The competition was closing in, taking advantage of her absence to perhaps gain new business.
One would hope that when confronted with a colleague’s illness the response would be to help. After all, time is short and we have only so many opportunities to do good in the world. Of course I am not too naïve to understand that selfishness is a basic part of human nature. Kim’s competitors understood the value of time and acted quickly to get her business, but what if they had been decisive for a more generous purpose?
Kim’s story expresses the paradoxical challenge of striving to live in the moment while also understanding the full context of our lives. We want to make every moment count, but we also need to think about the consequences of our actions for us and those around us. It’s a difficult task but as Rabbi Tarfon said in the Mishnah (Pirkei Avot 2:15): “The day is short and the work is great.”