"Count your nights by stars not shadows; count your life with smiles, not tears."
— Italian Proverb
"One of my congregation members adopted a dog from the local shelter. It was a very cute Collie/Labrador Retriever mix that was within days of being euthanized. After the paperwork was done, she took him home and immediately named him 'Just-in,' for just-in-time.
"Just-in's story is our story, too. Maybe you feel stuck in a dead-end job or a dying relationship. Or maybe you feel your dreams have faded or your sense of joy has disappeared. Many of us are walking this earth physically alive but dead of spirit, operating at the level of our social security number — existing, not living. And just like Just-in, our situation can change. But time is ticking.
"The key to any change is taking one step at a time, one breath at a time, one prayer at a time. Too often we try to change ourselves, our environment, our world with sweeping transformations, when all along it is the little things done consistently that make the most change.
"The Great Pyramids were built one brick at a time. The Great Wall of China — one brick at a time. Dollywood, the Mall of America, Graceland — all built one brick at a time.
"In explaining his theory on climbing, Sir Edmund Hillary said that it's the same pattern over and over: 'one whack of the ice-axe, one weary step.' Those tiny steps, repeated for days on end, made him the first man to summit Mt. Everest.
"'It's never too late to be what you might have been.'"
— George Eliot, English Novelist
"It's never too late. As a performer and comedian, I understand that the ending is always the most important part. You have to leave them with your best material. Even if you bombed in the beginning of the set, if you leave them laughing in the end, that's what they will remember.
"Just like a comedian who teaches him or herself to 'see' humor in the world, so too can you relearn to see the joy in everyday life. And no matter how you've lived to date, if that is how you end, that's what they'll remember.
"It is important to know who you are. It is, however, more important to know who you are becoming. Ask yourself: 'Do I want to be a resentful, angry, exhausted human being?' Then give priority to the 'to-do' lists and the failures and money and power and the multitasking and the need to be right all the time. Or if your answer is that you want to leave a legacy as a loving, compassionate, peaceful human being, then show it. Give priority to compassion and patience and peace.
"Err on the side of Tigger.
"At the end of the dash years, there is only one question each of us has to answer: Did we leave the world a better place?
"What if this were your last day? You may have years left, but why risk it? If this were your last day, how would you live it?
"The Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh said, 'If in our daily life we can smile, if we can be peaceful and happy, not only we, but everyone will profit from it.'
"Take stock of how you spend your time. Think about the handprint you want to leave on the world — how others feel after being in your presence.
"The most important thing on your tombstone is not the date you were born, or the date you died, but that 'dash in between.' And the best way — the only way — to truly honor this short legacy is one smile at a time, one laugh at a time, one joyful compassionate act at a time. Honor your gift of life and spirit. Smile, love, and laugh your way to grace."