Patience and Fortitude: Living in the Present

On my walks through the city, I often pass the main branch of the New York Public Library at 5th and 42nd.  Its entrance is guarded by two lions, named Patience and Fortitude by Mayor LaGuardia during the Great Depression to inspire New Yorkers.

Enduring hardships does require both patience and fortitude–whether something we want to pass (illness), or something we want to happen (starting a family).  Our peace lies in trusting the unknowns; our power lies in pursuing the knowable, taking steps to find out what information we can, and making choices that are in line with our greatest good.

This week, my neighbor and friend passed away over a long illness.  I was moved by how his courage and faith sustained him in difficult times.  They seemingly enabled him to immerse himself in the moment, whether that moment was ordinary or out of the ordinary…  playing with his 1 1/2 year old, watching a movie with friends from church, or taking a trip to Hawaii with his wife, where they had lived for several years.

In the midst of what must have been tremendous sorrow,  my friend was also filled with gratitude and hope.  I witnessed his openness to the grace of joyful moments that only come from living in the present.  He had a service mentality of looking for ways that he could help others and was mindful of what his legacy would be.

I was moved by his wife, as well, by her practice of living a day at a time.  Yet, she made plans.  She and her husband had planned for him to work as long as possible, while she cared for their baby, until he no longer could, at which time she returned to work.  She arranged for extra help.

She–and they–looked ahead to the extent that it was possible, from a place that was both heart-centered and practical.  With that in place, she lived in the present.  I’m sure she felt sadness and fear in ways I can’t imagine–yet what amazed me is that she also truly counted her blessings, and made time to express her care and concern for others.

As someone who can be impatient, I am inspired by both of their lives that I have witnessed.  I have been doing a lot of work around changing the things that I can in my life, and surrendering the future, which can’t be known or controlled.  We often have more power than we realize, both by changing our perspective, but also by taking concrete actions on our own behalf to improve our lives, follow our passions, and connect with others.

It’s a practice where I often stumble and grope in the dark through unfamiliar territory.  I’m tempted by the illusion of control–but in fact, I am led by as much light as I have today.  Tomorrow, I will be led by as much light as I need at that time.

Everything that I need is provided.  When I do the necessary footwork around what is within my power and trust that the rest will go exactly as it’s meant to, I feel more serene.  When I focus on what’s in front of me and the difference that I can make–in work, love, or any other area–my life and my faith grow bigger.

I’m deeply saddened by my friend’s passing, and for his family’s loss.  I’m also extremely grateful to have known such a shining soul, and to have witnessed his family’s path in a difficult time, living in a place of openness to love and grace.

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