It’s so easy to take people for granted.
Life is short and unpredictable, but it’s easy to forget that. And we often do.
Speaking from experience, we often assume we will have another day, another week, another year. And we assume our loved ones have the same. We can grow comfortable, complacent, and lazy about appreciating those special people in our lives.
But the truth is, we don’t know how long any of us have left on this earth.
My brother passed away almost eight years ago. Today would be his 22nd birthday.
This is always a very difficult day. On one hand, I have many good memories from the fourteen birthdays we had here with him. But there’s also a bittersweet shade to them, as every good memory is a reminder of all the things I can no longer do with him right now.
The hugs. The conversations. The goofiness.
The cherry cheesecake he always wanted, and the games he liked to play. The movies we rewound too many times to count because of all the spots that made him laugh.
I miss his laugh. When I was younger, I often had to be reminded not to hurt myself while making him laugh. He found physical comedy funny, and if it brought him joy, I didn’t really think anything hurt much anyway. I used to do just about anything to make him laugh. I’d do just about anything to make him laugh again now.
As a believer, and knowing my brother was also a Christian, I have the blessed assurance that I will see him again some day. Eventually, I will get to hear him laugh again – and so much more too. And so while missing him still hurts too much to express, I’m also very thankful for the promise that we’ll be reunited.
As the Bible puts it, ‘…weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.’1
It feels like a very long night right now, but I know that in the scheme of eternity, it’s hardly more than a heartbeat. It’s difficult today, as I’m sure it will stay for the rest of my life. But in the end, I can have faith that it’ll all be okay. In the meantime, I have to continue to trust God, and do my best to remember the lessons He’s taught me through my brother.
One of those lessons has been not to take anyone for granted.
I didn’t fully recognize it at the time, but my brother was wonderful at appreciating each and every person he came across. It didn’t matter who you were, or whether you even knew my brother, you could count on the fact that he’d smile at you. And my brother’s smiles were hardly ever just polite. No, they were full grins – the kind that were impossible not to smile back at.
He was also a great listener. Severe Cerebral Palsy meant that he couldn’t communicate verbally very easily, and while that would frustrate me if I were in his place, he seemed to take it as an opportunity to be one of the best listeners I’ve ever known. And he was.
I remember rambling to him one night about one of my story ideas, and suddenly realizing that, if it were me listening, I would have been extremely bored. But he was listening. Not just putting up with me or tuning me out. But making eye contact, responding with smiles and excited murmurs at all the right places, and seeming like there was no where else he’d rather be. Even though I know for a fact there were many things he would have preferred.
It’s those kind of moments that I look back on now and wish I would have appreciated more. I wish I would have thanked him every time he did that for me. I wish I would have taken after his example and treated others the same way while he was still with us, not just feeling convicted to after he’s no longer here.
I’ve been told that it’s better late than never, and that’s true. But in the moment is even better than late.
You and I have many people in our lives that we’re taking for granted in some way. We’re human, and it’s almost impossible not to fall into that habit. But if we’re intentional, it’s also something we can change.
Of course, no one’s perfect. But everyone is special, a child of God, and a blessing. There are hard times and rocky parts in every relationship. But why is it that you both keep going?
Think of the people in your life. Your family, your friends, your significant others, your coworkers, your teachers…anyone that God has placed on your path, to walk it with you. When was the last time you thanked them? For anything?
Maybe, like my brother, you can always count on them to listen when you need it. Maybe they never fail to cheer you up when you’re having a rough day. Maybe you’ve never met anyone so kind, patient, thoughtful, courageous, intelligent, or witty – or maybe they have many of those qualities. Maybe you can’t even pinpoint exactly why they mean so much to you, but you know your life would be a whole lot harder without them in it.
Recognize that. Remember it. And appreciate that person for as long as you can.
Don’t forget to tell them you love them, or that you’re glad to know them. Don’t forget to thank them for the way they influence you. Don’t take for granted all the ways that they’re extending God’s love and blessings to you.
No one is a significant part of your life unless God’s allowed them to be there – to teach us, comfort us, encourage us, and to allow us to do the same for them. We never know how long they will stay, but I’ve found that the time doesn’t matter so much as what we do during it. You could have minutes with them, or you could have years.
Don’t waste any of them.
This is a lesson I’ve had to relearn too many times to count, and I suspect I’ll continue being reminded of it my entire life. And though it’s always painful, it’s so important.
The people in your life are there for a reason. And no matter who they are, I can guarantee you can find at least one reason to be thankful for them. So my request is for you to look for it. And after you’ve realized why they’re a blessing, appreciate it. Remember it. Make sure they know you’re thankful, and don’t forget to thank God for putting them in your life.
I’ve found that the moment someone is no longer in our life, we have no trouble realizing how they’ve changed us. But we don’t have to wait until then, and in fact, we shouldn’t.
It’s easy to take people for granted. But it’s so much better to love and appreciate them.
I’m far from perfect at it, but that’s what I’m trying to do. And I pray you’d join me.
I promise you won’t regret it.
Teach us to number our days,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
(Psalm 90:12 NIV)
1. Psalm 30:5 NIV