Monday, August 15, 2011

What’s in Your ‘Dash’?

Have you ever scanned tombstones and grave markers at a cemetery? You probably noticed each had a year or date of birth, along with (in most cases) a year or date of death. The years and dates differed, but they all had one thing in common: the dash in between.

If you research someone’s biography, you will either find dates of birth and death also separated by a dash, or if the person is still living, one date with a dash followed by a blank space. For the deceased, that simple dash represents the span of their lives. For the living, the blank next to the dash means their dash remains “incomplete.”

The dash on a tombstone
can tell the story of a lifetime.
My friend Dick speaks about “living in the dash.” And I’ve recently learned about a book written by Linda Ellis called Live Your Dash, expanding on her 1996 poem. I’ve read the poem, not the book, but for Dick and Ms. Ellis, the concept is the same: Our lives consist of the sum total of moments between birth and death; the impact of our lives is determined by how we use those moments.

Isn’t it humbling to realize that for many of us, all the watching world will ever see of our lives is that tiny dash?

Rather than becoming disheartened, we can look at that reality another way. A single drop of water viewed through a microscope can contain an incredible array of tiny items – cells, germs, a whole world of life hidden to the naked eye.

Inside that little graveyard dash, our lives can be much the same. It can represent many lives we have touched, acts of kindness, words of encouragement, ripples of laughter, tears of sorrow, times of happiness and joy, unseen deeds that changed someone’s life for the better.

That little dash, seemingly inconsequential, can represent a life well-spent – or squandered. Depending on whether we choose to invest it or waste it.

Ecclesiastes 3:2 says there is “a time to be born and a time to die.” The question is we will do with the time in between.

You're still defining your dash, as am I. When the time comes, what will yours have to say?

1 comment:

Jim Lange said...

Bob, I love the comparison to a drop of water. I've never thought of this quite in those terms. Thanks!