Sept. 11 is a very emotional day for me. On Sept. 11, 1977, I was ordained as a Christian minister. The power and sacredness of that event still resonate powerfully within me.
On Sept. 11, 2001, two of my Princeton classmates were tragically killed in the twin towers attack. To know that my friends and colleagues, as well as many other Americans, could die so horrifically still brings me to tears.
Both Sept. 11 events have taught me some lessons along life’s way.
Life is a continuous journey full of highs and lows. It is a marathon and not a sprint. There are no promises in life. You may aspire and dream of what your life will be, but in the end, life gives us what it gives us.
Our task is to make the most out of every life experience, good and bad. The ancient philosopher Longinus allegedly stated that, ”it is better to exist than not to exist and it is better to live at a higher level than a lesser.”
Life gives both. Because this journey is full of ebbs and flows, one ought to live life with gusto. Now, having lived more than six decades, I invite you to live your life with passion.
Real success is measured not by wealth, power or privilege but by our ability to commit to something greater than ourselves. That is why fighting to overcome injustice, feeding the hungry, educating our youth and working for the common good is so important.
It forces us to break out of our comfort zones. It makes us care about others at least as much as ourselves. It is comfortable to live as a self-righteous navel grazer. It is magnanimous to work for the good of others. To live a life of magnanimity is to be tremendously successful.
Never allow your critics the power to make you ignore the meditations of your heart. If you have the courage to speak truth to power, you will have critics. Many of them will attempt to make you feel foolish and unimportant. They are often heartless and cruel. However, not listening to the meditations of your own heart will rob you of peace and joy.
Players are going to play, and haters are going to hate. To be true to one’s own heart is more important than any possession or public acclaim. The Nazarene once said, “out the heart flow the issues of life.” Be true to the meditations of your heart.
Cherish your family and friends. One never knows how long our family and friends will be with us. The coronavirus, natural disasters, violence and life’s horrors make us aware that our family and friends can be here today and gone tomorrow. True friends are few. Family ties are fleeting. Cherish family and friends so that in the end we did not say, “if I could of, would of…”
Cling to the God you know. So many people live by what a tradition or doctrine says about who and what God is. Know the God that meets you at the altar of your heart. I no longer attempt to fit someone’s religious ideas. I simply hold fast to the God I know: the God who brought me through the Middle Passage, who sustained me through slavery, Jim Crow segregation, systemic racism and oppression, sickness, poverty, anxiety and despair.
Whether that God fits someone else’s conceptual framework is irrelevant to me. My conversation about God does not start with “God hates…” My God loves male, female, people of color, people of other faiths, folks who are LGBT, and on and on. I know that God is real because I believe love is real. Find the God who sustains you, and you will find a peace that the world did not give, and the world cannot take away.
I give just a few things I have learned along life’s journey. I know as I live, I will learn so much more.