“This is the beginning of a new day. God has given me this day to use as I will. I can waste it or use it for good. What I do today is very important because I am exchanging a day of my life for it. When tomorrow comes, this day will be gone forever, leaving something in its place I have traded for it. I want it to be gain, not loss — good, not evil. Success, not failure in order that I shall not forget the price I paid for it.”
This short yet powerful poem was written by Heartsill Wilson. It is said that, upon his death, this simple poem was found on Hall of Fame football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant. When I first read this poem, I merely though of it as an interesting piece that a legendary sports figure carried on him. Then I read it again. And again. Eventually, something clicked. This is more than a poem carried by a sports figure. This a simple and powerful mantra of how to live life and how to make our society better.
In our lifetimes, it will seem that we have many days and many moonlights. However, this may not always be so. Time is a finite force and even if we live to the age of 100 years old, we have a limited amount of new days. None of these days are to be taken for granted, for a life can be altered in the blink of an eye – both for the better or for the worse. Many of us have seen enough of life’s undiscriminating sense of justice to know that this reality is so.
When one stops and reads Wilson’s poem again, they will realize that this is a mantra that we can strive to live up to each and every day – a challenge to rise above the storm that life can create and better ourselves and the world around us. Each and every sunrise that we awake to, each and every one of us has this reckoning. We have been granted another day of life, a day in which we will never gain back. Yet, we will leave some mark of our doing – influenced by our being – upon this day that exists in this world. What is up to us is whether we do good or do evil.
Look at the world around you. Look at your family. Look at your loved ones. Look at your community. What mark do you wish to leave upon them? What memory and action do you wish the world to leave upon them? Do we wish to burn a path that leaves the carnage of hate and anger in its wake? Or do we wish to build a future that champions love and compassion? Do we wish to build a world that provides opportunity to those born into it? Equality – of all kinds – is the great human mystery that we have sought to solve in human civilization. The future that we choose as a society begins with the choices that we make as individuals. It starts with how we answer the question of what we are going to do with the day given to us. Shall we use this day to perform an act of selfishness – one guided by the inner darkness of the heart? Or will we have the courage to leave goodness in place of the day we have been granted?
If we shall do the latter, that is how we make this world a better place. If you are a parent, look at your young child. What kind of world do you wish for them to see? How do you want them to see you in that world? If we collectively act to better ourselves and our world each and every day, the light will eventually win out over the darkness. Our world will be built into a better place. We just have to believe it and be that force of change which we seek.
How do we achieve this goal and exact a positive change with the days that we have been granted? The answer is simpler than we think. We achieve this goal being active in our society. We achieve this goal by having moral courage. We achieve this goal by being a source of hope and inspiration.
In our hearts, we each have a moral compass – a sense of what is right and wrong. If we witness a wrong, we must have the moral courage to stand and deliver and do everything within our power to correct that wrong. In our hearts, if we know that we can positively help a collective effort to achieve a goal that benefits society, we must have the commitment to help. We must have the courage to set our hearts free and follow it. By doing so, our positive impact will inspire hope in others.
While some in this world will have the opportunity to make impacts on a large stage – say in public policy or in an event that goes down as having historical significance – most of us will experience these opportunities in more grounded ways. What can you do to make a difference? Do something that makes a positive difference, no matter how small. Be a good influence on those around you. Join a town/city committee. Help someone out. Have the courage to follow your heart and dreams. Have the courage to be a positive force in this world. Have the courage to be someone’s inspiration. Have the courage to be the reason why someone goes to bed at night with a smile on their face. Be someone. We have been given a new day to achieve something each and every sunrise. Let it be good. Make it be positive. Let what you have exchanged for this day be something that leaves the world a little better than you found it. If enough of us do that enough times, we will have a beautiful world.
“Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”
~ Robert F. Kennedy