I was driving on Highway 10 southeast of Stevens Point, Wisconsin heading towards Minocqua for a family reunion when a sign said we were crossing the river named Tomorrow. Because the river is old and serpentine, we crossed the Tomorrow three times in the course of just a few miles. I couldn’t ignore the metaphor or the thought: I kissed the future and crossed the river named Tomorrow, three times today.
It did make me ponder how much time I spend today, thinking about and worrying about tomorrow. The poets and the mystics tell us that we shouldn’t worry about tomorrow; that we should strive to live in the moment and savor each and every day. I understand that - in my head - but find it hard to do in my heart.
I must admit that I sometimes hold on to resentment and hurt feelings. And I also must admit that my heart wants to hold on to the things I love. At 64 years old, I find myself at times wondering how many hugs I have left. How many smiles and kisses remain. How many times I will hear or say the words I love you. Or how many times I will need to say I’m sorry or that I forgive you.
That brings to mind the Tibetan Monks who travel around and create these intricate and beautifully constructed colored sand mandalas, only to destroy them when done. This is to remind us that beauty lies in creation and that life is transitory. When the mandalas are destroyed, half of the sand is given to the audience. The rest is taken and poured into a nearby body of water. The idea is that the sand carries a healing blessing to the ocean and from the ocean the blessing spreads around the world. In this way, the colored sand and the work of the Monks act to heal the world.
I would say we need more mandalas; that we need more healing blessings heaped upon us. I would say we need more love and forgiveness.
One of the bible readings for today was about forgiveness. Jesus was asked if it was enough to forgive a sinner seven times. His response was not seven times, but “seventy times seven” times. In other words, forgive until you have truly forgiven with your heart and not just with your words. I have found that I might shrug off a hurt or a “sin” and say everything is fine with my words or even in my mind. But eventually, hurt feelings will bubble up from my heart, anger will bubble up, resentment will bubble up. And now, I spend additional time and negative energy thinking about how I was wronged. In essence, I send into tomorrow the resentments of today by not forgiving the wrong from my deepest level - from my heart.
No one knows the number of their days on this earth. I come from a long line of long-lived Italian relatives, and so I am crossing my fingers. But I am also going to try and keep focused on what I can do today. I am going to hug more today and do it from my heart. I am going to say “I love you” more today and mean it from my heart. I am going to seek forgiveness and say I’m sorry if I need to, today and do so from my heart.
The only tomorrow I can safely cross over is the river. All the other tomorrows are just a hope and a prayer.
Michael Soika has been a community activist for more than 30 years working on issues of social and economic justice. His work for justice is anchored by his spiritual formation first as a Catholic and now as a Quaker.