Wednesday, March 28, 2012

An Empty Seat

"Now listen, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.' Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes." 
- James 4:13-14

My Tuesday night class is pretty normal.

There are about 20 students enrolled. We meet once a week for about two hours. We get an assignment and talk about news writing. And then we go home. Repeat. 

But last Tuesday was different. A few hours before we met before class, I found out one of my classmates had passed away in a lethal car accident that involved the deaths of several others as well. She was 22. She was going to graduate from FIU next month just like me. 

I couldn't believe it. I had seen her just a couple weeks before. She sat right next to me in class. I wasn't particularly close to her, but we had spoken before. It was surreal.

Stepping into class that day, I looked over at her empty seat. Part of me still expected her to walk through the door as if nothing had happened. But, of course, she never did.

It was a reminder of how fragile life is. How quickly things can change and how tomorrow is never really guaranteed. It's something I routinely say from time to time, knowing it to be true but never really considering the sheer reality of it. At least not until now. That empty seat could have been yours. It could have been mine. What are we leaving behind? How will those around us remember us?

Glancing at that empty seat made me particularly uncomfortable. It got me thinking about my own life. About what I was doing with my time here. How I was treating those around me. My other classmates who occupy the other seats in the class. The people I work with and do life with. Have I been loving them? What do I know about them? Do I even know half their names?

Never waste an opportunity to drop an encouraging word to someone. Don't let a day go by without committing an unprovoked act of kindness. Strive for excellence every day. There's really no time for anything less than that.

Each and every moment of life is a gift from God and an opportunity to reflect his love in a world that is in desperate need for it. We are rubbing shoulders with people who are broken and thirsting for more. 

I think sometimes we fall for the lie that we are invincible and that nothing bad can really happen to us or those that we're close to. It leads us to fall into this place of complacency and we lose the urgency of what is really at stake. My hope and prayer for my life and yours is that we don't take this one and only life for granted.    

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