>For so many people, change is something that terrifies them to a point of debilitating hopelessness, and for good reason (at least to them). With change comes the inevitable uncertainty of what comes next, whatever that "next" happens to be. Perhaps a "next" place to live, a "next" car, a "next" paycheck, a "next" girlfriend, a "next" best movie in the world. These are all important things to certain people, each holding a place of unparalleled preponderance in the daily lives of the individuals that hold them up on their undeserved pedestals. The word "next" implies an almost unilateral view past the present and into the future, it infers an almost tunnel-esque vision into what is yet to come.

The thought of a junkie looking for his next fix conjures the image of a desperate man or woman who can do nothing until he obtains that fix. Again, the power of "next."

The problem with this word, despite the (?)positivity of constantly looking forward is that the present is simply nonexistent. I've never been much of a marathon runner myself and I doubt most of you have either, so imagine with me a runner on that final stretch of their grueling race, at the crest of the final tumultuous hill along their quest of endurance. The peak of the white banner signifying the end starts waving in his field of view, and all that stands between the agony the runner has endured thus far and the sweet and welcome relief of rest is a comparatively measly 100 yards. You tell me what this runner is focused on - the people that have flooded out of their houses lining the streets, the vast number of volunteer workers who have given up time and money to supply water, tables, powerade stations along the side of the course, the signs of encouragement held up by friends or family members running alongside them, or are they focused on the next steps their legs are going to take, how many of these next steps they need to reach their goal?

Do not get me wrong. I wish I could know for sure and I greatly respect those who do know, but I imagine that the sole focus of the runner at this point is on the banner waving ahead and the weary legs beneath their exhausted body. All surroundings, all implications of that runner's "present" are nothing but a blur, even an obstacle, in reaching their final goal.

Please please do not get me wrong or misunderstand me by thinking I'm telling you to live in the moment only, because that person is more supremely misguided than the one focused solely on the future. I do, however, believe that it is necessary to constantly be aware of where you are in the present, because there is no other place you can possibly be. You cannot be in the future. You cannot reside in the past. God has given each of us the GIFT of free will, a gift that can be used neither in the past nor the future. It is a the gift of our choice NOW.

A gift... or a present, if you will. Of course, we are to use this gift for His glory, but even that is left up to us to decide. But how can you be expected to use this gift of the present in the place where you are if you're trying to live in the future?

I guess what I'm trying to say, as trite and horribly cliche as it is, is stop and smell the roses. Recognize who it is that has gotten you where you are and be freaking thankful for everything that you have, because, as the government is proving daily, what you have can be taken away so quickly. Safety is nothing more than a fleeting warm spot in a freezing cold ocean; comfort is a word thrown around to represent what takes us off of our feet and down from our guard; hope has become a catchphrase thrown around by politicians of the right and left wings alike.

Love is a term used more frequently by 8th grade girls than married couples of 30 years.

Be sure you know what it is around you that stimulates your mind, that inspires or leaves you awestruck, that gives and takes away, understand the fragile line between life and death, and take all of the steps towards the only one that can make both life AND death as meaningful as anything you could possibly imagine.

Hamilton Barber

The subject of this page is an introverted writer/musician/lunatic from Chattanooga, TN who dabbles in lexical dexterity, unorthodox thoughts on prosperity, and being overwhelmingly undeserving of the privilege of waking up every day. He hopes that everybody who reads these words takes them to heart and leaps higher than he ever could. He reads, thinks, and speaks too much; he listens, works, and loves too little; and he says “I” entirely too often. The words on these pages are not his: they are the words that were given to him.