I noticed these words etched in a table at our school library recently. Sitting mindlessly in a staff meeting, routines attached to me like puppet strings, pulling me in every direction. And me, with no mind of my own, blindly following the prescribed script for the day. I sat there, eyes glazed over, heart still pumping, but passion waning. I appeared to be living, doing all my duties, following up on all my responsibilities, going through the motions. Alive with a pulse, but asleep to awe and wonder. In fact, perhaps just a warm body, with inconsistent pulse jumping now and then – walking like the dead – a zombie to the miracle of this moment. Drenched in the monotony that had become my existence. Apathetic moments filled with sighs and putting one foot in front of the other. Moments filled with “making it through the day.”
I don’t even know what made me look. I’ve sat at the same table on-and-off for 10 years. 10 years of staff meetings, of conversations, of announcements. But today, it was as if these words whispered to my yearning soul. My eyes drifted to the table’s edge. Something went 0ff – an alarm of sorts. It was if time stopped. The sounds of the staff meeting suddenly faded into the background. It was as if I was transported into a space and time where reality became clear. It was as if I were in a sanctuary of awakening.
“I WAS HERE.” Who wrote this phrase? Who took the time to etch it into the side of the table? Who was behind those words? Like a standard thrust into the territory of their time and space, there it still stood. Alone, bold, and courageous. Proclaiming to whomever would notice or not notice, that “I” was Here! A human cry from every heart to be seen, to be acknowledged, to be loved. I WAS HERE.
Who was the face behind the “I”? What was their story, their struggle, their journey? Where were they now? Had they found the acknowledgement they had hungered for? Even as they etched that 3-word phrase, they had already bypassed that moment. Why did they use past tense? Why not proclaim in present tense words of “I AM HERE” ?
Then it hit me. While conversations of calendar items and grades surrounded me, its truth slammed into my world. With the whir of announcements and “life” happening around me – I WAS NOW HERE. In the same place. My fingers traced the outline of the words. I saw them – I felt them. I was now HERE. This is now my time and space. And even as I write this, “now” has just become “was”. Time. So fleeting! Within milliseconds HERE becomes THERE, and NOW becomes THEN. IS becomes WAS, and TODAY becomes YESTERDAY. In fact, could it be that right now we are making history and creating the masterpieces that will guide and inspire the human race of tomorrow? We are all leaving our etch into this world – “I WAS HERE.”
Time: so present. Why aren’t we? In the madness of bills to pay, mouths to feed, calendars to fill, obligations to meet, responsibilities to carry out, are we aware of NOW? I AM HERE. YOU ARE HERE. Like a mark on a map at the mall, or an appointment written down on a calendar space, or a carved phrase etched into wood, we are HERE – right here. Why do we live life as if we’re on some moving escalator, helpless to the turns, events, choices…always yearning for the weekend, or the next vacation, or the end of the day. Waiting and counting down the NOW moments til the next TV show, the next meal, the next appointment, our next Facebook post, the next move. Surrounded in the midst of creating the photo album of our life, we are so many times already in past tense mode, planning our next agenda item, our next encounter, our next moment worth savoring. Not realizing that perhaps we are in the middle of making a memory that we’ll yearn for later on. Ironically, in the moments we rush past, we make ourselves extinct. For if we are constantly ever-living in the future or the past, and we are never in the now, then we are really not alive. Because life exists right now. The past can’t be changed. The future hasn’t happened yet. Life only happens Right NOW!
I still wonder who carved that phrase in that table. I hope they’re living a beautiful life where they are fully aware of the miracle of this moment. As the staff meeting came to an end, with the rest of that day waiting with bated breath to be realized, I walked out with a warmer heart, a revived sense of being, and a returned pulse to the wonders surrounding me. I wish I could meet this person who left their mark on that table, and thank them for the prophetic reminder. That their words have been whispering to me, “don’t settle; open your eyes; you only have so much time in this moment!” I’ve been reminded that happiness is actually present in THIS moment, as close and as subtle as faded words etched in a table. The choice is ours whether or not to slow down and be present to that miracle. Because, regardless of whether or not we’re aware of it, WE ARE HERE.