During a recent excursion, I was surprised to find myself surrounded by a sea of "tomorrows." No, I was not visiting a maternity ward or a nursery school classroom where the bright potential of young children gives off a tangible sense of "tomorrow", i.e. the future, vital and promising. While it is true that I always experience the elation of "tomorrow" when I am with little ones, the sensation I am describing came from the opposite end of the spectrum -- a cemetery.
My official duties as a community rabbi take me, more often than I might prefer, to the quiet fields where the generations before us have come to rest. If one looks about and listens carefully to the stillness, there is a stifling awareness of a multitude of (for want of a better word) "tomorrows" -- a profusion of things that might have been, could have been, should have been, and would have been... but for "tomorrow."
Growing up in Milwaukee, and having served for some 40 years in the rabbinate, I am able to look around, no matter which cemetery I may be visiting, and recognize many familiar names, people whom I remember from my childhood years and thereafter. Many lived lives of great distinction. The rest, as a rule, were upstanding individuals, devoted to their families and community, Jews who left a heritage of industry and integrity. It is about this latter group that I am so saddened. Because I not only remember who they were, but who they might have been, had they not squandered their "todays" for their "tomorrows."
Of course, we all do it; procrastination is as old as mankind itself. Yet the sheer deluge of what the past put off for "tomorrow" rose like a heavy mist above the field, casting a long and heavy shadow upon the ground.
With unfailing constancy tomorrow becomes yet another today, full and hectic with characteristically unforgiving demands.
My reflections took me back to the present, to family, my friends, and myself. Each of us has many things we cherish and hope to accomplish during our lifetimes. Invariably they are achievements of substance, the stuff of which enduring legacies are made. What do we do about these aspirations? Put them off for "tomorrow", of course! Today is just too busy, too cluttered, and too demanding. With unfailing constancy tomorrow becomes yet another today, full and hectic with characteristically unforgiving demands which brazenly refuse to be postponed. Pathetically, the eternal verities of life, the ones that should clamor for our attention and insist upon recognition, wait silently and patiently in the wings of our consciousness to be converted at long last into the living tissue of life. Altogether too many tombstones tell the story of tomorrows which never came, and altogether too many of us are etching similar epitaphs for ourselves.
The beginning of a New Year represents a unique opportunity to make our "tomorrows" into "todays," by making a serious commitment to the goals we hold sacred. Putting "first-things-first" will enable us to feel the energy of coming alive and experiencing the liberation of our potential.
On my personal list for the coming year, "today" is uppermost on the roster. I would respectfully urge that everyone reflect on the many blessings that would be forthcoming if we had the tenacity and the determination to transform our "tomorrows" into "todays."
I wish everyone a happy, healthy, peaceful and prosperous New Year.