By Geoff Tan

Life, for all of us, is but a journey of sorts. We tread this unpredictable yet compulsory adventure one step at a time, taking in whatever is dished onto the platter of our experiences, and making the best of each and every moment we have. As someone once said, “Live it once and live it best!”

The date of birth and the date of death on every tombstone merely speak of the length of life. Knowing how long a person lives is perhaps not as significant as the “dash” that unassumingly resides between the dates. How much this little “dash” is worth is dependent on the manner in which we live our lives, and how much good we choose to impart to the people around us.

Mother Teresa once said, “The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow, do good anyway.” This speaks volumes of the selfless attitude which this humble saint exuded when ministering to the poor and needy along the streets of Calcutta. Undeniably, some of us do good hoping to receive praise and recognition. The affluent society we live in perpetuates this even more and taints the wholesome innocence that’s at the very heart of selfless service.

Charles Michael Schwab, the American industrialist, lived by a business commandment which is, “In all things do your best. The man who has done his best has done everything. The man who has done less than his best has done nothing.” It’s true that you may not succeed every time you do your best, but neither you nor anyone else can fault you if you’ve put your heart and soul into the task.

A story is told of an elderly builder who was ready to retire. His boss was sorry to see his good worker go and asked if he would build one more house as a personal favour. Although the builder said yes, his heart was not in his work and hence resorted to shoddy workmanship and used inferior materials. When he finished building the house, his boss came to inspect it and handed the front-door key to him saying, “This is your house, my gift to you!”

I’m sure if he had known that he was building his own house, he would have given of his very best, as he had always done. Very much in the same vein as having to sleep in the bed you made, the builder had to accept the consequences of his poor effort. Regretting after the event will not turn back the clock and bring back the opportunity. You can only chalk it up as a lesson learnt, hopefully not to be repeated again.

Life is very much like building a house. Every phase we live through is akin to a part of the construction. Delivering consistent good work ensures a well-built home that you can cherish forever.

I figure if more of us can embrace Mother Teresa’s adage, the world will be a better and happier place to live in. “Giving off your best” can be positively infectious. If you’re already doing it now, keep up the good work. If you’re not, and only you would know it, today’s not too bad a time to start. Good luck!

Which wife should you look after most?

I am well aware that Singapore does not endorse the practice of bigamy but nonetheless there is a lesson to be learnt about prioritizing our lives taken from this illustration about a rich merchant who had four wives.

This wealthy man loved his fourth wife the most and took great care of her and gave her nothing but the best.  Although he loved his third wife very much and was always showing her off to his friends, he was in great fear that she might run away with other men.  His second wife was the confidante whom he always turned to whenever he faced problems.  His first wife, who loved him dearly, has always been loyal to him, helping him maintain his wealth and business as well as taking care of the household.  However, the merchant did not love her and hardly took notice of her.

One day, the merchant fell ill and was told that he was going to die soon.  He thought of his luxurious life and told himself, “Now I have four wives with me. But when I die, I’ll be alone. How lonely I’ll be!”

He asked the fourth wife, “I loved you most, endowed you with the finest clothing. Now that I’m dying, will you follow me and keep me company?” “No way!” she replied and walked away.  This hurt him tremendously.  The sad merchant then asked the third wife the same question and she also replied saying “Life is so good over here! I’m going to remarry when you die!” The merchant’s heart sank and turned cold.  He then asked the second wife, “I always turned to you for help and you’ve always helped me out.  When I die, will you follow me and keep me company?”  She replied “At the very most, I can only send you to your grave.” The merchant was devastated.

Then his first wife called out: “I’ll leave with you. I’ll follow you no matter where you go.” She was so skinny, almost like she suffered from malnutrition. Greatly grieved, the merchant said, “I should have taken much better care of you while I could have!”

What is the moral of this story you may ask?  Well, I’d like all of you to look at it this way.  Consider that all of us have four “wives” in our lives.  The fourth wife is our body.  No matter how much time and effort we lavish upon it to make it look good, it’ll leave us when we die.  Our third wife is our possessions, status and wealth.  When we die, others will take it away from us.  The second wife is our family and friends.  No matter how close they had been there for us when we’re alive, the furthest they can stay by us is up to the grave. 

The first wife, however, is in fact our soul, the part that will be with us when we die.  The ironical but tragic truth to things is that our soul is often neglected in our selfish pursuit of material, wealth and sensual pleasure.  When we eventually realize how important this is, many of us will regret how we have neglected it throughout the most part of our lives and wish we had paid more attention to it.   

If this story has been a wake-up call for you, today is as good a time as any to re-prioritize your values and pay more attention to your most important spouse.  I’m sure you know now which wife you should look after most!