How a 3-second encounter with an old man taught me about mindfulness.


The eternal life that we are now living will be well lived if we take good care of each little period of time as it presents itself day after day. If we fail in doing this, we fail in everything. ~R W Trine

Many years ago I was driving down a rural two-lane Florida highway when I heard a clinking and clanking sound off in the distance. I looked in my rear-view mirror to see an old Ford pick-up truck, I’m talking 1940’s-era old, coming up fast behind me.

Far from mint condition, this pick-up was pockmarked and rusty and making such a racket it sounded like it might come apart at any moment. I could picture the tires popping off the sides, rolling down the road as the bed of the truck came to a screeching halt on the pavement.

The old truck rumbled by me, passing me in the lane to my left. I looked over at the driver and to my surprise I saw an old black gentleman behind the wheel. He was wearing a loose-fitting flannel shirt, his hair and his beard were a solid gray. He looked to be even older than the truck, between 80 and 90 I thought at the time.

What I remember most clearly about this incident was the big, broad smile on the man’s face as he tooled down the road; it was an “I’m happy to be alive enjoying this beautiful day” smile. I also distinctly remember the bumper sticker on the back of that pick-up. It read: One Day at a Time.

Looking at that phrase now, I find myself breaking it down into smaller and smaller increments. One hour at a time. One minute at a time. One second at a time. It’s all about being in the here-and-now—not dwelling on a past we can’t recreate or a future that doesn’t yet exist.

Every now and then, when I find myself disconnected from the world around me, I think of that gray-haired old man. I see him rolling by, ghost-like, and I imagine him turning to me with his big smile and saying, “one day at a time.” I know he is right. Embracing life each day, and being fully present in each moment, are the keys to a well-lived life.

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