A good friend of mine recently said, “I hate doing this. I feel like a rat. And I’m barely keeping pace.” He was talking about his life, using the common metaphor, but it got me to thinking about the things we do.

Few of us are lucky enough to do the things we want to on a daily basis. Most of us have jobs we don’t like, yet are tied to for various reasons. We have to bring home the pay check to pay for the things we do want in life. We spend five days a week, fifty weeks a year, thirty years of our life, doing it. In a lot of cases it is unavoidable. Cicero, in the movie Gladiator said it true, “Sometimes I do what I want to do. The rest of the time, I do what I have to.”

I have always liked that attitude in the face of doing the unpleasant. If we must do it, then let’s make the best of it.

A mother was teaching her son how to make his bed. Several mornings in a row she stood by his side as he neatly folded the sheets and then the cover. Satisfied that he knew how, she left him on his own for a week and was pleased that she had taught him how to keep after himself. One morning she was in his room and noticed the bed looked rumpled even though the comforter was nice and smooth. She pulled back the comforter and there were the sheets all twisted in knots beneath. When the boy came home from school she brought him up to his room and pointed it out to him. “You can choose to do the bed or not. But if you are going to do it, then do it right.”

We are faced with choices everyday. Each choice we make, changes who we are at our core. If we make the wrong choices, little by little, like waves upon a rock, we are changed.

If we make the wrong choices, we will wake up some time down the road and wonder how we got there. It’s all in the little choices that change us day by day without our even knowing it.

I sat next to an older gentleman on a train in Japan some years ago. He was a pleasant fellow, with a smile worn into his wrinkled face – a good face. He sidled up next to me, a foreigner, rather than staring at me like most of the other Japanese. “You’re so young,” he told me. “It is good to be young. You have the world before you. Me? I am old. All I have our my clay pots. Hagiaki,” he said, with something of a proud smile. “I didn’t always want to make clay pots. I wanted to be a big business man and live in Tokyo. I wanted to know all the stewardesses on all the flights.” He grinned at me, and I couldn’t help grinning back.

“Where did it all change?” I asked him.

“One day I started making pots. I never stopped.”

“Are you sad with the decision?”

“No,” he said with a chuckle. “I make good pots.”

He wasn’t lying. Later on I found out that his pots were on sale in every major city in Japan. He had made making pots an art, even though it wasn’t his childhood dream. He had passed up moving to Tokyo and becoming a big business man, because of a simple choice he had made long ago. Yet, even though he was doing something less lustrous and adventurous he still took pride in his work and had something to show for a day’s work, something he could be proud of.

The things we do – how we do them – tell our life story.

A little boy asked his grandfather, who was 72 years old, gnarled, and had a scratchy voice, why he still sang in the choir at church. The grandfather answered, “Because my spirit still sings. I’m afraid the moment I stop singing, my spirit will too.”

He wasn’t lying. Later on, I found out that his pots were on sale in every major city in Japan. He had made making pots an art, even though it wasn’t his childhood dream. He had passed up moving to Tokyo and becoming a big business man, because of a simple choice made long ago. Yet, even though he was doing something less lustrous and adventurous, he still took pride in his work and had something to show for the day, something he could be proud of.

The things we do – how we do them – tell our life story.

A little boy asked his grandfather, who was 72 years old, gnarled, and had a scratchy voice, why he still sang in the choir at church. The grandfather answered, “Because my spirit still sings. I’m afraid the moment I stop singing, my spirit will too.”

© Seth Crossman