On Tuesday 16th November,2021, between the hours of four and eight in the evening (GMT) I was suspended in the skies of God at an unknown location and undetectable place by the lay man or uninitiated in aviation. I was aboard the Alaska Airlines AS1157X flight Albuquerque in New Mexico to Seattle; Tacoma and we were far beyond the dry earth. I used to the 3 hours 25 minutes journey above the skies of God soaking some cool Ghanaian highlife which I put on replay (Akua Atta by the late Kofi B, that song does something to my soul pizza can’t do) to start and finish this wonderful book titled ‘50 things that really matter.’

The book, a 160-paged page-turner, published in 2003 (this edition) exclusively for Hallmark Cards licensed by Rodale Books, attempts to define what is essential in our lives. According to the book, the constant inundation on our social media handles and physical lives with symbols of wealth (big homes, luxurious cars, diamond bracelets, exotic vacations, extravagant trips to the spa etc.), a lot of us feel left out in this road of life. Many people become hankered for this stuff and in the absence of that feel their lives are unfulfilled, worthless and this leads many down the road of depression. 

The book is filled with many stories which imbue in us some of the simplest gestures, events and values that are in the overall scheme of things the most important things in life. Mostly written in first person account, these lessons contain what the book describes as “simple pleasures so abundant that we all can enjoy them; the plain values that define us as good people; the emotional connections with friends and family that fill our souls with a sense of purpose.” The anecdotes related in this book discuss simplest of life’s gestures like trust, afternoon naps, romance, sunrise, the importance of milestones. Written in plain, lucid English, any reader whether desultory or purposeful will savor its content.

There are stories that will linger in mind long after you finish the book.                      Like the story of Jeb and the flood which talks about how Old Jeb who was trapped atop his house because of a flood rejected a rowboat, a powerboat and a National Guard helicopter that came to rescue him because according to him “I have faith: The Lord will protect me.” He got washed away with his house and when he appeared at the pearly gates, he blamed his Lord that he was abandoned after having so much faith in Him. The Lord replied that He sent him a rowboat, a powerboat, and a helicopter!” I like how the author Doug Hill concluded that “Like many of us, Jeb had great faith, but it was a faith built upon miracles that come with flashes of light and trumpet blasts.”  Or the story of passion which inspired my very passionate self to get soaked in a great deal of it.  Julia VanTine recounted her dad whose hands were those of an artist. She said his hands can transform marble into sculpture, coax herbs and vegetable from the earth, and cook meals that would bring tears to your eyes because everything he touches turns to art. She was not telling us the story for us to know her dad or for us to go learn under him. Far from that. Rather, she was teaching us that each of us harbor that ability to be so passionate about our lives. All we have to do is to go deep down the cistern of our hearts to find it.  Passion indeed is the ingredient that makes us feel alive and make us purposeful in our walk of life. 

Kevin Ireland believes “a hug is more than mere physical touch. It is like a lightening-like connection between two people. A link that expresses love, encouragement, comfort-all the emotions that can reinforce a relationship, even turn a life around.” Mary S. Kitchell concludes her views on a child’s art that “we can’t always rush forward with open arms to greet what comes our way in life, but its easier to embrace disappointments when we visualize our true characters glowing inside us somewhere, abundantly loving and lovable.” Several of the contributors to this solid book gave poignant conclusions to their stories which sits in perfectly after a background story. Kelley Calloway believes “holding hands is usually considered a romantic gesture. But in the right situation, it can mean so much more.” Sandra Salera Lloyd in her story to emphasize the inevitability of independence sates that independence, no matter when it comes, is fraught emotions. The place we leave behind is embedded with priceless fingerprints. Sometimes, though, leaving a world dense with memories is necessary for the soul to continue to prosper.”

There are a lot of stories this space won’t be able to capture fully. The chapter  on what a good book does to the soul further won my heart. Mariska Van Aalst asks, how do you know you’ve found a good book? She moves on to answer that “time melts as you read it. Unsuspecting, you crack the spine to find yourself whisked to a place that sings to every cell in your body. Soon you’re befriending characters that become soul mates, following a story that seems truer than reality.” And this is what happened to me on the plane. I was completely cut off from where I was or the dread of cockiness from the clouds. All the fear of heights I had before enplaning fizzled out into the thin air. Indeed “in the middle of a good book, you become so wrapped up in the story that you forget about the language, the way an exquisite painting renders color transparent. No one word, or hue, stands out the most beautiful-they are all elemental, irreplaceable, in one complete, perfectly balanced whole.”
To wrap up, I offer you some of the expressions I took away for the book. I lumped them altogether not following any logical sequence or flow. You can take each expression separate and on its own.  All work -on the field, in the factory, or one the computer- can be honest and fulfilling if we approach it from a place of devotion.  Honesty is our contribution to the community and to the world, the outward manifestation of our soul’s purpose. Just as the trees keep the air clean, give us shade, and shower us with fruits and nuts, so too are we each charged with our task, creating the future, one brick-or compost pile or database or cherry pie-at a time. Each day, angels visit the doorsteps of the faithful, leaving gifts that quietly offer God’s grace, comfort, and protection. All we have to do with s recognize them and pick them up.  But we each harbor the same vitality to be passionate about our lives. All we have to do is search our hearts for our special passion. Passion makes us feel alive, makes us certain that we walk this planet for some purpose. Like a battery powers a car, passion powers our souls. Without it, hearts go hungry. Unconditional love is a renewable resource. True communication is only possible when we don’t rely upon language. Without music, life would be a mistake. As my experience showed, music can heal the soul. It has the power to create inner peace and harmony. Any type of recorded or live music can have this soothing, comforting effect: the gentle strum of an acoustic guitar; the deep groove of a jazz trio. These and other sounds are music to my ears. And they can be yours too. All you have to do is listen.  Like shells, our true beauty is only apparent after we’ve passed from our earthly life.  Henry taught me-and many others he befriended- how to live life to the fullest. Not by skydiving or exploring some erotic country, but by appreciating where you are in life and valuing those around you. The best way to say I love you often has little to do with the words. Owning up, promptly and forthrightly, helps the other person begin to heal. But just as important, it cleanses our own soul and sets us free. It is important to celebrate the people who hold your hand and never let go. They’re the true heroes. 

[email protected]
NB:The Writer is a Youth-Activist and a Student of Knowledge.


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