Make sure you have your priorities right

In my computer, there are more than 200 half-finished columns. Some have only a great title. Some need a little bit of work. Some seem almost worthless and should be junked.
Last week, I browsed through those seminal ideas and came across a poignant story. Here is the story:
“To-do lists” are my greatest weakness. Every day I write great long lists. Typing them into the computer, writing them on index cards, putting them on “yellow stickies” in my Daytimer.
Adding everything large and small—from renovating the kitchen to oiling the counter cutting board.
Send an e-mail message to my cousin in Buffalo. Water the outdoor geraniums. Prepare a speech. Dig up a new flower bed. Take Phoebe to the animal clinic for her shots. Install crank-out windows in all main floor bedrooms.
Each day, I dutifully put bold red checks beside the completed items.
Over the weeks, months, and years, the lists get revised. Hopefully, the unimportant things get dropped and the important things get done. But, tragically with lists, sometimes it’s the other way around. It’s the important things that get pushed from list to list and finally forgotten.
And then one day you find a list—an old list from half-a-decade or more ago. That happened to me this week.
Most of the list didn’t matter. I don’t even remember anymore which shoes I was supposed to polish, and probably no one cared when I wore them unpolished anyway.
But one item did matter. I still remember moving this item from list to list. No doubt, I could have done that act of generosity in the same amount of time it took to keep copying “Visit Lena and take flowers.”
I had a special place in my heart for Lena, for three reasons. First, years ago, when I visited my brother and his family in the state of Washington, it was she who invited me to dinner and made me feel at home.
Second, her husband reminded me of my wonderful father, Nick Gingerich. He was gentle, kind, and generous like my father, and there was a remarkable likeness.
And thirdly, after my mother died, it was Lena who always hugged me in the grocery store and said, “I miss your mother so.”
(This is the end of the story).
I never finished that column, and I never visited Lena. I wanted to take flowers because Lena loved flowers. Late in life, she sat in a chair to tend her beautiful flower garden.
Now it’s too late because Lena died at the age of 100 in the state of Washington where her son lived.
I don’t think I should feel guilty after all these years. I felt very busy at the time. Still, it should be a lesson to me and to everyone. It’s very important that we have our priorities right.
Whether you make lists on paper, or keep track in your mind, check your list for important things which you might regret if you don’t do them. Then, let go of the unimportant.
Always remember some things on our to-do lists can wait until tomorrow, and some can’t. Are there any “Lena’s” on your list today?
Marie Snider is an award-winning health care writer and syndicated columnist. Write her at or visit

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