“Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope. Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore we must be saved by faith. Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore we are saved by love.”
-Reinhold Niebuhr, The Irony of American History
Tears fell from her dark brown eyes to the broken pavement beneath her feet.
“No podemos esta vez.” We can’t this time.
Like so many others before her, she would have to return to her village with little more than hope…hope that she would have the surgery that she needed when our team returned to central Peru for another campaign. Despite our best efforts, there is usually not enough time to care for all of the children in need. True, we often care for those that we have had to turn away on one campaign when we return for another mission. And so it is for the next campaign. And for the one after that.
But in the end, there will simply never be enough time…
I returned home to write this, my last message to all of you as ACPA president. An improbable year has passed far too quickly. We have achieved some wonderful things, and the Association is in a very good place. But there is so much that I hoped to accomplish before the end of my tenure that now demands more time. Some things for next year, I suppose. Or perhaps for the one after that.
It is no different here at home in Columbus, where our team is now preparing to draft the next comprehensive strategic plan for our department and for our cleft and craniofacial programs. It is a task that we complete every three years, each time working hard together to achieve each of the goals that we have set, only to realize that there is so much more that we still need to do. Some objectives, I suspect, for the next strategic plan.
And so it is in life. It often seems to us that our real quest is finally just about to begin…that we are about to move steadfastly toward that grand destination that is our life’s goal or perhaps our true purpose. From that moment, every task and every experience is but another necessary step on the path toward the attainment that mystical “something more” for which we believe we were born. But there are always obstacles to be overcome, challenges to be met, unfinished business to complete, time to be invested, and debts to be paid. And so one day, with enough of these challenges now behind us, it becomes clear that what has happened to us along the way is life itself.
I have come to understand that life is not a treasure hunt. There is no hidden coffer filled with gold and gemstones to be unearthed at the end of a long, deliberate quest. Too often, we spend far too much of our time thinking about the bounty that we seek. And too often, when we arrive at that elusive destination marked by an “X” on our map, we are disappointed by what we find. And so we set out to find a bigger stash of valuable or delightful things, only to find once again that what we discover is not exactly what we expected or perhaps simply not enough. We would not be ungratified, however, if we understood that the goal itself is far less important than the real virtues of traveling with a good compass and staying deeply committed to our path. The real riches to be found are in the journey itself and in the people that we meet along the way.
The journey of our lives is about more than the destinations we seek or even those that we have reached. Our growth, wisdom, happiness, and fulfillment come from the people in our lives that share our journey, the paths that we choose, and the lessons we have learned along the way. I am grateful for the voyage that I have taken, for the lessons that I have learned, and for the people who have traveled by my side. I have been blessed with the love and the friendship of some truly special souls who have seen to it that I have never wandered this path alone.
And so I thank you for the opportunity to serve as your president. I am grateful for your patience, your service, your friendship, and your trust. I wish you and your own fellow travelers good health, peace, and joy this holiday season and throughout your own magnificent journey.