Here is a touching Ted Talk from Candy Chang. She is an artist in New Orleans who turned an abandoned house into a giant chalkboard asking a fill-in-the-blank question: “Before I die I want to ___.” Her neighbors’ answers — surprising, poignant, funny — became an unexpected mirror for the community.
Watch her short story and hear some of the answers that people wrote. Then, look below the video to see an ever-growing list of online comments. You will feel a common thread as you read them. It makes us realize that we are all human, we all have secrets, wishes and hopes. She has now created these boards around the world.
It made me stop and think. After all, thinking about your own death makes you think about what you want out of life. Many people scoff at this – it is my belief that such people have not yet realized the preciousness of life and perhaps do not even want to think about their purpose of being here. Sometimes I will ask someone “what do you think your purpose in life is?” Some love exploring their answer with me, and some look at me and say “oh Wendy, you’re getting too deep for me!” and expertly change the subject.
I will share my answer with you:
Before I die, I want to know that I have made a positive difference in people’s lives.
In a new year’s eve ceremony I did with some friends in 2009, we wrote down our dreams and this is what I wrote: “I want solid evidence that I am making a positive difference in people’s lives”. Back then, I knew I was helping people but it didn’t seem like enough. I now feel I’ve started to receive this gift of ‘evidence’ since I starting teaching meditation and mindfulness in the workplace. People share with me how it is changing their lives in wonderful ways.
Does that mean I’m ready to die? No, it certainly doesn’t. But it does mean that I have more meaning in my life now.
So what would be your answer?