Brannan’s Bay Ridge: Making the dash count

There are 168 hours in a week, around 730 in a month. To some it may sound like a lot, to others too little. I used to be fond of the saying, “live every day like it’s your last,” which is quite possibly the easiest thing in the world to say but the hardest thing actually to do.

Most of us probably struggle just to live it “one day at a time.” Real life quickly gets in the way of following your every whim so I don’t say it as much anymore; I just try to live it as best as I can – while being mindful not to neglect paying my rent and bills!

At a friend’s funeral, as I tried to ignore the footsteps of time marching in my head, the priest recited a famous poem by Linda Ellis called “The Dash.” Look it up if you’ve never heard of it.

It’s a great little verse about how one day all of our lives will be summed up by that simple little “dash” on our tombstone. You know, the one between the year we enter the world and the year we leave it – with everything we do in between the two years, every love, every loss, every flat tire, every joy, every disappointment, every sandwich, all of it, boiled down to that little dash etched in granite. A sobering but profound thought.

Given that limited window, which for some is open wider, and some narrower, and for a time that no one can really know, I’ve come to believe that the meaning of life is to give life meaning.

Since even at best we aren’t here for very long, we’d better make the most of it. We should laugh louder, cry harder and love deeper. As St. Francis of Assisi reminded us, when we leave this earth, we won’t be able to take anything with us – the only thing that will remain is what we did for and gave to others.

In that spirit, we should strive to leave the world a little bit better than how we found it. Make your mark while you’re here and in the process you’ll find the true wealth that only comes from helping others. I believe that to be true.

Bay Ridge has always taken care of its own. Whether new or native, we look out for each other. It’s part of the reason why everyone always says Bay Ridge feels like a small town. There are so many people here who are dedicated to service. It’s simply in our DNA.

From the many voluntary activities at work throughout our community, whether social, faith-based or political, it’s clear that folks in Bay Ridge have a genetic predisposition to helping others. And that spirit of lending a helping hand has deep roots – indeed, when Giovanni da Verrazano came upon the Native Americans of what is now Bay Ridge, he found them all to be very generous and helpful to these newcomers.

Apparently not much has changed! The opportunities for helping others are all around us, whether as part of an established group, or shoveling snow or running errands for an elderly or disabled neighbor. Any commitment, big or small, adds something to our community and contributes to that Bay Ridge, small town spirit.

So, since there are 168 hours in a week and around 730 in a month, the question remains: What are you doing about that dash?

Justin Brannan is a community activist, born and raised in Bay Ridge. He and his wife Leigh own a small business on Third Avenue.

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