Use Your Fireplace
Yesterday, my next door neighbor was murdered in the park next to my house. I walk in this park with my dog Rosie three times a day. It has running paths and fields and a dog park and lots of people of all ages who enjoy it every day.
My neighbor was discovered by a passerby at about 7:00pm. He had suffered blows to the head.
I knew him since I moved to Sherman Street in 2003. Like me, he was one of the four trustees of our small condo association.
Paul was a kind-hearted, choose-to-help, and neighborly person. But, beyond this, I didn’t know him well. No one in our neighborhood did. He lived alone, was quiet, and was never seen with family or friends around.
Last night as I lay awake, worried about the violence in my otherwise safe and peaceful neighborhood and deeply saddened at Paul’s passing, I tried to reflect upon this man who has been a neighbor since 2003. What did I know about him? Who were his friends? His family? His co-workers? I had no idea.
All I could remember is that every year when our association asks unit owners to have their chimney professionally cleaned for safety’s sake, Paul would say, “I don’t need to have my chimney swept because I have never used the fireplace.. Ever. Since 1997.”
Year after year, Paul would remind us, “I have never used the fireplace.”
That is all I could think about all last night: Paul never used the fireplace.
Why, I wonder? Perhaps because he didn’t like fires? Or perhaps he couldn’t afford the wood? Or maybe he was too lazy or indifferent to get the fire started? Or perhaps he didn’t want to clean-up afterward?
I don’t know why.
But what I do know is that the fact of the virgin fireplace put me in a funk all day long.
Life is short.
I can appreciate why we sometimes save something special for an important event or milestone moment.
But because life is short, waiting to use our gifts, to enjoy our lives, to say, “I love you,” or “I forgive you,” or, “I want to enjoy this gift I’ve been given,” seems deeply saddening to me.
I imagine Paul waiting for some magical moment — perhaps finding a love, or perhaps hosting a dinner party, or perhaps retiring — some magical moment when he would say, “I am making a fire to celebrate this special occasion.”
But now, that moment will never come. Paul will never use his fireplace.
What are the fireplaces you do not use because you are saving them for some distant day, some imagined future, some reserve for a vague and amorphous “special” time?
With the start of the New Year, I offer this invitation and challenge — for me and for you:
Use. Your. Fireplace.
Whether that fireplace is a special gift you received, a particular talent you want to cultivate, a relationship you want to build or to heal, or a self-improvement project that maybe makes you feel undeserving in some way,I urge you to Use Your Fireplace to the best of your ability. Don’t make excuses and don’t wait for something “big” to happen. Life is now. And it’s precious.