Opelika -Auburn News
Walter Albritton
Feb. 26, 2000

The tough job of deciding daily what really matters

One lovely spring day in 1988 a group of sky divers arranged for a dive to be photographed by a woman photographer who was also a sky diver. The woman prepared very carefully for her assignment, making sure she had all the necessary supplies for her camera.

On the day of the jump the experienced photographer jumped out of the airplane along with the other divers who were eager to do their sky-diving stunts for the camera. But there was one problem. The photographer forgot to put on her parachute and jumped to her death instead of snapping some great pictures.

Her preparation was not complete. She forgot the one thing that mattered the most. Many things are valuable, but some things are essential. Which brings me to my subject: the tough job of deciding daily what really matters in life.

News reports suggest that Kansas City Chiefs star Derrick Thomas might still be alive today had he buckled his seat beat before his tragic automobile accident. If that is true, then he neglected to do a small thing that might have saved his life. It could have happened to anyone of us.

The cynic may say, as one woman did after the Alaska Airlines jet crashed into the Pacific Ocean, "When your time is up, then you are going to die, so why worry about it." She said that to explain why she was not afraid to catch another plane that day. Logical, I suppose, but a bit too fatalistic for me.

After one man's home burned to the ground, a friend said, "I'm sorry about the fire; I understand you lost everything."

"No, that's not true," the man quickly replied. "I did not lose my faith in God, so I still have the thing that mattered the most to me." His attitude was much more commendable than that of the woman who was not afraid to fly.

Tim Forneris, a computer analyst, made the news last year. Working part-time as groundskeeper for the St. Louis Cardinals, he retrieved Mark McGwire's 62nd home-run ball, and gave it to McGwire with no strings attached. He was criticized by some people because he could probably have sold the baseball later for as much as a million dollars.

Forneris responded to his critics by saying, "Life is about more than just money. It is about family, friends, and the experiences you have with them."

He went on to explain, "Being the person who received the ball was a great blessing to me. And being able to return it to Mr. McGwire was a real honor and thrill. I still would not trade that experience for a million dollars."

The young man, 22, neither asked for nor received any money or memorabilia for returning the baseball to McGwire. His reward was the satisfaction of believing that he had done the honorable thing.

Was Forneris a fool? Not in my book. He has discovered at a very young age what really matters.

Coach Bill McCartney finally won the college football national championship in 1990. But taking the University of Colorado to the pinnacle of his profession almost cost him his family. He felt a great emptiness because he knew that for years he had neglected his wife and family while football had been his god.

Leaving football, he helped to found the men's movement known as Promise Keepers. Since then he says he has found great joy in being "sold out" to God. Simply put, he discovered what truly matters.

One day a family stopped at Dairy Queen. A 4-year-old girl tried to explain to her mom and dad that it was a special day because she had invited Jesus into her heart.

Her dad, wondering how much she understood about God, said to her, "So you want to go to heaven to see Jesus, do you?"

"Yessir," she replied, "but can I finish my Dilly Bar first?"

That story leads me to this conclusion: It is tough job to decide daily what really matters. The Dilly Bar can be a tasty treat. But sooner or later we must determine that life is about more than Dilly Bars, baseballs, and footballs.

What you decide really matters really does matter.