The only thing that matters—from someone who knows
Graham Long is a hero. He was CEO and pastor of the iconic Wayside Chapel in Sydney’s Kings Cross until mid 2018. It’s a place where he saw life, as he expressed it, ‘from the gutter up, rather than from a university or Parliament House down’.
The Wayside Chapel was opened in 1964 to serve those in need in the Kings Cross area. There’s a whole lot of support, from food and clothing to helping with mental health issues. The Sydney Morning Herald described Long as spending ‘his days “meeting” some of Sydney’s least lucky people; homeless, addicts, those fleeing domestic violence, the sick, the sad and the unloved’.
He held services on Sundays in the chapel proper and usually about 30 to 40 attend. He always finished with the group forming a circle holding hands while he says a benediction.
‘It is quite possible to find an ex-Attorney-General on one hand and an ice addict on the other, or for a sex worker to be holding hands with a teacher or a judge.’
I tell you this so you get a feel for the man and know that he understands people. I recommend his book Love Over Hate. It tells of his work at Wayside. In it, he also reveals what, to him, is the only thing that matters.
What really matters
‘I know for sure that on our deathbed, the level of achievement in one’s professional life counts for nothing. I know that whether you owned a house or not means not much. The only thing that matters is who you loved.’
That’s putting life into black-and-white terms. But he’s reinforcing something we all know. People are important in our life.
We can gather enough ‘toys’ to fill our house and yard. We can gather experiences and skills. We can have success—and failure. We may gain wealth, but if you’re on your deathbed the chance to be the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t seem like a great achievement.
‘The only thing that matters is who you loved.’ Nothing else can come close to that.
This is a reminder for those looking toward retirement to treasure ‘what’ is important—those you love. Appreciate their role in your life. Show them what they mean to you. Give them priority.
Don’t keep it for your deathbed. If you keep it until then, those you love may not believe you.