One night in the hospital, a friend came to visit me. I told her I didn't think I could go on anymore. What I was feeling went beyond despair. It was a loss of hope — of everything I valued, trusted, and loved. The pain had become simply unbearable.
My friend held my hand and said, 'Dan, what you are about is more important than who you are.'
That night, I had a dream. I dreamed that God came to me. This was not the God I believe in, the one you read about in the Bible. It was some other God, and when He spoke, he said, 'I'm going to give you a piece of the universe. Your job is to take care of it. Not make it bigger or better — just take care of it. And when I'm ready, I'll take it back, and your life will be over.'
I looked at the piece of the universe that God was showing me, and I saw that it was just three millimeters! Was that all? I could feel my ego begin to rail against this indignity. I'm a psychologist! I am an author! I have a radio show! Aren't these things important?
Of course, no matter how much I protested, it wouldn't make any difference. My allotment was still — and would always be — just three millimeters of the entire universe. That was it!
But in this dream I also saw that caring for three millimeters of the universe was an awesome responsibility. A God-given responsibility. Though I had felt I couldn't go on, finally I had to acknowledge that I would have to give back my three millimeters before I was ready. And because, at the time of the dream, I had a wound that was healing in millimeters, I knew that my job was to help heal my three millimeters of the universe.
Sam, part of the reason I'm at peace with my life is that I take care of the part of the universe I'm responsible for. I haven't made it bigger or better. I haven't changed it. But I have cared for it. Writing these letters to you is just one of many ways of tending my three millimeters.
What I wish for you, Sam, is what I wish for everybody — to get as clear a sense of what your life is about as I got in that dream. Your three millimeters is not much in terms of area. But I hope you will feel the gratitude and joy that I feel, having been given that much to tend.
Daniel Gottlieb is a quadriplegic, and when his grandson was 14 months, he was diagnosed with autism. He started writing him letters that were complied in 'Letters to Sam'. Above is an excerpt from that book.
SEED QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: What are your three millimeters of the universe? Can you share a personal story of a time you became aware of the three millimeters of the universe entrusted to you? What helps you stay rooted to caring for your three millimeters?
My 3 millimetres was my family but I got careless and it was taken away from me. Now I take care of my 1 millimetre -- me in the hope that if I nourish "me", "me" will grow into "we" again.
I love this post, particularly because it's not about doing more or better, but tending to the little garden that is our field of reference. As I've grown "old", I've accepted that I've not become who I thought I was going to become; someone who made a difference to a lot of people. Or, perhaps it's more like, "I've not become someone who will ever be acknowledged in public ways." Ah, that's different isn't it! Either way, it doesn't matter. It's not for me to decide how many people I will impact or whether I'll be recognized publicly or not. It is only for me to be a good person for the person who is right in front of me; to be helpful for the situation right in front of me. Whether it is for the "hungry ghosts" in the form of the baby boomer fashionistas I serve as a retail salesperson, or for a millennial co-worker who keeps diving into the closet to text, or for my ailing senior kitty who needs anti-seizure and chemo meds everyday, or the trade show vendor who needs two dollars for the parking lot "pay" box, I try to give my best in being a real human being for them. Sometimes my best is to take shelter in silence rather than pretend I'm someone who I'm not. Taking care of my three millimeters also means sitting in meditation every morning, eating more wholesome foods than not, walking to nurture my spirit, and not having an internal dialog with despondency when it comes to visit.
My three millimeters of the universe is my family, and now that I do not have them around I realize it had been entrusted to me and now they have been taken away. My slow ongoing rrealizations and acceptance of this fact helps me to be humble and do whatever I can do to restore the lost piece of paradise.
My three millimeters is the little bit that I occupy in time and space. On the one hand it seem insignificant. On the other hand, my three millimeters affects all the other millimeters in the universe in either a positive or negative way. The universe is different based on my care for the three millimeters entrusted to me. When I became truly aware that all that is is one,that I am part of the all that is, and when I learned a little about karma, my way of looking at the universe and others changed. In a word, I became more compassionate. What helps me to stay rooted in caring for my three millimeters is awareness that we are all in this together and what I do affects all.