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?