I look east and see the street lights along Fifth Avenue glow above the buildings, sidewalks and pavement. The first brush of morning’s rising paints its pinks on the soft edges of slowly drifting clouds. Brick and stone mark the dim shapes of buildings as the street dips down below the railroad tracks several blocks away.
Nearest me, the old Carnegie Library rises up against the shapes of trees, stately in its form and still holding to an old dignity even though it has been empty for years. The exposed ends of rafters, curved and painted, nestle into the underneath of eaves. The steps lead up into the northern entrance. In the coming light, passersby might see in through the old glass and have no notion of what has passed here.
A man who spent the first half of his life building up a fortune spent the last half giving away much of it, making his mark across the country in the form of such things as this. His name is cast or carved into the masonry above the entrance and the date of the building’s finishing.
I’m pretty sure that more than the first half of my life has past. Some of what these hands have found to do can still be viewed in the homes and stones that I have re-shaped, made into something I thought was better than what I found. Whatever fortune I have made is pretty much whatever can be stored in the hearts and minds of those I have loved and known. I hope that the teachers that I have helped trained have taught in ways that were better than what they would have known otherwise. I believe that the children I have loved and love are raising children whose lives will ripple into other lives with goodness and grace.
In the end, the only treasure whose measure will matter much is what we have laid up in that place where moth and rust cannot corrupt, held in greater hands than ours, stored up for the hour of that Great Day. Knowing that, I will gladly yield a bit more of what I cannot keep in order to gain what cannot be stolen.