Scene: The Gates of The Afterlife. A New Arrival is being greeted by a Supreme Being
New Arrival: Is this heaven?
Supreme Being: Some call it that.
NA looks around then back at SB
NA: Now what?
SB: Well, generally, we have a little review of your life and then it’s time for the tea and cookies.
NA: I’ve lived a good life. I always tried to do what’s right.
SB flips through notes on clipboard
SB: You headed up the Feed the Hungry Campaign from junior high right through to the end of University.
NA: I raised more money than anyone else three years running.
SB: And, presumably, fed a lot of hungry people.
NA (modestly): I like to think so.
SB: Pity you couldn’t have extended the same care to yourself.
SB: You started a diet when you were 12 (flips pages) … and never actually stopped.
NA: No, well. I was short. I had to be careful.
SB: You were given the perfect body for you. All we asked was that you maintain it, not subject it to a lifetime of punishment.
SB: Moving on. On June 17, 2002, you were driving home from visiting your sister.
NA: Don’t really remember….
SB: There was a sunset, it was gorgeous. Perfect in every way.
SB: Giles over there painted it just for you (points to Giles, who waves).
NA: Oh. Thanks, Giles (waves).
SB: You were stressed that day. You needed a little break. Giles painted you a sunset and there was a park you could have pulled into to watch it, to rest a moment, to calm yourself down.
NA: No, well. The youngest was still at home. I needed to get dinner on. I think I had a meeting to go to that night.
SB: Another missed opportunity.
NA: But my family needed me to cook for them. And being late for meetings is rude. It was just one sunset.
SB: You attended others?
NA: What? No, well. We’re supposed to ‘attend’ sunsets?
SB: Why else would they happen?
NA: To mark time?
SB: No. You did that, with your dayplanners and alarms. You marked time without ever attending a sunset. Not good.
NA (getting worried): But what about all the things I did? What about all my good deeds? I never took more than my share. I gave generously. I tried really hard….
SB (sets down clipboard. sighs): The thing is, when you came into the world, you were given one task, one person to look after for an entire lifetime. And you neglected that task, ignored that person at every turn, reaching right past that person to help every other person who expressed any kind of need.
NA (horrified): No! I’m sure I didn’t. I always helped everyone who asked. And anyway, I didn’t even know anyone my entire life. I was an only child and we moved a lot. So who could I have neglected?
SB: You neglected yourself at every turn, from the time you started giving away your desserts in kindergarten right up until the day you died, on the phone, trying to recruit volunteers for the Save Our Heritage Buildings Campaign. Janie Buckholtz will not be getting over that any time soon, believe you me!
NA: But I was trying to be a good person. Do some good in the world. I’d been given so much, it only seemed right to pay it forward.
SB: Nothing wrong with doing some good. It’s a big old world and there is a lot of good to be done, I grant you.
But all any of us can do is what we can do. And if we do that while also looking after ourselves, then the world and the people in it will tick along quite well.
But you didn’t look after yourself. The one job you HAD to do and you didn’t do it. You didn’t think you, in all your perfection, were worthy of time or care or rest. Your ongoing need to always be helping, to always be doing for others to the point of neglecting your One Job, well, it just doesn’t serve.
NA: Does that mean I don’t get to Heaven?
SB (astonished): Of course not! This was just a review, child. Lessons learned and all that. (listens for a moment) Tea and cookies are ready and Giles has painted a magnificent sunset for you to attend. Come on through!