In at least one city in the United States - and undoubtedly in many others - an elementary school is located within a block of a care center for the elderly. It is a stark contrast of two of life's most precious commodities - time and energy.
At the elementary school, energy abounds. There is no shortage of it. At the care center, energy is greatly limited and, sadly, many do not have the strength to care for themselves. At the school, time stretches into the future, far ahead of the youngsters. At the care center, time, as we know it in this life, is mostly past for the elderly.However, for both the young and the old, time and energy will eventually run out. For some, that may be many years down the road; for others, perhaps in just a little while. Neither time nor energy are inexhaustible commodities.
That is why it is so important that we use these commodities wisely while we are able to do so.
Shortly after he became president of the Church in 1995, President Gordon B. Hinckley spoke at a regional conference and said we have a fourfold responsibility in life: to our families; to our employers, if we are employed; to the Lord; and to ourselves. (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, p. 33.)
Each requires a measure of our time and our energy. We must not neglect any of them.
So how do we do it all?
First, there has to be a balance.
"You have to sit down now and look at your resources," said President Hinckley. "The major resource in this matter is time. I think you can do it. You balance it. You organize yourselves, as the Lord said, so that you can make that balance." (Ibid, pp. 33-34.)
With organization of time and balancing our responsibilities, we can take care of our families and still serve in the Church and the community. We can spend time with our children and still give to our employers an honest day's work, as well as have time for ourselves.
The key, of course, is how we spend our time.
"Thou shalt not idle away thy time, neither shalt thou bury thy talent that it may not be known," the Prophet Joseph Smith was told in a revelation in 1831. (D&C 60:13.)
"Waste," said President Spencer W. Kimball, "is unjustified, and especially the waste of time - limited as that commodity is in our days of probation." (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p. 359.)
Second, all things must be done in wisdom and order. We all have many demands on our time and energies, and sometimes we may feel swamped. Sometimes we may feel that too much is asked of us. King Benjamin in the Book of Mormon gives us sound counsel on this matter when he says, "For it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength." (Mosiah 4:27.)
The very young and the very old, even with limited energy, can give something of themselves. For the young, it may come in the form of help around the house or doing something nice for neighbors; for the aged, it may be wisdom imparted.
The Church News earlier this month published an article about a 100-year-old home teacher, who faithfully visits his families each month with his son, and always has a story to tell. "I hope I can always be a home teacher," he declared. (Church News, June 6, 1998, p. 7.)
Think of the wisdom that this centenarian, who has had a lifetime of experiences both in his career and in the Church, can give to his home teaching families.
Unless health or other conditions prevent it, service in the Church requires only a worthiness and willingness to devote time and energy to help bring about the Lord's purposes.
Perhaps none of us will have the opportunity to have our days extended as king Hezekiah did, as recorded in the Old Testament. He was appointed unto death: "The prophet Isaiah . . . came to him, and said to him, Thus saith the Lord, Set thine house in order; for thou shalt die, and not live."
Hezekiah, however, pleaded with the Lord that he might live, saying, "I beseech thee, O Lord, remember now how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight."
The Lord heard Hezekiah's pleadings and added unto his days 15 years. (See 2 Kings 20: 1-6.)
However, for most of us, we will have to fulfill our responsibilities in the time allotted to us. "To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
"A time to be born, and a time to die. . . ." (Eccl. 3:1-2.)
This life, said the Prophet Alma, is the time to prepare to meet God. (See Alma 12:24.) May we use our time, talents and energies wisely to do just that!