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The subject line of the email was “An omen from God.”
It was from my brother Bobby, who was in Morocco for a board meeting of the organization ONE and (Red), which he co-founded with Bono. ONE and (Red) both work to save lives. Saving lives has, in fact, been my brother’s life’s work. (It has actually been the life’s work of all of my brothers — Timothy as chairman of the Special Olympics International, Mark as president of the Save the Children Action Network, and Anthony as the founder and chairman of Best Buddies. But today, this story is about Bobby.)
Bobby has raised more than $465 million dollars through (Red) for those with HIV/AIDS in African countries. He has raised millions more for the Special Olympics through its A Very Special Christmas albums, which he co-produced with Jerry Moss and Vicky and Jimmy Iovine. (It’s great music worth listening to any time of year.) And, these last several years, he has also worked tirelessly to try and secure housing for homeless veterans in Los Angeles. Los Angeles is home to the largest V.A. facility in the nation, but not a single new housing unit has been built there yet. That should piss everyone off. It doesn’t, but it should. (Bobby’s most recent op-ed implored President Trump to build this housing to help the homeless vets, since he vowed to take care of them as president. Bobby’s plea has yet to be answered.)
Bobby has devoted his life to working on behalf of others. That’s why an exchange he had with a doorman in Morocco stopped him in his tracks.
The doorman, who was trying to grab my restless brother a car, turned to him and said, “We have time here. Not like you in America. You have no time, so you do not live.”
This really made my brother stop (a huge feat, by the way). “You have no time to live. Make your time yours,” he wrote to me from halfway around the world.
I share this with you today because I believe it to be deeply true. Time is our most precious resource, but very few of us use it as wisely as we could. We rush through our lives with our eyes on our phones, trying to get through one thing after another. We rush around trying to get somewhere that we think will make us happy. We rush around so much that in the midst of it all, we forget to actually live.
Do you make time to live? Time for yourself? Time for your friends? Time for your family? Or are you too busy?
I’m writing this early so I can go spend time with my other brother Timothy, who asked me many months ago to “spend time” with him. “Give me a weekend,” he said. “I want time with you.” So I did, and we are spending this weekend at a retreat in New Mexico with Fr. Richard Rohr and others. (I’ll write about that later.)
On this Sunday — a day of reflection, of intention, and of rest — I hope you take some time to decide whether you are you so busy with everything else in your life that you have forgotten those closest to you, maybe even yourself.
That brings me back to my brother Bobby. Two months ago, he moved away from Los Angeles, which is where he had lived for more than 20 years. He packed up his life and his family and left.
At first, I was angry because I felt like he was leaving me behind (I know that sounds selfish, but it’s how I felt initially). Then I came to realize that what Bobby needed was time. Time for himself. Time to breathe. Time to recalibrate. Time away from LA. Time, perhaps, to save the life he had skipped over on behalf of others. I pray that he finds the time to live the life he is seeking.
Today at The Sunday Paper, we hear from others who have taken the time to listen to their own hearts and forge a different path forward. May their stories and their advice help you think about how you can do the same.
All of this brings me to my favorite poem by my friend Mary Oliver, “The Journey”. She reminds us that there’s only one life you can save: your own. So start there. If you have time after that, go for it. But make what you do with your time matter. Make it meaningful. You only have so much time here on earth. Take time to live your life. I’m passing on the omen from a world away. I hope you have time to think about it.