When a powerful quake hit Haiti on January 12, 2010, Benito Revolus was hospitalized after being stabbed during a fight over money. When the ceiling caved in, Benito barely had the time to realize what was happening before the top section of his bed collapsed on him, piercing through his left thigh and pinning him to the ground. In an unexpected strike of good fortune, the top bunk shielded him and provided a pocket of breathing space, allowing him to survive. Benito was trapped under rubble and nailed to the floor by one of the legs of the bunk bed for five days. He lost a copious amount of blood and had nothing to eat or drink, but he survived.
Throughout his ordeal, one thing kept his mind occupied—while he thought he was waiting to die, Benito spent the time reflecting on his life, and made a solemn promise to God: if he made it out alive, he would change his life. His first step, he said, would be to forgive all old scores. He thought of his mother and he felt sorry for the pain he was causing her. He didn’t want to leave this life before accomplishing something good, and twenty-three years just hadn’t been enough to get on the ball.
After dawn on the fifth day—on Saturday—his prayers were answered. Benito heard the sound of a hammer being tapped, so he reached for a rock and used it to tap back three times. For the next several hours he heard people frantically working around him; the sound of jackhammers and circular saws broke the maddening silence, and around 4 p.m., Benito was free. The face of a young firefighter appeared smiling through the rubble and told him in broken French that he was going to be okay. Benito’s survival baffled physicians, as the maximum time estimated for someone severely injured and bleeding profusely is three days, but Benito didn’t seem too surprised, as he never completely lost hope. His faith had kept him alive.
Someone once told me that life is but a contract we sign before being born. The “contract” is stipulated upon estimation of the time necessary to learn the lessons we came to assimilate, but in Benito’s case, thankfully, it came with a clause. During his twenty-three years of life, he had probably never thought about all the things he needed to accomplish; most of us never do. We wake up in the morning and go about our day mechanically, often making the wrong choices, always thinking that we have plenty of time left to “fix things up,” when in reality, each day could be our last.
We live with anxiety, we hold grudges and focus on things that aren’t important, while we could instead use the time to let go of unneeded baggage, to forgive and forget, and to learn how to live a meaningful life. We invest most of our energy toward amassing wealth of the wrong kind, even if when the time to go finally comes we can’t take any of those things with us. As an old Italian proverb reminds us, at the end of the game the king and the pawn go back into the same box.
Life is too short to live or die with regrets. We can’t go back in time to change the past, but we do have the power to change today.