Capt. Tom’s lesson: your most valuable possession is not fortune, fame

The death of beloved Capt. Tom Moore on Feb. 2 at the age of 100 reminds us that our most valuable possession is not fortune or fame.

If you’re not familiar with Capt. Tom, last year this World War II vet and British resident set out to raise 1,000 pounds for the healthcare workers in his country.

His advanced age prevented him from the typical physical things people do to raise money (running, cycling, skipping rope). Instead, Capt. Tom walked 100 laps of his backyard … using his walker.

Media coverage about his efforts inspired and captured the attention — and wallets — of people worldwide. His fans included Queen Elizabeth II, who knighted him. According to the New York Times, he raised $45 million for British hospitals.

Capt. Tom’s death teaches us a lesson about time and its value. After living on this planet for more than 65 years and having successfully battled cancer last year, I’ve come to realize the four most valuable things we can possibly own are:

  1. Time
  2. Good health
  3. Close family
  4. Good friends.

Let me explain.

Without time, everything else in life doesn’t matter. A person might have an unbelievable amount of riches or a life that most would envy. But without time, that person can’t enjoy their success.

In his 2016 autobiography Born to Run, my favorite song writer/poet/philosopher Bruce Springsteen pointed out that someone could lose a fortune and make it back (think George Foreman). He added someone could damage their reputation and often restore it (think Marv Albert).

“But time … time lost is gone for good,” wrote Bruce, 71.

How often do we hear someone say they would trade all their worldly possessions just to have one more day of time with a loved one who has passed? Time is the one thing we have that we can never replace.

Health: Let’s say someone lives to be 100 like Capt. Tom but spends 80 of those years confined to a hospital bed and hooked up to a breathing machine? Even though they have lots of time, it’s not worth much if they also don’t have quality health. You need both time and good health.

Family: I come from a close-knit family of six. Although our dad passed away in 2007, my mom will turn 97 this year. We talk practically daily.

Two of my three sisters live within 20 minutes of my house. My wife and I will celebrate our 40th anniversary this year. Our two adult children and our grandson all live two miles away.

To me, family is so important. Ask anyone who comes from a close family — or anyone who doesn’t — and they’ll probably (hopefully) tell you the same. Family members know you the best. They know all your strengths, weaknesses, successes and failures … and they still love you and even remember your birthday! That’s invaluable.

Friends: Good friends are almost like family, no? You might have grown up with them. You might have met them at school or work.

You can count on them when times are good or bad, and they can count on you. You share common interests and/or experiences with them.

Maybe I’m unusual but among my friends is someone I first met in nursery school (now called pre-k); someone whom I grew up with on the same block on Long Island; a few guys with whom I went to elementary, middle and high school; some folks I met in college; many folks I worked with at various jobs through my 40-year career; and even more people I met through my membership in three communications-related organizations. And that’s without using Facebook.

When I grew ill last year, my family and friends supported me in ways I could have never imagined. One friend described them as “an army of angels,” and she was right.

So there you have it: your four most valuable possessions, and they don’t even include fame or fortune. Which brings me back to Bruce Springsteen. I was just listening to his new album Letter to You. On the first very track, Bruce, whose sister died in a tragic accident at age five, sings, “One minute you’re here. Next minute you’re gone.”

Truer words were never spoken. The next time you’re upset about something at work, just remember Capt. Tom and appreciate the four most important things you own. Then make the most of them.

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