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Commentary: The Heart of the Matter

By Cliff Fazzolari

Buffalo, NY – On a bitterly cold Saturday morning last November, I stopped at a store for diapers, formula and dog food. I had a miserable hacking cough and an aching head. I was dead-tired and aggravated that there was one cashier with six people in line.

I rolled my eyes and swore only to be embarrassed when I realized the elderly woman behind me had heard me curse.

"I'm sorry. I'm just miserable."

The lady smiled. I figured she was about 70. A quick glance at her cart told me she probably lived alone.

"I don't have enough time left to be miserable," she said. "I'm 93. I can go at anytime. I want to enjoy every second of what's left."

I was floored by her proclamation. "You can't be 93. You look so young."

"That's because I'm never miserable. I'm Diane. I'm pleased to meet you."

We shook hands as a question raced across my mind. "What's the secret to a good life?"

Diane's smiled, touching my left arm. "I've always wanted someone to ask me that."

Diane talked as the cashier scanned our groceries. She kept talking as we exited the store and walked through the snow to a Chevy in the center of the lot. As I loaded her car, Diane continued speaking, softly explaining the five most important lessons in her life. When she was through speaking, I stood frozen in place. Its eight months later, and I can't stop thinking about what Diane said.

Be considerate of other people.

-- Understand that the guy that cut you off might be on his way to an emergency.

-- Clean up after yourself - don't leave your shopping cart in the middle of the parking lot where it might roll into someone else's car.

-- Don't just tolerate the differences in people; celebrate them because variety is the spice of life and you should be open to new ideas.

Work hard and play fair

-- If someone gives you a job, do more than what's expected. No one owes you anything. You're not granted privileges without working for them.

-- Challenge yourself to be better every day. By making and meeting challenges, you'll grow as a person one day at a time.

Surround yourself with love

-- Surround yourself with people you love and love them with your whole heart. When you feel you've reached the ceiling of your love - look for more. Love unconditionally realizing everyone has something to offer.

-- When you feel like you're alone - search for beauty around you - concentrate on the best things life has to offer:

-- Like when a mother holds her child for the very first time.

-- Or when the sun sets bright orange in the sky.

-- Or when your child laughs.

-- Or when someone tells you they missed you.

Look up at the sky

-- Understand the universe is huge and you are not at the center.

-- Find a star in the sky and be thankful you made it through another day.

-- Understand nothing in life is guaranteed. Know that those stars numbered, day by day, will provide you with a clear mind.

Fill your heart with faith and hope

-- Believe in a higher love; understand everyone has problems and know we will all see our share of misery. In the battle between misery and faith make certain faith wins every time.

-- Surrender your life to a higher power, realizing life might not seem fair, but your reaction to pain and suffering is what matters.

On that cold morning, Diane said:

"Everything you need for a happy life already exists inside you. You'll never know when life may end, but no one can afford to be miserable.

Think of the innocence of a child. Walk with your head held high and your eyes wide open. Remind yourself you're young, vital, and important and maybe someday when you're old and gray someone will come along and tell you that you look twenty-three years younger than you really are."

Listener-Commentator Cliff Fazzolari is a local author. His latest book is titled "In Real Life."