My $86,400 gift

Last night, I was awoken by the doorbell.  I looked at my clock – it was exactly 11:58pm – two minutes shy of midnight.  “Who could that be?”, I thought.  I went to the door and as I slowly opened it – a man was outside. I noticed three things right away: He was really old, had a really big watch and held a large duffel bag in his hand.

Was he in trouble and needing help?  Was he a polite, old-school thief – knocking before entering?  Was he a trick or treater running late?   This had to be important because of the lateness of the hour.

Good evening“, he said. “I would like to give you a gift.”

What kind of gift?”, I asked, still half-asleep – thinking this was a joke.

$86,400 dollars“, said the man.

This had to be a joke.  Who gives strangers money of any amount – particularly at midnight, especially that size?  I laughed.

He handed me the bag – and as he did – allowed me to see the contents.  bag of moneySure enough, there was a lot of money in there.  He spoke again, “Exactly, $86,400 dollars.  It’s yours.  You have till this time tomorrow to invest it.”   And with that, my new best friend left.

I stood dumfounded at my door.  Not being able to sleep, I spent the next few minutes looking at it – planning how I would spend it.  10% would go to the church.  Another portion would go into savings.  Some would go towards Christmas gifts.  Some would go towards helping the less fortunate.  Some would go towards my children’s college fund.  Some would be invested.  Some would buy some stuff I’ve always wanted.  Within moments, every dollar was accounted for.   I had spent all of it in my mind.  But then I remembered the old man’s words.  I had to “invest it” and I only had 24 hours to do it.   It wasn’t enough time.

At that moment, my alarm clock went off.  I awoke, discovering (to my disappointment) that it was merely a dream.  Drats.  I really wanted it to be true.  I really wanted to receive a gift that size!  Then the thought hit me, I have.  In fact, that gift has been given to me thousands of times over the course of my life – not in dollars, but in seconds.

We all know that there are 60 seconds in a minute and 60 minutes in an hour.  But did you realize there are 86,400 seconds in a day?  Consider the last 24 hours of your life… how many hours did you waste?  If you are like most people, you have squandered a lot of time this week. But it can actually get more depressing. Determine how many minutes you have wasted – not this week – but over the course of your life?   If every second was a dollar and you invested instead of spent, think of how rich your life would be – even today.

Ever notice that to a child – waiting 5 minutes feels like “forever” to them?  Listen to a parent of a college freshman describe the previous 18 years – “it flew by”.   There is an amazing perspective on time – the older you get.  I don’t know about you – but I’ve wasted a lot of time in my life.  I’ve spent years chasing worthless things.  Instead of investing wisely, I’ve foolishly spent.  That “money” is gone – never to return.  But today, we have all been given a new gift in the currency of time.  If God is gracious, you will be given 86,400 seconds today.  Considering that you spend about 28,800 seconds every day sleeping – that leaves you with only 57,600 seconds left for today.  How are you going to invest them?

As I write this, I am sitting next to one of my sleeping children.   I love to watch them sleep.  As I do, I am often  flooded with memories of our past.  Fun times at the park, milestones we have achieved, vacations we have enjoyed.  Even yesterday, as I was driving, this child says to me, “Dad, can you explain something to me?  The idiommaking a mountain out of a mole hill,” what does that mean?”   The child just turned seven.  I didn’t know what an idiom was until college.   The definition is still fuzzy to me.  Conversational memories like these are precious to me, if not humbling.  I’m left with two primary thoughts.  1) My kids are smarter than I am.   2) I want more time with them.

As I look at my children, I am acutely aware that my own Dad is no longer with me.  He died unexpectedly when I was five years old from viral pneumonia.  One of my earliest childhood memories is watching the paramedics take my Dad away.  It was the last time I ever saw him.   I wish I had more time.  We all wish for more time, particularly with those we love.

The reality is, we have 86,400 seconds every day with which to make things happen.  It’s the same amount given generously to everyone, whether you are the President of the United States or a drug addict on the street.  

How will you invest your gift today?


The following poem does a beautiful job explaining the importance of this investment of time.  

The Dash – by Linda Ellis

I read of a man who stood to speak
at the funeral of a friend.
He referred to the dates on her tombstone,
from the beginning…to the end.

He noted that first came the date of her birth
and spoke of the following date with tears,
but he said what mattered most of all
was the dash between those years.

For that dash represents all the time
that she spent alive on earth.
And now only those who loved her
know what that little line is worth.

For it matters not, how much we own,
the cars…the house…the cash.
What matters is how we live and love
and how we spend our dash.

So, think about this long and hard.
Are there things you’d like to change?
For you never know how much time is left
that can still be rearranged.

If we could just slow down enough
to consider what’s true and real
and always try to understand
the way other people feel.

And be less quick to anger
and show appreciation more
and love the people in our lives
like we’ve never loved before. 

If we treat each other with respect
and more often wear a smile,
remembering that this special dash
might only last a little while.

So, when your eulogy is being read,
with your life’s actions to rehash…
would you be proud of the things they say
about how you spent YOUR dash?

  • So teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom.” (Moses in Psalm 90:12)
  • Be very careful, then, how you live — not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.”  (Paul in Ephesians 5:15-16)
  • Show me, O LORD, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life. You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you.  Each man’s life is but a breath.” (David in Psalm 39:4-5)