"Once upon a time" is a phrase that starts many of our beloved fairy tales. Scholars tell us that storytellers used the words to alert their listeners to the fact that the story wasn't factual. It was to be enjoyed and learned from, but it really didn't happen. Have you ever thought about the meaning of "once upon a time"?
Each moment in time only happens once. The significance of that fact is too often forgotten. Time passes all too quickly, leaving only the memory of it. We can never relive a moment. We can never turn back to make a different choice or change an action. All we have of the past is the memory that becomes our story.
Unlike the fairy tales of our youth, our story is very real. Once upon a time we were born. Once upon a time we learned to walk. Once upon a time we learned to talk. But after that, our stories begin to get more complicated. Each moment presents us with a vast array of choices. We choose one and move on to the next so that our story gets longer and the plot more complicated.
An old Chinese proverb advises: "If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. . . . If you want happiness for a lifetime, help someone else."
This is the secret of making each moment better. A woman explained that she suddenly realized she was spending her time either feeling sorry because of her past or worrying about the future. Neither did her any good. With that realization, she committed to live in each moment, to look around and be aware of others' needs so that she could help. She also decided to pay more attention to the beauty around her, to enjoy the sights and sounds and smells that were part of each moment. After that, life changed for her. Each "once upon a time" was richer and fuller. There weren't as many regrets, and she had many wonderful memories that filled her story with happiness.
If we approach each moment fully aware that this particular time will happen only once, our stories, too, will be different. As we reach out to others, we not only help them gain the "happily ever after" they desire, but we also come closer to our own happy ending.