Growing up I remember well the old lady we simply knew as the Goat Woman. Back in those days Florida was much different and we lived in a very rural area with few neighbors. We passed the goat woman's 40 acres everyday on our drive out to the paved highway to town. All my life the goat woman was alone and very old. She was already old when I was a small child. She lived alone on her 40 acres in a small wood frame cracker house under some huge live oak trees. It seemed her only companion was the 20 or so goats she tended on the property. Around her old home were a few non-running cars and I can remember seeing the goats sometimes on top of them eating the grape vines which had taken advantage of the rusting hulks as some sort of Florida cracker gothic grape trellis.
I am not sure why the goat woman was alone but she likely outlived her husband and her kids probably grew up and moved to the city far away from our backwoods enclave. I never really talked to the goat woman though I do recall picking her up as she walked down the dusty road once. I recall seeing her walking alone in the brutal FL heat in a full dress (she always wore a full length dress, think Little House on the prairie attire). I was maybe 17 when I offered her a ride, I can't remember much of our short interaction except that she was exceedingly grateful to me for the short ride.
Then one day she was just gone. I was probably in my late 20's. Instantly the goats were gone, her home was razed, the rusted cars were removed and the entire 40 acres was turned into some sort of housing development with a fancy entrance sign reading something like "Shady Estates". This one example is what I call "The Story of Florida" repeated innumerable times everyday. Old folks pass and their homestead is instantly transformed into an RV campground, trailer park or housing development.
Sometimes out of the blue the memory of the goat woman pops into my mind. I think about how life is just a fleeting thing. We tend our goats and then it is all gone. There is not a single trace of her on that 40 acres now or of anything she did. I can guarantee you that none of the current residents of Shady Estates knows anything about the Goat woman. Nor the hundreds of generations who toiled there from Europeans, to Seminoles to former natives.
It reminds me, we come into this world naked and we leave naked. No matter how hard we work or what we attain. The only thing remaining of the goat woman is what she was in the eyes of those she lived with and near. Her example of work, courage, steadfastness and gratitude... even if just the one encounter I had are what lives on. So where should our day to day focus be given? We have but a short time between our naked entry and naked exit. The goat woman reminds me it should be on living our values and sharing ourselves with those around us.... that is all that lives on. Chasing money, material things, titles, accolades, etc is really just a distraction at best or absolute folly at worst. Understanding we really don't have much time.
I try to think about this lesson in ever moment and every interaction. Enjoy the moments. Use the moment as the richest form of currency. Because it is.