“It was a crazy night but . . . y’know. YOLO.”
UrbanDictionary.com defines “YOLO” as an acronym for “You Only Live Once,” and says it is “mainly used to defend doing something ranging from mild to extreme stupidity.” The new term recently rose into popular parlance after its use in a rapper’s song, and went viral across the cyber sphere as a Twitter craze; #YOLO has become a buzzword for crazy, irresponsible behavior. Got drunk last night at the party? Well, YOLO. Got a tattoo? Did some dangerous stunt? Tried meth? Spent $1,000 on shoes? Oh, y’know, you only live once. Carpe Diem. Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die. YOLO.
When I first heard this phrase, and the way it is commonly used, it brought to my mind the day, not long ago, when I attended the funeral of a young man I had never met, but whose story I had been following for several years. His name was Andre, and he was only 16.
In the middle of 8th grade, Andre was unexpectedly diagnosed with leukemia. This summer, after several years of intensive chemo and painful complications, Andre’s earthly body failed him and he passed away.
His funeral was deeply moving. At the same time it had a note of joy, because in spite of all the suffering—the unimaginable suffering of his illness and the deep sorrow of his family—Andre lived life to the fullest. His family testifies that he was a miracle of moral strength and incomparable faith. He never stopped hoping that he would be healed; he continued his studies, took up new hobbies, was thankful for the blessings he had. He kept on each day doing as he ought to have done. Friends and family spoke of his beautiful smile, his determination, his love.
As I said before, I never knew Andre personally. But as I sat there listening to the testimony of his faith, marveling at his amazing trust in God’s plan for him, it struck me that, while perhaps others may have experienced more than he did, this young man did more with his less-than-seventeen years than many people do with seventy.
He didn’t get to go to college. He never even had the normal “high school experience.” He was confined to a hospital bed for much of the last two years of his life. But he had only one life to live, and he made it a life worth living, by putting his all into everything he did, his love for his family, and whatever trial or task God put before him.
Many would say that Andre had a low “quality of life,” and would pity him because his sufferings prevented him from doing many things. Such people take “quality of life” as a sort of measure of how much a person is able to enjoy or experience; which is why people say that someone without money for luxuries, or someone who is wheel-chair bound, has a not-so-wonderful quality of life. That particular view of life is what drives YOLO-ists. You only live once. You only have one shot at getting as high as you can, doing daringly stupid activities, experiencing different things in this life to the fullest, they say.
But do people with that attitude comprehend what it really means to say “You Only Live Once?” On my deathbed, would I be glad if I had done those sorts of things? “Gee, I’m awful happy I won that drinking contest. And my life would have been so much less awesome if I hadn’t gone bungee jumping, or partied it up that one spring break.”
Wouldn’t I rather ask myself, “Did I spend my days well? Will my friends and family have been blessed to know me? Have I given my all for what I believed in? Have I loved others as much as I can, given of myself to help them as much as I can? How has my love borne fruit in my life and in the lives of others?”
Because in the end it isn’t what wild experiences you had that matters; ultimately, what will matter is how you lived through each ordinary day, whether you lived a worthy life, glorifying God in all you did and pursuing Him with all your might. Yes, it can be hard; it will probably mean less cheap thrills and more living for things that really matter in an ordinary life of work and prayer–maybe even bearing terrible crosses, as Andre did–all for the sake of a far more lasting joy. It will take time, and effort, and giving your all to love to the fullest for God. But, y’know . . . you’ve got one chance. Just do it. YOLO.