Last weekend, we went tent camping with some extended family members. The lack of Wi-Fi and electricity forced our kids to put down their phones and video games to interact in real time. As we sat around the fire someone started a game of “Would You Rather.”

“Would You Rather” is a game where people ask you to make a difficult choice between two options. For example, someone asked the group, “Would you rather eat a bowl of cooked maggots or half a cup of raw hamburger?” But one of the cousins threw out a question that made us all reflect a little deeper on life:

Would you rather live to the age of thirty and live life to its fullest everyday … or live a long life that is just mediocre.

Given the fact that some of us around the fire passed thirty years ago, our answers naturally varied.  One older family member said that a lot of us would like to say that we would choose less time if it could be better quality time, but in practice, most of us would opt for more years. And that led to a discussion about how we actually define quality of life.

Would you rather more life in your years …

The young cousin who posed the original question said that “living life to its fullest” means spending every day doing exciting things, like hang gliding and travel — taking risks and living life with abandon.

There’s nothing wrong with his perspective. But as I thought about it, I realized that my quality of life isn’t just about my personal enjoyment. For me, living life to its fullest means living for other people.

Or would you rather more years in your life?

Age changes our perspectives. Quantity of life enhances quality of life because it gives us the time we need to develop meaningful and healthy relationships.

Quantity also gives us the time we need to care for those who love and need us. For instance, if I had died at age thirty, my two daughters would have grown up without a mother. I’d like to think that their quality of life has been enhanced by my quantity of life — even if my life is a little mediocre.

Likewise, quantity of years was necessary to develop a better quality marriage. My marriage is much better after twenty-four years than it was at just four years. We’ve had more time to experience life together. All of it. The good, the bad, and the ugly.

Living Life for Others

Ultimately, the number of years we have isn’t ours to decide. So, what I “would rather” in terms of quantity of life is irrelevant. But I do know that at least part of the quality equation is within my control, and it includes living life for others.  

Philippians 2:3-4 tells us …

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.

At the end of my life — however far away that is — my hope is that people will remember me as someone who cared for others and put the needs of others ahead of my own desires. As St. Francis said, “For it is in giving that we receive.”

And for most of us, it takes a lot longer than thirty years to learn that lesson.