The young man stood on the steps of the library, waiting for it to open.

The librarians, three elderly ladies sedately dressed and whispering even amongst themselves, came at the appointed hour, unlocked the door, and went in.

Ten minutes later, after completing their opening ritual, they decided to open the door five minutes earlier to let the young man in.

“How may we help you?” asked one of the ladies.

“It is I who have come to help you,” he said. “Please gather your colleagues around, I’d like to speak to them as well.”

“I’m sorry, young man,” said the librarian sternly, “we don’t accept sales solicitations.”

“It’s not about selling,” he said. He showed her a sacred symbol, which he pulled out of his coat pocket. It gleamed in the small branch library with an eerie glow.

The librarian turned still and pale, her breathing and her heartbeat quickened almost instantly.

“Mary and Jean,” she snapped, “You had better come here quickly. He has a message for us.”

Once they were all gathered in a little circle, the mysterious young man made his speech.

“Many people die while still alive. They live an unlived life. They live in fear of falling, and never rise. They inhabit their days in as safe a way as possible. They do not allow their living to happen. They are afraid, inaccessible, with tight feelings in their chest as they suppress their emotions. They do not choose to risk their significance. They watch with surprise and an element of dismay as others take the seed of an idea and make it bloom and go to fruit.

“Every year that passes, they are convinced that the fault is not their own. It lies in the love that they have not been given. Their sorrow is due to the talent that they have but that no one encourage them to use.

“In trying to avoid pain, they miss happiness. In trying to be prudent, they shirk adventure and the growth that comes with it as they encounter new people, new experiences, and new learning.

“They live on a short rein. Afraid of what might happen if they test their leash out to the fullest. They conform, just in case they have no leash and are free after all.

“The ultimate measure of a person is not where they stand when things are going well.

It is where they stand when things are not going well. When challenge affects them.

When controversy stalks them.

“One who is truly alive in mind will risk position, prestige, and everything else to make a dream come true.

“And one who is awoken in spirit, will lift the bruised and beaten neighbor to a higher and more noble life with their special talent, their gift to the world.

“Those who are alive in mind and awoken in spirit are happy. They have the capacity to feel deeply. They enjoy simply. They think freely. They risk everything because they need nothing more than to follow their special dream.

“Now ladies, I will be back someday. And whenever I return, it will always be too early.

“Instead I have come to tell you that the risk it takes to repress your passion and talent will become more painful with each passing year. It is time for you to risk bloom before I return again.

With those ominous closing words, he disappeared into thin air.

Gretchen woke up, gasping for air. “What’s the matter,” asked her husband who saw her panic. He was knotting up his tie and had come into the room to wake her up.

“I had a dream.”

“Oh, just a dream. You’ll get over it soon enough. Come on, get dressed, I’ll drop you off at the library.”

“I’m not going back there anymore,” said Gretchen. “It’s time for me to start the life that I’ve always wanted to live. I’ve got to start my writing life and start it today.”

“You have to go to work, honey,” he protested.

“It wasn’t an ordinary dream, Steve,” she said. “It was very crisp and clear, like it was really happening. It was more like a visitation and a warning.”

“It’s too late to be a great novelist,” he said, rolling his eyes. “We have bills to pay. Please hurry up, I have to go to work, too.”

“Steve, you don’t understand. I met the angel of death.”