A “Symphony of Your Life” blog with Mark Hardcastle
Rather, why I am thankful…
Captain’s Log: November 22, 2017, 0 passengers, Not flying today. A day of rest.
A couple of days ago a close friend called me with a challenge. This being Thanksgiving week, he had been asked to present at his church on the subject of thankfulness. He asked if I might be able to help. Apparently, he regards me as a positive individual. Who knew?
Anyway, he wondered if I might give his congregation some perspective on living “thankfully”, especially in light of the serious accident I lived through some years ago.
He kinda caught me by surprise. I’m sure I stammered out some words about the accident, and how I’d navigated the “dark ages” described in my book. A question like that, though, gets a person thinking. Here’s what has occurred to me since that conversation.
It’s true that I had a bad bike crash in 2012. My neck was broken in 5 places! Miraculously, everything I needed to have happen during the recovery happened, and looking at me you would never know I’d been in an accident unless you learned about it some other way. Still, I don’t know how I could have come any closer to death and not died.
What does that mean? It means I’m about to commit an unpardonable sin as a writer and invoke a cliche’. And here it is: I live as if I died that day. No, you don’t see me doing any weird stuff on street corners. It’s an attitude. Every day is a day I might never have had. I’m still an incarnate human person, capable of enjoying exquisite experiences. (Yes, I’m also as capable as anyone of experiencing fears and hesitations of daily living. But which would you rather focus on if you had come close to lights out?)
So let’s start here. As I was speaking with my friend, autumn had taken its toll on Colorado’s trees and their leaves were all gone. But Sacramento outside my hotel window was resplendent with red, yellow, brown, and even some still green trees. The sky was blue with white cirrus feathers adding to its brightness. I paused in the conversation to enjoy those visual sensations and thought again about how it might be different. I’m thankful because every day is a gift.
And I remind myself often that life is not fair, and I am always thankful for that. I’ve heard it said that if all the world’s miseries were gathered in one place, and we were offered the choice of taking our pro-rata share from the pile or keeping our own, most of us would keep our own. I certainly would. From that perspective I have a charmed life, as do most of us in America. Our first-world problems fade into insignificance when we think that there are humans today living in cardboard slums reeking of street sewage wondering where their next sip of clean water will come from. I’m thankful because of my “miseries.”
I’ve written before about having won the birth lottery. I was born into 20th-century America rather than 11th-century anywhere. Think about the greatest, wealthiest, most notorious medieval king you’ve read about in history. Who was he? It doesn’t matter! In many ways I live better than he did. Dude didn’t have hot/cold running water or central heating like we do. I know that there are exceptions to those generalizations in modern America. But I posited to my friend that its likely that every member of his congregation this Sunday will have greater luxuries than that medieval king. I’m thankful because of my good fortune.
A confession is now in order. I used to be kinda whiny. (I know… Hard to believe, right? Still, I’m a pilot, and pilots whine – like jet engines!) But that was before the “dark ages.” Again, in my book I give details about the “dark ages” in the post-9/11 airline bankruptcy era. About having invested in real estate at exactly the wrong time. About dealing with an incredibly intrusive and unjust (proven by a later case!) IRS audit. There were weeks, months even, when I ended the day by taking inventory: today, do my kids and I have clothes on our backs, food in our bellies, and a roof over our heads? Somehow, the answer was always yes. Somehow, our basic needs were always taken care of. I’m certainly thankful for that. But so what? Is there more to that idea?
While I recognize that there are exceptions to that generalization as well, for those in my friend’s congregation I bet it holds. And what that experience did for me is stop me from worrying about money. I have learned that it’s possible to face staggering loss and survive. I’m not a wastrel. But I don’t concern myself with pennies, or any kind of small thinking anymore. Those experiences have given me a new sense of peace. And I’m thankful because Fortune threw challenges my way.
And here’s something else those experiences gave me: a tool box. Incredibly, while I still feel those days from over a decade ago, I’m still here. Which is kinda the point. We have all been through often heavy challenges. And we’re still here. Each challenge we successfully navigate gives us a tool for facing the next challenge that we know is inevitable. So when I hear folks in my own sphere complain about just about anything, I think (though rarely say out loud) “the best thing that could happen to you is for you to lose about a half-million dollars.” Because that person would survive. And would have a new set of tools. I’m thankful because I have a tool box.
Today we stop to remember all the things we’re thankful for. I trust that your list is long and brings warmth to your soul. And I hope you’ll pause as well to ponder all the experiences you’ve enjoyed and endured that make it possible to be thankful!
The Symphony of Your Life