Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A Time for Reflection

I often find myself upset with my wife over her occasional frustration with us not having this or that. I usually scolled her about not appreciating our great fortune for the many things we have that others do not. While I sometimes share in her frustration, I rarely externalize it out of fear of being ungrateful.

It is true that I live in a trailer out in the country down a dirt road that is not well kept by our neighborhood association. Many of my neighbors are very poor, and you can tell by their occasional shouting at each other that they don't live what I would consider to be a very happy life.

When people interviewed by the media tell of their woes of their property value dropping by one-fourth, it is often a value up to five times what my house is worth. The van I drive to work is loud due to a hole in the muffler, and after about an hour on the road will stall out if it is at a complete stop.

I certainly have a lot to be grateful for. My children have so many toys that I often want to just trash three-quarter of them. I have a large collection of movies and music, and a reasonably decent entertainment center to enjoy them on. I have a good job, even in this troubled economy, and my wife's job is respectable as well. My children are happy and eat healthy, and their teachers note that their behavior and intelligence are beyond most of their class mates. When I wake up I do not worry about how I am going to pay my bills, or have any reason to believe a loved one may slip away from us any time soon.

Much of this good fortune rests on the shoulder of others. From my parents, and their parents before them, that did what they could to enjoy a proper education and a properly calibrated moral compass. Also in the soldier who sits in Iraq with a romance of sacrificing for his country, while I comfortably sit at home disagreeing with his mission their and a feeling that the effort only stands a disgrace to our country. The men and women who have been organizing for over a hundred years to improve the working conditions of the labor class, as well as the scabs who filled their positions while one strike because only because of the color of their skin they where previously unable to get these jobs and had a family back home that had to be fed, all ideologies aside. The adults and children who marched down streets demanding equality for all people born in this country, giving me a country who stands up to the edicts of the the first article of the Constitution better than ever in our great history. It is on these shoulders that I sit comfortably typing away in my house, cooled by a ceiling fan and air conditioner, and a stomach filled by food from a local restaurant, and will sleep tonight comfortably on a good bed.

As I look at all of my health and wealth I wonder at the people who do not have the good fortune to enjoy such good times. There are many in this world who are far more deserving than me, but are not rewarded as well. Many may have just been born at the wrong place at the wrong time. Others are just victims of unfortunate circumstance.

One can do all the right things but come out at a loss. A young adult who has always exercised and ate healthy can by dead of a heart attack in his mid-thirties. A young college graduate may find themselves hungry and homeless despite a concerted effort to land a good job. A good mother may find herself and her children beaten robbed of her dignity despite being a good wife and marrying a man that appeared a good choice in years past.

At the same time undeserving people find themselves on top of the world. An avid drinker and smoker can live to be a hundred years old. A college drop out can go on to start the largest technology company in history. A spoiled rich man with no accomplishments can win the election to the highest seat of power in the world.

Meanwhile horrible circumstances can lead to unforeseen benefits. The death of a child can bring together parents that had been drifting apart. A rotten marriage can produce children that bring future prosperity. War can force two people together that would have otherwise never met.

Nothing in life is guaranteed. We can only play our cards towards the odds and hope the odds stick to our favor. A straight flush never beats an opponent with a pistol up his sleeve, and a hand with nothing to play may be won by a simple bluff.

For these reasons I do not hold any sort of guilt from the prosperity I have gained through both chance and effort, nor do I feel less because someone less deserving enjoys expensive cars, a nice house, and strong political power. I try my best to merely be satisfied with my present situation.

So back to my wife. Having grown up watching her mother and herself find bad relationships and in time hard for anybody to endure, she understands fully the happiness that we have built. I can be a finicky and stubborn person at times, and it amazes me to find someone who fits me so well. She picks up where I leave off. When I have zany ideas with unrealized probable consequences she stops me in my tracks. Through the purpose she brings to my life, I find strength to be responsible an areas I'd rather leave to fate to determine consequences. At her job she sees the realities of people who struggle hard with little return more clearly than I can hope to realize. Her outbursts are nothing more than the frustrations we all feel from time to time, regardless of our luxuries. She only chooses to externalize things that I choose to internalize. It is with this that I am able to bring myself to appreciate her frustrations as a gift that I would not turn away.