Why I’m Lucky

May 5, 2013

We should all be so aware if just how miraculous life is, of just how special we are to be who we are, where we are, when we are. Some of our fortunes are of our own making, but many are just the lives we were born into. Some would give anything to be in your position, to be complaining of first-world problems, to be sitting here blogging in a clean air-conditioned house looking out into fair weather with food at the ready and money in the bank. Sometimes it takes certain experiences, firsthand or not, to make one aware of these privileges. I offer you my perspective.

1. Health

My hands work. My legs and feet allow me to walk and run. I’m young. I don’t have cancer, or AIDS, or any terminal illness. I don’t need to see a doctor on a regular basis, or go on dialysis. I’m strong. I have the ability to get stronger. I don’t get migraines. I’m not allergic to anything. I’m resilient.

To say this is a minor miracle would be understating the obvious. I often take my health for granted, forgetting there are millions out there who need constant medical care, who have never known a day without pain. Who don’t have the means to eat healthily and regularly. Who can’t exercise. Who have been victim to an accident or a crime.

2. Travel

I can travel anywhere in the world legally. Without question (well, maybe if the visa paperwork is prepared). I’m an American. I have access to cheap flights, airline points, credit cards, cash, and a wide range of jobs unavailable to other nationalities. I’m single and have no kids, leaving me free to leave when I want, to do whatever I want.

Even some great friends who enjoy travel feel tugged back due to family obligations. Those who are single are usually tied to their jobs and possessions. I have neither (blessing and a curse, but for this blog, let’s focus on the positive, shall we?). Travel envy is not one of my big problems.

3. Money

I have money in the bank. I can qualify for credit cards. I’m not in danger of sleeping on the street unless it’s of my own choosing. I can work a variety of jobs. I have access to a computer from which I can search for work and write.

Every time I see a homeless person, I wonder if my life could have taken me down that path. Maybe if I hadn’t had my education, or my family…

4. Knowledge

I was educated at a private high school. I went to university. My memory is practically infallible… seriously, ask me what my lines were from my 4th grade play. I have innate curiosity in my travels, a desire to know about people and places. I have biases, of course, but more perspective than most. I don’t know who I’d be without every piece of information in my brain.

I read about the failing education system in the US, and I see how stressed and overworked students are in South Korea and Japan. I wasn’t one to shy away from work growing up, but I pushed myself more often than the school pushed me. I hear ignorant and almost dangerous statements from supposedly educated people on the news, and I wonder why they can’t try to see in shades of grey, instead of black and white.

5. Time

I have seventy years left at most. Thirty have past. I’d say I’ve used a lot of my time wisely… some not so much. I remember a quotation written on the meditation hall of a Buddhist monastery in New Zealand to the effect of:

Slowly burns the flame of time
While there is still will and strength
Do as much good as possible.

I’m grateful for the time I’ve had, and the time I have remaining.

Together, these privileges make me lucky, make me strong. But take one away, and I don’t know if the others would be as meaningful. Could I hold onto the knowledge of past experience and intelligence if I were completely bankrupt and old? If I were somehow prevented from leaving my corner of the world (false imprisonment, perhaps), would my health, knowledge, or youth crumble as well? The only thing I can say with any certainty: if I were indefinitely deprived of my independence, I wouldn’t want to go on. If I were incapacitated due to an accident, causing mental or physical injuries, that’s it for me.

In that sense, my life is a tenuous balance of these five miracles. Take any one away (with the exception of money), and I wouldn’t just be a shell of myself: I wouldn’t want to continue. It’s possible that with time I’ll learn to cope with aging, failing memory, physical inadequacies, less money, and the inability to get away… but as I am now, as grateful as I am to have what I have, to take anything away would be disastrous. So I celebrate my past and my present, and will hopefully learn to live as time unfolds.

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