Choose to Live
Posted on Monday, July 29, 2013
My wife and I attended my 40th High School class reunion this past weekend. It seemed like I spent an inordinate amount of time listening to stories about retirement planning mixed with less interesting and depressing descriptions of joint replacement surgeries, hair-loss treatments, open-heart surgeries and debilitating back injuries. The retirement talk just sounded odd to me, since I have never really thought much about it (what the heck would I do???) and have a couple of small children at home, but it seemed the majority of the folks in attendance sadly viewed their jobs as a burden, a necessary evil to be tolerated until the time when they could gleefully run away! I feel so fortunate that my work here at the bank has proven to be so interesting and challenging; not like work at all, really.
By coincidence my wife and I were seated with a member of our class and his wife. I hadn’t seen this fellow in about 20 years, and the truth is that we really weren’t close friends back in our school days. But he made for lively company! He spoke mostly about his plans for the future, getting back into business for himself, etc. He also spoke about the greatest blessing of his life, his disabled son who is in his twenties, and about his step-children. He and another friend sitting at the table also spent time talking about their gardens, their homemade pickles and a host of other simple pleasures. The conversation was jolly, opinionated and filled with ideas!
But his appearance had changed dramatically since I had seen him last, so much so that I would not have recognized him without his nametag. A series of health problems that included diabetes, heart disease and kidney failure had caused him to lose both of his legs and parts of many of his fingers, and those that remained were mostly covered with bandages. He attended the event in his wheelchair, and over the course of the evening we found out that he needed kidney dialysis 3 times a week, leaving home very early in the morning and being bussed to a facility where he sat alone for many hours to complete the treatments.
But there was no talk of retirement here, and instead of complaining or dwelling on his many difficulties, he spent his time projecting his ideas and dreams, and talking about what the future may bring. He enjoyed the company of his friends and made us all laugh. As Charles Swindoll once wrote, “…I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.”
I confess that I was most inspired. I hope that life continues to provide me with opportunities to grow, learn and to connect with people of high character and great ideas. I hope that I can face the challenges and disappointments of life with courage and honest conviction. I look at my broad collection of friends, family and business associates and feel very blessed indeed.