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How Lucky We Are

O, to be able to walk without concern, to have good vision, to be able to lift things, to throw a ball, or to traverse stairs

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An occurrence two summers ago awakened me to a profound insight. I’m in the airport in Raleigh, North Carolina minutes away from boarding a flight to New York City.

Hopping down the long airport hallway is a young lady with a deeply pained look on her face. She is on crutches, not the kind you often see for a broken leg, the kind that you use with your wrists. This young lady is missing her right leg, not a little, like above the knee, or halfway above the knee. She is missing ALL of her right leg. She is wearing black tights and, it is apparent, her leg has been severed, right across the top.

There But for the Grace of God…

She is too young to have been in the military. Her left leg is toned, athletic, and shapely. You easily can discern that she was some type of athlete – is some type of athlete: in skiing, soccer, possibly track and field. I’m guessing she’s somewhere between age 18 and 20, perhaps 22 at the most.

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She is ‘model’ beautiful, not unlike a young Kim Basinger or Michelle Pfeiffer. The expression on her face tells me that she has not been in this condition long, and has not done a lot of traveling as of late. I sense that this is her first airport trip, alone, since the operation.

While everyone else in the airport ‘manages’ to not notice her, I decide I will look straight at her and smile. As she passes, however, she is forward-focused. She does not see me… or maybe, peripherally she does. Subconsciously, maybe, she receives it – one tiny ray of sunshine in a world of utter despair. While she didn’t appear to notice, I hope perhaps that some minute level of cosmic healing occurred.

The Shock, and the Horror

I surmise that she had bone cancer. I mentally run through what might be the sequence of events: Her leg is very sore, for weeks or perhaps a few months. She and her parents go in for a diagnosis, they’re called back later, and the doctor offers the dreaded diagnosis, she is going to lose her leg. This can’t be accurate. This must be a mistake. Is there no alternative? Finally, she slumps back in her chair, as do her parents, reeling from the shock and the coming horror.

Not only her parents, grandparents, and cousins, but her friends, classmates, teachers, coaches, and anyone in her circle, share in this misfortune. They will know the difference in who she was, her prowess, her silhouette, her very being, before and after. It’s likely that the nature of her relationships with everyone she’s known shifts, subtly or dramatically.

If she’s 22, or less, that likely means 55 years or more of life in this condition. Hereafter, every TV commercial she ever sees about fashions, shaving your legs, hiking, anything that has to do with being bipedal, will be a reminder, as will every time she opens up a woman’s magazine or almost any magazine.

Casual No More

Go on a casual bike ride? No way. Participate in a golf outing? Not a chance. Play miniature golf? Attend dances? Visit the gym? Take a zumba class? Go on a hike? Spend a day at the beach? If she’s going to drive a car, it will require modified rigging. Wherever she lives will have to be carefully configured: The bathtub or shower, everything will have to be logistically correct.

Anytime she buys shoes, it’ll only be to use one shoe. When she buy socks, she gets a two-for-one deal that she’d rather not have. Any pants, shorts, and other clothing all likely will serve as reminders of her condition.

Even if she achieves peace of mind for herself and is mentally and emotionally acclimated to her condition, every time she steps out into the world of 7.7 billion two-legged people, she’ll undoubtedly encounter dozens if not hundreds of others who look away, or look with pity, and don’t know what to say, what to do, or how to respond.

In my 800+ flights, occasionally I’ve seen one-legged military veterans and older people, as you have, with various prosthetics. They are ambulatory, they get around. With the nature of her condition, how are specialists going to fashion any kind of device for her to walk on her own? (Later, I discover that, thankfully, it can be done.)

This particular young lady, being so beautiful, will attract a mate if she doesn’t already have one. Some young man will decide that he will be her life-time champion. She will likely have children and, mercifully, from infancy with their one-legged mom, as they grow-up it will be the family norm.

What about the less attractive one-leggers? Or, young kids who, from an early age, are not able-bodied? What about burn victims… those who underneath it all scream out “see me,” “see the real me,” not just the scar tissue?

The Firefly

At a convention dinner many years ago, a woman sat next to me. She was burned on at least 80% of her body, including all of her face. When she first sat down, I felt a sense of dread. What would I say? Yet, by the end of the meal, I could see her.

She told me her story. She and her fiancé were flying to the Caribbean when their small plane crashed and burst into flames. He died. She lived, but with 80% burns and in rehabilitation for years. I learned that her email address included the word ‘Firefly’ and that today, she is a speaker – a motivational speaker.

…Weeks pass and I recall seeing the young lady in the airport. Does she think back about her earlier life, an existence that will never be the same? Or, more accurately, does she ever not think about it? Going forward, will there be a day in her life when she truly knows peace? At 32, or 42 will conditions be any better for her? Will the world’s fixation on youth and appearance diminish?

When she goes to sleep at night, and lies on that horizontal plane, and finally nods off, does that bring her a sense of peace? Does she dream of running through open meadows or dancing ‘til the wee hours? Even so, she has to arise in the morning, and it all starts again.

This summer, for days on end, after I saw her, I looked at young women and young men everywhere – in shorts, in bathing suits – and thought to myself, you don’t know how lucky you are. Who among us would not be totally humbled? I thought about how lucky I’ve been, and how lucky most of us have been, at least for most of our lives.

Without a Second Thought

O, to be able to walk without concern. To have good vision, to be able to lift things, to throw a ball, to traverse stairs, or to do nearly anything that we seek to do without a second thought. In my entire life, I don’t think I have ever been as mindful as I am right now as to my highly fortunate existence.

In so many respects, we are all lucky.

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Jeff Davidson is the world's only holder of the title "The Work-Life Balance Expert®" as awarded by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. He is the premier thought leader on work-life balance, integration, and harmony. Jeff speaks to organizations that seek to enhance their overall productivity by improving the effectiveness of their people. He is the author of Breathing Space, Simpler Living, Dial it Down, and Everyday Project Management. Visit www.BreathingSpace.com for more information on Jeff's keynote speeches and seminars, including: Managing the Pace with Grace® * Achieving Work-Life Balance™ * Managing Information and Communication Overload®



 
 
 

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Faith

A Nation of Unsung Heroes

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The movie, Unsung Hero, is not only a great movie. It’s a movie that captures the struggle and hard-earned survival and eventual success of millions of Americans who have had to overcome struggles to earn their own American Dream. For two centuries, Americans have been known for their resourcefulness and resilience, and we are not done yet!

We are again living in difficult and challenging times. Surveys suggest that nearly 60% of American families are living paycheck to paycheck. Their solutions to their plight won’t be coming from politicians in Washington. Their success, as always, depends on their will and resourcefulness in overcoming daily obstacles, their ability to survive on limited resources, their scrounging for work that allows them to survive another day, and help from those who care.

That common but heart-rending struggle is conveyed in an inspiring way in Unsung Hero. The film focuses on the early struggles of the Smallbone family in the early 90’s. We watch as David Smallbone’s once-thriving music business as a concert promoter in Australia falls apart. They lose their home, their car, and their life’s savings. With no opportunities in Australia, David moves the family halfway around the world to Nashville to secure the only job he could secure. After missed flights and a long and tiring journey to Tennessee, David learns that his promised job had been given to someone else.

As their dreams fall apart, you watch as the steady faith and creativity of Helen Smallbone, played by Australian actress and mother Daisy Betts, pulls the family through one setback and challenge after another to find a way through. With six children and another on the way, every member of the family is challenged to do their part to keep them afloat. They do yard work, any work that would fill their jar of savings. They couldn’t let it be empty, and they didn’t. They kept finding a way.

They were Australians with no friends, no family, no car, sleeping on beds made out of clothes. To nurture their faith, they began attending a local church. Aware of their needs, church members found ways to help in any way they could. In a foreign country living in a city with over half-a million people, it took finding a loving faith community who cared enough to help. Watch the movie, to find out the rest of the story. Bring plenty of tissue and be ready for a few tears along the way.

America needs this movie right now. Why? Too many people are feeling hopeless in the face of growing inflation and lost jobs. They face frustrating obstacles and enormous challenges, and the answer is summed up by a quotation of Mother Teresa shared in the movie, “If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.” Luke Smallbone, the producer of the film, acknowledged the importance of that truth, “That is really the heartbeat behind the film.” It is also the local solution that has always helped Americans find their way through-the power of family and the presence and support of their local “family of God.”

Washington may send you money, but they can’t provide the flexible and persistent support needed. It’s one’s local family, friends, and faith communities who can encourage resilience and help shape a needed recovery. Solutions come from a local community’s caring and support. It used to always be that way, and it needs to be that way again.

Our nation is full of unsung heroes who are helping their family and friends, and they are more needed than ever. If you don’t have anyone helping you, stop looking to Washinton for the help that will never come no matter who is elected President. Get involved again in your family and your community. Call your family and let them know you need help. Get back involved in your church or synagogue and let God work through them to help you get back on your feet. Investing in community is an adventure that allows you to help and be helped to the glory of God and country.

When you get involved, you most likely will not make any headlines. That is left for terrorists, violent demonstrators, and other disasters and threats out of your control. But America is strong because of millions of unsung heroes who make it all work and seldom get acknowledged. This column is dedicated to you. You deserve to be honored and applauded for all you have done and will do to keep America the country it has been and must remain. May it continue to be so in your adventure!
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Elections

Let’s Reclaim America’s Optimism Advantage

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On this New Year’s Day, America needs more than a parade and great football games; our people need renewed optimism in living our American Dream. Instead of looking for government fixes or some magical new president who will make things right, we need a kick in the pants to get busy making America work no matter what obstacles we face.

At the 1992 Republican Convention, Ronald Reagan shared what he considered the secret of his success as our President: “I appealed to your best hopes, not your worst fears, to your confidence, rather than your doubts.”

Oh, how we need leadership like that in America today. As we start this year, too many people feel powerless. Inflation may be coming down, but high fuel and food prices have taken their toll on far too many Americans. Watching the invasion on our Southern border means too many of our cities are being overwhelmed with no end in sight. We wonder if there is anything we can do but watch. The sense of despair and helplessness is contagious, but so is optimism. What attitude do you spread?

There is more than you think within your control. Every day, you make choices to make your situation better or worse. Studies of optimism find that optimism comes from a track record of overcoming obstacles. If you have had obstacles the last few years and are still making it work, pat yourself on the back. Be a proud survivor, not a victim so many seem to take pride in claiming to be.

Make each day count by starting your day doing one thing to make your situation better. Find one way to cut expenses. Find a way to increase your resources. Make a call or visit to nurture your network of colleagues and friends. Learn from your mistakes and celebrate your successes, both big and small. Nurture your faith realizing that God gave you gifts and give thanks every day for the blessings you have. Lest you forget, you’re blessed to live in America. People risk everything to come here, and few want to leave.

Yes, this is an election year, and it would sure be a gift to have a leader who would nurture the hope and optimism of all our citizens. So as the campaigns progresses and you listen to potential leaders vying for your support, ask yourself a few key questions:

Do they want to control your choices or ensure your freedoms?

Do they want to make you more or less dependent on government?

Do they want to increase the size of government and entitlements and the taxes needed to fund them or decrease them?

Do they want to force your children to go to public schools that don’t’ get the results your children deserve, or are they willing to give you the freedom to pick the schools your children need?

Do they disagree with their opponents and state why, or do they demean them and call them names?

Do they want to grow the size of government and its debt, or do they want to decrease both?

Do they believe in the citizens they represent, or do they convey that they are the answer to America’s future?

Do they take responsibility for their mistakes and actions or quickly deny responsibility and blame others?

No President is perfect. It’s easy to promise and a lot harder to deliver. Reagan focused on three things: an optimism based on free-enterprise innovation, smaller government, and lower taxes. He delivered on all but smaller government. As Reagan advisor Arnold Laffer confessed, “When it came to cutting welfare payments and school lunch,…it was very hard. Someone would come over and say, ‘How can you cut school lunches?’ Reagan would reply, ‘I guess you’re right; I’ll tell them not to cut that one.’”

The pressure to keep growing government is tempting and easy to understand, but it is not what America was created for. America’s form of government was designed to protect citizens from an over-controlling, over-taxing government. We need to reclaim that passion for freedom and self-reliance. Our founding citizens wanted the opportunity to pursue happiness, not happiness given to them at the expense of other taxpayers.

The election is months away. So I’m going to borrow on the optimism of Ronald Reagan to inspire us all on this first day of 2024: “I’m not taking your time…to ask you to trust me. Instead, I ask you to trust yourself. That is what America is all about… It’s the power of millions of people like you who will determine what will make America great again.”

Reagan wouldn’t want us to wait for the next election. We’ve had enough of eloquent politicians who think they have all the answers. We need to believe in ourselves and get busy living our own dreams. Then, in November, let’s elect a leader who will stay out of our way and give “We the People” freedom again—freedom to fail, succeed, and thrive in our own American Dream!
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