Thursday, May 14, 2009

There's More to Life Than What's Right in Front of You

Today started off great – up early, ready early, out the door on time. Driving to work, all I could focus on was the list of projects awaiting me on my desk and in my email inbox. It’s Thursday, the weekend is almost here, and I was about to knock off some important work before riding off into the Friday evening sunset in just over a day.

To quote Ethel Merman, “Everything’s coming up roses!”

My car, however, had other ideas. It’s odd, but it seems that alternators seem to have this built-in ability to detect the most inopportune time to malfunction. Waving battery needles and red “Hey! Look down here at the dashboard! What do you think is wrong with me?” lights start dancing around in front of me, and before I knew it I was sitting on the side of the road, cell phone in hand, pacing a rut in the median while waiting for Triple AAA to tow me across the Potomac.

If Ethel was trying to tell me everything was coming up roses, Judas Priest was countering with, “You’ve got another thing comin’!”

So, instead of being at work at 7:30, rifling through the morning papers and my stack of news clippings, I was at my desk two hours late, cursing the car, the delay in tackling my work, and my dumb luck. Franz Schubert once said “A man endures misfortune without complaint;” obviously, Schubert never met me on a Thursday morning when my Type A schedule was getting shoved into Type E chaos.

And then I had a chat with a friend. The details of the chat aren’t important; it is sufficient to say that it is someone with a lot on their plate – actually, a lot on many different plates – and it put my car troubles (and griping) solidly into perspective. This friend gives a lot – to their family, their friends, their colleagues; I can certainly say that I’ve been given the gift of some valuable time, conversation, and insights over the past couple of years. On this day, at this particular time, I saw that I could try – in my own inimitable way – to give a little something back.

It certainly never seems, when trying to repay the kindness of friends, to measure up to what I’ve been given, but even in trying to give something back to this friend, I got something back: an awareness (not quite the burning bush, but not too shabby in its own right) that alternators and getting to work on time and clearing off a to-do list are secondary to the needs of others.

A famous Vulcan once said, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one.” Today, I got a great reminder in the midst of the chaos that was my own that it’s sometimes more important to focus on the needs of the one and the chaos that they might be battling in their own life.

So thank you Ford Motor Company – if it wasn’t for your lousy alternator, I might have missed out on a great gift!


NC Sue said...

I can't tell you how much I agree. I work in a bone marrow stem cell clinic where patients - mostly with cancer - are fighting what is often a last-ditch effort to survive. It certainly helps to put my petty woes in perspective. To give you an idea what I mean, read my post here:

(Commercial is now over...)

Anyway, I thank you for your post. It's a timely reminder.

rdl said...

I love when that happens, when you slow down long enof to really see what's important.
When i read that your car is a Ford all i could think of was
the car that is.

Anonymous said...

Great post about perspective. My alternator on my van went out a few months ago, a day before we were to leave for a 5 hour road trip to visit my folks. Had it gone out on that trip, we would have been up a creek . . .

Thanks for the reminder about friendships and the value they bring.

I found your blog through DadBlogs, and it's an honor to visit . . . I'll be back.