An Old Perspective for New Year

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by Keith McCurdy

Recently, while listening to a teenager complain about how unfair life was and how her entire day had been ruined by losing her cellphone, I remembered a story about life perspective.

I was told this story several years ago by a now deceased friend I will call Joe. In 1920 at ten years of age, Joe spent a lot of time with his grandparents in the country.   One morning he and his grandfather were up before the sun to eat breakfast and start plowing.  They took time to hitch up the team and prepare the plowshare for use.  Soon after they began, something broke loose on the plowshare.

 Now they took even more time to unhitch the team and get them back in the pasture, get the horse hooked up to the buggy and load the plowshare for the hour trip to town.  Once in town they went to the blacksmith (modern day welder) for the needed repairs.  As Joe described it, he didn’t remember what broke or what they had to do to fix it, he just remembered all of the banging and sparks flying.  When all of the repairs were finished and with the plowshare loaded up, they headed for home, now much past midday.

Once home, horse fed and in the field, team hitched back up to the plowshare, they began the work of tilling part of the 80 acres.  Well after dark, with much left to till, they went in for the evening.  While sitting around the dinner table, grandma asked “So boys, how was your day?”  Joe remembers his granddad looking at him and grinning when he responded, “It was a pretty good day wasn’t it boy?”

Today we have a flat tire or our computer locks up and the whole day is a disaster.  Wow, has our perspective changed!

What Joe experienced was not novel, it was common.  It used to be that our daily experiences, struggles, and difficult times did not determine our view of life.  The fact that at times we will struggle, things will break or wear out, not everyone is always happy with us and that some days are just difficult was accepted as a course of life.  Not only were these experiences not worth getting that worked up about, our emotions really didn’t figure into the mix.  We did not automatically connect a tough time with emotional turmoil.  We fully accepted that life itself is flawed.

How would life be if we took this perspective?  What if we realized that our experience of life, as it is, should not determine our emotional state or overall perspective on life?  Don’t you think we take too much too seriously?  I sure do….

Wouldn’t it be refreshing if we had the perspective that life was less about what struggles occurred and more about what we bring to the table to deal with them?  With the first view, we are prisoners to life circumstances; with the latter we are free.  A great but terrible example of this is the Holocaust.  Survival stories are filled with prisoners on the verge of death living free and not allowing their circumstances to dictate their life perspective.

As Joe put it; “Yes, it had been a great day!”  All in all, their contribution was good.  The challenge is to have more “real” problems and fewer imaginary ones, to not take ourselves or our circumstances so seriously and to accept that how we play the hand we are dealt is much more important than the cards themselves.

When we demonstrate this life-perspective to our children, we are preparing them to not be thrown off by life, but to engage it in the right way.  We teach them that struggle is okay and even to be expected and that they can deal with it. This allows them to not be bound by their circumstances and to know that there is always a path through difficult times.

Ask yourself which perspective you have most often? Are you instilling confidence and hope in the way you respond to adversity?