From Chicken Soup for the Soul of America

Putting Things into Perspective

Nothing like a terrorist act against several thousand innocent people to put your life into perspective. I was worried about a lot of things a week ago, but for the life of me, I can’t seem to remember what those things were. Something about money and not having enough of it, I suspect. One of our credit cards is a little high. I was probably worried about that. But then I saw the millions of pieces of paper blown out of the World Trade Center offices, representing the financial lives of thousands of people. The Manhattan streets looked like the devil threw a tickertape parade. Except, instead of confetti, the sky was filled with stock orders, inventory lists, personal checkbooks, savings accounts and, who knows, maybe even a laundry list. And as important as those little pieces of paper had been just days before, they were the farthest things from the minds of the victims’ families, friends and the rescuers.

So I must be wrong. I couldn’t have been worried about one little credit card statement. One piece of paper. That would be absurd.

Maybe I was worried about the heat. It has been awfully hot in Hawaii the last few weeks. But watching those firemen clad in stifling, heavy, protective coats, climbing up and down tons of cement and steel rubble, frying in the heat at Ground Zero, I knew I must be wrong. I couldn’t possibly have been worried about our heat. Maybe I was worried that we had not had a good heavy rain in a long time. We need rain badly. But then I thought about the people trapped below the rubble in New York and the worries there that it would start raining. The rain would interfere with the rescue operation, possibly making a dangerous situation even worse. Suddenly, lack of rain seemed like a good thing.

I might have been worried about my health. I used to be a pretty good hypochondriac. As I’ve gotten older, I’m not really able to focus as well, at least not the kind of focus it takes to convince yourself that you’ve got a tumor growing somewhere on your body or are going through the early stages of mad cow disease. That’s a young hypochondriac’s game. But how could I have been worrying about my health at all when, unlike the thousands of victims of the World Trade Center destruction, I was still alive.

Being alive is good. Being alive is something to be thankful for. You shouldn’t waste being alive worrying that you might be putting on a few pounds, or feeling guilty about having an extra slice of pizza.

I might have been worried about some argument I had with my wife. But is that possible? When two people live together for more than twenty years, someone’s going to get on someone else’s nerves, especially if that first someone is me. But a long, loving relationship is something to celebrate, and only an idiot would worry about a few bumps along the way.

A week ago, life was one big worry. Funny, today it’s a blessing.

Charles Memminger

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