From Incident to Meaning to Goodness

via Creative Commons

Every single dramatic, harsh, or important event in my life has had a thread of good in it. Every single one.

To recount these seems a little self-indulgent. Let me give you a small recent example.

On Friday, my friend Sarah and I ran sixteen miles in accordance with our training schedule. Somehow, I managed to lose the keys to the rental car I was driving that day. I went back out to retrace my steps in an effort to find the keys. In the process, I got in a little more training, enjoyed a sunny day, and met a Chinese Uber driver named Bo. Since the rental company indicated the keys would cost $500 to replace, I decided not to give up, but I did call my wife to pick me up so I could come back later.

My wife had the great idea to ask some local businesses if anyone had turned in keys and, sure enough, mine were located! From this, I learned to accept the Roadside Assistance option next time, and also my heart was full of gratitude when, on the way home, the body shop called to say my own car was ready. Somehow, not having to pay $500 felt like I had actually made money. And who cares if that isn’t exactly logical. Gratitude isn’t necessarily subject to the laws of logic.

And now let me give you an example from a friend. My friend’s brother-in-law decided to do a mitzvah, a good deed done as part of his practice of Judaism. He went to shovel the snow from the sidewalk for an older woman. In the process, he encountered another woman who had no signs of life. He called his wife, a nurse, who came and performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation, which indeed brought her back. One mitzvah led to another, and in process of recounting this, my friend and I decided we would perform a mitzvah ourselves.

Was the snow on the sidewalk a good or bad thing? Was the woman’s serious predicament good or bad? And wherefore the decision of my friend’s brother-in-law to put his faith into practice? There were so many aspects. As humans, we have the choice of whether and what kind of meaning to put into our lives.

As Hafiz said, “The place where you are right now, God circled on a map for you.” When you fully internalize that your journey is your destination, you see that where you are is less important than who you are becoming.

You may have been plunked down in a sea that wasn’t your choice, but you now hold the rudder to steer off where you want to go. Some seas are rough and choppy. That will only make you a better sailor.

Take one thing that happened in your life and look at the chain of events that ensued. You can choose to look at the positive events or the negative events. You can also choose to place no value judgement at all. I would suggest that you attribute every good thing you enjoy right now to where you have been. Make a commitment to equip yourself for whatever comes your way next so that you will be in a good position to handle it gracefully.

Put on an armor that includes friendship, humor, wonder, and curiosity. Before long, that armor will become not something you wear but who you are. And always look favorably on where you’ve been, since it has ultimately, however unlikely, resulted in good.

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