I just returned from physical therapy, and wow, did it help! If only I had a therapist to work with every day. I just know I could run farther and faster, lift more weights, and swim for miles.
Yesterday, it was another golf ball lost in plain sight. Darn it! If only I was a professional golfer and had a gallery of people to guide me to that ball. That, of course, would be after working with my trainer, my nutritionist, my swing coach, my sports counselor, and flying my private jet to anywhere in the world to play golf.
According to Malcom Gladwell, researcher and author, if I was born one year later I would have had the same opportunity for success as Bill Gates. Of course, it would have been helpful if I had parents wealthy enough to provide me access to “microcomputers” at the time.
Even born in the year I was, if I had been born earlier in the year, I evidently would have had more success at sports. But, most importantly, if I was born to the correct set of parents, I definitely would have had a better chance for greater success in life.
I suspect I’ll never be a world-class athlete, and will continue to lose golf balls in plain sight. And unless that lottery thing hits, I won’t ever be financially rich.
But, to tell you the truth, I live my life every day full of gratitude. For, you see:
— I was born white and I know that many doors were open to me that were closed to others.
— I was born male, and while that played against me at one very crucial point in my professional career, overall I have been given more opportunities because of my gender.
— I was born to loving parents. As a youth, I did not fully appreciate the love, guidance and direction they gave me, but now I fully understand how their love, guidance and direction allowed me to live a good life.
— I was born with a strong body and a reasonably sound mind, allowing me to participate fully in society.
— I married the best mate anyone could wish for. Have our 40 years been perfect? Nah. But I can’t even begin to imagine my life without her. Not only has she made me a better person, but as a result of her love, guidance and direction, she made me a better father.
— I have two of the smartest and most attractive children ever. OK, maybe that’s a stretch, but I will take a minute to brag and let you know that they have both found their way in life and I am so proud that they have both chosen careers in education.
Since I’m on a roll, I’ll also let you know about my four perfect grandchildren. OK, maybe not perfect, but, wow, I now fully appreciate my responsibility to do what I can to leave the world a better place.
So, have I been fortunate in my life? You bet! Would I change it to be rich like Bill Gates? To be a professional athlete? While it might be interesting, I don’t believe I would.
So, do I ever become envious of the golfer who drives the ball 300 yards straight down the fairway, or of the business owner who has phenomenal success? Yes, of course, sometimes I do. Do I believe they’ve worked hard for their success? Generally speaking, I know they have. But I also understand that they, like me, were often given opportunities that others haven’t been given.
So, with age and maturity, I’ve come to realize a few things: (1) it is easier to live a life of gratitude when you’ve been given so many opportunities; (2) in addition to opportunity, most successes take hard work; (3) the single, most important thing we can do as a society is recognize that many are not given the same opportunities, families, communities, etc., that we have been given; and finally, (4) if we want to make this a better city, state, country and world for our children and grandchildren, it is imperative that we focus our energy, and our lives, on doing what we can to support and provide opportunities for those not born into favored circumstances or given the same opportunities we have. Doing what we can, with what we have, where we are.
About the writer: Mark Smith is our newest community columnist. He and his wife, Kathy, are lifelong Michigan residents who retired to Grand Haven four years ago. In his professional life, Smith had two distinct careers. As a registered respiratory therapist, he spent 20 years in health care both in direct patient care and later in administration. As a firm believer in lifelong education, he returned to school (MSU) to obtain his degree in finance, and spent the next 20 years in administrative positions in the financial services industry.