Vail Daily column: Grateful not to be dead
As newlyweds, my wife and I trekked across the globe for a year. This was no luxurious sojourn: We were not attended by porters and bellhops nor did we hire guides. Our possessions were carried on our backs and we often slept in hovels. The first three months of our journey were spent in sub-Saharan Africa. Despite our meager means, we were comparatively incomprehensibly wealthy. Venturing through Malawi, a cash poor but spirit rich nation, it was astonishing and humbling to witness the truest depths of poverty. Clad in rags and fortified only by cassava and other simple fare, the people with whom we interacted were nonetheless content. Like all humans, they strove for more for themselves and their kin, but often expressed gratitude for simply being alive, no small feat on a continent ravished by colonialism, AIDS and famine. Now plying my trade as an attorney and mediator, I am surrounded by those of staggering wealth who nonetheless war over more. A course correction is needed: Be grateful for what we have instead of lamenting what we lack.
Holding On To Lessons
Upon our return to the States, Lauren and I struggled to reacclimatize. It was hard to reconcile what we had experienced with the largess of the developed world. In time, we were back in the swing and now I chide myself for coveting things that are anything but necessities: A new bike part, a beach vacation, that really sweet pair of kicks. One of my greatest fears is that the lessons of our trip will fade with time. It is increasingly more of an effort to recall how happy I was with essentially nothing, among those that had even less.
Then, the memory assaults my senses. Let me set the scene. Packed into the vaguest approximation of a bus headed south from Karonga to Livingstonia, we sweated in the oppressive heat. We endeavored to ignore our cramping legs and the stench of the livestock that clucked, oinked and crawled around us. Lauren was sitting on my lap for the hours-long ride (that was the arrangement that our two “tickets” had purchased) and we did not find it the least bit strange when the bus hit a bump and the baby breastfeeding next to us lost her mother’s nipple, causing lactated milk to coat us.
The bus stopped and a man embarked holding his day’s catch from the lake: One single fish not much bigger than a minnow. Politely, he held the fish out the window so that it would not cast an odor into the vehicle, which was comical in its own right given the olfactory assault of the rest of the bus (including our own unwashed bodies). Another large pothole caused the bus to lurch and the man lost his grip on the fish, which fell to the road below. He was immediately despondent and implored the driver to stop. After encouragement from the rest of the passengers, the bus creaked into reverse and the man was able to recover his lost meal. He stepped back onto the bus and held up the mangled fish for us to see. Not speaking Chichewa, we were still able to easily glean that he was ecstatic: A shredded catch was still an invaluable prize. We were floored. His gratitude was a lesson that I hope haunts me forever.
Now I awake to the sight of my beautiful wife and the sweet voice of my intrepid daughter. I have a roof over my head, a supportive extended family, a partnership with amazing lawyers, great biking and skiing buddies, a larger community of conscientious souls and the stunning vistas of our valley. I have much less than some, but still I have everything. I am happy.
Channel Energy toward Introspection
I cannot speak for anyone else’s experience, yet I am mystified that people seek out the legal system as a means to torment others or to exploit a perceived advantage. When one is wronged, there is an understandable impulse to respond in kind. Rather than reacting to the catalyst, the energy of the very human emotion of vengeance should instead be channeled into introspection. Take stock of the positive, set aside the challenges. While we are all at various times subject to the cruelties of life, at least we have our lives, our precious breath. The brief interlude of our existence should not be wasted on even a second of combat. If a man can find bliss in the dirt-riddled carcass of a tiny fish, then we are all capable of sublime joy.
T.J. Voboril is a partner at Reynolds, Kalamaya & Voboril, LLC, a local law firm, and the owner-mediator at Voice Of Reason Dispute Resolution. For more information, please contact Mr. Voboril at 970-306-6456, firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit http://www.rkvlaw.com.
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