Tuesday, December 2, 2014
BLUE MAN DRIVING
Blue Chicago, Chicago, IL
My favorite definition of luck that I fortunately stumbled across years ago is that “luck is when preparation meets opportunity”. And its corollary is “the harder I work, the luckier I get”.
In spite of all this country’s warts and troubles, I was among the lucky five percent or so of the world’s population to be born in America, which I’ve read qualifies me among the worlds richest. I have never known extended hunger and I have always had a warm bed to sleep in at night, with the exception of those dubious adventures in the great outdoors. I arrived here strictly by the grace of God and the sacrifice of my great grandparents who immigrated here from Germany, Russia, and the British Isles. My daughter and I have recently spent some time on Ancestry.com to better understand their story and ours. I have no doubt that those folks who share much of my DNA did not have nearly the good life I’ve been blessed with so far. Their hard lives were probably the exact antithesis of mine. But I believe they had faith and a dream for a better life for their children and their children’s children. That would be me and now I’m living that dream.
I’m living their dream because of a little bit of luck, God’s providence, and applying myself to add essential tools to my tool kit. That included spending time in classes and study while others were out having a good time or idly watching sports on television, etc. There were many times when I thought that if I died tomorrow, I would have squandered those hours of self-sacrifice for naught, as I had still not attained any tangible benefit from the effort. It was a trial of short term pain for long term gain. I did realize early on from working minimum wage jobs that supporting yourself in life is all about trading your valuable and limited life hours for money. And the more someone needs the tools in your tool kit, the more money they will pay for your life hours. When I entered college, I really had no passion to focus on one particular career, especially when you realize most folks these days will have multiple careers due to the rapid revolution of technology. For instance, I realized that I would have more longevity as an information worker than the invaluable minimum wage jobs I had been working. So I focused on the post Sputnik engineering needs of the country at the time. I also learned to migrate to the areas that needed my tools. There’s no opportunity in a skill that has no demand. With a few exceptions, you can find a job you love and starve while never working another day in your life. Or you can learn to love the job you have and use the money to find fulfillment in other places.
That background brings me to conversations I had with two Uber taxi drivers in Chicago last Thanksgiving weekend. One of the young men informed me that he was from Eastern Europe and had received a degree in engineering. The other young man was from India and had a degree in pharmaceuticals. I’m certain that both of these young men had sacrificed and worked hard to acquire these degrees, but now they were driving a taxi in Chicago and not practicing their skills where they were born. The basic problem? No opportunity. But they had not given up. They were still in the race to attain a better life and exchange their life hours for a better income. In the brief time we interfaced with one another, I attempted to give them words of encouragement and share my story. We are all vessels of grace that can be placed in a friend or stranger’s path at a critical time in their life when the blues are pulling them down. Of course, that works in reverse as well. I’ll never know how their story ends, but now it’s part of my story as well.
Prisoners have a term for a man being led to his execution as a “dead man walking”. The accompanying photo gave me the inspiration for this blog title of “blue man driving”, to visually illustrate that everyone we encounter in life as ships (or taxis) passing in the night has a story. Some are stories of the downtrodden fighting the blues and possibly accepting their fate. Others have circumstances that offer little hope, which is where those who have opportunities need to provide hope. And some are stories of resilient and determined people who are in the trenches and streets fighting for an opportunity. Many folks don’t always have the time or inclination to share their story, but occasionally we do have those chance encounters--such as a brief exchange with a migrant taxi driver in a distant city. And during this holiday time of the year, we’re reminded that some people have unknowingly shown hospitality and compassion to angels.