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A Better View on Life


Paul Hord


One morning while driving to work, I remembered that I had forgotten to eat breakfast.  Feeling a little hungry, I decided to pull into a Sonic drive-thru to grab something quick to eat.  I placed my order, and then the line stalled for what seemed like ten minutes.  I was extremely agitated.  This was fast food?  The line should be moving quickly!  If I wanted to wait this long, I would have gone to a Denny's!  Looking at the time, I realized this decision was probably going to make me late to work.  I sat there and cursed at everything from the lady behind me whom I could see in my rearview mirror singing and bopping her head up and down all the way to the ugly shrubs at the business next door.  Finally, the line
started to move.  I pulled up to the window to get my food.  I handed the lady my credit card, and she said, “No, you're good.”  “What do you mean?” I asked.  “The person ahead of you in the line paid for your food.”  What?  “Did they say why?” I asked.  “No.  It must be one of those pay-it-forward type of things,” the girl said.


Okay.  This was a nice gesture.  I had heard of things like this before, but I had never been on the receiving end.  Come to think of it, I had never been on the giving end either.  It left me with a good feeling.  Seriously.  It also made me feel a little silly for cursing at others' happiness or at having to wait in line.  In reality, these are trivial things.  This incident told me that there are some really nice folks out there who enjoy doing nice things for others.  Maybe I needed to do more nice things for others.  So, I embarked on a day of deep thought at work with little productivity.


When the girl at the drive-thru said it was probably a “pay-it-forward” type of thing, it made me think about a movie in the late 90's called Pay It Forward.  I remember seeing this movie at the theater.  The movie is about a young boy who is inspired by an assignment from his middle school social studies teacher which asks that the students come up with an idea that will dramatically change the world.  The boy comes up with the idea of doing a favor for someone.  The person who receives the favor then agrees to do a favor for three other people, and then those three people agree to do favors for other people, and so on.  It's like the Amway sales model for Goodwill.  The boy takes it to the extreme by housing and feeding a homeless guy in his garage without his hard working single mom knowing about it.  When his mom finds out, she gets angry at her son and his school and decides to confront the teacher who is dealing with his own sort of demons.  The story is great and the sub-plots even better.  The acting is great with Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt, and Haley Joel Osment as the main characters.  But then the boy dies a horrible death in the last ten minutes of the movie.  What the Hell?  Really?  The ending served no purpose to the story and was stupid.  I hated the movie's ending but loved the storyline.


I'm not saying that we need to pump sunshine all day long and go out of our way to do ten good deeds a day.  Being the recipient of this kind act made me think about maybe going out of my way to actually say, “Good morning!” to my coworkers rather than a grunt and nod or maybe being conscience of opening the doors for others, and, you know, other similar small things.  I think more importantly, it made me realize that there are many times when I complain about stupid things.  I'm fairly certain that we've all heard the old saying, “Take time to smell the roses.”  I've always understood it to mean to enjoy the simple pleasures of life.  A random act of kindness that I really didn't deserve from someone I do not know has made me take the above phrase a little more to heart.

This act of kindness was still fresh in my mind when I made a visit to my doctor.  Since turning the age of 40, I have turned into somewhat of a hypochondriac.  Odd feelings or unusual sensations have led me to several visits with my doctor trying to convince him of the diseases I have discovered through self-diagnosis using the internet as my consultant.  Through websites such as Web MD, I have turned into quite the specialist in internal medicine and neurology.  I've also learned that this is not healthy for my head, and my doctor agrees.  I was led to my last visit with the doctor by odd sensations and weakness in my left arm.  After looking in the mirror one afternoon, I swore my left arm was smaller than my right.  My doctor measured both biceps, and they were the same.  He did some routine strength tests on my arms, neck, eyes,
etc., and all seemed well.  I asked him, “Do you think I need to see a specialist?”  He said, “No,” and that if he felt I did, he wouldn't hesitate to recommend me in a second.  During my visit, I had made a comment to him about my left arm feeling weaker than my right when shooting baskets with my son.  “Doc, do I have some type of disease?” I asked.  He gave me a logical explanation based on his observations.  Did he feel that I had symptoms that garnered immediate attention?  No.  He said that many diseases progress slowly over a long period of time, oftentimes with those being afflicted not having a clue of what they might have.  He explained that he would be treating many more patients throughout the day who were suffering from some very serious, debilitating issues.  Here's his one comment that stuck with me:  “You need to shoot more baskets with your son.”  In other words, enjoy life, and quit wasting my time worrying about when I am going to die from something that I have diagnosed myself.

I made the decision to trust my doctor's words.  Since then, I've tried to live each day as if it were my last; however, not in such a way as being a gluten, drunkard, or heathen.  I'm a little more forgiving and less inclined to make an excuse if someone needs a favor or if my kids ask me to do something with them.  I'm a little less likely to complain if I have to wait in line behind ten other people at the grocery checkout.  I'm a little happier to be alive, to have two legs to stand on, and to be able to breathe.  Why not?  I could be gone next year from some illness or from a car accident tomorrow.  There is no better line from a movie than that of the character Red in The Shawshank Redemption: “Get busy dying or get busy living.  That's damn right!”


I consider myself someone of average intelligence.  Most of the time (not all), I can process the logic of solving a problem.  I'm in the business of helping teenagers, many of whom are worried about things that are not likely to happen.  So I'm somewhat guilty of not taking a dose of the medicine I prescribe.  All it took was a wise medical doctor, not a head shrink, and a random act of kindness from a stranger to help me figure out that I needed to be a more kind and humble dude.  A dude with a better view on life.