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Accepting the hand we’re dealt

Posted: February 27, 2014 10:07 a.m.
Updated: February 28, 2014 5:00 a.m.

I have a friend who says he’s stopped asking people how they’re feeling.

“Holy smoke,” he said. “Some people, when they get about 60, decide they need to tell you every little thing that’s wrong with them. That’s all they want to talk about -- their aches and pains. I don’t want to hear about people’s skin rashes, sore knees, gas, arthritis and bowel movements, and I’m not sure why they’re so intent on telling me.”

Another friend said he receives a Christmas letter each year from a buddy who insists on providing lengthy descriptions of every ailment he and his wife are having, complete with a list of all their medications.

“I’ve gotten to where I throw it in the trashcan before I even start reading it,” he said.

It’s a fact: there’s a mysterious psychological virus that makes some people -- especially when they get a little age on them -- determined to provide everyone a litany of their ailments, no matter how minor they might be.

Here’s what I’ve discovered: people who have the most right to complain about their health, don’t.

It’s true. Those who suffer most complain least.

I know people -- you do, too -- who have chronic, serious health problems but summon the courage every day to deal with their illnesses in a quiet, courageous, graceful manner.

I know people -- you do, too -- who endure almost constant pain yet face every day bravely, without bemoaning their fate.

I know people -- you do, too -- who receive diagnoses of terminal illnesses with a stoic acceptance that makes me shake my head in wonder. And admiration.

I’d been pondering all this recently while watching some friends endure difficult times.

Then I got a message from Lew, whom I haven’t seen since college. We reconnected recently through a mutual interest in photography.

He wrote about encountering a young man who had survived combat in the Middle East, only to lose one of his legs in a motorcycle accident after returning to the states.

Lew described the man’s demeanor in recounting the accident:

“There was no anger in his voice. There was no sense of injustice. What happened, happened. That’s just the way it was. The loss of his leg might have kept him from pursuing many other avenues, but he had accepted the hand life had dealt him. He did not blame God or anyone else.”

Lew went on: “Life is really a game of chance. Some of us are born on third base and think we hit a triple. Others have to struggle just to get to the plate. Some are thrown out trying to stretch a single into a double. Sometimes the umpire calls us out when we are safe.

“The mark of maturity is the ability to accept the hand that life has dealt us and to move on. We have to play with the hand life deals us.”

He’s right. And I marvel at those who get dealt a rotten hand -- cancer, debilitating muscular diseases, chronic and painful maladies -- yet somehow maintain the courage, the equilibrium to forge on, living with admirable dignity and -- here's that word again -- grace.

Looking at them, it's difficult to take seriously those who create a soap opera -- and broadcast it to the world -- out of every niggling, inconsequential ailment.

And for those of us fortunate enough not to be facing serious health problems, there’s a lesson: our little aches and pains aren’t so bad after all, are they?

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