My high school had a great 10 year reunion. The 20 year reunion was not so great; lack of interest forced us into online chats and emailing pictures to reminisce. I recall a particular interaction with an old friend where she summed up my life by saying “Well you seem very blessed.” I’d heard it before, but this was different: this was from someone whom I thought knew me. And it hurt.
Hearing how blessed I was: having everything about my lot in life summed up as the result of divine intervention, hurt. It discounted everything I had done to get where I am; things I had set in motion, conscious decisions and sacrifices I made to position myself for better opportunities in life. I chased the dream, I put checks in boxes and I met all the prerequisites. I didn’t sit by waiting for the opportunity to knock, I ran out the door and chased opportunity down; I got up and set things in motion! I was truly disgusted at the dismissive attitude regarding how I got to where I was; as if by luck, I was dealt a better hand than others. I do not believe in predestination or prophecy; I choose to act on choice and free will.
But I am a man of faith. After the anger subsided, it took an introspective look at my life and evaluated exactly what brought me to where I am now. Yes, I chose the military to get out of my small town and the sub-poverty standard of living. Yes, I kept my nose in the books, studied while others drank, such that I could excel professionally both in and out of the military. I did a lot of hard work and made a lot of smart decisions. But the net sum of my hard work was so different than the value of what I actually had. I was in possession of so much more than just the sum of my actions. When I looked at the beautiful children I have the honor of raising, knowing it could have been so much different; when I look at my lovely wife, knowing the patience and grace she possesses to put up with me this long: there were so many variables in my life’s equation that I could not account for. I realized all those little intangibles, and only God knows where they came from, are intrinsic parts of my quality of life and define who I am more so than any of the tangible rewards I had worked for: and I felt blessed.
It’s one thing for someone to say you’re blessed. It’s quite another to feel it.