Michael Jordan Segal, MSW
There is a famous saying: “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.” At times, human beings are not satisfied with what they have. People seem to do well until, unfortunately, they experience a loss. Then, usually, they want to be better – to experience the “green grass.” It’s human nature to always want to be better, to have more. Isn’t that what is meant by the phrase “dream big?” At times, dreaming big might be great; however, at other times one should be thankful for what one has.
Consider the story of the 85 year old grandmother taking her 5 year old grandson, Johnny, to the beach for the first time. She was so excited. She bought Johnny a brand new complete outfit for his first time at the beach: new cap, new swimsuit, new t-shirt, new shoes and a new sand bucket with a shovel.
They walked to the beach holding hands. As they got to the sand, Johnny said, “Grandma, because I can’t swim I won’t go near the water; so I’ll just dig up the sand with my new shovel far from the sea.”
However, Johnny had difficulty digging up the hard sand far from the water. Therefore, he said, “Grandma, this sand is too hard. Can I get close to the water where the sand is easier to dig?” Johnny quickly added, “But I promise I won’t go in the water.”
Hesitantly, the grandmother looked into Johnny’s begging big eyes and said, “Okay, but promise you won’t go in the water.”
Johnny screamed with glee, “I promise.” As he was close to the ocean he was having such a good time, digging and digging with ease in the soft sand. Unfortunately, a huge wave came on the shore and swallowed up little Johnny, taking him out to sea.
With her vigilant eyes, watching him from afar, his grandmother screamed, “Oh my God! Oh my God! Help me God!”
Just then, another huge wave thundered onto the beach from the ocean and “spit forth” little Johnny safely back on the shore.
Elated, the grandmother ran toward the boy and tightly hugged her 5 year old grandson. Wiping tears from her eyes she cried out as she looked toward the heavens, “Thank you God! Thank you so much!”
She then looked back down at her little sweet Johnny. She once again quickly looked back at the heavens and screamed, “Hey…Where’s his new cap!?”
Life is full of people who are not satisfied and not thankful for what they have. Many times people are constantly dwelling on what they have lost, rather than being satisfied and thankful for what they still have left. Believe me, I speak from experience.
When I was 19 and well on my way to fulfilling my life-long dream of becoming a surgeon, I walked into a convenience store which was in the process of being robbed. One of the thieves shot me in the back of my head, leaving me for dead. However, I fooled everyone. Sure, I have my disabilities and I used to constantly dwell on the many things I had lost, being negative, saying, “Before I was shot I was athletic, now I can barely walk (with a significant limp), my arm is very weak, I speak somewhat slowly, my voice is hoarse. Before I was shot I could do 500 things really well, after the shooting, I can do only 200 things well. For a long time, I was constantly dwelling on the 300 things I had lost.” However, eventually I began focusing on the 200 things I could still do. It wasn’t easy and it took me a long time, but refocusing one’s attitude is crucial – not merely for people shot in the head, not merely for people who are sick, but for everyone. Having a more positive attitude is vital and essential.
One of my friends had a stroke. I would always try to encourage him by trying to get him to refocus on the positive. It was not easy but it was slowly working and he was improving. He still had a long way to go but he was getting there. He was always asking, “How long did it take you to walk? I hope I will be able to walk again.”
I would say to him, “Everyone is different. Even though I have problems walking, my hopes and prayers are that one day you’ll be able to walk.” With that statement I limped out of the hospital room.
When I visited my friend the next week I immediately asked him to “tell me something good.” He started by saying he had walked 60 feet with a cane in therapy, but just then his doctor (whom I knew) came in and asked how he was doing.
“Fine,” replied my friend, “but I just want to be able to walk perfectly again – just like Mike.” I stood there, a little shocked, but I said to myself, “He’s just started on the road to recovery. He’s beginning to think positive.”
Another friend of mine once told me that he used to feel sorry when he would see people who needed walkers. However, I will never forget what he said after that: “I would give anything if my daughter (diagnosed with a possible brain tumor and currently needing a wheel chair) could progress to the point where she just needed a walker.” He prays for that; I pray for that; and many other people are praying for that.
Again, “Be thankful for what you have, and set your goals for higher things.” The world is full of many horrible things, as well as many wonderful things. Sometimes a person is constantly looking at the “horrible” things. However, my hopes are that they will be able to find the beauty in life. It’s there – if you look for it!