On the Porch

I was sitting on my porch the other day, enjoying another beautiful spring morning and thinking about the copious amount of projects and finals looming in the near future. I was considering all of the stress I would be under to complete my work, and how I would combat that stress by not studying whatsoever and turning in my projects at the last possible moment (preferably late and by e-mail). My thought is that if I don’t study, then there is less pressure to do well. Like my sagely Grandpa always said, “Low expectations equals less disappointment.” My Grandpa consistently proved this to be true by having four failed marriages and never holding a meaningful form of employment—I always wondered what the secret to his happiness was, and other than his addiction to whiskey I’m sure it had to be this wise worldview.

My thoughts were interrupted by a commotion in front of my house and, thinking that there must a stray cat rummaging through my trash, I leaned over to get a better look and possibly scream an obscenity or two. I instead saw a toothless woman digging through my recycling bin, which is a virtual treasure trove of cans. This woman must weigh about 57 pounds and be in her fifties. I noticed that she was whistling a jaunty tune as she went about her work, tossing cans into her well-worn shopping cart. It warmed my heart to see someone enjoying a beautiful day and taking pleasure in her adventurous choice of vocation. She looked up and saw me watching her busy work, and I noticed a momentary look of perplexity wash over her face. “Is this okay?” she asked. “It’s fine,” I replied with a smile. “It’s a fine day,” she said with a toothless grin, and then began whistling some tune from an era that even my knowledgeable brain did not recognize.

I leaned back in my chair and attempted to imagine the reality of the lady digging through my trash. Not the reality of my view of her, but her reality. What does the world look like through her eyes, and how does she cope with it? I wondered if I could whistle my favorite song and enjoy a beautiful day if my only means of moneymaking was to walk around a neighborhood and pick through trash for aluminum cans that might fetch me five cents apiece. This caused me to contemplate everything I should be grateful for and all those who have sacrificed so that I could be where I am, especially when considering the holiday we are celebrating this weekend.

For athletes, many have received scholarships to pay for school and many others have the support of loved ones who do everything in their power to help them achieve success. I was once an athlete on a full scholarship and there is no question that I took it for granted, right up to the point when it was taken away from me. It’s always a crushing blow when something you think will always be there suddenly disappears. Since the loss of my scholarship I have had the help and support of countless people, including the players and coaches associated with Mercer men’s basketball, to help me continue my education. I quickly realized that my loss meant nothing when compared to others around me. No matter how stressful my life is, I must always remember the sacrifices of those who have helped me and the hardships of those around me.

As I think about Easter, the traditions of which include a day of contemplative mourning and a day of unbridled celebration, I want to appreciate what has been given to me. It’s a weekend, regardless of what I believe religiously, which forces me to consider ultimate sacrifice. There are so many people who have sacrificed much so that I can be successful. There are countless others, in other countries and throughout history, who have done the same without even knowing who I am. I cannot begin to comprehend the ramifications of what has been done for me. Easter is also a weekend that causes me to appreciate second chances and the celebration of life. I’ve been given many second chances—in fact, I’m probably into my seventh and eighth chances in many areas. It’s amazing how easy it is for me to still become bitter and not appreciate the life that I have or the people I love. How can I complain? When I feel this way I shamefully need something to pull me back to the reality of my fortunate life, like a woman tossing cans into a shopping cart as she contentedly whistles her favorite tune.