When I was a boy growing up, I believed good things only happened to good people, and bad things happened to bad people. When I became an adult I soon realized that bad things happen to good people, and good things can happen to bad people. Of course, the opposite can be true as well. But we’re left asking the proverbial question, “WHY?”
One could conclude, by watching the news or reading a newspaper, that the world is, objectively speaking, full of misery and misfortune. But I learned this past weekend, personally speaking, that when misfortune strikes there’s always a lesson to be learned. Often times we refuse to see the lesson because we’re so weighed down by the event and caught up in feeling miserable about it.
This past weekend the Riddington’s were ready to go on our very first camping trip as a family. Both my wife Catherine and I both grew up in families that camped, so we aren’t strangers to the wonderful world of tents, camp fires and canned food. But this past weekend, misfortune paid us a visit, and we paid its steep toll. But it left me with some insightful lessons.
The story began on Thursday evening.
My daughter called me at 10:00 pm (just as I was getting ready to leave the dojo) to inform me that they were just getting home. I asked, “why,” she replied, “the car broke down.” To which I replied, “how?” Kaiya said, “Mom will tell you when you get home.”
I arrived home, went upstairs to our bedroom, and asked Catherine what had happened.
My wife took a deep breath and dove in: “We’ve had a long day. My mom tripped and fell flat on her face, had to get stitches, and we’ve been helping Andy (my brother-in- law) move. After a full day of moving, we were driving home and the car stalled just before getting onto the Port Mann bridge. I called BCAA and they told me the wait would be between ninety minutes to four hours. So I called a cab and we left the car parked on the side of the road.”
We decided that after training several clients first thing the following morning, I would head home and drive her to where the car was parked. Then she’d call BCAA to tow it to the dealership.
The next morning we arrived to see that the car was still parked in the same spot. I pulled over to park behind Catherine’s car. In the middle of doing this, in my haste, I didn’t see where the meridian started and proceeded to drive over it. Once I realized that I immediately reversed the car. However, as a result of doing this, I cracked the side panel on the driver’s side. And, to make matters worse, it jammed the door shut. So now I couldn’t open the passenger side door. I sat for several minutes stewing in frustration about the car-repair bill I had just created, and what it would cost to fix the result of this boneheaded maneuver I had made.
BCAA informed us, since we were on the highway, that they would put a rush on the tow truck and arrive in 19 minutes. Eighty minutes later the tow truck arrived. Catherine had to climb out my side since her door no longer worked. She got in with the driver and off they went to the dealership.
I started to drive home. About 20 seconds later, I heard a loud clunking sound as if something weird was happening to the car. For a split second, I thought to myself maybe it was some kind of breakdown. My mind raced through a series of other things that might have happened Then it dawned on me!
I had left my phone on the roof of my car. and had driven away with it still on top. I had placed the phone there while getting out of the car to let my wife out, What I had heard was my phone falling off the car as I drove onto the Port Mann bridge.
To make matters worse, I needed to go to the washroom. I had been whining to my wife about this while we were waiting for BCAA to show up. As a solution, my caring wife had offered up an empty bottle for me to pee into. I had declined. To top it off, now, the car was running on empty. I should add that my phone also had my drivers license and credit card in it as well. So I was facing the arduous task of canceling the card and applying for a new license and credit card.
At this point the question, “WHY?” came flooding my mind. Do we pack it in and call it quits? Is this a sign that we aren’t meant to go camping? Do I go back and look for my phone, and if so, how does one search for a phone on a busy bridge with speeding traffic?
But I was determined and decided I’d hold on a bit longer and go for it. The first loop back over the bridge was unsuccessful, the second was as well, and so was the third. Finally, I decided to put my blinkers on, drive at twenty km/hour, and look one more time. My decision was met with a flurry of honks and hands displaying middle digits.
But I prevailed, and there on the Port Mann Bridge, on my fourth and final attempt, I saw my phone lying in the middle lane. I pulled over, dodged a few cars and grabbed the device. The phone was demolished, but in it were my cards.
I drove home and announced to my kids that Daddy’s phone no longer was.
*$1200 down the drain*
We ended up renting an SUV a few hours later. it came packaged with a $5000 bill for the repairs on the damaged car. Five hours later we made it to Manning Park, safe and sound, together as family, in a car packed so tight there was no space to move. But we did it, and we did it amidst all the misfortunes that happened along the way.
As I sat by the propane fire that night, I went over the events of the previous two days in my mind. What could I learn from all of this? Was there anything there for me to learn? Here’s what I took away from what had happened:
1. When times of misfortune or tragedy strike, we need to be sure that we stand for something. Otherwise, as the saying goes, “we’ll fall for anything.”
Whatever it is you stand for make sure that you live out your convictions. It’s not going to be easy at times, but it will allow you to decide what to fight for, and when to withdraw.
In my case, giving up and calling it quits (accepting that my phone was gone, my cards with it and that our trip was over before it began) was not an option. We can come up with all the excuses of why we shouldn’t do something, especially in the midst of adversity or tough times. Taking the path of least resistance doesn’t allow us to grow into who we are meant to become. Instead, if we take on the challenges thrown at us head on, overcome them, we will blossom into something more beautiful.
2. There’s always something good that can come from something bad. We might not know when, where, or how it will happen, but it will. There is, in fact, such a thing as “a silver lining.”
One of the most compelling challenges of my adult life was coming to an understanding that on the other side of tragedy or misfortune lies something good. As humans, we can’t come to truly appreciate the things we want/chase in our lives if we haven’t experienced the polar opposite. You can’t be happy if you haven’t experienced sadness, celebrate life without losing life, appreciate prosperity without being poor. The list goes on. My point is that all our accomplishments have come through some form of hardship. I’m not saying that we need to go out and create challenges, or things that cause us misery. Rather we should remember to embrace misfortune when it strikes because it strengthens us in ways we could never have imagined.
3. Don’t give up too quickly, because there could be something great just around the corner. “But if we hope for what we can’t see, then we wait for it with patience (Romans 8:25).”
Giving up is always the easiest option, and, sometimes, it might be the best option. But I’d wager that many people give up far too easily when things don’t go their way. As humans, we crave the easy, comfortable and familiar. Giving up, however, is not a way for us to learn how to better cope with the tough stuff which arises, and each time we’ll get a bit more resilient at handling life’s nasty curve balls. Success occurs after miles and miles of uncertainty, calamity, accompanied by an unwavering willingness to not quit. Sometimes the reward is just around the corner, and all it takes is that extra mile.
I’m glad to say that after a weekend of camping we made it home in one piece. We enjoyed the wondrous beauty of the B.C. mountains, swam in the glacier waters, canoed through several lakes, but most of all we did it together as a family. One of the greatest takeaways I’ve learned so far is that there are about 12 years to create experiences with my kids. Then they’ll be gone, off into the world to make their mark and carve out their own adventures. Life’s far too short to quit, because you’ll never know when it’s about to end, so if or when misfortune strikes, take it by the horns and learn from it.
Dedicated to your fitness,