Give them enough of that, and they'll let you know the rest.
(This took me ten years to figure out, so I post it here on the hopes that I'll give some new parent a decent head start. )
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Over the Thanksgiving weekend our family took a short trip to the beach. The kids were getting restless, Jeanie and I were running out of amusements, and we all needed some fresh air.
We parked the car and walked 200 feet or so over the dunes to the ocean. After a few feet, one of our kids spotted a shell sitting on the path. "Look! A shell! Cool!" Everyone gathered around to see this unique and wonderful ornament of the beach. It was a bit dirty and cracked in half, but it was the first shell of the trip. The kids ran down the path, excited to see what else they would find.
As we approached the shore, they began to realize that the sand they were walking on was entirely covered in shells. Shells were literally everywhere.
As this realization dawned on them, guess what happened? The kids lost all interest in most of the shells. Oh, they spent 30 minutes or so combing the shore, but they passed over hundreds if not thousands of shells far prettier than the one they had discovered on the path. The only shells that attracted their attention were the ones that looked markedly different than the rest.
The episode stuck with me. Does it speak to our inability to see the precious right in front of us? Or how easily the novel becomes boring? Or how quickly we can take beauty for granted?
It probably speaks to all of those things. But I can't help but think that it is a quick lesson in strategy, too. Our organizations spend a great deal of time trying to keep up with everyone else, when most of the time imitation is the quickest way to blend into the beach. If you want to get picked up, you have to be willing to be different.
Well, I wasn’t going to go here. I guess I’m not sure I have anything to say. Or maybe, I was just bracing for what everyone else would say. I’ve written before about the 9/11 attacks, and those words are powerful and fierce for me, because I wrote them in the hours and days after everything went to hell. So maybe I should just leave it at that.
But here’s the thing. Today is my son’s fourth birthday. And I’m not going to say I didn’t think today about 9/11, because I did; and I’m not going to say that those thoughts didn’t make me sad for the loss, and angry about what happened, and vengeful for justice, and wistful for the spirit of commraderie we as Americans had in the aftermath, and confused about where that spirit seems to have gone. I wonder about all of those things, not just today but every day.
And yet, my biggest emotions throughout the day were gratitude for my son and wonderment at his amazing, joyful self. And the fact that I had those feelings today, and could enjoy them, means that at least for me the test results from 9/11 are starting to come in, and you know what? We passed. We frigging passed. We may not have scored 100%, but listen up America — good work, well taken. We took a graduate class in Hardship and we got most of the questions right. We have some things to brush up on for the next course but by and large, we passed.
Here’s to the fallen heroes and to the ones living among us now and every day, including you, and God willing, including me. Let’s make it all worth it. No use crying over what we got wrong, because it’s over. We passed exams and that means it’s on to the next class. If we can do this then the economy and the environment and education and everything else is a piece of cake. Bring it.
And finally, Danny: This one’s for you.