This might get mushy.
I’ve done a few risky things in my life, nothing too crazy. I never jumped out of a perfectly good plane or swam with sharks. I’ve had some near-death scares, but none like I had the other day. Even days later I’m still shook up, which is strange, unfamiliar territory for me.
To bring you up to speed, I was trying to cross State Route 154 on my bike by Los Olivos. There’s a near blind curve coming from the east, and cars are moving.
I saw two cars approaching, and on the right a motorhome some distance off. I pushed out onto the highway and for some reason decided to go after the first car.
The second car rushed past me inches away.
In the following blink, hundreds of thoughts flooded through my head. I had just missed being splattered across the highway and become another statistic.
In those milliseconds, I flashed that I never had a chance to say goodbye to my wife or family. That my wife would have had an empty bed that night. I would never see my grandson graduate from college. I’d miss Christmas.
We’ve heard it before how life flashes by in a blink of an eye, and I found out that is actually true. Just like that I suddenly had more clarity in my life, without the suffering or injuries so many people go through to discover the same thing.
Then I thought more about the broader perspective of life. We’ve all done this at one time or another about the stupid things that bother us. The silly stuff we get angry over. The annoyance of some jerk tailgating or cutting you off. Or the granddaddy of trouble makers, politics. You knew I would get around to it.
I asked myself, why do I put myself out there? When you break down all the unrest in America today and parse it out, I thought, “Does it really matter?”
Later I answered: yes and no.
America has been the land everyone wants to come to. The reasons are many, but the one on top of the list is freedom: freedom of speech, freedom of religion and freedom to protect yourself. We have also been called the land of opportunity. Anyone can virtually do anything if you put your mind to it and work hard.
My father emigrated at the age of 20 with only watch repair skills and unable to speak a lick of English. And he did it the right way.
He had a sponsor, a place to live and a job lined up. Using his sharp mind and taking risks, he went from repairing watches for $40 a week to owning three companies and providing jobs to more than 400 people.
There are thousands of those self-made success stories. Even the more modern ones like kids fiddling in their garages and creating Apple and Facebook or a garage band becoming a world sensation.
Politics does play a very critical role to maintain the integrity of how America came to be.
If we fall asleep and don’t pay attention, there are those who don’t like all the good things in America, which is why the rest of the world wants to live here. One side of the political equation has grown too powerful for their own good and is coercing a new agenda on America. You’ve heard the stories of spouses leaving because they don’t share the same political view or family members or long-time friends no longer speaking with each other. That’s pretty gloomy stuff, and that’s when politics has gone too far.
Had I died that day, my political views and opinions would have gone with me, and nothing would have changed as the world just keeps going around and round. I would have been reduced to 9-point type. “Look dear, so and so died. What do you want for dinner?”
With that realty hitting me harder than any time before, I still think it’s important for all of us to be able to express our views and opinions. To have conversations with others who don’t think the same and then finish lunch parting as friends. Very few of us, on either side, are likely ever to change our views, and that’s fine. It’s how we treat each that matters.
Hate can be as powerful as love. But love always wins out. Like the old Westerns, the guy in the white hat always defeats the guy in the black hat.
And finally, I love Christmas.
It isn’t the religious aspect or the story of Santa Claus. It’s the change that takes place in the air. People tend to be more friendly. It’s a time when we step up to volunteer for something or donate money to a charity. We feel better.
Yes, I know it’s also a time of stress for others, but for the most part it’s the season of joy.
I know this Christmas I’m going to be thinking about that brush with death and be very thankful for the time I have. I’m also going to give a big chunk of my heart to all those who are struggling, who have lost someone, especially the recent shootings of kids and the suffering those families are going through, to the sick and all those desperately trying to survive. It’s all we can do.
We need to care more and fight less. Merry Christmas.
The author lives in Solvang.