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Sunday, November 11, 2012

Want vs. need (and the season of thanks)

  Although I haven't been participating in it, the "Today I'm thankful for..." posts that some of my facebook friends have been putting up every day have been heartening to me, amidst the myriads of complaints about politics and such.  Because really, I'm thankful for a lot, and I have it pretty darn good.  Us triathletes as a whole, well, we're pretty well-off, if demographic data tells us anything.  I don't know the exact data, but we make a bunch more than the general population.  Yes, we work hard at our day jobs, but we also have enough time and energy outside of them to devote to our love of the sport.  We can afford to ride fancy bikes, we swim in expensive wetsuits, we shell out several hundred dollars each year for shoes to run in and engineered sugar to eat.   And race entry and travel fees?  That's another story.  As a result of all of this, I celebrate when my bank account holds more than a paycheck in it at any given time.  

   Still, I consider myself very, very fortunate.  I have everything I need in life.  We live in a perfectly nice house, in a neighborhood where we can forget to put the garage door down at night and nothing happens (cough, last night, cough).  Our cars are 5 or 6 years old, but they get us to point A to point B reliably, and even if something happened, we could get them repaired without going into debt.  We have a couple of dogs that we can afford to take proper care of, and we never have to worry about coming up with money for our next meal.  We can go out to eat every now and then, and if I want to buy the berries in the grocery store even if they're not on sale, well, I buy them.  We both were able to get into college, get scholarships, and earn graduate degrees, which led to good careers.  Sure, I have loan payments, but I've able to make them religiously the past three years.  We had beautiful wedding a few years ago, and I wear a rock on my finger that's worth...a lot (Dave had to outbid his brothers, I kid you not)...around every day without thinking twice about it.  I have practically every piece of triathlon-related gear I could want, and I have the time and ability to put it to use.  I've worked hard in my life to get all of this; however, I was fortunate enough to be raised in a supportive, loving, stable household that provided all of my basic needs and supported my every move, allowing me to have nothing to worry about other than doing my best in school and sports.  I also was lucky enough to be born with natural intelligence (I know that sounds completely conceited, but let's face it, I was one of those freaks that would ace standardized tests with little preparation starting at a young age), and some athletic ability.

   Too many people don't have all that.  Whenever there's something I want (say, a disc wheel, or a bathroom remodel with a jacuzzi tub), but can't afford, I have to remind myself of this fact.  I never had to work during the school year (my parents actually wouldn't even allow it-my job was to focus on my academics), I never had to worry about crime in my neighborhood, I never had to watch unrest in my home, I never wondered why Santa brought everyone else what they wanted but not me, I never had anything but a well-rounded meal packed into my lunchbox or put on the table in front of me at night (even if I was an ungrateful little snob at times, whining about how long I had to wait for dinner or how much I hated steak.  I do still hate steak and think that my childhood would have been fine without it, but that's completely besides the point).  My house was never washed away by a hurricane.  

   So where am I going with all this?  Well, I'm thankful for a lot.  I'm thankful for my family and my friends.  I'm thankful for our jobs and our ability to have to the opportunity to participate in such a great sport with such great people.  I'm thankful to have been given this gift of triathlon talent, that's allowed me to rise to a level I never could have dreamed of several years ago.  I know there's thousands of others out there working their butts off who won't necessarily be able to get the results that I have, so I feel that it's my duty to make the most of what I've been given-just as it was always my duty to make the most of my brain throughout my school days.  Mostly, I'm thankful that my needs have always been met, so I can even think about my wants.  As the holiday season comes upon us, I hope that everyone can think of what they have and what they can give.  $20 to me might represent a meal out some week-a luxury I can certainly go without; $20 shoved into Salvation Army cans could make a difference in the life of someone else.  I remember seeing a mother and son coming up our street when I was loading my overly expensive bike onto the back of my car before heading up to Lake Placid in July.  They were picking through recycling bins, looking for anything they might be able to return.  When they reached our house, I told them to wait, and ran into the garage to grab the bag of returnables that we'd been accumulating.  It was a simple gesture on my part, something that cost me nothing (not shockingly, Dave and I are bad about remembering to take back bottles and cans), but the two of them were so intensely grateful that I couldn't help but get a lift myself, despite my feelings of guilt over the value of the gear I was loading into my car at the time.  What had I done in life that's allowed me to have so much, yet has given these two other fellow human beings so little?  How could they be so grateful to me, bless me when they were doing what they needed to to survive, while I was doing what I wanted to do?  It reaffirmed in me that there's some basic goodness in all people, and that we should spend less time judging, and more time giving and helping if we're so able.  So, I hope that all of us that have our needs met can keep this in mind.  Don't complain if something comes up that might take away from a want, because it's just that-a want.  If we get to the point of taking care of our wants, then we're the lucky ones.         

The hard lives of our dogs.  They're clearly onto their wants!

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