Make It Count

old-couple-dancing

My wife sent me a text the other day that threw me for a loop. She never usually sends me messages during the day, because she doesn’t want to interrupt, especially if I am in front of students teaching. But on this day, she sent it-“the girl died.” “Whoa!” I responded immediately as I read the text.

One of her classmates was admitted to the hospital the night before. She suffered an aneurysm. When my wife first told me about her friend’s condition, I must admit that I was nervous for her. I had only met her once, at a Superbowl party earlier this year, but my thoughts were on her from the time I got the news.

Immediately, I began to ask myself. What could cause an aneurysm in such a young person? Stress? Diet? Who really knows? We usually think of that kind of medical condition in older folks. As soon as I was able to get some fresh air, I called my brother. He’s a physician’s administrative assistant at Boston Medical Center, and works in neurology. Funny enough, his floor had admitted three young people (all in their 20’s) earlier that week for the same issue, aneurysms, severe blooding on the brain. They were all college students. Maybe it was stress.

Nonetheless, as busy as I find myself, I always try to find time to decompress and exhale. Even if it’s just two minutes of prayer, meditation, a light jog or even a glass of wine. Most people are never the same after an aneurysm or stroke. My aunt, uncle and grandmother all suffered from strokes-they were never the same, left paralyzed and unable to do much for themselves. Their conditions were due to life-long issues with diet, stress, coupled with genetics. But as for this beautiful 27 year old, Columbia Business School student; she had her entire life ahead of her.

It makes you put things into perspective. Sometimes I find myself complaining over the littlest things. When in actuality, I need to be grateful- for the littlest things.

As Dr. King said in his I Have Been to the Mountain Top speech,  “Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place.” So if I do get a chance to live a long and full life, I’d like to look back and say that I did some remarkable things in my lifetime.

Check out this video of woman who has become my personal hero. Young or old, we all have an opportunity, each day, to do something special. Make each day count.

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‘Tis the Season?

tis the season

“‘Tis the season to be jolly,” yet politically correct. Do you remember a time, long, long ago, circa 1989, when you could actually say “Merry Christmas” in school? Do you remember when classrooms were decorated with Menorahs and images of St. Nicholas? If you went to school in the South, some campuses even displayed nativity scenes.

I chuckle to myself. I was even in the school chorus and we sang “Silent Night” to close out the annual holiday show. I was a mean soprano back then. Fast forward 20 some odd years later and there is hardly a trace of holiday spirit in schools. It’s a touchy subject. The First Amendment has risen from the ashes.

In my household, we didn’t celebrate Christmas like most of my friends or neighbors. We didn’t have a tree. Santa showed up maybe once or twice (I think my dad got a promotion one of those years). Each year, we celebrated the holiday by going to midnight mass as a family. Not a whole lot of fun for a 9 year old.

If my school didn’t take the time to provide gifts, most years I wouldn’t have received any material gifts. I am thankful for my health, family and friends. Though when I was 9 years old, I wish my parents could afford that Tyco electronic train set, along with every He-Man, Thunder Cat and G.I. Joe action figure ever created. Like most children in America, I didn’t ask for much.

When Santa didn’t deliver, I assumed he discriminated against Haitian people. That was how I coped with his unexplainable absence in my life.

Today, when I think about the holidays, I think about the people, the memories, the laughter and fellowship. Those gifts are priceless. But when you are in middle school and even many adults think that’s a crock of you know what. “You’re just being cheap!” So maybe I will spoil my kids with presents and expensive toys during the holidays, or maybe I’ll take them to midnight mass.