This past week I was phutzing around the house and saw something.
“What’s this?” I asked my wife.
I held it up in the light to see if it was real.
I felt the sharp edges, the texture. Wow.
In this day of high tech, I figured, maybe just maybe it could do something like talk or sing.
So I shook it back and forth. But no. It couldn’t do anything. Weird.
It made me feel as if I was back in 1984, standing at a pay phone, smelling like Drakkar Noir, sporting a pair of white Guess jeans pegged at the ankles.
Her friend Katie had taken the time to write us a letter, address an envelope, get a stamp, and walk to the mailbox to mail it.
Any of those actions might dissuade a human being in the year 2014, but not Katie. In some small yet truly profound way, she touched us, literally.
And then, not two hours later, while walking in NYC, I got sledgehammered by The Flu.
You know that feeling when you get knocked to your knees with nausea and exhaustion?
So I was bee-lining home and this lady tried to stop and ask, “Do you know where Allan Street is?!”
All I could say was, “I don’t feel good” and walked right past her, hoping to make it home before I ended up horizontal in somebody’s planter.
And the lady yelled at me, “SCREW YOU!”
It’s never a surprise to hear that in NYC. And maybe I deserved it.
But did she really have to say it?
In one morning, I felt the high note of kindness, and the low note of anger. As Sinatra famously sang, “You can’t know one without the ooooother!”
Contrast is life’s great equalizer.
Let’s be honest. When only good things happen, 9 out of 10 humans get greedy or lazy or lustful or gluttonous or all of the above.
Of course, when only bad things happen, 9 out of 10 humans get sick, angry, and defeated.
So we need contrast.
Mark Twain said, “Happiness ain’t a thing in itself; it’s only a contrast with something that ain’t pleasant.”
In other words, if you sat around all day and opened handwritten letters from Katie, ate cous cous, had private yoga massages, and got your toes painted purple, you might be relaxed, but you would NOT be happy.
Happy is the one who gets blitzed with a gnarley workday (it happens!), eats bad sushi for lunch (yuck!), finds out the bite on her leg was actually from a scorpion (hello Mister Exterminator)… and THEN returns home to read a handwritten letter, eat cous cous, get a private yoga massage, and her toes painted purple.
The richness of highs and lows, experienced with grace and courage.
That’s what Mark Twain meant by contrast.
Contrast is like cabbage, or vitamins, or whatever your mom made you eat as a kid. You took your dose, you didn’t like the taste, but in some deep and wonderful way, you trusted mom.
If you are having a typical Tuesday, or a tough time in life right now, or are in need of a little reminder as we all do sometimes…
… know that the handwritten letters, the pistachio ice cream, the one-minute hugs are storming toward you… ready for the rescue.
There’s no question about life’s inherent goodness… the question is always, always, always… WILL YOU KEEP YOUR HEART OPEN?