good life by mark shields
Part of cultivating a good life is to have gratitude for the gifts we are given.
There are many, many secrets to cultivating a good life. There’s so much I could say from what I have learned that it is hard to pick just one aspect. So, I’ll give it a try anyway and talk about gratitude.
Let me start with an example of ingratitude as a baseline. Most people have either read the book or seen the Harry Potter movie when Harry’s spoiled cousin Dudley throws a tantrum at his birthday party. The reason for the tantrum? Poor Dudley only had 36 presents to unwrap this year. Last year, he had 37. Poor, miserable, abundantly blessed Dudley.
Well, I don’t want to be like him. He is, of course, an exaggerated example of ingratitude, but I think we are not too far behind in this day and age where we have more luxuries and more blessings than any other time in history, particularly in this great nation of ours.
A few years ago, I was diagnosed with late stage cancer. All of my friends were gracious and supportive because they are very good people. But a few of them shook their heads and asked, “Why would something bad like this happen to a good person?” Here is where the proverbial rubber hits the road of gratitude. Life is a gift. We have to be grateful for every last minute of it. If we are grateful, we will be happy. We will recognize the beauty of the gift that God has given each of us, His children. You don’t complain if your gift isn’t wrapped up as prettily as Nicole Kidman’s or Tom Selleck’s. You don’t complain if the wheels or paint starts to come off of your gift after 40 years or so. Why? Because you recognize it as a gift, and you’re thankful for every day you got to enjoy the gift. Otherwise, you are just like Dudley. And nobody wants to be like Dudley. Be grateful for every gift you have been given, and you will discover what a rich life you have been blessed with.
A few weeks ago, I was blessed to run the Boston Marathon. My gratitude for that adventure will carry me for a long time to come. The weather was, well, terrible. It rained for probably 23 of the 26 miles. There was a headwind the whole way, which I’m told varied between 18 and 35 miles per hour. Joy. With temperatures in the low 40s, it was not an easy experience, if marathons ever could be an easy experience. But all that just added to the experience. You see, you can only get to the Boston Marathon by placing somewhere in the top ten or fifteen percent of marathon runners of your same gender and age group. (That’s an estimation, so please don’t hold me to it.) I didn’t see anyone there complaining about the weather, as terrible as it was, because it was such an honor – such a gift – just to be there running the greatest race on earth. Yet again, you don’t complain about it being cold, wet, and windy when you’re living the gift.
I just learned that my cancer is back. It’s too soon. But I am in no position to complain. I’m living the gift.
Note from Becky
Cancer is something that hits close to home for me. Many of you know that cancer is what took my brother Jonathan’s life. My dad is a cancer survivor and another one of my brothers, Kevin, is a survivor twice over. I am deeply moved by Mark’s message and it completely resonates with my own personal beliefs. One of the beautiful things about the way our Good Life series has evolved, is that it’s no longer just my personal friends. Between all of us on the BH team, we are well-connected with countless incredible individuals who inspire us to be better. Mark is a friend to Toni Chase and this is what she has to say:
“Where do I begin with this dear friend of mine? Although we went to grade school and high school together, we didn’t really get to know each other until he friended me on Facebook several years ago. Since then, we have become the best of friends. Mark is married to the sweetest wife, Cami, and is the father to five gorgeous daughters. He is a full-time lawyer and serves endlessly at church. He has written several church-related books and is a total smarty pants. He also has a wicked sense of humor. When he was first diagnosed with cancer, I was crushed, but the way that he has dealt with his cancer is so inspiring. Running has been his therapy of sorts. Running his first marathon gave him the confidence to know that he could face any challenge that was thrown his way. You can read Mark’s own words on this here. When he qualified for the Boston Marathon, I was the proudest friend their ever was. And thanks to modern technology, I was able to see Mark cross the finish line via the internet and I cried an ugly cry. He did it. With cancer. This photo of him is my favorite, and his shirt reads, ‘This is what a cancer survivor looks like.’ Even though Mark’s most recent tests showed that the cancer is back, I know he will continue to fight with all he has. And I will be there cheering him on every step of the way.”