Bill Kirby

Online news editor for The Augusta Chronicle.

Kirby: We're at our best when we focus on the rest

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Life is a series of collisions with the future; it is not the sum of what we have been, but what we yearn to be.

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– Jose Ortega y Gasset

When they ask for prayer requests at church each Sunday, my friend Irvin Lamback takes advantage of his seniority to claim the last word before the heads are bowed.

Lamback, who was working for this newspaper before I was born, will conclude the congregation’s usual list of medical ailments with a consistent response: “It’s good to be alive!”

I think about this because people: you, me, co-workers, relatives, folks standing in line at the bank – are always asking, “How are you doing?”

It’s a common courtesy. We are asking each other’s well-being. We are being friendly. We are showing polite concern. We can’t help it.

We also can’t help answering: “Fine. And you?”

That is often a polite falsehood.

Allergies hold our sinuses captive. Our backs are sore. Our feet hurt. We navigate most days in general discomfort.

And then there are the other things that trouble us so.

Children. Parents. Pets. Neighbors.

Household headaches.

Every house is great when it’s new and pretty and nice for the next couple of years, but then you enter that state of almost perpetual repair.

In my computer I keep a list of future “projects” I think necessary around the house. There used to be 23. Twelve were accomplished. Six of those are needed again. More have been added.

Such worries come into play each day. They are burdens we carry in some invisible knapsack, unseen by others but weighing us down.

They also tempt us to respond rashly when someone asks, “How are you doing?”

More than once I have considered: “Well, I’ll tell you. The property tax assessment’s going up. The AC in the car’s messing up. And our little house dog is throwing up. We’re not sure why.

“My co-workers are whining. My friends are declining, the bill checks need signing.

“And I could just cry.”

But that would not be right, and it wouldn’t be accurate.

I could just have easily said, “My house is worth more than I paid for it. I have a car that runs. I have a little dog I dote on because he makes me happy.”

I could also add, “I’m apparently doing better than others at work. I’m in better health than my pals. And I have money to pay for what I need.”

Perspective is everything.

We are at our worst when we put ourselves first. But we are blessed when we focus on the rest.

So, “I’m fine. How are you?”

And it’s good to be alive.


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