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Disasters help us appreciate the easy things

In Children and Family, Opinion, psychology, Senior Lifestyle, Uncategorized on May 22, 2013 at 11:13 pm

Deer In Headlines

By Gery L. Deer

What’s your life like? Are you regularly faced with life-changing decisions? Is your life in danger with uncommon regularity? Fortunately, not many of us have to face such situations in our daily routines.

First response officers (police, fire, EMS), U.S. Secret Service agents and military personnel in war zones are probably some of the few groups of Americans who routinely face life-threatening events. For the rest of us, a visit to Walmart can put us into fight of flight mode.

A favorite author of mine once noted that when faced with a completely hopeless, potentially life-ending situation, one should consider how good life has been up to that point. On the other hand, if life hadn’t been so good, one should think about how lucky it is that it won’t be troubling you for much longer. The point is that usually, life’s situations are rarely as hopeless as we think.

Nearly two decades ago, on a beautiful summer day, on a quiet country road in the middle of nowhere, I was faced with just that kind of situation, but it all happened in the blink of an eye. While driving one of our farm trucks to pick up hay, a massive cement mixing truck struck my vehicle, head on, left front fender to left front fender, with unbelievable speed and force.

The power of the collision destroyed my truck and literally cut the front wheels and axle out from under me, burying the frame, nose first, into the asphalt below. A heartbeat later, I was sitting motionless in a shower of debris, dust and glass as the big Louisville Ford crashed to a halt in the hot sun.

Without sounding overly dramatic, had the other vehicle been six inches further to my right when it struck my truck, I’d have been killed instantly. There is much more to the story, but what stands out here is how different your life’s perspective is when you come that close to death. In fact, I actually remember bursting out in laughter.

My father had been in front of me, helplessly watching all of this unfold in his rear view mirrors. As we stood in the street surveying the wreckage, I busted out laughing and said, “My brother’s going to kill me.” After all, it was his truck and he hadn’t had it too long. Oh well, I thought, that’s life.

When faced with life-threatening events like the massive tornado in Oklahoma on May 20th, our perspectives change in an instant and what seemed important one second becomes the last thing on your mind a moment later. Maybe the lesson to take away from these events is about how much we value our day-to-day lives, or rather, how much we devalue them.

Every day without suffering, disease, pain or trauma is a gift. We should appreciate anytime we can just sit back, take a deep breath and think how calm and good life is at that moment. Most of us don’t do that, though.

In our country, we seem to be a little too preoccupied with what we don’t have to appreciate what we do. I remember times at family events when I literally stopped, sat there and looked around, and, like on a camera or video tape, tried to capture the image of family and friends laughing, smiling and being happy to be together, just in that instant. I have stored countless gigabytes of space in my head full of nothing but that – appreciation for the moment.

Admittedly, I don’t do it as much as I should and I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone else who does that. But when life’s hard, or you can’t seem to find the good in a moment, it’s nice to be able to close your eyes and go back to those times to give yourself a sense of peace and calm. It makes you appreciate every moment just a little more.


Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer from Jamestown, Ohio. More at http://www.gerydeer.com

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