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  • Thank You

       September 25, 2004

    Ben Stein has a great piece entitled "Swimming to Arkansas" over at the American Spectator.

    Here I am swimming lazily back and forth, east to west, then west to east, in my wonderful swimming pool. The weather is perfect here in Beverly Hills, as it has been for weeks on end. Blue skies, temperature in the low eighties or high seventies, no humidity, slight breeze. It is marvelous. As I swim east to west, I look up at our house, which (to me) looks perfect. It's a 1929 Spanish style home with a balcony running along the second floor as it faces the pool. The roof is reddish tile and the palms tower above the roof.

    In the other direction, as I am swimming west to east, there are the jacarandas in our garden. For some reason, they do not have the gorgeous blue blossoms other people's jacarandas have, but they are leafy and a rich, lustrous green. Glorious. It is always a thrill to think this is my life. I could have died in a concentration camp. I could have been mass marched to death in the snows of Poland. I could have died in a beating by Romanian thugs instigated by the Nazis. Instead, I get to swim lazily back and forth in my pool on a glorious summer day.

    Would you like to know what the rhythm of my stroke is? You can guess. It's "Thank you, God, thank you God, thank you God." There is nothing I ever did to merit such a life.

    Ben Stein was born in Washington, DC in 1945. When he speaks of his gratitude for all that he has in his life, and notes that he could have met a fate a thousand times worse than his life is great, note he isn't speaking from personal experience.

    Wait, that's not quite what I meant to say--- let me try again. What I meant to say is, Mr. Stein, though he may feel a special connection to holocaust victims because of his faith, had no personal exposure to these atrocities, so his feelings of gratitude are particularly admirable.

    Was that it? No, I don't think that I captured it there, either. Let me try one more time - This is what I meant to say: Ben Stein knows that it could have been him. But it wasn't. Just like you should know that it could have been you. But it wasn't.

    Ben Stein is a very smart man.

    It doesn't matter what your faith is, what your sex is, or what your race is - You could have been "exterminated" in a WWII era death camp. You could have been sold into slavery. You could have denied basic human rights for a lifetime.

    You could have lived in that world, and You could have been that person. You could still be that person. You could one of the millions suffering in Africa or denied your basic human rights by the fanaticism of Muslim maniacs.

    But you weren't, and you're not.

    You know, I pay over $1000 per month for rent for a D.C. apartment that my Midwestern sensibilities tell me is worth maybe 1/10th of that. It is barely big enough to fit a bed, a couch, and a desk, let alone me. And it drives me crazy.

    I go to school full time, and when it's all said and done, I should be over $100,000 in debt. I worry about that a lot, and fear that the debt will force me to take jobs that I don't really want, simply because those jobs pay more than the jobs that I really do want. I hate to admit it, but it keeps me up at night.

    I don't understand how people do it - they excel at work, they have a strong family life, they maintain an active social life, they remain physically active, etc. I try to do half of those things and I have a hard time keeping up.

    Right now, I'm training to run a marathon. I've never run a marathon before, and I'm really behind on my training plan, which isn't good seeing as how the marathon is about a month away. But I promised that I'd do it, so I'm sticking with it. On a typical day, after work and school, I finally get home at about 10pm or so, and all I want to do is go to bed. But I force myself to get out on the road and run. Believe me, it is quite a feat, especially because I know that completing the run will leave me with a scant 5 hours of sleep.

    Filled with anxiety and impatience, I usually start off too fast in my run. I lose my breath, which is both good and bad - bad because that's no way to pace yourself, but good because it gets my mind off of my troubles and lets it wander.

    I run past the National Cathedral, and I'm reminded of my grandmother, a devout Russian Catholic who grew up in the "athiest" USSR, whose fate was to be kidnapped from her family by the Nazis in WWII, only to be forced to work in a German work camp. I run past the Lincoln Memorial, and I'm reminded of the millions of Blacks that were stolen from their home land and forced into slavery around the world, especially in America. I see the the Vietnam and Korean Memorials that contain the names and tributes to over 50,000 American soldiers who died fighting against communism, fighting to promote American Ideals. I see the the WWII memorial, a monument built to honor the the millions upon millions who died just a scant 60 years ago, fighting to defeat an idea that today's liberals think is ancient history.

    I think about my Grandfather who fought in WWII on a naval carrier in the great Pacific. I think of my other Grandfather, a Pollock who fought as a Pole, was defeated with the Poles, and was forced into German slave labor as a Pole. I think of my father, who was born in Europe, in the aftermath of the great war, and was lucky enough to make it to America with his family. As I run, and take all of this in, I know that he didn't have anything close to the opportunities that I have before me. He worked his entire short life so that his kids could have the opportunites that he never had.

    I take all of this in, and I finally settle into a rhythm.

    'Would you like to know what the rhythm of my stride is? You can guess. It's "Thank you, God, thank you God, thank you God." There is nothing I ever did to merit such a life.'

    Posted by jkhat at September 25, 2004 05:01 PM

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    #  March 7th, 2005 6:48 PM      Converted_Comment
    Converted comment: Posted by: joe at September 26, 2004 02:04 AM

    Beautiful and memorable post, Mr. Hat. Thanks.

    #  March 7th, 2005 6:48 PM      Converted_Comment
    Converted comment: Posted by: DagneyT at October 5, 2004 04:09 PM

    God Bless you in all of your endeavors. You will go far in life. Beautiful.




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