There is that one moment in life that changes everything: the end of a long marriage, the death of a loved one, the onset of a debilitating disease, the loss of a career, or some other tragedy. What we do next will define who we are and how we will live. Please know that we are not making light of the pain of the event, nor denying that grieving in any of those circumstances is the normal, healthy response. We all are broken, but there comes a point at which we move forward and that direction is key. One way is to focus on the tragedy and all that was lost. The other is to focus and all the blessings we still have. The danger in the first is that over time we become bitter, resentful, and angry. The wonder of the second is that we are more understanding, forgiving, and loving towards others.
Each of these is a way of life. Right now each one of us can make a list of difficulties and blessings in our lives. Upon which will we focus? Being thankful and expressing gratitude transforms the way we interact with the world. Hamlet tells his friends, “there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” The Chinese Taoist story The Horse that Ran Away, told by storynory.com, illustrates that point:
A man called Sei Weng owned a single horse – but what a horse! She was a brown mare with a lucky white start on her forehead. Her eyes were bright and shone with understanding. In the morning, she was frisky, and liked to toss her head, and snort through her nostrils. But when she was saddled up, she was so gentle and obedient that a child could ride her with ease.
Naturally, Sei Weng was very proud of his horse and she was by far his most valuable and prized possession. Then one morning, when he came out of his house, he found that she was no longer tethered to the tree where he had left her. The rope was broken, and she was gone. Sei Weng scratched his head and wondered what had happened. Perhaps she had been stolen. Or perhaps she had run away.
Later that day he went to the market on foot.
“Is your horse lame?” Asked the women who sold vegetables.
“No,” said Sei Weng. “When I woke up this morning, I found that she had disappeared.”
But he did not seem upset. In fact he wore the same calm expression of tranquility and acceptance as usual. The word soon got around that he had suffered a great misfortune.
“He is putting on a brave face,” said his neighbors to one another, “for he must be very grieved by his loss.”
The blacksmith said to Sei Weng, “You are doing well to smile, but we know that your heart is heavy, for this is the greatest piece of bad luck that could have befallen you.”
And Sei Weng replied, “Who can say that this was misfortune? For no one can tell how events will turn out.”
In fact, events proved him right. A month or so passed, and one morning when Sei Weng opened his door, he saw that his mare had returned and was standing beneath the tree where he had left her. When she spotted her master, she picked up her head and walked briskly towards him. She was not alone, for she had been joined by a brilliant white stallion.
Now the villagers were envious of Sei Weng, for he was the owner of not one, but two magnificent horses. The blacksmith gave him his heartfelt congratulations.
“There we all were feeling sorry for you, and it turns out that you are the luckiest man alive!”
Sei Weng shrugged his shoulders and replied, “Who can say what is good or bad fortune?”
The stallion was wild and needed to be broken in. Sei Weng was too old for that sort of work, but his son was eager to try and ride the new horse. He saddled up the stallion, climbed up on his back, but the horse was spirited and did not care to be ridden. He danced and arched his back, and Sei Weng’s son could not hold on for long. He was thrown to the ground, but his leg was caught in the stirrup and he broke it in two places.
Reports of the accident soon spread around the village and soon Sei Weng’s neighbors came to commiserate with him on this unfortunate turn of events. But Sei Weng smiled and simply said, “Who can say what is good or bad fortune?”
And sure enough, only two weeks later, the worst sort of news arrived in the village – war had broken out. All the parents were alarmed and cried out in fear for their sons’ lives, for they would have to go and fight. Soon after, the recruitment sergeant came to the village and all the young men had to leave for the army – all, that is, except for Sei Weng’s son, for his leg would take a long time to heal, and he could not yet walk. Now Sei Weng was truly the envy of the village; what magnificent good luck he had enjoyed, for his son would live to look after him in his old age.
As you can imagine, all he would comment was, “Who can say what is good or bad fortune?”
That is the story of The Horse that Ran Away. We cannot always know when something is good or bad, but we can always be grateful and gracious.
This Thanksgiving may you enjoy a premium hand-made cigar from Tabanero and reflect upon all the blessings and not allow circumstances to take peace and love from you.