Updated: Sep 9, 2021
I hated those words when I was a child. My father used them directed at me and it seemed so harsh and uncaring. I am sure I was complaining about this or that not being fair. I was probably comparing myself to my siblings and something they had or were able to do that I was not. Life isn’t fair. Your right it is not. As I have learned as an adult the words "life isn't fair" my father uttered to me probably more times than I can count were not harsh and uncaring, they were the most caring of words because he was telling the truth and making me aware of how life is.
In the fifth grade I wanted to play in the NBA. Did I mention I am 5’8” tall? Life isn’t fair. When I was a teenager I wanted to play in the NFL. Did I mention I am 5’8” and did not run a 4.4? Life isn’t fair. Life isn’t fair and because of than I am immensely blessed. Life isn't fair and life can be hard but it really comes down to our perspective and what we are looking at to compare ourselves to. I get to train division one student athletes in a spacious weight room in air conditioning with large windows and natural light. I get to run them outside in the summer under the sun and stand on the sidelines with the best seat in the house for football games. It is easy to look around at fellow strength & conditioning coaches, sport coaches who make more money than I do or I can look at all the things my kids friends parents have (nicer vehicles, homes, vacations and trips) and say "life isn't fair". Or I can take a wider look at my station in life and see that "life isn't fair" and I am immensely blessed compared to most.
In the summer of 2020 I visited the Milford Mine Memorial Park in Crow Wing County, MN when visiting my parents. It is a memorial of a mine disaster in 1924 where 41 men lost their lives. Water from a near by lake flooded into the Milford mine on Feb. 5th 1924. Only seven men escaped death in the mine that day while 41 other families lost their husbands, fathers, sons and grandfathers. It struck me as we walked around the memorial on that sunny August day how harsh the working and living conditions must have been almost 100 years earlier, in northern Minnesota as a miner and without all the modern conveniences that I/we enjoy today. I cannot imagine working in an underground mine even today, but 100 years ago it must have been ten times tougher. Walking past the 41 individual plaques that each told a brief story about the life and death of these 41 souls I observed how many of these men were immigrants from Eastern Europe. I was struck by the fact that they believed that the opportunity here in the United States was better than their prospects at home. Crawling hundreds of feet below the ground and mining all day in miserable conditions was a better prospect than the opportunities they had in their home countries. I compared my life, my job, my worries, my complaints with theirs and I felt ashamed. What I worry and complain about would have been an unimaginable dream for these miners. I am blessed beyond measure.
Frank Hrvatin Jr.
One story is of a 16 year old survivor, Frank Hrvatin, Jr. He was credited with helping several others escape but could not help his own father. Interviewed many years later for a story about the disaster Frank Hrvatin Jr. got emotional remembering “I took my partner out of the mud… He was in mud up to his hips. That’s how fast the water came in. – but we made it. Less than 15 minutes. I knew I’d never see my dad no more. They were all dead.” When I was 16 I was playing football, basketball (yep NBA here I come) and baseball. I was going to school and still did not have a job other than a paper route. When my son was 16 his story is very similar to mine, not a care in the world compared to what Frank Hrvatin Jr. was doing.
When I experience things like this I am struck by two thoughts. 1. Enjoy today because tomorrow is guaranteed to no one. We never know when our time will come so we might as well not worry about trivial things and enjoy everyday. 2. It gives me a broader perspective on which to compare my experiences, complaints, cares and joys. It is easy for me to get tunnel vision and compare myself to other around me who have a bigger house, salary, work less hours or have more toys. When that is my only perspective it can cause a negative turn of emotions. If I broaden my perspective in the world and in time over human history I realize that I live better than Kings did millennia ago. When looking at average household income across the world I am in the top 1%. I do not feel rich when I look at others around me, but when I do not have such a narrow focus I realize I am blessed beyond measure in so many ways. My family, our home, financially and in working conditions I am spoiled. Truly my father was right “life isn’t fair” and I for one am glad it is not fair because I am blessed. My perspective truly is the key. If I keep a broad perspective I realize my concerns are not hard compared to many others. Life isn't fair, thank God because I am Blessed.