I wake up early most mornings, even on days I don’t have to.
Those early morning minutes are the quietest time of my day. I don’t talk to anyone for a while. I’ve always said, “My voice wakes up last.”
But the other day, I got up early, pulled on jeans and my leather jacket, and headed straight to the car. I beat rush hour traffic heading north to the airport. That morning, I was going to share the early hours with about 25 Veterans as they prepared to board an Honor Flight to Washington DC.
Volunteers shuttled through security with special TSA passes just for the event. At the gate we spotted them – about 25 men (and they were all men) decked out in red windbreakers and baseball caps that specified their branch of service and the wars in which they served. Our job? Chat the guys up a bit. Make some small talk. Hear their stories.
I zeroed in on the World War II vets. For guys in their 90’s, this crew was in great shape. They talked openly about their service – in Europe, the Pacific, Panama, India, Burma, and Africa – and their lives since.
One vet made a remark that has stayed with me. “I was young,” he said. “I turned 19 in North Africa. I was lucky. I’ve been lucky all along.”
A childhood friend of mine sometimes posts on Facebook about her deep desire for success and good luck. She’s a writer, and believes that a stroke of luck is just what she needs to put wheels under her screenplay.
Mary Chapin Carpenter sang about luck when she “bought a pack of Camels, a burrito, and a Barqs.”
Ben Franklin weighed in with this: Diligence is the mother of good luck.
And I guess we all use the word, when it suits us. When I get a really good parking spot, like I did at the airport that early Thursday morning, I consider myself lucky. When the dress I was thinking about moved over to the sale rack, in my exact size, I considered it luck. I’ve never played the lottery much, but I guess winning might take a bit of luck too.
Mostly, though, I don’t put much stock in luck.
You can’t count on it, and I’m one to stick with the sure thing most of the time.
You can’t control it, and I really, truly, deeply like to be in control. Of course I know that I don’t control all the outcomes in my little neck of the woods, but I’m big on that “cause and effect” thing. You put a lot in…you get a lot out. That type of thing.
I believe in work a whole lot more than I believe in luck. I call myself a writer, but the pen has been still and the keys have been silent for a little while. That’s okay, any writer will tell you. It takes some noodling around sometimes to queue up the next piece. But it’s time to put words on paper once again. And while every piece won’t be perfect – every essay won’t hit the pages of the NYTimes, every story won’t be in the America’s Great collection, every poem won’t be read by Garrison Keillor – the fact of doing the work is what makes a writer. Show up. Do the work. Words to paper. Or screen, as it were. And if you do the work, maybe you’ll get lucky.
Last week, my friend and writing teacher Joyce spent many hours in a hospital waiting room while her husband underwent a scary and complex surgery. The outcome was chancy, but they had done all they could do and it was time to let a crack surgical team have their shot. By the end of that very long day, she received news that things had gone as well as could be expected; they’d have to wait and see. In the moment of hearing that news, Joyce may have felt a little lucky. I know she felt exhaustion. Fear. All the rest. But Joyce felt something else, too; She wrote that she felt the blessings that came from prayers of friends all over the world.
And I’ll say this.
On any given day, If someone will say a prayer with our name on it….or think a good thought, light a candle, raise a hand, bow their head, shoot some karma, or whatever they wish to call it….we are lucky indeed.
Post Script: If you are not aware of Honor Flight and would like to learn more, or even volunteer to support Honor Flight in your community, check out their website: honorflight.org.