Small Wonders: People like you and me

Did you see it? Did you watch the world tumble hopelessly into the abyss last week?

When the greed and selfishness of your power brokers slammed headlong into the greed and selfishness of mine? When spoiled, selfish bureaucrats with better healthcare and retirement funds than you and I could ever dream about argued about what we, “the American People,” wanted; each side refusing to compromise in their quest to portray themselves as our guardians.

Did you see it?

Just when we thought the dust had settled, others chimed in telling the world that our credit was no longer good here; the same suits that not long ago told us something called a “mortgage-backed security” was AAA, good as gold, told us that America was not. 

So a bunch of people with bags of money cried “Sell!” and numbers on an index on a lighted board in a fancy building went lower. The world trembled with fear. Then others with vacation homes and savings accounts said “Buy!” Those numbers went up, and we all took one step back from the cliff we were about to throw ourselves from.

Then it happened again the next day.

Yet we are still here. Wondering, waiting, shaking. Bags packed and ready to panic when they tell us to.

It can be hard to find things to be upbeat about; week in and week out to shine a light on something good when all that we're given seems so bad. So very bad.

So I turned to the only place I know for answers.

Facebook.

I cried out into that virtual gathering place of “friends” looking for something hopeful, and the reply was instant.

Diana.

The beloved princess? The Roman goddess? No. The swimmer.

Did you see it? Behind all those other headlines, news alerts and fire drills?

At the age of 61, in the prime of her life and in better shape than ever, distance swimmer Diana Nyad set out to swim from Cuba to Florida, stopping briefly only to eat.

That’s 103 miles if you didn't know. I didn't. That's a long drive; it's an eternal swim.

“When I walk up on those shores of Florida, I want to prove to the AARP crowd that it's not too late to go back and write that book or adopt that child,” Diana said before diving in.

I think she underestimated the crowd. She proved something to more than early bird diners and bocce ball players.

But roughly halfway into her estimated 60-hour dip, she had to stop due to shoulder pain and asthma. I was about to say “unfortunately had to stop,” but I changed it. Because there's nothing unfortunate about it.

She may not have reached Florida, the physical goal. But she achieved the greater goal. She didn't lose. She won. She won the minute she jumped into the water and slowly moved away from land and into the deep, one stroke at a time.

But she's a professional athlete, I hear you saying. This is her life, this is what she does while the rest of us try to beat traffic to get to our desks so we can add more numbers to a spreadsheet from one payday to the next.

That's what I said to make myself feel better too. Because every time I hear about a Diana Nyad doing something superhuman to prove how super it is to be human, a part of me dies; that lazy part that wants to admit that only the bad news matters; that wants to admit that there really are no “small wonders” to report.

Her body may have failed her, but her spirit inspires us; we who say “someday…” and “if only…” It gives us permission to strive, to act on the smallest thing in life that gives us hope and meaning. At 16 or 61 or 101, that is the accomplishment.

Stopping before she reached her goal only proved she was human, like us. I have nothing in common with someone who can swim 103 miles. I have everything in common with someone who tries and falls short.

Don't be fooled. The sky is not falling. Keep our eyes on the stories that really matter, the ones about people, about you and me; the ones that uplift and inspire and remind us what it is to be human, to sink and swim, to struggle and prevail, to fail and still succeed.

Did you see that?

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