Cheesecake and a side of perspective

Tina Haapala |

During a recent business trip, I found myself in the lobby of the hotel at 9 o’clock in the morning eating a piece of cheesecake. This is not a normal morning routine for me. But that morning I needed a walk, away from my suddenly smothering hotel room. Then I saw the cheesecake.

Earlier that morning, things had started out normal. I sat down to read the paper, and two stories jumped out at me. In the first, I learned that 19 Arizona firefighters lost their lives fighting a wildfire. In the other, I learned that at a Cirque de Soleil show in Vegas, a gymnast fell to her death in front of the crowd. I’d spent many hours training with firefighters in a past career. I had seen the same gymnast perform just last year. 

My heart ached.

And so, I sat there eating my cheesecake. It helped in a way.  E-mails began arriving on my iPhone, and with it my own brand of trouble. Did that trade go through? Did the distribution go out to the client? Has the handywoman started work on the den floor? All the while, family, friends, and colleagues of those 20 souls were going through agony and grief.

I felt a bit guilty. Yes, I know that life must go on. Besides the cheesecake, there was nothing for me to do but pray. Yet, allowing my life to be “normal” that morning just didn’t seem right. So I made myself a promise. You know, the kind that usually slips away with time. I hope mine doesn’t.

When I find that I have to have my den floor jack-hammered to replace a drain pipe, I hope that instead of feeling sorry for myself, I remember that many people in the world do not have a sanitary way to remove waste, nor do they have running water.

When I get a call saying that my tree was hit by lightning and took out the power lines in my neighborhood as it fell, I hope that instead of feeling sorry for myself, I remember the hundreds of people who lost their homes to wildfire and tornadoes.

When I’m in the office on a weekend missing an event I wanted to go to, I hope that instead of feeling sorry for myself, I remember the millions of people who are out of work, or the firefighters who died to protect their neighbors, or the gymnast who died entertaining folks like me.

It's like the old proverb: I cried when I had no shoes, until I met a man with no feet.

No matter who you are, if you are reading this, you are incredibly blessed. You can read, you have a free press, you can afford this paper. Those three things alone have been, relative to human history, only available to the masses for a short time. Still, in much of the world, millions of people cannot yet enjoy those three simple luxuries.

The problem is, people who are incredibly blessed surround us. This makes it easy to take our situation for granted. So, instead of worrying about money today, grab a chair (and maybe a cheesecake), look around, and marvel at what you have.

This article was published under the title "A little reminder of true wealth" in the Wichita Falls Times Record Newson  August 25, 2013.