Monday, May 17, 2010

Lessons in Living

One of the things that I enjoy about flying is that I always meet interesting people. My trip to Las Vegas was no different. In fact, I had two seat mates that were anchoring both ends of the age spectrum and I was squarely in the middle.

From Chicago to Las Vegas, I was sitting beside David. He was an elderly man, 87. He remarkable in every respect. He was a WW2 verteran and retired just two years ago from his marketing firm which he sold to his daughter. His wife is still alive, but her range of activity is limited to a five mile area. He said that she often wishes that she would go to sleep and not wake up. I cautioned that she might be suffering from depression as she also has a chronic disease. He looked at me knowingly and said, "When you get to be a certain age, it is not an unusual desire."

I asked David why he was traveling to Las Vegas. "The Money Show," he answered. David was interested in learning about ETF's. In fact, David was interested in learning about a great many things. He was talking about the courses that he has taken from The Learning Company, and he had one in hand about how the brain worked.

Though physically frail, his mind was very alert and he clearly had much energy.This trip to Las Vegas was one of 90 that he had taken over the years. He had planned his trip carefully. He spent the night at a nearby hotel. He recounted how the couple next door made quite a bit of noise into the wee hours of the night, robbing him of some much needed sleep. He returned the favor by turning up his TV at 4 a.m.! He chuckled at his mischief.

He arranged for a wheel chair to take him to the arrival gate and had one waiting for him at the departure gate. I admired that this man still forged ahead, and I told him so. He then said something that I hope that I carry to my grave--it was something that he said to his wife:

You focus on all the things that you cannot do; I focus on all the things that I still can do.

If that isn't a mantra for living life fully, I don't know what is. I was flattered that he told me, "I thought this was going to be a boring flight--you are interesting." I hope that David enjoyed the Money Show.

Coming back, I sat beside a young woman just beginning her teaching career. She was young, effervescent and hopeful. I forgot her name already--though I'm quite sure that David would not have. But each of them book-ended a very pleasant trip where I had to the opportunity to meet on-line friends. It was also a reminder that our lives are not defined by what we accumulate in our lives, but who we accumulate into our lives and the strength of those relationships. It's a lesson that bears reinforcement, and my trip was a good means to solidify that life lesson.