Past, Present, and Future walk into a bar.
It was tense.
There’s no such thing as a self-made man (or woman), no, not even those of us who have a net worth of $10 billion (Mr. Trump) have made it without some help on the way.
It’s easy to think otherwise but travel is one remedy for that, especially travel to the developing world. Drive down any bumpy road and take a look at, for one, the kids, especially the girls, lugging some heavy water can or some firewood on head for some kilometres on the way back home because said home doesn’t have such things to cook even a plain breakfast.
No, there isn’t anyone on the planet who can say with any truth or honesty that it was their great wisdom and power that caused them to be born into their particular global geography or family or race or socio-economic lot, not any more than any one of us can take credit for any of the breathes we take in any given day, let alone in any lifetime.
It comes down to pride, the sort that is part of any human heart, the sort that would deny these things, that would deny The Helper even as they would deny the helpers he sends along the way.
I was reminded of it all earlier this week when doing some other travel, some time travel, when after a long absence, I visited with some friends – the family of my best boyhood friend — a family I’ve known since kindergarten, one that helped me in particular when I was a young man.
I had lived with them for a couple of short spells – for an entire month at one point – and if it wasn’t for this family, along with some other friends and extended family along the way, friends that helped during my so-called prodigal years, then my own story would be different if not poorer.
This is what I said to that family the other day, to Mrs. B in particular, standing in her living room in one of those moments. “You know,” I said, “It was 28 years ago when I lived with you guys for that month. I still remember it. It was January 1988. It was like yesterday.”
The next month I had my own place, again, and the month after, my first writing job.
(The job was at a farming publication. I wasn’t interested in it any more than my employer, after a short while, was interested in me. And the only reason I mention it is because when I was a boy and people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I apparently would say “A farmer and a father.”)
But I would be neither farmer nor even farming magazine writer for long, the latter (the loss of this job at the time) was a great worry, but this too all worked itself out.
Which is all to say that who, really, can make the wind, any more than they can take credit for making $10 billion? Yes, despite the cultural notion of the so-called self-made man, despite the expressed or hidden awe for such persons, some days (indeed most days) all we can do in reality is sit in our very small boat in a very big ocean and hold on while the wind howls with laughter.
In a few days I will be back in that living room of Mrs. B. This time I will have my wife and children with me. Despite faithfully keeping our family photo on her fridge, for one reason or another, Mrs. B. has never met any of them. Soon she will.
“Yes,” said My Bride when I mentioned the idea to her. “I’d like to meet this beautiful woman.”
There will be smiles and all that; maybe some stories (well, surely at least one or two about that boy, “Tommy.”) It will be a moment in time that, like any, will come and go. And I will feel like a billionaire, an un-self-made man if there ever was one.