Beating Bad News

Tuesday was not a good day for me. I was driving our Southeast Asian visitors to Portland when my vehicle’s transmission went out while stuck in a traffic jam south of Woodburn. I had planned to take our guests to Mount Hood and Multnomah Falls, but that plan had to be scrapped in favor of just getting folks to their hotel.

We spent some quality time at a car dealership service center that I was just able to reach with the remains of the car’s transmission. I found out yesterday that replacing the broken part would cost about $5,000, or an amount that exceeds what I paid for the car six months ago. I called a local repair shop to see if I was getting a reasonable estimate and was told they would probably charge more if they were willing to do the job at all.

The good news in the midst of the bad was that my son rode to our rescue and delivered us to the hotel on a beautiful, sunny day. We had a nice lunch in Portland and a good conversation about city management stuff on the way home. We also agreed that the Young Southeast Asian Leadership Initiative (YSEALI) is a great way for young professionals to get to know one another and gain an understanding that we generally have much more in common with people in distant places than we realize.

Today, I’m waiting for a call from another son who thinks he can get the car fixed for much less money than I would be charged at a conventional repair shop. He is a resourceful guy who everyone in our family relies on when something is broken. James even coordinated a family effort to replace the roof on my cousin’s house a few years ago. He’s fighting a battle against cancer right now but still manages to frequently be of help.

Bad news, challenges, frustrations, and ill fortune are an inescapable part of life. I have seen so many circumstances so much worse than my own that I often feel guilty about my tendency to complain when things don’t go my way. I am most grateful for the choice I have to look for the positive and good rather than to dwell on the unavoidable bad. Keeping a healthy perspective on life does not mean ignoring reality or surrendering to fate. I’m not sure what I’m going to do with my broken car, but I am sure I’m not going to let it keep me from finding ways to enjoy the many good things going on in my life.

My wife and I will be celebrating our 44th wedding anniversary next week, and I think that news trumps a broken transmission. We may spend a little less than we planned on the short, celebratory vacation, but I won’t let that get in the way of our annual reminder of the good decision I made nearly a half century ago.