Saturday, November 21, 2020

Overheard at Table 2: Michael J Fox

Heard an interview with Michael J Fox last Thursday on NPR.  He was discussing the loss of his trademark optimism.  He described the scene: it was a year or two ago, he has been living with Parkinsons for almost three decades, he had a tumor on his spine which was touching his spinal cord, and he had just had surgery to have the tumor removed, and he was in his apartment in New York and fell and shattered his arm.

He described how he was laying there, arm broken, and suddenly was angry with himself.  He had told everyone that he was ok, and was living on his own, and he had been walking too fast into the kitchen.  He said he fell because he had been too prideful and thought he could do things he could no longer do, and as he lay there, he thought about all the work that other people had put into his rehabilitation and his recovery, he thought about all the time that the physical therapists had put into him, how much effort all the doctors had put into his surgeries, how much emotional energy his friends and family had put into his life, and how easily all that work could be ruined just because he was walking faster than he should have been.

And I thought "how amazing!" How often do you ever hear of anyone acknowledging the work that other people have put into their lives?  Almost never... our cultural narrative is so completely filled with stories of people who kept trying and never gave up, who through sheer force of will made something of themselves, overcame obstacles, etc., and we rarely - if ever - hear anyone acknowledge that their success is the result of the effort and support of others.

That was just amazing.  It was beautiful.  And we all need to understand that we are not here just because of our own efforts: we are here because of the efforts of so many others, many more people than we will ever recognize or remember or even be aware of.

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