Recently I wrote about a remarkable set of circumstances I got caught up in when I was 23 years old. I wrote about being both unlucky and lucky enough to have been incarcerated for five months in a Greek prison during a military dictatorship. Today’s story is reworked from an article I wrote five years ago about my friend Danny who I met in jail. He taught me a lot of wonderful things about life!
2. Have you been lucky in life?
Danny was an exceptional American man I met in jail in Greece. He was a free wheeling guy from California and he loved to show us pictures of the beautiful French woman he had recently been living with. Everyone agreed he was lucky to have such a beautiful woman waiting for him on the outside.
“Lucky?” Danny would say. “I’ll have to remember that the next time I’m feeling down.”
After about a month in jail, Danny received a letter from a friend in the States. His friend wrote saying how unlucky Danny was to have been thrown in jail. Danny’s reply to his friend was, “Whether I’m lucky or unlucky is hard for me to know right now. But I’m sure I’ll have some great stories to tell about all this in the future!” Danny’s reply to us was, “Isn’t it interesting how I can be both lucky and unlucky at the same time.”
Danny was released after a couple of years and returned to the States not knowing what he would do next. He had a weakness for beautiful women and Harley Davidson motorcycles and spent his free time traveling the coastal roads of California, enjoying the scenery and hoping to meet the next “love of his life”. One Saturday afternoon he met a beautiful woman in a roadside cafe and was immediately caught up in the magic of the moment. Unbeknownst to Danny the woman had a boyfriend who belonged to a local motorcycle gang. The boyfriend soon appeared with his buddies and became furious when he saw Danny flirting with his lady. In order to make it clear that “nobody messes with my woman”, the boyfriend and his buddies overwhelmed Danny and threw him off the rocky 100 foot cliff alongside the road. They left him for dead and rode off.
An hour later a rescue crew arrived and made their way down the cliff to see if Danny was still alive. They were amazed to find he was still breathing! As they slowly hoisted Danny back up to the roadside numerous bystanders remarked on how lucky he was to still be alive.
In a few days time when he had regained consciousness, Danny discovered he was paralyzed from the waist down. I called him to see how he was doing. When I spoke to him on the phone he said, “What would you say Charlie? Lucky to be alive or unlucky to be paralyzed from the waist down?” I had no ready answer.
Many months later we met in person. By this time Danny had already customized his wheelchair to give it a bit of a Harley Davidson look, and he was sporting a buffed out physique from many recent hours of weight lifting. He said to me “I think people have way too much of a preoccupation with luck. If you believe you’re lucky I can guarantee you’ll eventually wind up feeling unlucky. Life is not a game of chance.” His words touched me deeply.
In my life I’ve had lots of ups and downs. It’s been like a roller coaster ride at times. What I’ve discovered along the way is that luck is not an important factor in one’s life. What IS important is how you respond to the circumstances life presents you with. I’ve chosen to believe that many wonderful relationships and opportunities are just now forming on the horizon of my life. It’s simply a decision I’ve made. Just like Danny, I’m not about to let ‘lucky’ or ‘unlucky’ determine the course of my life!