This I Believe

Lee - Modesto, California
Entered on December 18, 2006

At the beginning of my 8:00 a.m. class one Monday at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV), I cheerfully asked my students how their weekend had been. One young man said that his weekend had not been very pleasant. He’d had his wisdom teeth extracted. Then he asked me why I always seemed to be so cheerful.

I thought about this carefully before responding. “Every morning when you get up,” I replied at last, “you have a choice about how to approach life that day. I choose to be cheerful.

“Let me give you an example,” I continued. The other sixty students in the class ceased their chatter and began to listen to our conversation. “In addition to teaching here at UNLV, I also teach out at the community college in Henderson, about seventeen miles down the freeway from where I live. One day, a few weeks ago, I drove those seventeen miles to Henderson. I exited the freeway and turned onto College Drive. I only had to drive another quarter-mile down the road to the college. But, just then, my car died. I tried to start it again, but the engine wouldn’t turn over. So I put my flashers on, grabbed my books, and marched down the road to the college.

“As soon as I got there, I called AAA and asked them to send a tow truck. The secretary in the Provost’s office asked me what had happened. ‘This is my lucky day,’ I replied, smiling.

“‘Your car breaks down and today is your lucky day?’ She was puzzled. ‘What do you mean?’

“‘I live seventeen miles from here.’ I replied. ‘My car could have broken down anywhere along the freeway. It didn’t. Instead, it broke down in the perfect place: off the freeway, within walking distance of here. I’m still able to teach my class, and I’ve been able to arrange for the tow truck to meet me after class. If my car was meant to break down today, it couldn’t have been arranged in a more convenient fashion.’

“The secretary’s eyes opened wide, and then she smiled. I smiled back and headed for class.”

So ended my story to the students in my economics class at UNLV.

I scanned the sixty faces in the lecture hall. Despite the early hour, no one seemed to be asleep. Somehow, my story had touched them. Or maybe it wasn’t the story at all. In fact, it had all started with a student’s observation that I was cheerful.

A wise man once said, “Who you are speaks louder to me than anything you can say.” I suppose it must be so.