I was thirteen; my cousin Luke was one-and-a-half. It was my first time babysitting; and somehow, I didn’t expect him to act his age. Within ten minutes of my aunt’s departure, Luke had jumped into the fireplace and had consumed approximately two tablespoons of ash. I grabbed him from the fireplace and spent the next fifteen minutes fishing ash out of his mouth. While I was ensuring that my cousin could breathe, I began to consider luck. Though Luke was not trying to kill himself, in ten minutes he had come far too close. “How is he still alive?” I said jokingly to my mother hours later. Then I started to think more seriously about luck and about how straight fortune determines so much in our lives.
I believe in luck. Not just luck in life, but the luck of life. Every person of the approximately 6.5 billion alive has beaten innumerable odds. Everyone who has been given a hope, a chance at life is lucky. Random, uncontrollable events have and will continue to dictate the lives of others, just as these same events have saved mine.
Last July, I was gazing out the window of our 14th floor hotel room. The panorama view of Buenos Aires was gorgeous, but staring down the same streets, at the same buildings grew dull quickly. Unfortunately, my grandmother and I had hours of free time before dinner. Looking for ways to fill the empty hours, we decided to visit the hotel pool on the second floor. We got into the elevator and rode down twelve stories only to find the pool was closed for the winter. Disappointed, once again we headed into the elevator, prepared to spend another boring hour in our room. I pushed the button for floor fourteen, but when I glanced down I found the ground floor button was already illuminated. I had accidentally pressed the wrong button.
About two feet before we would have reached the ground floor, the elevator dropped. If we hadn’t pressed the wrong button, if we had gone to the correct floor, we would have fallen five stories. We both could have died. I looked at my grandmother as her face grew paler with fear. I waited, waited for the shock to die down and a surge of fear to overtake me as well. But fear never came. Life is short, unpredictable, and at times unfair. Luck gave me life, and just as easily, luck could have taken it from me. As we waited in the broken hotel elevator, I realized how lucky I am just to be alive.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.