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Luck

The list of things about which I feel lucky is mighty long.  It starts with having been born when I was, where I was, to whom I was, in good health, with prospects, without prohibitions, and it goes on from there. If I think about it, I realize I can neither begin to itemize my many good fortunes nor find their end. I try to appreciate that fact, try to plumb the depths of appropriate gratitude. It’s a deep well. I doubt I really know how deep.

This week, I heard Robert Frank speak about his new book Success and Luck: The Myth of Meritocracy, in which he examines the rich’s reluctance to give luck any credit for their success, hurting us all. There is nothing really startling there — even he says so — but I see value in reminding people that their good fortune is amost certainly not all of their own doing. Sitting in the mostly white, presumably affluent, decidely middle-aged, predominantly male audience, I wondered if Frank’s research had shown any patterns about the kinds of luck to which different demographics are willing to give credit. I have my suspicions.

I think about luck — bad and good — each year on this date. The lawyer arriving late, a flight attendant subbing in, some strangers coalescing. Being in the right place, the wrong place, any place when the skies seemed to be falling in. Having someone to hold, losing your someone, being that someone. It came down to chance, to luck, or the awful lack thereof.

Lefty Gomez once famously said he’d rather be lucky than good. I guess he got it. Good fortune isn’t owed us, doesn’t reflect on our character, says nothing of our merit, may bear no relation to skill. It comes and goes, seems occasionally to play favorites, periodically takes a powder. It just is, and sometimes it isn’t, in ways that matter profoundly.

Today I am looking for all the good luck that is hiding in plain sight: the safe ride home, the perfectly ripened pear, the pleasure of good friends and a cooling breeze. I am grateful for luck, and try to hold gently in my heart those who have felt abandoned by it.

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