Gay 'n Gray
|by John D. Siegfried|
What do Elvis Presley, Michael Jordan, Dr. Seuss, Winston Churchill and Henry Ford have in common? That was the question Gavin Newsom, the mayor of San Francisco, asked in his commencement address to the graduates of San Francisco State University.
My first response was they all have a common chromosome. They are all male, therefore, they all have a Y chromosome. But I knew it had to be a trick question and my answer was too easy. Turns out what these gentlemen had in common was they were all failures.
Michael Jordan was kicked off his high school basketball team because he wasn't good enough. Churchill finished last in his class, and Henry Ford went bankrupt not once, not twice but three, four, five times. In peddling his manuscript for Green Eggs and Ham Dr. Seuss was rejected twenty-three times before a publisher finally decided, "What do I have to lose?" And Elvis Presley got an F in music.
While this may have been a sweet song to the ears of grads at the bottom of the class who had struggled to make it into a cap and gown, and sweeter still to those who hadn't made the academic cut at all, Newsom's pitch wasn't "Fail like these guys did and eventually you'll succeed." Rather, he was echoing Churchill who said that the secret of all success is moving from failure to failure with enthusiasm.
That's a concept all off us can benefit from, even those of us who haven't donned a cap and gown in decadesor ever for that matter. Particularly in a time of mortgage foreclosures and business failures, moving from failure to failure with enthusiasm is challenging advice.
Sadly, many people become paralyzed by the fear of failure and won't heed the old adage of "...try, try again." Roosevelt captured it beautifully at the start of World War II with his famous declaration, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." And fear of failure can be even more paralyzing than the actual failure. But moving from failure to failure with enthusiasm doesn't apply just to the young and the beautiful.
For those of us who are gay 'n gray, or gray sans gay, moving from failure to failure with enthusiasm requires a different kind of stamina. My mortgage is paid and my retirement secure but I still face failure. Ahead of me may be heart failure, kidney failure or my lungs may give out. How can you be enthusiastic about that?
You can'tbut one of the unexpected benefits of living in South Florida or in any retirement prevalent area is seeing people who actually do move from physical threat to physical threat, from failure to failure, with courage, if not enthusiasm. My friend Bob, who has a chronic lung disease is used to attended cocktail parties pulling a canister of oxygen behind him. Whenever I met him at such venues, we'd laugh at the question I posed with mock seriousness"Got a light?" Eventually he had lung surgery and the canister was no longer necessary. Then a few weeks ago I met him in a restaurant and the oxygen canister was back. But he's still smiling.
Another friend who, after cancer surgery, functions on one quarter of one kidney, is a member of the Front Runners, a gay running group in town. When I questioned him about the wisdom of running in view of his medical problems, he said, "Well, I can't really run, but I walk, and when I get tired I sit down. I do the best I can."My list of examples could go on. In an environment where men and women, gay and straight, move from one physical failure to another with courage, I'm grateful for all the systems I have that haven't failed. My response now to the standard greeting of "How are you?" is, "I got out of bed this morning. I'm fine, thank you. I'm fine."
John Siegfried, a former Rehoboth resident who now lives in Ft. Lauderdale, maintains strong ties to our community and can be reached at email@example.com.
LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth, Vol. 18, No. 089 July 11, 2008