Fortune Cookies, Luck and Perspective

Adapted from a journal entry on December 30, 2010

I'm delayed in the Denver airport due to weather...not a surprising occurrence in the mile high city during winter.

I stand in line to order a meal at Panda Express. Balancing the computer bag on my shoulder, a guitar case in one hand and the styrofoam container in the other, I make my way to a seat and sit down to eat. The man next to me looks over and asks, “Is your flight delayed?” I reply that it is. He says, “Mine too.”

I smile and suggest, “Well, I guess maybe it’s time for us to take a little break in the Denver airport and eat.”

He turns to me and says, “Yes, I thought I’d take advantage of half-way healthy food...Where are you heading?”

“Tucson,” I replied.

“Wow, that’s where I’m headed too.”

We make small talk, sharing our knowledge about Tucson and eventually chatting about where we come from and what we do now.

As we finish eating, I notice I have two fortune cookies with my meal. I offer him the extra cookie. He accepts and jokes that I am now "responsible" for his "future luck."


We laugh and open our cookies. He asks me what mine says. I read aloud, “You often have more influence on people than you think.” I smile and ask him what his reads.

He looks surprised, glances down and recites “Wednesday is your lucky day.” Then, he hesitantly says, “Well, I guess it’s a day late since yesterday was Wednesday.”

I perk up and suggest, “Or, maybe next Wednesday is your lucky day. And if not that one, then the next one.”

A reflective grin falls across his face. “Oh...you’re an optimist! Well, this is actually quite interesting that I got this fortune. I used to believe that Wednesday was my unlucky day..." His voice trails off for a minute, and then he finishes."It’s the day that I broke my neck in a high school wrestling match.”

His eyes momentarily look far away.

I was sitting on the right side of him. I had noticed that as he talked to me, he would stiffly turn his whole upper body to look at me as we were conversing. Yet, I knew from his history that he was an athletic mountain bike racer. I finally had the full picture.

He looks at me again, but this time, very seriously. “I don’t believe that anymore. Actually, I’m very lucky. I’m lucky to have had the people who were there for me when it happened...I'm lucky that they took care of me the way they did. If they hadn't been there, or if something had changed about what happened...well...I would have been a quadriplegic.”

He went on to tell me about the time between that day that he broke his neck until now. He told me about his kids, his very full life in Arizona and Colorado, his adventures mountain biking, and his dream to live in a sailboat one day and sail up and down the West Coast.

As he spoke, I knew that he was very aware of his good fortune.

A decisive grin spreads across his face. He finishes the conversation in conviction, “I’m going to carry this fortune in my pocket to remind me.”

In hearing his words and feeling his presence, I am moved. I reflect about my "luck." My full life. The beautiful people that surround me. And my warm meal.

My heart fills with gratitude for my good fortune. And I am fully content - delayed in the mile high city airport, on December 30th, 2011, next to a man who shared his story of luck with me.

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