Many are familiar with the Chinese parable about good and bad fortune. In summary, the folktale tells the story of a poor Chinese farmer who lost his horse. All his neighbors offered their condolences, “Oh, what bad luck”. The farmer simply said, “Maybe”. Shortly after, the horse returned with a herd of horses. The neighbors exclaimed, “Oh, what good fortune!” The farmer simply stated, “Maybe”. While his only son was riding one of the wild horses, he fell and broke his leg. The neighbors shook their heads, “Oh, what bad luck.” The farmer shrugged and replied, “Maybe”. Not long after, an army visited the village recruiting young men to be soldiers for the emperor. Only the farmer’s son was spared because he could not fight with a broken leg. The neighbors again called out, “Oh, what good luck!” The farmer countered, “Good fortune, bad fortune. Who knows?”
One time, when I was a teenager, my mother gave me $150 in cash to pay a bill for her. I stuffed the money in my jacket pocket and strolled to town. When I got there, I took a shortcut through the Hudson Bay Company store to gawk at some new arrival winter coats, which I could not afford but dreaming was free. About thirty minutes later, I arrived at my destination and reached into my pocket. Empty. My mouth went dry, and my heart started to feel as if I was running instead of standing still. I gulped and blurted to the clerk, “Uh… I’ll be back.”
I methodically retraced my steps all the way home and back again. Nothing. By this time, my breaths were coming in short bursts, and thoughts about running away seemed better than facing my stepfather’s wrath. $150 was a lot of money in those days.
I decided to go back to the Hudson Bay Company and painstakingly look under every rack. Nothing. The burn of bile filled my throat. What to do? At the last moment, I saw an office tucked in the store’s back corner. I knocked on the closed door.
An elderly man, whom I assumed to be the store manager or owner, came out, peering over his wire-rimmed glasses. “What can I do for you?”
I took a deep breath to try and regain control over my rushing emotions. “Did anyone return any money to you today?” I described the rolled-up bills, remembering the six twenty-dollar bills and the three tens.
He smiled. “Well, I have to say. You are one lucky lady.”
Sure enough. A kind woman had found the money under the coat rack and returned it to the office.
I wanted to break down and cry. “Thank you, thank you. You don’t know how much this means to me.”
My eyes shone when I paid that bill and for the next several days you might’ve thought I had just won the lottery. I never told my mother and to this day I return anything that I find, always thankful for such a valuable life lesson.
Recently, I’ve had several things missing the mark: a less-than-successful ad campaign for my book, a botched vacation, a costly car repair, a health issue, a list a mile long of things I need to do in anticipation of an unexpected turn of events.
Good fortune, bad fortune? Maybe. Who really knows?
Enjoy the passage of time!
© 2023. Sharon Kreider. All Rights Reserved