"Look around, look around. How lucky we are to be alive right now..."
from 'Hamilton', by Lin-Manuel Miranda
After two months of listening non-stop to the 'Hamilton' soundtrack, we celebrated my 60th birthday by going to the show in Chicago.
Some experiences do live up to the hype. 'Hamilton' is one of them.
The following week, the wife of a dear colleague passed away after a long illness. When I read her obituary I saw something that stopped me in my tracks.
She and I were born exactly one day apart.
I spent my 60th birthday at 'Hamilton', followed by a weekend of family fun. She spent hers- if she was even aware of it- preparing to leave this world.
Suddenly, one of my favorite lines from 'Hamilton' would not stop playing in my head. 'Look around, look around. How lucky we are to be alive right now.'
Every year delivers more reminders of the role that luck plays in life. I bristle when I hear the self-congratulatory cliche, 'The harder I work, the luckier I get'. If nothing else, getting older should knock that smugness out of us. While it's true that hard work will take a person far, we cannot brush aside a thousand categories of luck at play.
Luck in the time and country we are born in. Luck in the family we are born into and the abilities we are born with. Luck in the people that cross our path, in who opens a door for us at the right moment. Luck in friendship and in love, in childbearing, in raising a family. Luck in resilience to withstand life's relentless punches. And the enormous luck of mental and physical health that enables birthdays to stack up, one after another.
Then there's the luck of the ordinary day. So much misfortune is due to simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The psalmist could not have anticipated the plague of distracted drivers, but these words from Psalm 121 are as relevent as the day he wrote them:
יְהֹוָה יִשְׁמָר צֵאתְךָ וּבוֹאֶךָ מֵעַתָּה וְעַד עוֹלָם
The Lord will guard your going out and coming in for eternity.
So yes, I'm thinking about the tremendous luck of making it from one birthday to the next. Of how grateful I am to be living this life.
The second standout lesson from 'Hamilton' is an idea meant to bookend the first--gratitude for our good fortune is more than a feeling, it's a behavior. Yes, we are lucky to be alive right now, but what do we do with that time?
"When my time is up, have I done enough?"
Morbid? No way. I love this life-affirming question! I love it's implication: Let's use what we've got. Use every last bit. Use our talents. Work our hands. Give of our time. Lighten the load for someone else. A lifetime of kind acts will leave their mark.
So sixty? I'll take it, all of it, even the crow's feet and laugh lines. Especially the laugh lines. How lucky, lucky, lucky I am to be alive right now.