A Lesson for Life
By Dennis Domrzalski
NOVEMBER 15, 1999: It is the most difficult lesson for us to learn and to accept: Life isn't fair.
Some people can eat a pound of bacon a day and live to an old age. But others who exercise daily and eat broccoli and carrots all day drop dead in their 30s.
You can walk by the same street corner year after year and see the same winos there, drinking their cheap wine day after day and somehow avoiding liver problems.
And then you can watch one of the nation's premier athletes, one of the greatest, sturdiest, most physically fit running backs in football history, Walter Payton, wither away with liver disease and die at age 45 of bile duct cancer.
Payton's death last week shocked and saddened more than just sports fanatics. People who had nothing to do with sports were moved by the man's death.
One reason was his age. We don't expect 45-year-olds to die. But the other reason, and the most important reason, is that Payton was a nice guy who treated his teammates and opponents with dignity and respect. This man was not a braggart. He was not a self-centered, egotistical jerk who believed that being able to run with a football made him superior to others. He was a perfectionist at his job, and he was humble.
Had Payton been a jerk his death would have been easier to take and to dismiss and to forget about. But he wasn't. He was a beautiful splash of humanity in an often brutal and inhumane world.
Now he's gone. A good man of 45 taken from his fans, friends and family.
Life isn't fair. The good die young. Jerks get ahead. Mediocrity prevails.
But don't cry for Walter Payton. In his life he had the courage, ambition and work ethic to succeed at what he did. Perhaps he knew deep down that life wasn't fair and that we must seize our opportunities to shine when they are before us. Maybe he worked so hard at becoming one of football's greatest running backs because he knew inside that you cannot put off life, time, disease or death.
So for those who care, use Payton's death as an inspiration. Know and accept -- finally -- that life is unfair and always will be. Know that tomorrow you or your friends or family could be gone or hit with some hideous disease.
Know that and understand it. And then go out and make something of your day and life. If you've got a jerk for a boss, stop whining and quit and find another, more pleasant job. Don't delay in writing that book, polishing those short stories, painting that painting, buying that farm, building that house, starting that business, opening that restaurant, starting that band.
Go out and try to do the things you dream about. Reach for those stars. Run for that goal line.
And if you reach your dreams, be happy and humble and savor the moment, because it could vanish at any time. And if you fall short of those dreams, keep chasing them. And all the while remember: Life isn't fair.
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