Has any parent not heard the words “no fair”? In any family, no two people can be treated exactly the same.
My parents were deliberate and intentional in treating their three children as equally and fairly as possible. From their own experiences, they knew that life can seem unfair, but they did their best to make our home as fair as possible.
In spite of their best efforts, I, my brother and my sister nonetheless wrongly perceived that someone else was getting a better deal at various times in the distorted mindscapes of childhood and adolescence.
We each had our unique talents, personalities and imperfections which made equality an impossibility. Then there was the inherent inequality of birth order.
As a physician, I recognize that medical misfortune is seldom fair. We steer our patients away from bad lifestyle choices, such as smoking, unhealthy eating, drug and alcohol abuse, promiscuity, reckless driving and excess stress. Though such behaviours definitely increase the odds of premature death and disease, even the best behaved get sick. No one deserves cancer. Accidents happen.
A husband and wife may follow the same high fat, high sugar diet, but one may develop heart disease and diabetes and the other may not. Good genes can sometimes protect you from a bad diet.
But genetics is another unfair lottery. You can’t choose your parents, and they couldn’t choose theirs. Neither can you choose which of your mom or dad’s favourable genes you inherit.
I have many patients who have hit the jackpot in inherited disease. One person may have multiple chronic diseases, including diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, asthma, kidney disease and arthritis.
A good part of my work is listening to my patients’ stories. I become engaged in their unique life stories. In response to misfortune, medical or social, some suffer lifelong anger, anxiety or depression. Others find ways to survive, endure and even thrive.
Both my parents found the good in their unfair beginnings. Both grew up in poverty. My father lost his father by age 5, but he worked his way to an education and a profession.
My mother lost both parents in her teens, but through the love and determination of all the siblings, they worked their way out of heartbreaking misfortune. The result was an inspiring history and a strengthened sense of family which have been passed on to two succeeding generations.
No one actually said that life was fair (at least not truthfully nor accurately). Life often is unfair, but we don’t have to leave it that way. We each can be better than fair. We can give more than we get.
My life is enriched by special people who do just that. My childhood friend, Steve is one; in exchanging favours, we each think that the other is giving too much and is getting the raw end of the deal. My sister, Lisa performs countless acts of thoughtfulness for others much as our mom did.
There are many others who bring warmth to a cold impersonal world. They offer smiles, kind words and greetings to the people they encounter each day. They do much more than their job descriptions.
Even when life is not perfect (It seldom is and seldom stays that way), appreciate the blessings you have. Count first those you love, then your talents and resources. Recognize that every gift in life is yours in trust. You can’t keep it forever, but you can share it today.
Rise above pettiness and fairness, and forgive someone who may not deserve to be forgiven. You may both be liberated. Show compassion to someone who needs it even if they may not have earned it. Inspire others who are overwhelmed by the unfairness of life.
A friend and colleague recently told me his secret to a meaningful life: leave everything better than when you found it. While others may leave a mess in a public washroom, he cleans up other people’s messes and leaves sinks sparkling.
Imagine what the world would be like if we all did more than our share and if we each gave more than we got. Life would be better than fair.