May 25, 2005

Life: The Zero-Sum Game

Oh, but what a game it is, eh?

IMO, life must be a zero sum game. You're born at the beginning and dead at the end. As far as I can tell, that makes it a zero-sum game. What is the point of life then? Simple: Make the world a better place when you die than it was when you were born.

For me, that means raising a kid who'll grow up to be a decent human being, and possibly change the world in a positive way. Extending a hand when it's needed to my fellow man. Make a positive mark in the world beyond a headstone.

It would be nice to win the lottery (I think). It would be nice to run a multi-million dollar company (I think). It would be nice to live in a palatial mansion on 70 acres in La Jolla, California (I think). None of it is necessary.

It IS nice to have a loving wife, a brilliant kid, a stable home (rented), food on the table when I need it, a decent job and a positive outlook on life. That is all I really want or need.

Last night, while driving to pick up dinner, I witnessed an accident right in front of me. It was pretty brutal, a Ford Expedition vs. Honda Accord. The Accord was struck just behind the passenger-side door, and spun around a couple of times before coming to rest against a curb. So I stopped to help. I have first-aid gear in my car.

When I approached the Ford (another bystander was attending to the Accord, which was closer to them), it was obvious that the driver (a 30-something woman) was concious, aware and not crtically injured, so I went to the back, where I could see two children. I opened the door and said "Hi! Is everyone okay? My name is Ernie, and I'll help you if I can." The two kids were a 6-yr old boy and a 9-yr old girl. Luckily, nobody was seriously hurt, and everyone was wearing their seatbelts. Police arrived, EMS arrived, statements were taken etc, and I went on my way. Why am I telling you all of this? It's because of what happened in the middle of it all.

The mother of these two children, while I was inspecting them, calming them down and generally making sure of their well-being, stopped and said "Thank you so much for stopping to help." She was under the impression that I might have driven away, not knowing if they were okay, not knowing if I could have helped. That just stopped me dead. I can't imagine living my life that way. Do you?

These are the things that make me happy. I got nothing out of stopping and helping except the feeling that I might have made a difference to this Mom and her two very scared children. I like doing that, and I'll continue to do that because that's what makes life worth living.

But I'll still play the lottery.