Posted by: deadmousediaries | March 14, 2011

The Best Bad Luck – some gratitude attitude from Mitchell Kyd

After putting  all this distance between me and the rat race in recent months,  I had forgotten there is a 6:30 in the a.m., too. Whose idea is it to hold meetings at 7:30 on a Monday morning??? When I woke up in the dark after unbridled celebration of Spring Forward, I paused for just a moment to grouse about another cold, March day that requires fueling my furnace with  liquid-gold and propels my electric meter into warp speed.

Then it hit me; everything in my house was working. Cat fuzz floated joyously across the hardwoods because the furnace was creating air currents. The toilet bowl continued to swirl hypnotically until I jiggled the handle because clean water was flowing out of our plumbing.  And more importantly, when I woke up, my stone house with the leaky spouting was still standing where I had left it parked at bedtime.

It’s easy to take those things for granted– until you see worldwide news clips. I paused for a moment to appreciate the best bad luck that comes my way.

One of my writing assignments in the middle of my career was to cover the flooding of a small Pennsylvania town. Three people had been swept away when the creek went wild down the mountain and crashed through the community.  Three people had been lost, not 10,000.  A few homes had been destroyed and a few more had been moved off their foundations. I remember the look and the smell of that neighborhood  as people there shoveled and bulldozed and tried to make sense of their losses. It was a major disaster on a miniature scale, Godzilla on a rampage across Lilliput.

With Japan half a world away, it’s hard for us to assimilate that kind of destruction as reality as we sit in a place where our own leaking roof or wet basement constitutes a personal disaster.  We take in an eight-second sound bite before flipping the channels. It’s just too overwhelming.

“If I look at the mass, I will never act,” said Mother Theresa. ” If I look at the one, I will.”‘

Sociologists have observed interesting behaviors in times of crisis.  Although we can often see ways to help “the one”, the plight of many makes us feel powerless.  We become numb to needy masses and we act – or rather, don’t act –accordingly.

We also have a problem helping “the one” at times, it seems. A  phenomenon called the “bystander effect”  documents that it’s less likely for individuals to offer any means of help in an emergency situation when many others are present as well. Bystanders often fail to aid a victim of violent crime by calling police, for example, because they believe someone else has already reported it.

But the behavioral news is not all bad. An initiative called couchsurfing is emerging as an innovative way to help “the one”; it represents tradition with a twist.  Originally promoted as a return to ancient practices of providing hospitality for travelers, is a web-based, global, non-profit.  It’s core service is designed to help travelers find free accommodations worldwide –if they are willing to sleep on a couch.  Reports indicate there are nearly a million members representing 220 countries already subscribing and media interest in it has launched it into the realm of a social movement.

Couchsurfing sounds likes a wonderful alternative to a great many situations: families stranded by blizzards,  travelers trapped at airports. I don’t think my couch can help anyone in Japan at this moment any more than all  the leftover brussel sprouts I chased around my plate in the Sixties could have helped starving children in China. But I bet I can write a check.

When my car breaks down but hasn’t floated away and my faucet drips, but the water is pure, I will  pause to be grateful.  And if you found your house parked where you left it this morning,  simply say ‘thank you’ to whatever power you believe is responsible for your best bad luck –or at least, call your mother.

Copyright 2011. Mitchell Kyd. All rights reserved.



  1. What a wonderful article — and it really hits home (right where I parked it!).

    Thanks so much for sharing it with me!


  2. Every time I stand with a family watching their house burn, or hold the hand of someone slowly losing his grip on life, or watch a food bank client trying to decide between a can of soup and a box of cookies, I know gratitude. And am grateful for it.

  3. Love this, Mitchell! Says so much, suscinctly. Might be another good one for a Chicken Soup book.

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