How many times have you lost your home, your job, and your means for making money and stayed smiling? I guess not many. It would be like falling about three times on a gymnastic event, then dismounting and nailing the landing. You might look around for people to clap and expect that the world would be ok, ‘cause you landed on your feet. But when you fall, you get deducted points. When you get deducted points, you lose value. When you lose value, it’s hard to make ends meet. Then what’s next?
I have had times in my life when I lived off of $10 a week for groceries. I ate Ramen noodles, chicken thighs and legs, the cheapest tuna I could find ($.39 a can), lots and lots of pasta and potatoes. I remember a time living in NYC when I didn’t have a job and my rent was due and I had no money for groceries. I lay on the floor and prayed and cried out to the Lord to help.
The next day I got a cashier’s check in the mail from an anonymous person. It was enough for my rent, some food, and cash to keep me afloat until a check due me from working as a costume character—Tony Dorno’s “Sporto the Duck” in 5 surrounding cities in NY—which had been about 90 days late, finally came in.
I ate on an ironing board and a chair that I found in the street. My bed was a cot. And I can’t even remember what the rest of my furniture looked like, if it was furniture. It may have been boxes. Being an actor in New York was all I wanted to be. I didn’t think before I left Beaver Falls, PA, with $150 in my pocket and just the promise of a NY sublet for 3 months. Those were times when I lived totally on stupidity and stupidity alone. I think the roaches and the mice in my five-floor walk-up were better fed than I.
I remember a short Hispanic woman who always wore a babushka lived above me. She had an abusive husband who never gave her money. She raised one the sweetest little girls for her daughter who was in prison. I remember now, she wanted to thank me for something I gave her one day, and she invited me to eat at her home.
I sat down at the table. She took a plate from the sink of dirty dishes and wiped it off with water and her hand and placed it before me. Before she set the plate on the table, five roaches scattered and she brushed them to the floor and stomped on one. She also took some utensils from the sink and rinsed them before placing them on a paper towel in front of me. She proceeded to give me a helping of fish head goulash over yellow rice.
Honest to God, I don’t know how I got through the meal without regurgitating. I have a weak stomach as it is. But I couldn’t hurt this little lady’s feelings. She kept saying, “You like? You like?”
I kept chewing the same bite, trying to swallow, nodding. “Si, si.” I speak minimal Spanish. Finally the first bite went down.
I ate a few more bites when a loud crash came from the living room. She ran ahead of me. Her husband had fallen dead of a heart attack in the front room. I’ve never been more relieved for a person to die. He was a mean man. She wore a black dress for about a month. She smiled a lot more after that. Defeat has a way of relieving itself if you let it.
I don’t think that God expects any of us to stay challenged for our entire life as some would think. I believe that there are seasons for challenge and maybe even seasons for defeat, just as there are seasons for success. We have to experience all of it to understand the wide spectrum of life. Without failure, how could you know the sweetness of success? Without hunger, could you honestly know how beautiful a piece of hard crusted bread with butter tastes? The simple things in life become blessings when you can see from all sides.
So defeat is merely the way to understand the fullness of success. If you are in the place of challenge now, remember that it is a season. Soon the season will be over. You will step forward using all of your talents and time to get the best job, the highest pay and the most out of life if you want to. I’m knowing that for you now.