Many of you may not remember this scene from the 1991 movie City Slickers:
Or maybe you do. Jack Palance’s, character, Curly, tells Billy Crystal’s character that the “secret of life is just one thing.” To which Billy Crystal replies, ‘That’s great. but what’s the one thing?” Curly answers, “That’s what you’ve got to figure out.” This week I figured out what my one thing is.
It was the end of the school day at Cicero Elementary School. Bus number 186 was called over the P.A. system, meaning I could leave the classroom, retrieve my coat from my cubby and head outside to find my bus in line. Eight year old Phil gathered my papers and books, pushing them sloppily into an already overstuffed desk. I hurried a little extra because I was thirsty from playing outside in the sunshine during end of day recess and I wanted to get a quick slurp of refreshing water from the fountain in the hall before I left. I rushed to my cubby outside the room, grabbed my coat and put my orange and black Baltimore Orioles Little League baseball cap on my head. It was probably a little crooked, it always was. I just didn’t have the knack of centering the brim over my face unless I was looking in a mirror. I didn’t care though. I was still at an age where I hadn’t yet learned that I should be self-conscious about how I was put together. That was something boys didn’t think too much about until they noticed girls.
I didn’t know it, but the next moment was the one that changed my life. I turned from my cubby and fought my way across the hall, dodging and weaving through other students flowing through the hallway like a swift moving river of four foot tall humanity. After successfully navigating the obstacle course I reached my destination. The hallway water fountain.
Doesn’t that bubbling, gurgling water look refreshing? I thought so too, so much so that I leaned in for a drink a little too quickly. See that curved piece of metal above the bubbling water? I leaned over, perhaps slightly hurried and slightly distracted by the crush of students passing by and thoughts of my waiting bus, and as I did so one of my center front teeth hit that curved metal piece. Not hard, but hard enough that about one quarter of a tooth broke off cleanly and completely. One drink. One quarter of one tooth. One life changed forever.
Yes, I know it sounds insignificant, but we rarely realize the long term ripple effect of small moments when they happen. That one moment those many years ago helped me realize just how lucky I am.
On Thursday of this week, two days ago, decades after I broke that tooth, , I visited the dentist because of that tooth. Complications related to that one simple moment have probably required me to have, literally, about 100 additional dental appointments over the years. There have been countless procedures, needles, poking, prodding, and pain. Today I thought to myself that if I had one chance to turn back time and change one moment in my life, that moment when I broke my tooth might be what I’d choose.
When I started writing this I thought to myself, considering what others have endured, if my biggest problem in life has been a broken tooth that would plague me for the rest of my days then I’ve been pretty damn lucky. Then I thought to myself that I wouldn’t go back in time and stop stupid eight year old me from bumping my tooth, because from today going forward it will always remind me how lucky I’ve been so far. Weirdly, I think that the next time I’m in a dental chair because of this tooth, I’ll probably smile. Because of the dental work on the tooth it may never be a perfect smile, but it will be a grateful one.
So what’s your one moment? Your “one thing”? What would you change if you could? Or what life lesson did you learn from that one moment in time?
As always, if you enjoyed #ThePhilFactor, please share it by hitting the Facebook, Twitter or re-blog buttons below. Have a great weekend! ~Phil