The Bluford Principle

The windshield keeps you focused on where you are going, but the rear view mirror reminds you where you came from.

We spend Christmas Eve every year at my in-laws in Modesto, CA, a little over an hour drive from my hometown of San Jose. We always have a great time there during the Holidays. My children get to see and spend time with their cousins, whom they don’t see very often. My wife gets to hang out with her siblings, whom because of life’s commitments- kids and work just to name a couple- she also sees a lot less than she probably should. And I get a mini-vacation, a few days that, because there are more adult eyes to look after ours and the other children, I get to relax and unwind a little.

As the stoplight turned green and we proceeded through the last busy intersection on the final stretch of road before my in-laws’ home, I noticed a man standing in a used car lot, which because it was nearly nine pm on Christmas Eve, had been closed for several hours. He was bundled up next to a streetlight, smoking what I’d hoped was a cigarette. “Look at that man,” my daughter said. “He must be cold,” my son added. Upon hearing my children, my eyes immediately glanced at the temperature gauge in my car. It read 36 degrees. Those readers who reside in the Northeast, or even the Midwest or South for that matter, might not see a man standing in 36 degree weather as particularly alarming. For a California boy, though, witnessing this man standing alone, on a street corner, in almost freezing weather, on Christmas Eve no less; was a perfect opportunity to empty my bucket (referring to the great book, How Full Is Your Bucket? If you have children and haven’t shared with them the kid version of this wonderful book, you definitely need to pick it up) and also teach my kids a valuable lesson.

It sounds so simple. “Appreciate what you have.” We make it poetic at times. “Be sure to smell the roses.” And sometimes it’s beaten over our heads by our moms. “Boy, there are people in Africa that wish they had half of what you have!” (That last one is courtesy of my mom, bless her soul.) But the truth is we all- or at least most of us- suffer from this affliction. The problem, I’ve determined, is not that we are all ingrates, as my wife hilariously proclaims at times. The issue is that it’s hard to feel that way–grateful and thankful– while working from a model or view of the world built on ill-advised and unproductive reference and comparison. I’ve gone so far as to name it. I call it the Bluford Principle. Why the Bluford Principle? Well, mostly because I haven’t heard anyone else refer to this dilemma, on which I’ll elaborate in a moment, in quite this way. And maybe a little because I just like the way it sounds. Read more of this post

Advertisements