Lou Gehrig Was Right

Reflection on being ‘the luckiest man on earth,’  by L. E. Taylor

Recently, there’s been a lot of publicity on the “ice bucket” craze. It’s a stunt that’s supposed to raise awareness of ALS, the incurable neural disorder that took down the New York Yankee great, Lou Gehrig, in 1941.

The fad has people of all stations in life (most notably celebrities) dump buckets of melted ice (i.e., water) over the heads of themselves and others in the fashion of ebullient football players dousing a coach in the last seconds of a victory.

The Ice Bucket Challenge is a social media phenomenon. It’s supposed to “raise awareness” of ALS just as affixing colored ribbons to one’s bosom is supposed to help cure cancers or show support for minority victims of, uh, everything. The challenge has purportedly raised millions in pledges for ALS research.

One thing is certain. It certainly makes the ribbon-wearers and the well-selfied elites feel good about themselves.

This ALS stunt is the latest symptom of preening exhibitionism, un-dreamed of in 1941. Lou Gehrig had a different take. Standing before a microphone at home plate on July 4th, 1939, he had this to say about his own plight:

Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about the bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth. I have been in ballparks for seventeen years and have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans.

When you look around, wouldn’t you consider it a privilege to associate yourself with such fine looking men as are standing in uniform in this ballpark today? Sure, I’m lucky…

Lou acknowledged, by name and role, individuals whose guidance, professionalism and loving-kindness he’d been privileged to know, from baseball men to hard working parents. Then he concluded,

When you have a wife who has been a tower of strength and shown more courage than you dreamed existed—that’s the finest [gift] I know.

So I close in saying that I might have been given a bad break, but I’ve got an awful lot to live for. Thank you.

So spoke the self-proclaimed “luckiest man on the face of the earth.” But this essay, written for you, is not about Lou Gehrig, or ALS, or modern narcissism. It’s about gratitude.

You may blow this off as just a sermon. Not so fast, Agnes.

In the small hours today before sunup, I received an unexpected email from an old friend. It carried a link to an “inspiring” video. I’m suspicious of maudlin sentimentality, but I clicked on it. It was a human interest news clip. About a girl abandoned as a baby, now a bright, accomplished young woman. The secrets of the story came, one, two, three. Each provoked in me an audible gasp.

In a few minutes, all the pain of my recent surgery disappeared. My mind sharpened and my post-op depression dissolved. My thoughts drifted to Lou Gehrig standing there seventy-five years ago, humble and grateful in the hopelessness of a death sentence.

I sat in wonder, first at the horror, then at this evidence of human fortitude and the genuine “luck” of our under-appreciated gift from our Creator. It’s just a news show filler. Human interest about a girl.

Uplifting, no tears. Well…

I had to send it to you.