The perspective tragedy gives on what really matters

It’s so easy to lose perspective. It’s so easy to complain out of habit, to get frustrated when things don’t go perfectly. We have our waiter make a mistake with an order and respond like they’ve committed some type of wartime atrocity.

We complain and we get bitter. I think it’s not because the things about which we complain are so important, but because complaining becomes our comfort zone. Instead of just being happy and finding joy in everyday life, we treat anger like a warm blanket and wrap ourselves in it.

A theory I have is:

Maybe it’s that we have much bigger and more significant underlying issues in our own lives that we refuse to address and so we nitpick everything and create such unrealistic expectations that we allow our circumstances to become the scapegoat about why our lives aren’t as good as we think they should be instead of addressing the real reasons as to why we are so often unfulfilled.

When I heard what had happened to the BGSU chapter of Alpha Xi Delta, all of the small things that normally bother me became irrelevant. The annoyance went away. We have everything to be thankful for. We have today. We have our lives to live.

And I think it’s normal for us to take a step back when we see such young people taken away from this world so quickly. It does put things in perspective. Someone using the wrong “their, they’re, there” isn’t the end of the world.

But in time, we go right back to where we started. Why? What does it take to just stay positive and thankful?

We live in a great age. We have so many conveniences. We have so many things which would have been unimaginable to past generations.

I remember when I was a kid, and my parents got a car which had a keyless remote to unlock the car. My sister and I thought that it was the most amazing thing ever. We used to take turns getting to unlock the car.

I worry that when I have kids someday, and I have to explain how I had to grow up without a smartphone, that I’m going to sound like I might as well have been born in the 1800s. People used to have to buy vast volumes of encylopedias for knowledge. Now. We have all of the knowledge that has ever been possesssed by humanity on our phones in our pockets. And even that’s minor. That doesn’t take into account that we have food to eat, clean water to drink, amazing medicine.

To quote comedian Louis C.K.

Flying…people come back from flights and they tell you their story and it’s like a horror story. It’s, they act like their flight was like a cattle car in the 40’s in Germany. That’s how bad they make it sound.

They’re like “it was the worst day of my life. First of all we didn’t board for 20 minutes and then we get on the plane and they made us sit there on the runway for 40 minutes. We had to sit there.”

Oh really, what happened next? Did you fly through the air incredibly like a bird? Did you partake in the miracle of human flight, you non-contributing zero? Wow, you’re flying! It’s amazing! Everybody on every plane should just constantly be going, “oh my God, wow you’re flying.” You’re sitting in a chair in the sky….Delays. Really? New York to California in 5 hours. That used to take 30 years to do that and a bunch of you would die on the way there and have a baby. You’d be with a whole different group of people by the time you got there. Now you watch a movie you take a dump and you’re home.

The economy might be down (and it is, and that’s not to diminish that some people are struggling), but things will get better. Tomorrow is a new day. And the economy isn’t an excuse for losing your joy. Things might be a bit tougher. But do you have people who love you? Do you have food to eat? What else do you truly need?

It’s like I’ve already said. We live in a great age. We have this day and that is a precious gift. We can waste it on things that don’t matter. Or we can realize that this is a day where we can find joy. We can spread light and love to our families and to those we encounter.

I write this sitting at a Panera in Columbus. I just saw an older woman walk past me. She was wearing a BGSU tshirt. Part of me wanted to shout “BG!” and give her a high five.

A couple days after the Alpha Xi Delta tragedy, it’s still on my mind. Part of me wonders if I’m crazy to be so broken up about it. But then I talk to other alumni and I hear from alumni who are total strangers and I see how sincere the grief is. It’s such a tragedy which has happened in our extended BGSU family.

So on this Sunday, I continue to pray for the families and for sorority in what are still the opening moments of what is a very difficult journey.

Cherish this day. Love those you encounter.

Joshua Benner
About the author: Josh Benner is a 2008 graduate of Bowling Green State University and an alumnus of Phi Delta Theta Fraternity. He served as the president of the BGSU Interfraternity Council from 2007-08. Josh currently lives in Columbus where he is in graduate school and serves as the current Chapter Advisory Board Chairman for the Phi Delta Theta chapter at the Ohio State University.