Tonight, I was standing at a gas station pump filling my ancient car with gasoline. I started to feel worried. The gasoline was $5.49 a gallon and I can very well recall -- easily recall -- when it was 25 cents a gallon and when you could get a fine steak dinner at the best restaurant in my home town, Washington, D.C., for $5.49.
I was just getting over a bad flu that had left me exhausted. A close friend was marking the one year anniversary of his wife's death and he's miserable. Half the people I know cannot sleep at night worrying about money and their futures.
What if this recession NEVER ends? The Great Depression only really ended with total mobilization to fight World War II. What if ours is like that? What if Iran gets the bomb? What if there is a total meltdown in the Eurozone?
What if this thing that's always itching on my back is cancer?
And then a miracle happened. An incredibly pleasant breeze blew off the desert and washed me with the smell of desert wild flowers. Two college kids walked by and started to jump up and down and shout "Bueller, Bueller." One of them said, "Like man, you're the smartest guy there is."
"I'm not that smart," I said. "I worry all the time."
"Well, you're always really amusing on TV and it cheers up my whole family."
Then a young girl in a blue dress came over and wanted a picture with my old car because they don't make this kind of car anymore and she smiled because she's a car buff.
I thought, "What a dope I am for worrying and complaining. I have plenty to eat. I'm not getting shot at in Burma or Belgium in World War II. I'm not being deported to a death camp. I get to live in this great, great country and have my freedom, even if I don't have a lot of time left. I have the best wifey on the planet. My parents got married in the depths of the Depression and were pretty happy even though they couldn't afford to eat at fancy restaurants. I can learn from them."
I cannot control the recession. But I can be grateful to Providence for letting me have the best life anyone can have -- a life of gratitude for being alive and fairly well in America in 2012. That would be truly smart. Really, really smart.