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re-jiggering reality
the value of getting bitch-slapped by the gods
by margot carmichael lester

Every once in awhile something happens that shakes my world view, as Ignatius J. Reilly would say. To wit:

My friend Gibson died in a freak accident. I hydroplaned, crossed the median and barely missed being hit head on by a tractor trailer. My friend Chris was almost lost to his crack addiction. My car was broken into by a homeless person who stole NOT the warm Hudson Bay blanket or the clothes from my backseat, but the $3.42 in change from the cup holder. My friend Kevin committed suicide. I was the victim of a hit-and-run drunk driver who t-boned me going 70 mph in downtown LA.

Each time, my reality is re-jiggered. I’m reminded how lucky I am to be alive. How lucky I am to love people enough to care when I lose them. How just plain lucky I am, period.

I had another one of those world view alterations at New Year’s.

Bridget lost her dog, Jessie, on December 30th. My neighbor, Debbie, found Bridget roaming the street in a fit of hysterics, frantically searching for her dog. My dog and I found Jessie shivering, hurt and cowering in some shrubs. Debbie spent hours driving Bridget around Hollywood and the hills looking for the dog. I spent hours putting up posters around Hollywood and the hills looking for the owner. Three days later, Debbie and I found each other, allowing Bridget and Jessie to find each other, too.

Bridget’s a little unstable. She hasn’t worked in a while. She had surgery for something eight weeks before losing her dog. She lives in a residential hotel. She can’t afford a car. She can barely afford a dog. That pooch was everything to her.

When all you’ve got is the clothes on your back and a loyal pet, losing the dog is catastrophic. Giving that woman back the one thing she loved most in the world was a superlative moment in my life.

She fell to the ground sobbing and hugging her precious pooch, offering me the sincerest thanks I’ve ever gotten. “You’ve given me my life back,” she said at one point. And I knew somehow I had.

Here’s the crazy thing, though. It was nothing. To me, anyway. I just did what I would want someone to do if they found my dog.

I was more touched by Debbie’s loading a total stranger into her car to search for a lost dog.

Or by Joey, a person I don’t even know, who saw my post on CraigsList about the dog and the $100 vet bill to patch her up, and sent me $40 to defray the cost.

Or the delivery guy from the Country Store up the street who connected a few dots and called with a lead.

Those people could’ve easily done nothing, and felt no pangs about it. But they acted, reminding me that random acts of kindness not only happen, they matter.

All this came in the midst of a(nother) time of fiscal uncertainty for me. Still getting my ass kicked by the crappy economy, I didn’t really have the $100 to pay for Jessie’s vet bill. I’d really hoped to get her owner to pay me back for the vet.

But I took one look at the ragged, tired, on-the-verge borderline homeless Bridget and suddenly the added balance to my credit card seemed inconsequential. “Don’t worry about the bill,” I said. “Times are hard for everyone right now.”

That woman -- on disability, one step away from manic depression and the Frigidaire Estates -- reminded me that no matter how crappy things are for me, there are plenty of people for whom things are crappier. I realized in a flash of blinding clarity how rich I really am.


Margot’s a content strategist and freelance journalist. She consults with and/or writes for businesses large and small, and new and traditional media. She’s also the author of four books, including Be a Better Writer: Power Tools for Young Writers -- co-written with her husband, Steve Peha -- won the 2007 Independent Publishers Association gold medal for teen/young-adult nonfiction. She is currently working on two additional titles in the Better Writer Series, one for college students and another for corporate employees. A Southern belle and sex symbol for the intelligentsia, she was born, raised and still lives in Orange County, N.C.

more about margot carmichael lester


professional reform
a path to better policy in education
by margot carmichael lester
topic: general
published: 10.29.07

driven to distraction
what the democrats need to be thinking about right now
by margot carmichael lester
topic: general
published: 10.2.08


robert melos
9.19.04 @ 12:17a

Now I feel guilty about hating my life.

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