I still have a navy blue sock filled with pennies picked up from sidewalks and curb sides. The coins are dented, discolored, and scarred around the edges. But they marked my childhood belief in, well… I’ll just say it… luck.
As simple as a found penny. A lucky penny.
Some of my friends carried a rabbit’s foot – a tiny paw with silken hair, typically attached to a key chain. The boys especially seemed to swear by its powers. But I was horrified at the very thought, and preferred my harmless lucky coins. That, and adherence to the wisdom of stepping over sidewalk cracks, avoiding ladders, and the occasional search for a four-leaf clover.
Don’t we all seek to control the unknown? To ward it off, or protect against it? Why not the lucky penny or the rabbit’s foot?
As for those four-leaf clovers, they weren’t as plentiful as lost change. Now and then there were a few good enough for picking, and I would ceremoniously affix them to an index card with Elmer’s glue or scotch tape. But they’re long since gone and only a flicker of memory; there are no tangible traces among my grade school report cards, or the black and white Polaroids from the 1960s of myself and friends, in pinafores and Peter Pan collars.
But those lucky pennies? I’ve kept them. Safely stored in that worn sock.
Positive Attitude vs. Luck
And those who insist there is no “luck” – that positive attitude makes all the difference in the world?
Now, now… let’s not get carried away. Naturally I was taught that a smile was preferable to a frown, that you catch more flies with honey, that optimism is always helpful, and positive energy aids achievement. But the essentials? In my upbringing?
Hard work and determination – both, the idols that warranted worship in my mother’s household.
“If you set your mind to it and work hard, you can do anything.” That was the mantra, the message, the means to accomplish any mission. Very American, don’t you think?
It wasn’t discussed or dissected. It wasn’t among the objectives, but certainly it was assumed that we would want to be happy. That we could be happy – without defining it, without expecting it.
It was the fallback, the filler, the insufficient cushion when work and persistence didn’t yield the desired result. Then, surely fate had its hand in requiring acceptance. “It wasn’t meant to be” were the words extended – to ease disappointment – not so different from the approach of my French friends who love to say il n’y a pas de hasard – there is no such thing as chance.
But what of luck?
In my mother’s home, it wasn’t talked about, as if it were taboo. Yet she hung a 19th century horseshoe over the back door. There were rituals to do with heritage as much as superstition, though the word “luck” wasn’t spoken per se, like some missing link. Of course children cling to the concept of luck as they do to magic; they seek it out, cherish its symbols, test its limits. I know my own children believe in luck, and know that luck and hard work are not mutually exclusive.
While it may not be fashionable to admit – who doesn’t have the lucky bracelet to be worn on a hot date, the lucky tie to close the big deal, or the comforting routines before a performance of any sort?
What about the wishbone, the shooting star, blowing on dice, the favorite number? Don’t many of us put stock in the ascribed power of objects and amulets, words or actions, digits and dates – unwilling to risk leaving them behind?
Second Chances, New Lives, Make Your Own Luck
Recently, I had discussion with a friend about life and the unknown. The best laid plans – and then, reality. There are those who believe it’s all a crap shoot, those who believe in the hand of God, those who believe it may be a mix. There are those who believe in people – and that little is within our control except our own behaviors.
Some pronounce that every individual can make his own luck – and the rest of us (who don’t) – well, that’s our problem. Worse, that’s our doing. And often, making one’s own luck is tied to attitude. If we have the wrong attitude, then of course we’re unlucky, we’re unhappy, we’re unsuccessful – and it follows that our desires remain out of reach.
But what about tragedies that happen to good people? Inexplicable disasters?
And what of their neighbors who sail through life with only the “usual” ups and downs?
I see no rhyme or reason in any of it. I also observe the diversity of beliefs and responses – those who wallow and never recover; those who reinvent themselves and go on.
Might some have a stash of four-leaf clovers? Lucky pennies? The rabbit’s foot hidden under the mattress? Why do some keep going and “succeed” – however you define it – while others know no happiness, and seem to fade away? Is it luck? Character? Work? Attitude?
I have no answers, but I’m glad to know the whereabouts of my worn blue sock all the same.
- Do you believe that hard work will get you where you want to go?
- Do you believe in luck, in random happenings, in fate or some other plan?
- Does attitude make the difference between success and failure – however you define it?
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