Thursday morning started much like any other day. After turning on NPR and the coffee pot, I leashed up Clara and headed out for a walk.
After stopping briefly outside Paul Anderson's porch, where Clara had a stare-down with Ninja, the Andersons' fearless cat, we continued on to the next block. As she kept a sharp eye out for squirrels, a landscaper pulled up, got out of his pickup, waved and declared, "Beautiful day, wouldn't you say?"
"For sure," I replied without thinking about it. Then I stopped for a moment, looked around and a mental switch flipped. That wasn't just an offhand remark; the guy was right. This was no ordinary day, it was an idyllic one.
The temperature was around 70, with a warm sun coming up and a slight breeze. The sky was clear blue, and recent rains had made the neighborhood more deeply green and lush. What sounded like a chorus of birds was singing. Mornings don't come any better than this.
We're all guilty of not fully appreciating what's given to us in life, and this episode was a great reminder. It also brought to mind a favorite quote from Khalil Gibran:
"Your living is determined not so much by what life brings to you as by the attitude you bring to life; not so much by what happens to you as by the way your mind looks at what happens."
The truth in those words would be impressively confirmed across the Ohio River 12 hours later.
After work, I drove to Metropolis to take part in the 26th annual Superman Road Race. The weather for the evening event was almost as ideal as it had been that morning. Clouds kept the temperature down, and the showers in the forecast never materialized.
The four-mile run and two-mile walk drew a record number of almost 350 entries and had more than the usual amount of camaraderie, thanks to a special participant.
Jared Bullock, a 30-year-old native of Metropolis, joined the Army after graduating from Massac County High School. He served two deployments in Iraq, and last November, while on patrol in Afghanistan with the 7th Special Forces Group, his ATV hit an improvised explosive device. He suffered multiple injuries in the blast, including the loss of an arm and a leg. Two soldiers with him, including his best friend, were killed.
Bullock, his wife, Jesica, and 4-year-old son, Aidan, have been living in San Antonio, Texas, where he will continue physical therapy for several more months.
Metropolis firefighter Bobby Williams decided to organize an honor walk for Bullock as part of this year's road race, and more than 50 Illinois firefighters came out in support.
Though he had been fitted with a new prosthetic leg just two days before - and will get a new arm next month - Bullock was determined to complete the walk. He did so with a smile, accompanied by firefighters, most wearing full gear, and cheered by spectators along the course at Fort Massac State Park. It was inspiring to see.
In a recent Facebook post, Bullock showed he knows something about attitude:
"I meet people all the time that ask me if I would change anything in my life that has happened to me. My answer is that I wouldn't.
"I've learned more things about myself in seven months than I ever thought possible. I've deployed a lot, became a Green Beret, etc., but in these recent months I've become more humble, sincere, adaptive to situations, motivated more people than I've imagined, met great friends, and most importantly learned that you can either let your injuries define you or you can define them by breaking stereotypes normally associated with injuries."
At the finish, dozens of people congratulated the native son and thanked him for his service to his country. He said he felt deeply honored and overwhelmed by the hometown tribute. The grateful look on his face said even more.
His wife was touched as well. "The love we have felt here is absolutely amazing," Jesica said. "This has been an awesome, awesome moment."
A beautiful day for sure.
Steve Wilson is executive editor of The Paducah Sun.
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