Ride the Wave: Hawaii 5-0’s Surprising Lesson in Thankfulness

Just the other night, I was watching one of my favorite TV shows, “Hawaii 5-0,” where one of the main characters featured in that night’s episode was a young woman, a veteran, who’d served in Afghanistan, during which time she’d lost both legs. The show was forthright in its brief portrayal of some of the tough challenges such vets can face: depression, falling into substance abuse to alleviate the physical and mental anguish, homelessness.

But the clincher, for me, was to see this young woman, who (in the story) had been a surfing champion before her service, find the courage (with help from one of the show’s regulars) to ride the waves in her bikini on a board equipped with special hand-holds so she could “stand” proud and true, on the little bit that was left of her upper legs, a surfer once again. 

I still cry when I think of it. Not only because I think the show is to be commended for its refusal to hide the character’s disability, but because it brought home to me vividly, that every one of our lives matter and have meaning.  Disabled lives, black lives, vet lives, transgender lives, homeless lives, children’s lives, white lives, Native American lives, immigrant lives, and all the other lives too numerous to mention. No matter what label or category you prefer to use to describe yourself (“Other” is my favorite), the truth is that all our lives are important.

You matter. You count. You are important. And so is everyone else in your world. In this season, where thankfulness is the order of the day, I want to be thankful for all those in my world. I want to remember, when someone annoys me, or does something differently than I would, or makes me downright mad, that, as my friend Mike Dooley so wisely says: “People are always doing the best they can, with what they’ve got, from where they are.” Regardless of what anyone else thinks of how they’re going about things. 

That includes you, and me. And everyone else. To look at oneself and others as doing the best they can in that moment is humbling. It kicks in my compassion, my patience, and reminds me to try to understand others, rather than knee-jerk into criticism or blame.

And for that, I am deeply, truly thankful.

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