There is something about the holidays that brings out the reflective side of me. On the one hand, I relish the fact that I will get to spend time with my family, who are strewn across the nation, and on the other, I inexplicably feel a tinge of sadness.
What is there to be sad about? I guess it's for the many who have little or nothing.
I have never been a rich man by any means, but I am wealthy in a whole different way. I had great parents who instilled in me a will to help those in need -- this is something I try to do each and every day. It could be an act as simple as helping an elderly woman carry her groceries to her car or buying a cup of coffee for someone who doesn't have enough change to buy it themselves. It's all about being aware of your surroundings, in the here and now.
Besides my parents, nature also taught me to be aware of the moment. Whether I am out fishing, hunting or simply taking a walk, I find myself scanning my surroundings all the time. Many of the most memorable things I have witnessed in nature happened in the blink of an eye. Two bald eagles wrapped in a ball falling from the sky, a blue marlin appearing out of nowhere to take a bait, a lightning bolt striking from the ground up -- each of these events witnessed only because I was practiced in the art of seeing.
There stands my wealth.
So that you know, these thoughts have been brought on by the events of the past week. The shootings in a Connecticut elementary school, plus the near loss of my good friend Will "Catfish" Thompson in a car accident. Though Will is going to recover, his accident and the horrific loss of those young kids and their teachers has me thanking the stars for each and every day I have on this earth.
Every moment is precious, and every second a gift.
Before I sat to write this column, I talked to my wife, Karen, and told her I was not sure this would be the right subject matter for an outdoors writer. In response, she told me that if it is what my heart tells me to write, then do it. She brought up how so many people wish for what others have. A perfect example happened to her recently when a woman came to her place of employment, Memory Matters. The woman was dressed to the nines, adorned with priceless jewels and driving a very expensive car. It was easy to think, "I wish I had what she has." In reality, that woman had just lost her husband of more than 40 years.
Be careful of what you wish for.
There is wealth to be had every second of every day. But the wealth I am talking about is right in front of you -- if you choose to see it. Maybe you are not a fisherman or an avid outdoorsman, but it is still there, should you choose to look around. Nature has shows going on 24-7, and if that isn't your cup of tea then random acts of kindness are there for the giving, every moment of every day.
Though I have never had huge sums of money to fall back on, I do know this: The feeling you get from helping others is the greatest there is. Given the choice between having all the wealth I could possibly want or truly making a positive difference in someone else's life, I would take the latter every time.
So with that off my chest, here are my Christmas plans: Every other year my entire family descends on Bluffton, and this is the year for the get together. My son is flying in from Los Angeles, my daughter from Charlottesville, Va., and in all there will be about 20 genetically connected versions of myself.
I can't wait!
A marsh monkey at heart, my son, Logan, and I plan on spending every free moment either fishing or clamming, and, knowing my daughter, Camden, she will be right in there too. The greatest part of these all-too-seldom get togethers is this: we all want to do something for someone in need. It has always been that way.
Finally, I want to thank all of you who have called or emailed me over the past year encouraging me with your kind words. You have no idea how these random acts of kindness have made me feel. Have a great holiday and remember that wealth is there for the taking if you simply choose to see it.
God does not subtract from the allotted span of a man's life the hours spent in fishing. Columnist Collins Doughtie, a graphic designer by trade and fishing guide by choice, sure hopes that's true.