Last Friday night, my husband and I took some very good friends to the local “Balloon Glow,” which is an event held the night before the Great Forest Park Balloon Race. Everyone gathers in the park to watch the giant hot-air balloons being blown up, and after it gets dark, the balloons light up randomly, a few seconds at a time. Every so often, a loud whistle blows as a signal that all the balloons are going to be lit up at the same time. It’s an incredibly beautiful sight.
My husband and I have been to this event several times, but this was the first year that this couple joined us, and they were very excited to see the balloons all lit up. They brought their camera, and we came early to beat the crowds and make sure we didn’t miss anything. We even paid extra to attend a special fund-raising event at the Balloon Glow that meant we would have a place to sit and enjoy drinks and dinner while we enjoyed the sights. Unfortunately, it was so windy that night that they were unable to even blow up the balloons, much less light them. So we had come all that way, and paid all that money, just to see a bunch of deflated balloons lying on the ground.
Now it could have been a horrible evening, with our disappointment leading to non-stop grumbling and complaining, and even anger at the decision not to proceed with the Balloon Glow, since frankly, it didn’t seem all that windy to us. We kept hoping that they would blow the balloons up and light them for just a few minutes, or maybe even just a few of the balloons, and were definitely disappointed for our friends when that didn’t happen. But our friends were very gracious about it and pointed out that they were spending a nice Fall evening out in a beautiful city park, enjoying dinner and drinks with good friends. And we followed their lead, making the conscious decision to simply relax and enjoy ourselves rather than fret over what “should have been.”
Later, it occurred to me that the whole evening was a great example of how little control we often have in what happens to us, but how much control we have in how we choose to react to what happens to us. I couldn’t make the wind die down, and (although I had the good sense not to try), I’m quite sure I couldn’t have convinced any of the event’s leaders to proceed with the Balloon Glow despite the wind. But what I could do was acknowledge our disappointment, and then let go of it, and simply get on with having a nice night out with dear friends. And I can honestly say that we had a wonderful time together, even without the hot-air balloons.
There will always be bad stuff in our lives, from the minor disappointments of deflated balloons, to the major stuff of serious illnesses, natural disasters, financial hardships and the like, and there will be times when we just have to let ourselves feel the anger, fear and hurt that comes with them. But even in the worst of times, we can choose to look for and embrace the good that is always there if we just allow ourselves to see it and respond to it. Good stuff and bad stuff are always with us, but we get to choose which one we dwell on, and I believe that life is so much better we when try our very best to focus on the good. It’s not always easy, but it is always worth it.