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Life is a Gift

Fred arrived in the United States on a ship in the 1930s. He’d left his family and friends in Germany to seek his fortune. He had $25 in his pocket and the promise of a relative to meet him at the port in New York.

After disembarking from the ship, Fred’s anxiety was eased when he spotted his relative. Following the greetings, he was jolted when his cousin asked, “So which hotel do you want to stay at?”

Not wanting to appear flustered, Fred stated the name of the only New York hotel he’d ever heard of, the hotel from which he’d heard live broadcasts of big band music: the Waldorf-Astoria.

So Fred’s first night in the United States was spent at the Waldorf, and it cost him half of his cash. The next day, he found a German newspaper, a job and a place to stay — and thus his great adventure began. He worked at many different jobs in cities in the United States and Canada and finally retired in Laguna Beach.

On occasion I would have the opportunity to take Fred to the Laguna Beach Rotary, of which he was a long-time member. I asked Fred one day, “Was life good to you?”

“If you’re alive, it’s good,” he responded. “Life is a privilege, and as long as I had breath and could move, I enjoyed living, working and meeting people — people of all kinds. Life is what you choose to make of it, and I lived as if every day was a privilege, a gift, and I wasn’t going to squander it.”

Fred was a very special friend and gift to me, and he passed away last year just before his 99th birthday.

by Chaplain Ron Hyrchuk

April 27, 2006