One day, a man’s TV broke. It was a nice high def TV that he had for only 6 years. The original TV was about $1,800. It wasn’t a top-of-the-line TV but it was very good quality. He called the local shop where he bought it, and also called the manufacturer, both of whom said it couldn’t be fixed. The man was upset, really upset. This was just one more thing that had gone wrong; one more thing in a line of things that overwhelmed him. At the time he bought this nice TV, he had the money to do so. He no longer had resources that afforded him the luxury of buying luxury items when he wanted them. He borrowed some money from a very good friend to buy a new TV. Not exactly what he would have bought under different circumstances just something relatively affordable that he could afford to pay back to his friend over time. It may seem strange to feel you need, or are entitled, to own a television. For this man, after living a comfortable life for many years, now faced with staring at a broken TV that he couldn’t afford to replace, was a constant reminder of his failures.
At the same time, in another place, a much younger man had a brother who was recently married. This young man didn’t have much money to buy his brother and new sister-in-law a wedding present. He was a bit distraught and for several months was trying to figure out a way to give the newlyweds (but especially his brother) something nice; something that they could use; something they didn’t have and couldn’t afford to buy, something he could afford. That’s a tall order to fill. But this younger man was patient.
The older man who had the broken TV, and the younger man worked at the same company. The older man, having back trouble, asked the younger man to help him carry his new TV up the many stairs to his apartment. The younger man, always eager to help anyone in need, was quick to say yes, that he would be happy to help. When the younger man brought the TV up the 39 stairs to the older man’s apartment, the younger man asked what was wrong with the broken TV. The older man showed the younger man how the TV picture was all messed up, and told the younger man the story of the TV being irreparable. The “experts” said that the problem was the “T-Com” board (whatever that means), and the manufacturer didn’t even sell those boards anymore, hence why it couldn’t be fixed. The younger man mentioned that he liked to tinker with electronics and asked that if it was OK with the older man, he’d like to take the broken TV, if for no other reason than to take it apart and see how it worked. The older man was wondering how he was going to get rid of the old TV so he was pleased that the younger man wanted to take it.
About a month later, the younger man arrived at work one day and asked to speak to the older man. The younger man wanted to tell him about the old TV. Surprise cast a shadow on the older man’s face. What was he talking about? The younger man said that he had struggled with the old TV for a while. But, after a few attempts on Ebay he was able to find the right T-Com board for the TV. The younger man was a very curious and tenacious person. He liked to learn about electronics. The first T-Com board he bid on and got on Ebay, was the wrong one. It took him a long time to find another possible fit. So he bid on, and won the bid for, another T-Com board. When the younger man had first installed the second T-Com board into the TV, the picture was blinking and flashing and wavy – not viewable at all. But after powering it off and back on a few times, the old TV came back to life and was working perfectly. It seemed similar to adding new hardware to a PC. You need to give the PC time to recognize the new hardware and make the proper adjustments. The younger man then told the older man that he had a brother who was recently married. The younger man had fretted, and worried, and was very frustrated that he didn’t have a “proper” gift for his brother. The younger man loved and respected his older brother very much; it would be source of pride and accomplishment if he could figure out how to give his older brother a wedding present. After fixing the old high def TV, he sneaked into his brother’s house one Sunday when he knew his brother and sister-in-law would be out. He setup the new/old TV in his brother’s home. His brother did not have a TV and couldn’t afford to buy one. The younger man wrapped the remote control to the TV in a box and gave it to his brother when the brother returned home. The younger man was so proud, and happy. When the brother opened the box he said “what’s this” and the younger man said “go inside and look”. The brother did and to the brother’s surprise, in his house was, to him, a brand new big flat screen TV. The brother stared in awe, not even knowing how to thank the younger man, let alone figure out how the younger man had pulled this off.
The younger man had, against all odds, repaired the old TV given to him by the older man. The younger man was so happy that he finally had a present for his brother. And the younger man’s brother was happy that he received a gift that he wouldn’t have been able to afford on his own. The brother had no idea how the younger man accomplished this. The two brothers loved each other very much. It was important for the younger man to have something of value to give to his somewhat older, married brother as a wedding present.
As for the older man, at the time, buying a new TV seemed insurmountable and he was angry at the TV and the manufacturer; he was mad at himself and the world. The older man had limited resources, but he did have a job and a way to pay back the price of the new TV he bought (thanks to a very generous friend).
But the older man was happy, too. When the older man found out what had happened to his old TV – that is was miraculously fixed, and that it ended up in the possession of someone who could not afford such a nice TV, and given to him by a young man who wanted nothing more than to get his brother something for a wedding present, the older man’s anger over his TV situation seemed so small. He let the anger go. And he thanked the younger man for letting him know what had happened to his old TV.
The older man realized that sometimes, things do happen for a reason. While the older man no longer had the resources to buy luxury items, he certainly had more options than the younger man, or the younger man’s brother. So in perspective, the older man felt blessed. He realized his petty wanting of material goods was all just so stupid.
The older man was me.
It can be argued that nobody “needs” a television. And I’ve heard many in the media (OK, right-wing TV and talk radio) talk about poor people on government assistance who somehow have a flat screen TV. Well, the bottom line, to me, is that first, you can’t buy anything other than a flat screen TV anymore. And by flat screen I mean high-definition TV – that’s all there is. All new TVs are high-definition flat screen, whether it’s cheap or expensive. Have you seen a “picture tube” television in a store lately. I doubt it. Secondly, television is what most people use as their connection to the outside world. Something as simple as the news, or the weather – you get that from your TV. Even if you don’t have cable TV, you can still use a high-definition TV (known in the pedestrian world as a “flat screen”) with rabbit ears just like in the old days. Television also provides basic entertainment regardless of whether you are rich or poor. You can even have a TV without actual broadcast or cable stations – just a TV with a VCR or DVD player, and use that as your entertainment.
So television is an important part of people’s lives and of the American culture. Not having one because you can’t afford one makes you feel like a failure as a human being. Society has taught us that we are.
But, having said all of that, it’s not what this story is about. This story is about counting your blessings. It’s about realizing what you have, even when you might not realize you have it. And it’s about the fact that no matter how badly you might feel or how much self-hatred you may feel over something big, or something small, there is always somebody out there with a story that is more significant than yours. But mostly, it’s about the love between two brothers. Brothers who don’t count their blessings in dollars, but rather in sense. I don’t believe in something called god. But I do believe that these two brothers have very good parents who taught them well. I have been reminded, through this experience, about what’s important. I hope you do, too. I am happy that through a series of rather strange events, my old TV made its way to a happy couple, just married and starting their life together. I picture them sitting in front of the big high-def TV at night, snuggled up, watching a movie together, enjoying each others’ company, and always thinking how cool it is that someone in their family gave them this beautiful TV.
On one final note: I thought for a moment that I should have bought the TV back from the young man so he could buy his brother something new. Then I realized that all the tinkering and trying, the sense of accomplishment and the laser focus on a single purpose, the joy of giving a gift that came from the heart – all of that would not have happened if I bought the TV back. I would have robbed the younger man of his pride and of is joy. It all worked out just as it should have.