Be thankful for the “what didn’t happen!”

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As grateful of things in life that did happen to us– births, weddings, graduations, great kids, etc. – how much are we thankful for those things that “didn’t happen?”

Think about that for a second.

Now what got me thinking about this “didn’t happen” thing is a catastrophic near miss back in January while my son and I were almost home after a 15 hour drive from New York with a truckload of recording equipment. Less than a mile from home a car in front of us stopped suddenly and, without putting on her signal light, turned sharply off the road. I jammed my brakes, veered off to side of the road before coming to a stop. Thankfully our truck did not topple over into the nearby ditch.

Right then I thought about what “didn’t happen,” what could have happened had I reached for my cell phone to take a call; or what could have happened had I been driving 10 MPG faster.

And three weeks later we were back in New York returning the equipment. I thought about what could have happened had we scheduled our return flight to Georgia a day later, a day when a huge snow storm hit the northeast resulting in hundreds of cancelled flights leaving scores of travelers stranded.

I also am truly thankful for the results of a medical exam I “didn’t get.”

You see, I spent a Friday a few years ago at my doctor’s office getting every test one could imagine – blood, PSA, colon scan, heart, you name it. Sore arms, sore behind, you name it.

Now at 9 am the following Monday, my doctor called while I was in a meeting. Hands trembling, I raced out of the conference room thinking, “Oh my God! Why is he calling me so soon? I just saw him on Friday. It can only mean that he found something seriously wrong.”

“Mr. Howard,” he started in a voice that gave no clue. “I want to share your test results.” I inhaled, deeply inhaled.

Slowly he ticked off the results of each test. I clenched my teeth awaiting the bad news. After an agonizing few minutes of medical mumbo jumbo, he finished: “Your numbers look great, so just keep up with what you’ve been doing. I’ll see you again in six months.”


Fast forward to two weekends ago during which I delivered a keynote address in my hometown in Virginia. “Folks,” I said, “be thankful of good news, the good experiences, the good kids and the good spouses. But I also exhort you to be thankful for the bad medical report “you didn’t get,” the knucklehead you didn’t marry, that crappy lemon of a car you didn’t buy.”

“Amen,” said one. “Preach it brother man,” said another.

Fast forward to last Friday while on the way to Florida driving through rural Alabama when I encountered a state trooper who had pulled over a driver and was writing him a ticket. Now with the realization of my being a black man in America nowadays, the image of black men being gunned down by cops recently, I exhaled into relief the fact that I wasn’t speeding.

Which brings me to today when I looked myself in the mirror with the uncomfortable truth that I’ve sometimes said things I wish I didn’t say. Or things that I wrote. I know now that I’ve failed to heed the words of First Lady Michelle Obama, “When they go low, we go high!” There are times when I went low when I should’ve gone high.

“Terry, you can never regret something you didn’t say,” offered a senior VP years ago. True, so true.

So readers, take a few minutes to reflect on those not-so-nice things you wanted to say about someone but didn’t; those bad things in life that could’ve happen to you but didn’t.

Wow, “what didn’t happen?”

Something to think about, huh?

© Terry Howard is an award-winning writer, story teller and senior associate with Diversity Wealth. He is also a member of the Cross Cultural Academy, the founder of the Global Diversity Consortium, a contributing writer with the Chattanooga News Chronicle, New York-based Catalyst and the American Diversity Report. He can be reached at Also see

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One comment on “Be thankful for the “what didn’t happen!””

  1. K says:

    This is awesome!

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