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Playing the Hand that Life Deals You

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Ooo, I believe, fate, fate smiled
And destiny laughed as she came to my cradle
Know this child will be able

-Natalie Merchant

My father was a professional gambler. When faced with any kind of crisis, he would say, "you have to play the hand that is dealt you."

A good philosophy. One that I have followed.

In my career as a structured settlement and financial consultant, a number of my clients are brain injured or special needs children. I've been doing it since 1983. Many of the children I originally worked with are now adults. I've watched the whole progression and they are usually doing well.

One of the fascinating things I have seen is that the parents, almost universally, step up to the plate and do what they need to do to make it better for their children.

Being the parent of a special needs child is one of the toughest jobs in the world. It is a lifelong assignment. You don't ship the child out the door at 18, or 30 or 50. Or ever.

The parents need to be involved until the day they die.

I've dealt with hundreds of parents of special needs children. They take the hand that is dealt to them. And usually turn that hand into aces.

So much comes down to having a positive attitude. Any child, but especially a special needs child, forces parents to understand there is a world beyond themselves.

One of my Facebook friends is the parent of a severely injured child and she summed it up perfectly in a post on my Facebook page:

"I think a lot about the phrase from expectant parents 'as long as the baby is healthy.' No one wants their child to suffer or experience a handicap, but the love and bond you feel with that child that was not born healthy, is like no other. It gives you a whole new meaning and depth to life that honestly I would not trade."

I think about the "playing the hand that is dealt to you" philosophy in terms of our economic crisis. From Wall Street, to Washington to Main Street, people were being dealt decent hands but kept trading cards in a quest to hit blackjack.

We have a lot of people tapped out in a quest to chase the unrealistic.

People on Wall Street were receiving millions in bonuses. They were given more money than a person could spend in a lifetime but looked for more. People in Washington had lobbyists whispering in their ear that the laws of economics didn't apply. People on Main Street were buying expensive houses and racking up credit card debt.

None of them were playing the hand that was dealt to them.

The decisions made were motivated by individual greed. The people were not looking at world beyond themselves. They were blinded into believing that a big bonus or a fancy new car was important to some aspect of life.

They don't see the world that the parent of a special needs child sees. Realism trumps materialism in that universe.

Having a special needs child could be a burden or a blessing. Parents with healthy children deal with issues like drugs, substance abuse, sexually transmitted diseases and children who grow up to be selfish, lazy and unmotivated. I see the parents with adult children living at home for no apparent reason. I see grandparents raising grandchildren when the parents are unwilling or unable.

I've seen a lot of people who thought they had a winning hand with healthy children but wind up "busting out."

To raise a special needs child requires a degree of unselfishness and level-headedness that the average person doesn't have.

I would have loved for the parent of a special needs child to have been handling our economy for the past few years. Even without special training, they have the right attitude to make good decisions.

If nothing else, they couldn't do worse than the gang on Wall Street and in Washington.

Parents of a special child understand that you play the hand that God dealt to you.

We need to get that message to the people on Wall Street, Washington and Main Street.

Don McNay, CLU, ChFC, MSFS, CSSC is the founder of McNay Settlement Group, a structured settlement consulting firm, in Richmond, Kentucky.

He has Master's Degrees from Vanderbilt and the American College and is in the Eastern Kentucky University Hall of Distinguished Alumni.

McNay is the author of Son of a Son of a Gambler: Winners, Losers and What to Do When You When The Lottery. You can write to Don at don@donmcnay.com or read his award winning column at www.donmcnay.com. You can reach him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/donmcnay and Twitter at twitter.com/Donmcnay

McNay is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Round Table.

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