PUBLISHED: 5:17 PM on Tuesday, September 19, 2006
Passing on good fortune to others
I am a lucky man. I am a very lucky man. In fact, I am so lucky that my friends think I am a superhero and have given me a superhero moniker.

But even my friends and fellow superheroes don't know how lucky I am. My mom doesn't even know how lucky I am.

When I went to college, I got my degree in German. I spent a semester in Vienna with a host family who became a part of my real family circle. I spent a year in Marburg, Germany where I lived in a castle and learned fencing and archery. I also spent six months in Volgograd. People would ask me, "What are you going to do with a degree in German?" I got to tell them that I was already doing it.

I spent 26 months and 26 days in the Peace Corps. I got to live in a mud hut with a thatched roof; my cohabitants included termites, ants, mice, fire finches, skinks, and some crazy 2-dimensional spiders that seemed to never move, only disappear.

I worked in a health center with a Guinean counterpart who was smart, funny and understood enough of the American Culture that he was able to ease my transition. Most importantly, every day I felt like I had the opportunity to make a difference.

In Kalamazoo, Mich., I got to spend four months with friends who allowed me the time and space to readjust to America. They have helped me through some of my most difficult times giving me support and unconditional love that usual is only associated with family.

While there, I fell into a job with the American Red Cross. I got to travel around the Greater Kalamazoo Area teaching people the skills to save a life.

Most recently, I moved to Alaska. I was able to do so because I was offered a job after having just a phone interview. I met some incredible people - my fellow superheroes. Then I got promoted to Juneau.

Here I have a glacier I can see from my front door. I get to watch the trees create clouds.

I live in a place that has more miles of hiking trails than roads and friends bring me chocolate eggs with toys in the middle from foreign lands or crab that they harvested in Alaska.

I have a job that makes it my duty to help the people of Southeast prepare for disasters on an individual level.

I get to help people learn how to respond to emergencies and how to save lives.

Every day I meet extraordinary people who are passionate about making their community a better place to live.

To top it all off, not only do I get to enjoy the beauty of the Southeast, not only can I test the limits of my endurance and intelligence, not only do I get to live some place where 80 percent of the people trust their neighbor, but I will also get paid to do so.

How do you explain that to someone who lives outside?

It's like telling them that you can't drive to Anchorage or Skagway or Ketchikan. They just don't believe you.

The best part of it is that this will be my first PFD. It's a bonus. I am not counting on it for income; I don't even know how much it will be, and I can use it for whatever I want.

I can buy furniture that my bachelor pad desperately needs. I could drastically increase my DVD collection.

I could drink myself silly in organic or draft root beer for longer than I really want to consider.

I could change it for quarters and buy out all of the trinket and gum machines in Juneau. I might even be able to fill my gas tank.

I also have the opportunity to make a difference.

Because I am not counting on the PFD, I am going to donate half of it to my favorite charities - the American Red Cross of Alaska, the United Way, and if I can figure out how to use Paypal, the Guinea Girls' Conference.

Then I am going to solidify my standings as a Juneauite by getting a pair of Xtratuffs.

The rest will go towards a vacation to one of my favorite places in the world.

Man, I am lucky.

Shad Engkilterra is the Southeast District Director for the American Red Cross of Alaska.