This year has not started out in stellar fashion. My laptop went kaput. Cha-ching. My car needed front brakes. Cha-ching. And I have a health issue that I’m hoping is not serious and fixable.
Given all this, I had a word with the Divine the other day and asked if I could please have a respite. I didn’t hear back. I usually don’t. But what I did receive in meditation is that life will always be filled with challenges.
And it’s not so much the challenges, but how we respond to them.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know that,” I retorted, just a tad pissed off at that Great Force of Love. “But couldn’t you give me some time off for good behavior? A beach in Hawaii for three months where I soak in the sun and sip on rainbow-colored drinks with tiny umbrellas?”
I think I heard a Divine snigger somewhere in the distance, but I couldn’t be sure.
The truth is, anyone who has a pulse faces life challenges. An even deeper truth is that some of those challenges are horrific. There are the Syrian refugees, for example. They have lost everything. Every blessed thing.
There are those who are homeless in the bitter cold, some of them veterans who now have mental problems as a result of combat. Those facing a terminal illness or those grieving the loss of a parent, child or partner.
Then there are those who are about to commit suicide because the pain is so deep they just can’t go on anymore. (And if you’re contemplating taking your life, please don’t. Here’s a story I’d like you to read.)
My dad, before he had the stroke, was an amazing man and inspirational speaker. He worked at a major TV market in Philadelphia for years before he retired. But his great love was giving his speeches and helping others.
When he was in his 20s, studying radio broadcast engineering in Puerto Rico, he had been walking on a beach. There, he saw a young woman, leaning against a palm tree and crying. She seemed distraught. My father wondered what he should do. Should he go up to her and ask what was wrong? Should he offer help? Not knowing what to do he kept walking on the beach.
When he returned that way an hour later, he saw a commotion on the beach. The woman had drowned herself.
And she had left a note. “My name is Nellie. The Nellie nobody knows. The Nellie no one cares about.”
From that day forward my father vowed he would never walk by anyone again who seemed troubled. He would tell others in his talks about this young girl and he would tell them that life was precious, that if they needed anyone to talk to, they could call him — any time of day, no matter where in the world they were. And he gave them his home number.
I wish now I could ask dad more about those stories. But the stroke impacted his cognition and speech. I do recall, however, that many young people did phone him. And dad would tell them again and again — life is worth living. You are here to do something with your life, to serve others with your gifts. He would tell them that they were loved. And that they mattered.
So here’s the deal, gang. Yes, life has challenges. No getting away from them. Some will be beyond imagining and you’ll feel like you can’t get through them. But you will. I haven’t been tested that deeply yet, but I figure at some point I will. And I’ll have to remember my words that yes, I’ll get through whatever “it” is, too.
But for the most part, the challenges in life will be ordinary, such as car or computer problems, or perhaps a bit more demanding, such as a health issue. No matter what comes our way, we can indeed choose how to respond.
And I’ll be honest here, I don’t always respond well. Sometimes I’ll throw a mini-tantrum. But that’s OK because I’m human. We all are. And it’s fine to be angry or upset about something that can feel overwhelming.
But I don’t stay there. Eventually, I settle in, take a deep breath, and am thankful. Thankful? You bet.
Life may be hard at times, but it is THE precious gift of life. My life. Your life. We learn, we grow, we stumble, we get up. It’s all part of the package deal of this thing we call “being human.”
And hopefully, we help each other along the way.
So be a light for someone else today. Don’t walk by them. Say hello if nothing else. And while you’re at it, hug yourself for all you’ve been through. You deserve it. I’ll do the same.