Life is filled with surprises, sad and glad, and most of us know by now that life can change on a dime or be turned upside down (or even right side up) in an instant. Life is fragile, precious, and at best unpredictable. It’s good to make plans, even if God laughs, as it’s some kind of insurance for tomorrow and all the days that may lie ahead. But, dear friends, there are simply no guarantees. No one has promised us that we will have a good life, Most of that is up to us and the choices we make along the way. And even then, detritrus decides or there are times when poop presides. I am not one who believes that accidents just happen. I think that all the ugly, awful stuff has root causes if we’re willing to stop, look and listen.
We can reference tragedies such as 911 and Sandy Hook or even the recent mayhem in Iraq and Afghanistan where the tragic loss of life was traumatic for so many others. Many survivors of war and other horrendous events have a diagnosis called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. These events are so against our human nature as to be more than offensive and disgusting. They produce reactions and responses that are often so irrational and unthinking to the point of making people somewhat unbalanced in their words and actions. However, in others the response is a call to action to correct what’s wrong, to work for justice and peace, to find ways to celebrate life and appreciate each day as a gift and see what we can make of it.
A friend of mine, often in response to a crisis, was frequently heard to say, “It’s not a tragedy. No one has died and one one has cancer.” And she was right and in that moment, the remark helped give some perspective to others who were caught up in the drama to regain a little balance and move on. A crisis is not a tragedy but merely a crossroads and as many know, the Chinese characters for crisis are translated as “dangerous opportunity.” One effective strategy is to consciously and intentionally choose how you will respond rather than reacting immediately through an emotional upheaval that renders you and others around you as helpless victims. Do not seek to blame others but find your way through the valley of the shadow so you can learn from the experience and come out better on the other side. Yes, it takes time and sometimes help from others.
There is plenty of suffering in most families lives, whether in illness, fractured relationships, the economy, or sometimes in the stress of every day demands and expectations. Cancer is rampant and it is rare that you don’t know someone who has suffered or is suffering with that dread disease. The three leading causes of death among teenagers in the U.S. are vehicular accidents, homicide and suicide. Each of these are caused, nothing accidental about them. Mental health for both young and old is a growing concern. We are in the midst of a health care crisis in this country and the outcome is unclear.
The other side of this trauma/tragedy/crisis situation is the opportunity that we have to help ourselves and others to walk through these events and days to a place where there is still wonder, joy and something much larger at work on a very big playing field. We have to get some perspective to have a longer and more expansive view to understand how this or that event fits into a bigger plan, what our part is in it and how we can learn and gain from the experience such that will take us to a better place. This is a place of gratitude, of deep and genuine appreciation for what we have been given and the opportunity to look up and move on. It’s all part of the process of learning, evolving, growing and changing. Augustine put it in terms of the temporal versus eternal and you can put it however you choose. After all is said and done, it really is up to you.