It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.Leon C. Megginson
In the summer of 1999, I lost my mom to cancer. Seven years later I lost my only sister to suicide. Each life experience has taught me to stay present to what is happening, and to stay awake to the insights of what I am to learn from the challenges faced along the way.
The picture below was me 11 years ago February 1 - after undergoing four hours of surgery to remove an orange-sized tumour from my stomach. Talk about a wake-up call! I had 55 stitches, and recuperated in the hospital for 7 days with no food or drink; it took me more than a year to recover.
What had got me into that situation? Believing that I was invincible, and that I had all the time in the world to start living life to the fullest.
Throughout our history, there are countless stories of how humans have fallen, only to rise higher. Stories of how we have been broken down, only to find out how strong we really are.
Challenging times come in many forms, and innocent people experience unspeakable things that we wouldn’t wish on an enemy. But if we get the chance to survive through our challenges, it is our responsibility to make whatever time we have left matter, so that we may pass on our treasures of experience to the next generations.
This past year has made us all acutely aware of how precious our lives are. Our legacy of life matters, and our stories of struggle and survival matter too.
Someone once said, “Life is not for the faint of heart.” This can be true, but the companion to this truth is that we all have inner strength to draw upon.
With every instance of hardship comes a great reason to dig deeper within
On April 20, 1999, gunshot-wounded Patrick Ireland bravely let himself fall out of a window at Columbine High School. Partially paralyzed, he somehow found the courage to drop out of that window to be caught by the first responders below.
In retrospect, Patrick Ireland made us aware, perhaps for the first time in our generation, that we cannot control the things that happen to us. But we can control how we choose to respond to any given situation, and we must fight for this right.
On September 11, 2001, people talked of the care and kindness perfect strangers showed one another. My friend Darrin Baker (one of the participants in my book Finding the Light – How We Transformed Our Fears into Renewed Hope During the Pandemic) was living in New York City. The day after the attack, he was walking down Columbus Avenue and collapsed on the curb, weeping uncontrollably.
Two women who didn’t know each other, or him, knelt down beside Darrin and held him for several minutes. No words were exchanged, even as they eventually dusted themselves off to go back to their ‘new normal’ life.
This type of coming together also happened on the east coast of Canada in Gander, Newfoundland. The population of that city nearly doubled when American airspace was closed for several day after the 9/11 attacks. A total of 38 planes and 6,700 passengers were grounded, and the community of Gander somehow fed, housed, and cared for all of the passengers. In fact, the 2017 Tony Award-winning musical, Come From Away, made this heartwarming and true story, famous.
On April 6, 2020, during the early months of the pandemic, British World War II veteran Captain Sir Tom Moore, was seen walking laps in his garden to rehabilitate his hip after surgery. He wanted to walk 100 laps of his garden with the goal of raising £1000 for the United Kingdom’s public health system before his 100th birthday, which was on April 30.
His efforts caught the hearts of the world. During those few weeks, he raised more than £32.7 million. Sir Kier Starmer (leader of the British opposition) said of his efforts, “In his actions, Tom embodied the national solidarity which has grown throughout this crisis, and showed us that everyone can play their part in helping to build a better future.”
Pain is often the touchstone of growth
Action begets action. Nothing lasting happens overnight – so get moving! Have you considered that right now, you are being prepared for something even bigger than you thought was in store for you? What you do today creates your future for tomorrow.
Every connection, each action and reaction, plays a part in affecting HOW you do WHAT you do.
If you have a burning desire to move things along in a different direction, find a way (no matter how small), to infuse hope into your current situation. Trust that all of the answers and abilities that you need to get yourself through are unique to you, and forever in place for you to freely draw upon, at any time.
Right now we are living our collective story of inspiration: to learn from it, and to share it
No matter what the outside pressures may be, find a way to claim your space in this world and to develop your life in the way you dream it could be, because your story will help someone else who needs to know it is possible.
Be present, kind, and mindful with yourself and others. The legacy of what you are embracing in your life matters. Make every single minute count.
Moving in the direction of claiming your space will immediately breathe new life into your current situation, no matter how out-of-line it may seem to be. And by claiming your own right to what is ‘better’, you are giving someone else permission to claim their ‘better’ too.
On your mark, get set, GO!
The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.Mark Twain