“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 at the top of this article was me 11 years ago February 1st after undergoing four hour surgery to remove an orange-sized tumour from my stomach. Talk about a wake-up call! I had 55 stitches, recuperated in the hospital for 7 days with no food or drink and it took me over a year to recover. What got me here? Believing I was invincible and had all the time in the world to live life to the fullest.
Throughout our history, there are countless stories of how man has fallen only to rise higher. How we have been broken down only to reveal 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 it, 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 truly 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 from. With every instance of hardship comes a great reason to dig deeper within.
On April 20, 1999, Patrick Ireland bravely fell out of a window at Columbine High School. He somehow found the courage to throw himself out that window to be caught by the first responders below. In retrospect, he 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 that we must fight for this right.
September 11, 2001 – People talked of the care and kindness perfect strangers showed one another. My friend Darrin Baker, (one of the participants of Finding the Light – How We Transformed Our Fears into Renewed Hope During the Pandemic) was living in New York at the time. The next day after the attack, he was walking on Columbus Avenue and collapsed on the curb weeping uncontrollably. Two women who didn’t know each other or him, knelt down beside him and held him for minutes. No words were exchanged even as they eventually dusted themselves off to go back to their new normal of life. This type of coming together also happened on the east coast of Canada in Gander, Newfoundland. The population of that city almost doubled when the American air space was closed for several days. 38 planes and 7,000 passengers were grounded and the community of Gander took care of all of the passengers. In fact, the 2017 Tony Award winning musical, Come From Away, made this heartwarming true story, famous.
Pandemic 2020 – April 6, 2020, 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 to raise £1000 for United Kingdom’s public health system before his 100th birthday, April 30. His efforts caught the hearts of the world. During that time, he raised more than £32.7 million. Sir Kier Starmer (leader of the 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, every action and reaction play’s 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 to freely draw from any time.
The story we are living right now is our collective story of inspiration to learn from and to share it. No matter what the outside pressures may be, find a way to see that this is your day to claim your space in this world and to develop your life in the way you dream it to be because your story will help someone else who needs to know it is possible. Moving in this direction will immediately breathe new life into your current situation, no matter how out of line it may seem to be. By claiming your right to ‘better’, you are giving someone else the permission to claim their ‘better’ too.
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. On your mark, get set, GO!