Dealing With Adversity, and Being Ready for It.

It’s a gorgeous evening with a relatively clear sky, vivid stars in 3D, and a halo around the moon (formed as light refracts through ice crystals in the atmosphere). The temperature is frigid, but not bitter, at a few degrees below zero with no breeze. The wife is in the house with some friends watching Downton Abby, and I’m out here in my shack with the wood stove fixin’ to cook up some sauna-like temperatures shortly. Smoke twists straight up into the heavens from the chimney. This is winter as it should be. A couple weeks ago we had rain, so it’s good to be back to normal. Anyhow, here’s my latest column from the paper:

“Today was the best day and the worst day. It was the worst because I broke my elbow, and the best because I got a popsicle.” These words were the final analysis of a recent day experienced by my seven year old son. His attitude and spirit, both before and after surgery, has been admirable and worthy of emulation.

He is learning perseverance through adversity, and is seeing the good and beautiful things while being in the midst of what is undeniably a bummer. By and large I see him taking life in stride, and handling each day as it comes. We can’t always fight against these bad things when they happen to us. It is best to accept and enjoy the good things that can be a part of them. This practice helps keep one from being sucked into the downward spiral of self-pity.

Enjoying the kind gestures of friends and neighbors has been a source of comfort. One of his friends delivered a homemade card, which Josiah loved and gushed over for a long time. After a visit with the friend, he remarks, “Mom, we had a conversation!” Mom asks if he doesn’t normally have conversations with his friends, and he answers, “No, we usually just play.” It brightens our days to see him rejoicing in these simple pleasures.

It is interesting to see how the “little” things done by friends and neighbors can pay disproportionate dividends in gratefulness and happiness. Knowing others care about you means something, and he is so young that he hasn’t learned to take it for granted apparently. Cards, simple gifts, and loved ones being present in body and spirit, are as refreshing as lemonade on a hot summer day.

I think we can all learn a thing or two from kids in dealing with adversity, even while guiding them through it. Such events churn up the surface of our lives, and show what we’re really made of. If we don’t like what we see we can make the necessary course corrections.

With the extra time on your hands during your recovery you could choose to feel sorry for yourself, or seize the day instead. Maybe there are some books you’ve been wanting to read for years. Picking up your pen and beginning a correspondence with a few friends and family members is also time well spent. Receiving a real letter in the mail is a rare treat, and something that is likely to be returned in spades.

You have to write letters to get them, and this is an art form worthy to be revived in this era of mere information exchange. Reconnect with the loved ones in your life rather than rapidly exchanging forgettable details. Due to our increased mobility, odds are that your friends may be spread out over a considerable distance. Facebook and other forms of social media may have their place, but I’ll take three thoughtful letters unexpectedly received in my mailbox over 500 Facebook “friends” any day.

You can also encourage the old habit of “visiting” with neighbors. This time of year a little hospitality goes a long way. A hot cop of coffee on a cold day is usually enough to perk just about any of us up. In an era of extreme busyness, taking time to visit and share in one another’s triumphs and defeats is definitely counter-cultural.

For years polls have suggested that the vast majority of people feel the country is moving in the wrong direction. Rather than wallowing in self-pity as a body politic, we should find the positive things to rejoice in and do our small part to restore the ties that bind us in our immediate communities. When it is your turn to go through difficulties, and they most assuredly will come, you’ll be glad you did.

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