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Finding a Way to Rise Above the Ups and Downs of Life

    Our son Erik called last night to tell us that his apartment in downtown San Francisco had been burglarized. "Dad, he said, they took my laptop, Grandma and Grandpa's inheritance gift. I am devastated and so sad. What a bummer."

    In an instant, I shared his sadness. I clumsily fumbled about searching for something his dad could say, or do to make the situation hurt just a smidgen less.

    I said, "Ya know Erik, with what I have seen in life,- when bad things happen to good people, the most resilient and smartest seem to find a way to confront the matter and avoid letting it weigh them down. "Victims", I said, stay down, but "victors" find a way to rise.

    I went on to say, that I have a picture of a teeter totter in my head. I see that on one side is seated, "a victim", and on the other, is the "victor." If the objective is to rise and take the high ground, the secret of rising is to find a way to be lighter that the forces on the other side. Getting rid of anger, self pity, why me?-questions and all the other normal, ordinary stuff that bogs one down is essential if one is going to rise above it all.

    Erik's response impressed me. He said, "dad, the burglars got away with my property, but they didn't steal my spirit." I already have a plan to replace the laptop and move on. "Attaboy son I affirmed, I'm proud to be your dad."

    In my work with local churches in partnering with persons with disabilities, I have personally noticed that some people have displayed extraordinary talent in applying spiritual skills and being resilient. "Bouncing back" isn't always so easy. I think that spending some time discovering the secret formula that brings to light how some people handle and adjust to bad circumstances can be immensely valuable,-even a life saver!

    Since 2000, I have encountered many circumstances where individuals and families have had to confront and negotiate the affects of serious injury and disease. I have met many who have had to do battle with brokenness of mind, body, and spirit.

    In several instances, I have seen miraculous recoveries and rebuilding of lives from the inside out when from all appearances hope was all that was left. I consider those who survive and thrive after enduring dramatic challenges to health and wholeness of their mind, body or spirit, "New Humpty People."

    The traditional profile of ordinary Humpty People" is that �all the king's horses and all the king's men�can't put them back together again. Once broken, they remain permanently broken.

    However, on the other hand, I have witnessed, "New Humpty Dumpty" people. This distinguished, but often hidden band of champions are those who take falls in stride and find a way to live happily ever after. They mysteriously possess an "unbreakable spirit".

    Are these resilient few:
    Courageous?, Yes!
    Spirit-filled?, Yes!
    Inspirational?, Yes!

    Today, my wife asked me to take a moment and listen to a part of the book she is reading. The book is Frank McCourt's Teacher Man. The main character of the portion of the book she shared is a young man by the name of Guy Lind. The story dramatically illustrates my observations about human resilience and the subsequent impact on observers. I hope you enjoy this beautiful story. It makes me count my many blessings.

    Perhaps deeply appreciating this story and others that I have personally witnessed will help me store away some potential energy and savvy. One can hope that each person might somehow be able to bring forth resilience traits and apply them in the face of some almost inevitable future challenge.

    From Frank McCourt's "Teacher Man" PP. 256-257

    "�.When Guy Lind was a sophomore he brought an umbrella to school on a snowy slushy day. He met a friend on the second floor who also had an umbrella. They began to fence with their umbrellas till the friend slipped and the tip of his umbrella pierced through Guy's eye and left him paralyzed on one side.

    They took him to Beth Israel Hospital across the street and that started a long journey from city to city and country to country. They even took him to Israel, where the fighting keeps them up to date on trauma and treatment.

    Guy returned to school in a wheelchair and wearing a black eye patch. After a while he made his way through the corridors with the help of a walking stick. Eventually he discarded the stick and you wouldn't know of his accident except for the black eye patch and an arm that lay useless on the desk.

    Here was Guy listening to Rachael Blaustein on the other side of the room. She was talking about a poetry class she took with Mrs. Kocela. She enjoyed the class and the way Mrs. Kocela taught poetry, but it was really a waste of time for her. What was there to write about when everything in her life was perfect: her parents happy and successful; Rachael was the only child and headed for Harvard; Rachael with perfect health.

    I told her she could add beauty to her catalogue of perfection. She smiled, but the question remained, what was there to write about?

    Someone said, I wish I had your troubles, Rachael. She smiled again.

    Guy told of his experiences in the past two years. For all he went through he wouldn't want to change anything. In hospital after hospital he met people shattered, sick, suffering in silence. It took him out of himself. No, he wouldn't change a thing���There are tears and expressions of wonder that Guy is sending us on our way with a story that reminds us to count our blessings���..

    Frank McCourt is a brilliant storyteller. In just a few words he communicates so much, so well. McCourt's talent articulates complex ideas and translates them into such powerful and enduring stories. The "Guy Lind's of the world teach us many lessons. I hope I can each day, and especially in the face of adversity, find a way to look beyond myself and deeply appreciate and apply the great gift of resilience of the human spirit.

    � Donald R. Grossnickle
    February 2006

    Deacon Don Grossnickle Ed.D.
    Director, Disability Outreach Partnership Ministry
    Vicariate One Bishop's Special Staff
    Archdiocese of Chicago
      Libertyville office Work: 847- 549-0160 Fax: (847) 549-0163
    200 N. Milwaukee Ave., Suite 200. Libertyville, IL. 60048-2250
    � All Material Copyright and All Rights Reserved by Donald R. Grossnickle