There is a special invitation that whispers to us from the midst of our greatest challenges. It is an invitation to honor our spirit as we keep hope alive for ourselves and others.
The truth of this brilliance was brought before me the other day when a friend wrote a note distilling the lessons learned over the past year as he and his wife battled and beat back cancer.
In sharing what helped them make it through the nights of doubt, pain and uncertainty, they turned to ancient words recorded more than 1,800 years ago…
‘It is my bad luck that this has happened to me.’ No, you should rather say: ‘It is my good luck, that although this has happened to me I can bear it, neither crushed by the present nor fearful of the future.’ Because such a thing could have happened to any man, but not every man could have borne it. So why see more misfortune in the event than good fortune in your ability to bear it?
Can there be anything, then, in this happening which prevents you from being just, high-minded, self-controlled, intelligent, judicious, truthful, honourable and free – or any other of those attributes whose combination is the fulfillment of man’s proper nature?
So in all future events which might induce sadness remember to call on this principle: ‘This is no misfortune, but to bear it true to yourself is good fortune.’
~ Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
These words, as true today as when they were written centuries before, landed on a heart tender from writing the story of my life’s greatest mentor, a wise federal judge who guided my career and life as a young lawyer.
This was a man who knew loss. He lost his grandmother and other relatives in the Holocaust, saw his father paralyzed, lived through the Great Depression, several wars, and a historic flood that decimated his community, and lost his wife and two younger sisters.
This also was a man who wore his humanity lightly. He intimately taught me both sides of the coin of humanity: how to accept with grace and gratitude the things in life we cannot change…and how the quality of our life is measured by the extent to which we help others in their time of need.
If you currently are facing tough times, remember that you have within you the strength to persevere in a way that honors your spirit. As my mentor would say, “In times of great uncertainty and need, you will have doubts. Also have hopes. Have dreams.”
To all reading these words, receive an invitation passed on from a dear friend to remember that others need your kind words and thoughtful deeds today. Shine a light for those who are traveling a dark road.