United we stand in light and in life
by Chris Salboudis
I’ve struggled a bit to know what to write that would be of value to you in this time of crisis. Many of you are young readers who, at best, have read about the way that people have historically built and rebuilt themselves following massive times of crisis. The seeds to developing the mechanism to cope and work past major tragedies and stress triggers is to stop and find joy in simple moments, to look for silver linings in grim times and have faith that you are equipped to pull through. Use these three things as lifelines to pull you forward. It only takes a moment… a few deep breaths, a few seconds to remember your own strength and wisdom, however small you may think it is when crisis hits, and remember that you are not alone. Indeed, even if it’s just a smile or a kind glimpse from someone around you, that person is in your path to remind you that all is not lost.
Look to crisis as an opportunity to remember yourself and to connect with others, to remember that even in times when we feel isolated all people have that feeling and moment at one point in their lives and have some sense of what you are feeling as well. While the experience is not the same for everyone, it is a feeling of empathy that unites many of us now to form positive connections based on the courage to acknowledge that we are here, struggling, together.
I say this out of experience and not just empty council. Having overcome several major hurdles since early childhood, including displacement, prejudice and the weight of injustice that would have suffocated the kefi out of any living thing I had the gift of one voice telling me to have faith, one voice telling me that we would make it through anything because God had made us strong. “Remember, even if you feel your hands shake and your heart pound, remember that your mind is clear, that God made you smart and strong. Never shake in your mind or soul. Remember that you are never alone.” This from the one person who struggled more than I was at that very moment, from the person who, if anything, should have been feeling the stab of despair at being caught in what everyone thought to be a lost cause. But no… I watched her kindle the light in her soul from nothing and use it to bring light to my life and to the lives of thousands of others across the globe. To help sustain her word she reached out to several lifelines – some cross-continental, some local – and brought the three greatest gifts to our life path: Faith, Family and Education.
As a child, she was the hero in all my stories… and as an adult she still is, though we have admittedly had disagreements that would shake the gods off Mount Olympus. She taught me to see the beauty in life even when things were grim. She taught me not to give in and never to give up, to have a care, but also look for the good in people.
Those of you who know me can see the finer points of her tireless effort in the projects I have chosen to take on in work and in life, and while she is officially retired from public service she continues to inspire and connect with others, offering the same strength of character and of mind that she showed me how to pass along to others.
It’s not an easy path to tread, and people will not always agree with your approach. It’s important to connect with others and to listen to the council of those who speak from a point of wisdom, who are willing to help you review and refine your approach to work and life, but it’s also important not to let the opinions of others paralyze you from taking any action or seeking healthy and positive opportunities for growth and flourishing. As my legendary hero would tell you, make space to think, don’t let the noise around you instill fear and doubt into your heart. Sound familiar? Those of you who have attended my classes and seminars have certainly heard it before… presented as Aristotle, as Plato, as Socrates, and as plain horse sense, but the words come to me from my lifelong hero, my mom, who learned it from her three pillars of strength, my grandparents, who were my lifelong mentors and confidants, and a strong faith that God will put the right people and resources in my path… I just have to be wise enough to recognize them and request assistance and brave enough to take firm, positive action.
In life I refuse to be the helpless victim. There is always an answer, always a resource. Just be patient and work through the details. Build your network and map out the wisest course of action
This is not what everyone wants to hear. It’s much easier to be a victim, to complain and allow yourself the luxury of losing your sense of self-control to the darkness of despair, to let the challenges of life and the negativity of others break you. Why not just give up?
Indeed, that is a question posed to me many times, a command yelled at me at several points by very negative people and even policy makers. Why not give up?
Most likely it’s the self-awareness that I am one person in the middle of a very vast human population, that many have come before me and many will come after me and that I have an obligation to both. Those who raised me, who fostered my education and advancement to this point deserve to have their good work recognized in the positive action I take today. Those who look to me for guidance and care, who need the good example of a person with whom they can relate, deserve to know that justice and flourishing are not impossible, though many will try to put obstacles in our path. Life is not perfect, as we have witnessed, but we must always do what we can to keep the light alive within our souls and within the souls of those around us.
With this I wish you all a bright path ahead and a safe transition back to school, work and life.