Those of us fortunate enough will to live in the magnificent city of Calgary, or among the beauty of the towns that surround us, have all experienced a week we will never forget.
Our communities have been pounded by torrential rain and uncontrollable floods that weaved a path of destruction so powerful that many communities have been left battered, bruised and almost obliterated.
More than 100,000 people were evacuated from their homes and today, some eight days later, many of those are still awaiting permission to return to their homes or, in some cases, to the sites upon which their homes once stood.
Not surprisingly, the legendary indomitable spirit of Albertans has risen and unleashed a torrent of volunteers who have worked tirelessly to help their neighbors with the mighty task of cleaning and restoring some sense of normalcy to their lives.
Strangers have materialised to help strangers clean out their homes.
Others strangers have arrived laden with food and equipment which they have freely donated to this massive cleanup effort.
The media has been filled with stories of heroic efforts by people helping others they barely know salvage slivers of memories from the remnants of their shattered lives.
It is impossible to be a Calgarian, or for that matter an Albertan, and not feel the immense pride that comes from knowing you have been blessed to be part of a community of people who truly do care.
Unfortunately the intense level of volunteer support we have seen this week is simply not sustainable. Most of those who have freely given of their time and resources to help in any way they can, will inevitably have to shortly return home to their own lives.
They too have jobs to go to, families to care for and lives to lead.
When that happens so many folks who, over these past few days have become comfortable with the armies of people around offering to assist, will find themselves faced with the challenge of rebuilding their homes and their lives by themselves and with only the support of their immediate friends and families.
This is much like what happens when we experience a death in the family. For several days after, we are surrounded by friends, loved ones, family and those who care about us. They bring food, comfort and support and play an enormous role in easing our pain during those first hard, cold days of having to come to terms with our loss.
And then they are gone. Necessity dictates they return to their own lives and we are left alone to begin building our new life.
Many of those hundreds, if not thousands, of people who have received so much help over the past week are going to face months and months of anxiety, uncertainty and frustration as they try and put together and re-create lives for themselves and their families.
There will be the inevitable delays in obtaining building permits, there will be shortages of labor to perform required and necessary work, there may be temporary shortages of materials and in the midst of this their bills still need to be paid, groceries need to be bought, kids need to go to soccer, piano lessons must continue.
These folks are approaching enormous crossroads in their lives and if ever there was a time that they need to remember, and focus on, the single greatest God given gift we each received when we arrived on this earth, now is the time to do so.
I am talking about the remarkable power of choice that will, without question, determine the quality of their future. They truly need to remember their future joy, happiness and contentment hinges solely on the perspective they are able to bring to the trying situations they are facing.
The situation is the situation – the homes are battered or destroyed – and no amount of lamenting, anger frustration or despair will change this.
The choices they make today are going to determine very location of their tomorrow. The decisions they make, the actions they take, will determine their very future.
Will it be one of frustration, pain, regret and anger or will they triumph over adversity with their spirit intact?
This is an exercise in mental toughness and they can choose to be swallowed up by frustration or to toss the adversity aside as one would an annoying insect.
If they choose frustration and anger, their homes will remain destroyed and if they choose patience and calmness their homes will remain destroyed.
Either way the choices they make will determine the quality of their lives while all of this is happening.
We have so often talked about what I believe to be an irrefutable fact: the only meaning of any event in our lives is the meaning we choose to place upon it. If there has ever been a time to test this, that time is now.
We owe it to ourselves, to our families, colleagues friends and co-workers to remember this and to exercise wisely the magnificent power of choice that was gifted to us.
I know this is far easier said than done but for so many people, their future happiness, perhaps even their very psychological survival will depend on the choices they make regarding how they allow these events in their lives to affect them.
Some will be damaged beyond repair, some will destroy themselves with their own anger and frustration and others will view this as a growth experience from which they will emerge happier, healthier and far more spiritually intact.
My wife, Gimalle, and I were spared. Our home was not damaged and everything in our lives is today as it was before the first raindrop landed in our city. Some will say – I have already been told this – that it is easy for me to preach this message when I’m not in the situation of having to live through it.
This is absolutely true. I don’t have to live through this and we both are enormously grateful for what we have. What we do have is an opportunity to help as many people as we can and are able to, and we will live up to that responsibility.
But we do know adversity. Gimalle and I both know what it is like to lose a home as we lost our previous home to a flood some nine years ago and every possession we had, including many of Gimalle’s childhood possessions, all with a huge sentimental value, were destroyed.
I will never forget her words once we had realized the enormity of our loss. She said, “As we look at each other we can see that we are both fine. Nothing else matters. Everything else can be replaced and those things that can’t be replaced are just ‘stuff’ that will continue to exist in my mind.”
Her remarkable perspective that day shaped the foundation upon which we built our entire experience.
It enabled us to remain at peace, avoid fighting with each other – or anyone else – and retain our senses of humour.
My book, Life Sinks or Soars – the Choice is Yours, addresses this very topic of choice.
It has been purchased as a healing aid by organizations that provide counselling services and has also been purchased by many others who have been inspired by the story of overcoming adversity.
If any of you, my dear readers, know of anyone who is struggling through these times and you feel he/she may benefit by reading my book please contact me and I would be honoured to give them a complimentary copy.
I know a book cannot replace a house. I also know that our thoughts create our reality and the way we choose to think will determine how we emerge from this event in our lives.
Some will allow themselves to be devastated and will never recover. Others will treat this as a temporary setback and learning experience from which they will emerge stronger and faster.
For each of us, the meaning of this experience lives only inside our heads and each of us will determine its impact on our lives.
I pray we make good choices.
Till we read again
P.S. I am very excited to share with you that my book Life Sinks or Soars – the Choice is Yours now has its very own website. Please visit us at www.lifesinksorsoars.com and let me know what you think.
P.P.S. I had the privilege of doing my first ever radio interview a few weeks ago. The topic of the interview was my book, Life Sinks or Soars – the Choice is Yours. Here is a link to my interview.
I then did a second radio interview. Here is the link.
I would love to hear your thoughts, ideas or suggestions once you have listened to the iinterviews. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and share your thoughts