Even though I grew up near the Jersey shore, we didn’t often go to the beach when I was a child. My dad was busy earning a living; my stay-at-home mom didn’t drive. But I do remember one rare beach day when I was ten years old and my brother Billy was three.
My mother had picked up a couple of beach toys at an end-of-the-summer clearance: a blow-up raft and a beach ball. I was excited about the raft. My brother was thrilled with the ball. I remember my dad inflating them and handing them to us.
Unfortunately, as often happens in the afternoon, a breeze blew, and it picked up Billy’s ball, launching it seaward.
We ran after it, but couldn’t catch up. As we waded into the water, my dad passed us. “Wait here!” he said, and dove in.
We watched him swim with powerful strokes past all the other bathers, but the ball danced over the waves faster still. After what seemed like forever (but was probably more like ten minutes), he turned around and swam back to us, the beach ball now just a dot approaching the horizon.
Billy cried, “My ball!” It wasn’t fair—his brand new toy, and he’d barely had a chance to play with it.
“Don’t worry,” Dad said to him. “The ball is swimming to Oma. She will know it’s from you, and she’ll be so happy.”
Our grandmother, who we called Oma, lived in Germany, across the ocean. Dad’s comment made sense to Billy, and he wiped away his tears, a happy little boy again.
My baby brother turned 55 this year. Dad passed away in 2013. How I long for the days when my father could make everything all right.
How often have I counted on something, only to have it fail to materialize? How many times has a long-anticipated event fallen short of my expectations? How frequently have my best efforts yielded unsatisfactory results? Disappointment is a fact of life.
But you can’t live there.
Your tragedy isn’t the end of the world. Life goes on.
In his book, You Gotta Keep Dancin’, Tim Hansel said, “Pain is inevitable, but misery is optional. We cannot avoid pain, but we can avoid joy.”
Why would we want to avoid joy? And how can we get to it when we’re in the middle of misfortune?
While Don Piper recuperated from the horrific car crash that almost cost his life (chronicled in his book 90 Minutes in Heaven), unbearable pain launched him into a deep depression which didn’t relent for months, until he listened to a favorite song, Praise the Lord by the Imperials. As implausible as it sounds, that song was cathartic for him. “When we’re up against a struggle and we think we can’t keep going, we can change that by praising God,” he says.
What changed was his attitude. He went from hopelessness to persistence in a moment. (Actually, he cried for an hour, and then he found the will to go on.)
Have you ever been despondent after a disaster? How did you find the courage to face life again? Please share in the comments below.