The Power Of Choice
I was around seven or eight years old. I was with my dad on the University of Illinois campus. We stopped at the university store and I found a small basketball. I took it out of the bin and excitedly showed it to my dad. "Alright" he said. We left the store to walk back to my dad's office. "Can I hold the ball?" I asked. I was so excited. "Yes" said my dad, "but don't bounce it." Easy enough.
About a block away from the store I let my excitement get the best of me. I bounced the ball. But, instead of falling on the pavement and returning to my hand, I made a mistake. The ball hit my shoe. It rolled into the street and under the wheel of a public bus. Fortunately, the bus was at a stop light. My dad saw the ball roll under and heard me ask for help. He jogged over to the bus, bent down to pry the ball from the wheel but it was too late. The light turned green, the bus started rolling, then BOOM. When the traffic had passed I ran to my dad who then picked up the rubber pancake that was my basketball. Tears ensued.
I love my father. He could have relished this moment and made me suffer for my disobedience. He clearly told me not to bounce the ball, yet I did it anyway. Instead, he dried my tears, walked me back to the sports store, and helped me pick out a new ball. This time, I let him carry it.
I've never forgotten this incident. It's had a profound impact on my life. Sometimes s**t happens as Forrest Gump says. Things that are beyond our control. My initial instinct was to run after my ball but it rolled into the street (a place I was also forbidden to tread). My dad tried to rescue the ball in my place but it was too late and I had to watch helplessly as my toy literally exploded before my eyes.
Sometimes we don't have a choice in what happens, but as long as we're alive, we have a choice in how we respond. Victor Frankl says, "when we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves." This is profound. "Everyone you meet is fighting a battle" says Ian Maclaren, yet people hide it so well. Nobody wants to see our ugly scars, we tell ourselves, so we conceal them with smiles.
I'm amazed by both the beauty and suffering of life, yet neither would exist without the other. Suffering is an uncontrollable given. What we can control is how we cope with suffering. Sometimes it takes time for us to find meaning in our suffering, but it is possible, and knowing that it's possible gives hope.
Somewhere in my parent's garage in a bucket sits that basketball, or maybe it's been given away by now at a garage sale or to a neighbor (we don't have a basketball hoop anymore). But I still remember that day. I remember the helpless feeling as I watched the ball crush under the weight of the bus, and I remember my father consoling my guilt and sadness.
Know there is power in choice. "What we think, we become," says Buddha. Choose to see the positive in the world and you will see it. Strive to find meaning in suffering. And remember to be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle.