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"Cheer Up, It Could Be Worse!"

I lost my father to a brain aneurysm about 3 years ago. He and I were extremely close and I was very blessed to have had such an amazing influence in my life. He was an educator extraordinaire, highly intellectual, charitable and compassionate. He too had Parkinson’s Disease although his diagnosis came after my own. This too was a bond we shared and in many ways made me feel very protective of him. He was a man of both faith and science and lived his life guided by optimism and a belief in serving others.

When I recently went home for a visit, I was organizing his paperwork when I came across an article he had written a number of years ago, possibly with the intention of having it published. It never was, but the words ring true and are a testament to the strength of character and empathy that he lived by. It was also a time that he was learning to cope with his Parkinson’s diagnosis and as I read his words, how much he has influenced my own way of facing this battle, becomes so very apparent. I’d like to share this with you…

“We all recall stories from our childhood, some however stay with us, guide us and in essence, impact out lives. Such a story I recall from my teenage years and I have applied it to many challenging and stressful situations in my life.

“A poor man in Africa was walking barefoot on the pavement on a hot summer day. He could not afford a pair of shoes. He cast his glance upwards and complained, “Oh God,” he said “Why did you make me so poor that I cannot afford a pair of shoes? My feet are burning in the heat.: He continued on his way and soon came across a man crawling on the same hot pavement. The crawling man had no legs. That same poor man, who only moments previously had felt the pain of his situation, now thanked God for blessing him with feet on which to walk.”

As you can see,
no matter how bad a situation is, it could always be worse. This thought often works to cheer me up. I try and share the power of these four little words “It could be worse.” with those that may benefit. One of my cousins is a sprinter. One day he felt pain in his right leg. He went to several doctors yet all of his diagnostic tests were normal. The doctors told him that he would have to live with the pain because they could not diagnose its cause. Simply the thought of not being able to run anymore was devastating for him. His pain became chronic. He, like many of us, was facing the “why me” syndrome. When we are hurt physically, mentally or emotionally, we adopt the “why me” mind set. I shared with him the story of the poor man who could not afford a pair of shoes. After listening to the story and applying it to his own case, he began to recognize that at least his left leg was fine, his arms functioned well and the rest of his body was pain-free. His situation could have been worse. I realize that any type of pain, no matter where it hurts, is awful. The saying “Only the wearer knows where the shoe pinches” is very true. We cannot change the painful situation but we can certainly the way we look at it.

There are always two sides of a situation. The situation is never good or bad. The good or bad appearance depends on how we view it.
We cannot change our situation but we can certainly change the way we look at it. We can accept our condition in a positive or a negative way.

Suppose you got into an argument with your children over an issue and the situation made you sad and gloomy. There are two ways to examine this incident. You can continue being sad and depressed or you can cheer up over the fact that your child has many positive things which you have cherished over the years. This incident was just a small deviation from continuing a strong relationship between you and your child.

Here is another illustration. My friend’s mother, when she was 75 years old, was admitted to hospital following a stroke. When I visited her, she was suffering from many abnormalities of her activities of daily living such as eating, speaking and walking. The doctors had told her and her family that the full recovery was not possible. My friend was extremely worried and desperate. All he knew was that his mother was sick and would not fully recover. In the same room I saw a 20 year old patient who had lost most of her brain functioning. She had no memory, no control over her body and she was going to remain in that condition for the rest of her life. No improvement. No treatment. By comparison, my friend realized his mother was in a much better situation, having lived a full life and even now she continued to have the love and support of her family. He realized that situations, good and bad, are relative. No matter how painful our situation, there are always others in a worse situation. Not that the moral of this example is to look for the misfortunes of others but instead to try and recognize the positive aspects of your own situation.

We should be thankful to God or any Supreme Power in which we believe for what we have and not complain about what we lack. We could certainly remember the message: Cheer up – it could be worse. Applying the story of the poor man walking on the hot pavement goes a long way to recognizing the positive side of any situation. It’s a good story to pass onto your children, just as my father passed it on to me.”

And now I will pass his wisdom on to my own girls…

Suggested Reading
Lessons My Father Taught Me
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Through his example I learned the merits of determination, responsibility and perseverance…
The Power of Optimism
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The power of choice – to choose optimism over despair. It became very clear to me that until a cure, my future included Parkinson’s disease. The diagnosis itself was not within my control but how I faced this challenge was mine to determine. And I began to recognize the powerful ability within me to choose…