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Meaning in Spite of Suffering

For many of us, the event of death is associated with suffering. Our elder family members often meet their demise after a prolonged illness that is marked by pain and misery. Sometimes, tragic accidents occur that result in horrible, terminal injury. If you factor in the gratuitous violence and macabre sensationalism of many TV shows, movies, and news outlets, then you can appreciate how much we just do not want to deal with the topic. Is it any wonder that we just keep postponing the purchase of life insurance, the creation of our will, and other estate planning imperatives?

Yet at the same time, our country is full of heroism, of people who looked their suffering in the eye and decided to come out ahead of it. So many of our successful entrepreneurs are true “rags-to-riches” stories, in which they picked themselves up from abject poverty to lead lives of comfort, growth, and benevolence.

In military lore, the bravery of service men and women is legendary. How many times have you heard of the soldier, sailor or pilot rising above a life-threatening situation, to save his comrades and insure victory?

The sports world is full of moments in which triumph is snatched from the jaws of defeat. That is what glues us to the TV screen every Sunday afternoon. Sure, they are all just games, but the athletes need to reach down and rise to the occasion nonetheless. They inspire us.

Sometimes the athletes really do face the most dire of circumstances, that stem from the game but take over their personal life. One such athlete is Koni Dole.

Koni is now a senior at Huntley Project High School in Montana. Less than a year ago, he severely broke his leg in a football game. Unfortunately there were complications, and his leg had to be amputated. His football career looked to be at an end; more than that, of course, he would have to spend his life as an amputee. For many people, this situation would be a cause of great suffering.

Not Koni. I will let you read the story of his comeback for yourself. Long story short, he has already resumed his football career and is very much a star, both on and off the field. (1)

Stories such as this one help us believe that we really can deal with anything that comes our way. Even if it does not appear to be so, if we dig down deep inside ourselves, we will find the strength to make the right things happen. That most certainly includes getting our financial affairs in order, as daunting as that seems.

To accent the point I will share the guidance of Viktor Frankl. Dr. Frankl was a psychiatrist who survived the Holocaust to become one of the most important teachers for humanity in the 20th century. Listen to his words:

“As a professor in two fields, neurology and psychiatry, I am fully aware of the extent to which man is subjected to biological, psychological and sociological conditions. But in addition to being a professor in two fields, I am a survivor of four camps – concentration camps, that is – and as such I also bear witness to the unexpected extent to which man is capable of defying and braving even the worst conditions conceivable.” (2)

(1) “Montana Amputee Koni Dole Helps Lead High School Team to Win in Big Return.” NY Daily News. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Sept. 2013.

(2) Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning (Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 2006) p. 130