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Home / Articles / Columnists / On the Bright Side /  Beat you to it again!
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Friday, June 3,2011

Beat you to it again!

By Jonna Shutowick. M.S. Ed.  
“Everything That Can Be Counted Does Not Necessarily Count” (Albert Einstein)

The recent triple disaster in Japan has once again taught us that in the throes of tragedy, our possessions mean nothing. There have been amazing stories coming out of the region. Journalists, poets, songwriters, and artists have been tapping into the raw emotion of it all and the common thread of many of these stories is the importance of human connection and really nothing else. People who have lost everything are managing to focus on their gratitude that they were s o m e h o w s p a r e d a n d acknowledging that, while losing literally everything (and even everyone in some cases) is incredibly painful and traumatic, it brings you back to the core of who you are as a human being and what is important to you. In times of despair people come together and often the best traits in us emerge. I have read stories of heroism, kindness, generosity, selflessness and in each one the person sharing their story expressed in some way their gratitude for the recognition that material things do not matter. People share what little they have, they sit by candlelight and tell stories, they put out signs to let others know if they have something like running water... there is silence at night and a sky full of stars. The world of conspicuous consumption has been peeled away and what’s left is, in the words of a blogger from Sendai, Japan, “warm, friendly and beautiful.” This blogger went on to say, “Living fully on the level of instinct, of intuition, of caring, of what is needed for survival - not just my own, but the entire group’s brings unexpected touches of beauty.” What does this say about the resiliency and tenacity of the human spirit?

I began looking for stories about triumph, not over tragedy, but during; and to my delight there were literally thousands. It seems we are built to seek and return to joie de vivre and the way we get there is by being there for others and allowing ourselves to lean on others as well. Whether it was a story about the Women’s Mass Action for Peace in Liberia or Aung San Suu Kyi speaking about her more than 15 years under house arrest in Myanmar or Paul Rusesabagina’s nightmare in Rwanda, or simply an anonymous do-gooder who, through their kind action, changed the very fabric of a person’s experience without even knowing it (these are my favorite stories!)... the list goes on and on. This made me very happy and reminded me that finding a bright side can be done no matter what. Menachem Mendle Schneerson said, “There is nothing so whole as a broken heart.” Poet Theodore Roethke wrote, “The dark has its own light.” And Albert Camus revealed, “In the depth of winter, I found that in me was an invincible summer.” There will always be events around us that are out of our control, but what lies within us is a constant. And when the layers of non-essentials are peeled away, and all that’s left is us... just us.. together, that is when our true humanity really shines to let light into the darkness.


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As the author of this article, I want to clarify that "Beat You To It" is not the title of the article.  That was the subject line in my email to the editor as a joke we have going back and forth - I beat them to having to ask me to send my article.  The title is actually the Einstein quote.  That goes much better with the tenor of the article.  Thank you.