Rising from the Ashes with Hope


From the Boston Marathon bombing, to the Cleveland area women who were tortured,  to destructive tornadoes in Oklahoma and more, we hear about tragedies every day. Sometimes, it’s all you hear about. House fires, murders, war, rape, famine, divorce, depression, suicide...from big to small, our society seems to really grasp onto the negative. No wonder 27 million people in the U.S. are on antidepressants and stress related illnesses like heart disease and Type 2 diabetes are on the rise. We are overwhelmed by the negative. And if we’re not careful, it’s all we can see.

Consider another perspective. Consider thinking about the good that happens in the world, each day, in every moment... Healthy babies are being born to loving parents. Volunteers are rebuilding homes in areas struck by disaster. Couples are expressing love through marriage vows. Children are hugging their mothers. Police officers and firefighters are saving lives. Doctors are performing life-saving surgeries. Soldiers are loving their country, and with pride doing what they must to protect all they hold dear. People are eating nutritious meals. Children are getting an education. People are dancing with joy. Mothers are affectionately kissing their babies. Homeless pets are being placed in loving homes. People are recovering from addictions. Good, honest, hard-working people are out making a difference in the world in all sorts of professions. Volunteers are helping poverty-stricken areas by providing medical support, food and education. Neighbors are helping each other. Families are bonding over celebrations. Children are making lifelong friendships. People are making decisions to improve their health by eating better and exercising. Lovers are embracing and experiencing healthy, monogamous desire for one another. Millions of people have clean water to drink. People are experiencing love for the first time. Elderly people are looking back over their lives and smiling. Green grass is growing. The sun rose high in the sky and nourished everything on earth. Nature is moving through its cycles and we can choose to stop and marvel at it all.

But this isn’t about seeing things in black and white either. I’m not suggesting we only focus on the cheerfulness of life and ignore real tragedies and horrific things that happen in the world around us. This is about finding hope within the tragedy. To see the good rising out of the bad. To see the dawn after a long, dark night. And to choose to focus on the light, instead of allowing yourself to be consumed in the despair of darkness.

This lesson is reflected in poetry, mythology, religion and stories from all over the world. And it’s a concept I constantly try to remind myself of, so I may remain lifted, my heart filled with hope. When I hear stories that make me cringe, or when I, myself, am faced with tragedy or difficulty, I am reminded of the Hindu story of Shiva, often referred to as the destroyer. Sounds fierce and frightening, doesn’t it? But Shiva destroys everything on the path, so that new seeds and growth can happen. Shiva is winter to spring’s flowers.

I am reminded of the Resurrection and its symbolism at a very simple core. Bad things happen to good people. Sometimes horrible choices are made. But hope can be reborn from such destruction and from it, beauty, goodness, and grace can grow in its place.

I am reminded of the Greek myth about the Phoenix rising from the ashes. The Phoenix was a bird that was cyclically regenerated or reborn and would rise from the ashes of its predecessor.

Can’t we too rise from the ashes of our own life moments of destruction? Ask yourself what you can learn from difficult moments. Are you stronger because of them? Do they restore your faith in some way? Can you find peace and release in difficulty? Did you learn who your true friends are? What is most important to you? Who means the most to you? What brings you meaning in life? What brings you happiness? Is it your job? Your relationships? Your home? Your possessions? Is it love? Isn’t our human experience about a range of emotions and situations? How could we appreciate the good times without difficulty sprinkled within? How can we appreciate the stars without the setting sun or the sunrise without saying goodbye to the darkness?

Give yourself permission to try on new lenses and look for the good around you. Look for the hope. And in each story you hear, or in each chapter of your life, allow yourself to appreciate every moment as a rich experience, something to feel and embrace, knowing that life is about riding the waves, and waiting for each new sunrise with hope and joy and appreciation in your heart.