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My Mother Used To Say
“Karl, if you look hard enough, you can see good in everything.” Mom called it “Happy Fault.” She used the crucifixion of Christ as an example. It was sad that He suffered and died, but good that He redeemed us.
In my life and in my work as a therapist, I began to see how right she was.
Many years ago, when I was practicing in another city, a young, desperate woman came for help. She was very depressed and unhappy because she was a single mother struggling to raise her two children aged five and six. Her husband left her when they were babies. She met this man who sweet talked her. Put her to bed. Told her he had a vasectomy. Got her pregnant and immediately
disappeared We discussed her options. I was glad to hear that she would not consider an abortion. I suggested adoption.. We talked about it for a while and she agreed to consider it. As she was leaving she said, “Oh! My mother. I’m afraid to tell her. She’ll really blow me up!” When I discovered that her mother lived only a few blocks away, I encouraged her to tell her and get it over with.
Well, she came back two weeks later and was delighted. She told her mother and her mom said, “I’m not made of sugar. I know what it’s like to be lonely. I love you and I’ll support you.” Wow!… She called her sister who was in California hoping to get a job in the movie business. The sister knew a couple there who tried to adopt but, they were in their forties and did not qualify. They considered going east for a baby. The sister put her in touch with them. She flew out to California to talk about it and they came to this agreement. The couple would adopt the child, give her a thousand dollars a month for a year, and pay all her medical expenses. Also, the couple was so pleased that they opened some doors for the sister and she got a job..
From something that seemed so rotten, a child is born into the world, she and her Mother are brought closer, the childless couple has a baby, The woman is helped financially and the sister has a job. So… My Mom knew what she was talking about.
When I was a teenager, I had the agony of acne. More than once I had Vesuvius on my forehead. In fact, I once fell asleep at the library and woke up with a blind man reading my face! You might be smiling, but it wasn’t funny then.
I tried everything to get rid of those pimples, but puberty won out. Looking back on it now, I realize that in many ways it was a good thing. The people selling the stuff I tried made a living out of it. I developed a sense of humility that comes from suffering and I believe, makes me a more compassionate man today.
Also, I well remember one great day when I met a young woman I hadn’t seen in a long time, and she said, “Karl, your bumps are gone!” I was the happiest guy in the world!
We have to get sick to appreciate being healthy. The power must go out before we truly enjoy the luxury of electricity. Think of all the times in your life when you looked back on something you thought was terrible and, in the light of a new day, was the best thing that ever happened to you.
Even Plato agrees,
“You remember what people say when they’re sick? What do they say?
After all, nothing is more pleasant than health. But then they never knew this
be the greatest pleasure until they get sick.
— Plato, The Republic. Book IX.
We see it so often in nature, The seed must die so the flower can grow. The beautiful autumn leaves must fall to replenish the earth. Life is lost and life is found. I remember a special on TV where penguins suffer intense cold and sacrifice to protect their eggs so that the species can thrive.
So when life is the pits and the rent isn’t paid and you’re in despair and you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, remember my Mother’s words. Have hope, say a prayer, do something to change things and surely when the sun rises in the morning, something good will be there for you.
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