December 24, 2004, The Halifax Herald Limited

The weak show how strong they are

WELL friends, once again, it's that time of year when most of us stop and count our blessings. Then, after savouring them, we thank the Great Spirit for making them possible.

Unfortunately, to the detriment of the happiness of their families and friends, a good number won't do so. Instead, they will only moan and groan and count their sorrows. Such conduct is the work of Scrooges, because even those with aches and pains and sorrows, if they look hard enough, can find cause to be thankful.

This is especially so for those of us seniors who have children. Rejoicing with them when they overcome the trials and tribulations of life is most rewarding, and it eases the pain of the maladies that come with advancing years.

In my case, this says a lot because the pain of arthritis is with me constantly. And, unless a new miracle drug or treatment that I can tolerate comes along soon, it will continue until the time I meet my Maker. Thus, to dwell on such things, instead of the positives, would drive one to the depths of depression.

Thankfully, there are a multitude of positives to keep a person happy and depression at bay. In my case, some of the most inspiring come from watching the exploits of my two-year-old granddaughter, Jenna, as she acclimatizes to the world around her.

Even at this tender age, she exhibits a burning desire for independence. If you try to help her when she is doing something without being asked, she will say with emphasis: "I'll do IT!" Then when successful: "I did IT!"

If those inclined to ask government, or others, to do it for them would follow her example, they would have a much more satisfying and rewarding life. And, of course, society would be much better off because of their efforts.

Luckily, there are also lots of other easy-to-find sources of inspiration to help keep a healthy mental outlook.

Foremost among these are the positive attitudes of the thousands of people who live and cope with disabilities that make many able-bodied people cringe in fear of joining them.

A couple of high-profile cases that provide excellent fodder for improving mental outlook are those of Michael J. Fox and the late Christopher Reeves. Michael courageously battles on. Neither wallowed in self-pity.

In fact, most physically impaired individuals accept reality and learn to live as comfortably as possible with their impairment, and resent being pitied.

These wise words uttered by a self-sustaining sightless man should move those among us burdened with self-pity to reassess their fortunes: "I wish the sighted people who pity me would stop, because I take great joy in appreciating and living life. This wish is especially so for those among them who show by their insensitivity to the wonderful things that surround us that they are blinder than I."

Then there are the incredibly inspiring stories about the less fortunate foreign people, living in the depths of poverty and oppression, that you see on TV, and read about in newspapers and magazines, who find cause to thank the Great Spirit for the little they have. They do so because they know it could be worse. They could have nothing, including life.

A heart-rendering example of the depths of the courage of such oppressed and poverty-stricken individuals is contained in a story in the December 2004 issue of Reader's Digest, entitled: "My life as a slave."

I wholeheartedly recommend it for inspirational reading. It's about a black Sudanese man who was abducted when he was seven years old by a Sudanese Arab militia and forced into slavery for 10 years. He escaped and now works for the American Anti-Slavery Group: "My job is to tell people how I was kidnapped, beaten, treated like an animal and forced to work for 10 years until I was able to escape."

This courageous, forgiving hero's ambition is to some day return to Sudan and help others - not to seek revenge!

I want to take this opportunity to wish Christians a most joyous and memorable Christmas. For non-Christians, a short respite for rest and meditation.

For the New Year, I wish that the Great Spirit will see fit to give mankind the wisdom to make the world a far safer and more prosperous and peaceful one for all of His children.

May the Great Spirit be with you and yours always!

Daniel N. Paul


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