Posted Monday, January 13, 2003
A Great Book for All Walks of Life Seeking to Live a Balanced Life
Book: Say Yes to Life: A Book of Thoughts for Better Living
Author: Sidney Greenberg
Crown Publishers, New York, pp. 146
Excerpt from Jacket:
In our rapidly changing world, values and standards of human behavior seem to change almost as quickly as technology, politics, and fashion. In face of this, it is often hard not to question the validity of those values on which we base our view of life. Is it possible to love your neighbor when the prevailing standard is keeping up with the Jones? How can you believe in the goodness of others, when people are responsible for much of what's wrong with the world?
. . .Rabbi Sidney Greenberg offers seventy-three essays celebrating his belief in the goodness of people and the beauty of life in all its variety. He is confident that the traditional values are still alive and shows how we can reinforce the strength of these values to make life better for ourselves and others. He suggests that we can do this by using our best abilities and finest attributes generosity, kindness, compassion, our powers of communication, a sense of justice, our constructive human energy. We can also turn to our advantage our less-than-best qualities anger, envy, impatience, the tendency to doubt. . . .
Say Yes to Life reflects a deep understanding of the human condition with all its pain, perplexities, and possibilities. Combining compassion, wisdom, and humor, this life-affirming volume will inspire people of every faith to believe in and bring out the best from within themselves.
Excerpt from Book:
When Glenn Cunningham was a boy of eight, he and his brother attempted to start a fire to heat their school building. A violent kerosene explosion ensued and Glenn's legs wer so badly burned that the doctors proposed amputation. His mother wold not hear of it.
After six long months in the hospital, a series of extensive skin grafts, and endless hours of massaging by his mother's loving hands, Glenn began to walk and then to run to strengthen his crippled legs. He ran and he ran and he ran, until at age twenty-five he ran straight into a world record for the fastest mile a record he was to hold for years.
The world applauded Cunningham's courage no less than his skill, for he had provided a thrilled illustration of the truth of Ernest Hemingway's words, "The world breaks everyone, and afterward many are strong in the broken places."
Indeed, there are two truths in Hemingway's statement. The first is that sooner or later we are all broken. Defeat, disappointment, sorrow, and tragedy are the common lot of all people.
If there were an X ray capable of giving us a picture of the human spirit, we would find that we all show evidence of emotional and psychic fractures. Some of us have suffered the break caused by frustration a career we sought but did not attain, a loved one we wooed but failed to win. Some of us have scars left by a haunting sense of inadequacy; by physical and mental abuse; by blasted hopes; by unrealized dreams; by losses we cannot recapture or forget.
"Man," the Bibles says, "is born to trouble as surely as the sparks fly upward" (Job 5:7). Trouble is not a gate crasher in the arena of our lives; it has a reserved seat there. Heartache has a passkey to every home in the land.
After Helen Hayes suffered the loss of her young and gifted daughter, Mary, she wrote, "When God afflicts the celebrated of the world, it is His say of saying, None is privileged. In my eyes all are equal.'"
But Hemmingway talks not only of our common vulnerability to being broken; he reminds us too that we can later become strong in the broken places. Where trouble and suffering are concerned, you and I, like young Glenn have the power not only to confront and endure them; we can use the constructively and creatively.
I say we can use them, not that we necessarily do use them. Many are strong in the broken places no all. Some are embittered by suffering. Some are overcome by self-pity. "Why did it happen to me?" Some are resentful.
But then there are others who understand that some of the noblest human traits flourish in the soil of suffering. Compassion and kindness, fortitude and patience, sympathy and humility these are part of the rich harvest that can ripen from the dark seeds of pain.
Robert Browning Hamilton captured a sustaining truth when he wrote:
I walked a mile with Sorrow
And ne'er a word said she,
But, oh, the things I learned from her
When Sorrow walked with me.
Whether or not we become strong in the broken places depends ultimately on our attitude toward trouble. If we realize that suffering is our common human lot and that it can help us grow in spirit and in understanding, then we can indeed use it to grow strong in broken places.