May Sarton (Thoele & Louden, 2006) once said, “It is only when we can believe that we are creating the soul that life has any meaning, but when we can believe it – and I do and always have – then there is nothing we do that is without meaning and nothing that we suffer that does not hold the seed of creation in it” (p. 66). The idea I would like to convey with the given quote is that it is only our hope and the struggles that we go through make us believe into the true meaning of life. The difference between people lies in the fact that some realize the value of simple things given to them, while others take the abundance of such things for granted and never manage to comprehend the gift of living. It is through certain symbolic events that a person is inspired to fight for the miracle of living, and most of the time these events come with suffering, tears, hardships, life threats, danger and disappointments that magically turn into the most valuable appreciation of living later in one’s life.
Life stories can be different; however, the lessons that come as an inseparable part of one’s experience are often similar in their moral essence. When a person faces the threat to his or her life and safety integrity, the appreciation of life becomes stronger and the feeling of hope is enhanced with some unique desire to be a part of the world’s movement and existence.
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The year 2005 was the year my hope became stronger when my desire to live was thrown in the face of destiny and its life-threatening whims. That year my home country, Burma, was experiencing some difficult times. The government and the people had many conflicts and disagreements. In an attempt to escape the life style and atmosphere of hurdles, local population tried to flee the country and I was among those who did. The country of my destination was Malaysia. Because of the fact that my home country restricted the emigration during the conflict and political movements by closing the airline fairs and prohibiting other means of leaving the state, I had to go to Malaysia on a ship illegally, and the trip was a dangerous adventure I had to overcome to flee Burma.
I was only sixteen when I had to face a two-week trip to Malaysia. Before that my parents were providing me with everything needed for raising a child, and I was taking these things for granted, just like the rest of children are taken care of by the adults. This was one of the first lessons I had to learn. Such an abrupt change from having the necessary things in life to being left without the possibility of having family members and friends around and the most essential utilitarian items at my disposal, helped me to realize how many elements are taken for granted without real appreciation.
When I was leaving the house of my parents, my father voiced something that I will never forget. He read Psalm 91 out loud hoping it will protect and make me more confident. Indeed, this gave me all the necessary strength to survive in the most outrageous conditions and overcome the difficulties I had to face on my way to Malaysia. My family should serve as a first example of hope being the strongest driving force of living and getting through hardships. Despite of being so far away from home, finding myself on the verge of death and facing the things I have never experienced, I always felt that I am as strong as the prayers of my parents back home are. Their hopes and aspirations helped me to get though the toughest journey of my life.
The story of mine was interwoven with another story that involved people with different backgrounds and past. However, we were united by the dangers of our trip that threatened the integrity of our lives. I boarded the ship that was supposed to take me to Thailand first. I started crying bursting into memories about people I loved and left behind. That is when a woman who was escaping the country with her sons comforted me with kind words and a smile. The woman was on her way to meet her husband. Thus, the family experienced the most threatening and humiliating events as well. On a ship there was no room for people to sleep, so we slept on a bear floor in the store room. In Thailand, the people who helped us with the transfer would yell and treat the emigrants in a disrespectful way. The food we were given was just enough to keep us full, but it was not anything luxury. During our transfer from Thailand to Malaysia twenty two people had to take a boat which could hold only three persons at a time. The fair took place at night as the passengers could not be noticed by the police. It was full of dangerous interactions and risks of being killed or arrested; however, the prospect of living made people strong in their attempts to succeed.
The important thing is that while I was helping the lady take care of her three children, I realized something truly significant. With the hardships I had to face came a very strong appreciation of human compassion, sympathy and respect. Moreover, I realized that one’s life does not only belong to this very person. It also influences the lives of others, even though these people might be complete strangers. One hope of life gives rise to the hopes of others and helps more than one person to cling to the prospect of surviving and living.
The story of this phenomenal family teaches how persistent people can become in their hopes and beliefs. Despite going through the most horrible events on their way from Burma, facing near-death events and risking to fail in their desperate attempts to reunite the family, the woman and her children never lost their hope. In fact, they were made stronger. They were inspired to continue what has been started and remain faithful to the gift of living.
The journey became even more dangerous after we arrived at one of the cities between Thailand and Malaysia. Getting through a dangerous forest full of snakes, ants, poisonous arrow frogs and parasites was supposed to take us to the house where we were to spend several days in. That night every one of us prayed for staying alive in the face of danger. The trip from the house to Malaysia was the last step for us to reach the final destination of the journey. When we were left in the middle of the forest by the driver who was supposed to accompany us, we had to spend the night right on the ground with nothing to sleep on.
The symbolic event that followed that night changed a lot in the way I viewed my life. When I woke up the next morning, I knew it was my birthday. I looked around and realized that this entire night we were all sleeping on the trash dumping area full of wastes. My first reaction was bursting into tears, but now in retrospect I realize those were the tears of joy. The celebration of one’s birth is a great event. It is about expressing gratitude for having such a wonderful chance to walk on earth, breathe, love, smile and help the strangers that follow the same routes from time to time and the ones that have their own way. That is what I celebrated that day. The problems I faced helped me learn how to believe and keep my hopes strong and indestructible. They helped me to appreciate the things that are often misleadingly taken for granted by those who have never accepted the challenge or risked losing the biggest gift – the gift of living.
The three events symbiotically interwoven into the one great story of a struggle demonstrate that everything that we suffer indeed holds the seed of creation in it. Life presents us with certain experiences that are meant to change the way we perceive ourselves in this world. They are meant to teach us how to appreciate the gift of living every single moment.
The struggles give a rise to the great fights of a human with the whims of destiny, and the reward for winning lies in strengthening of one’s hopes. Moreover, we influence the way others build their aspirations and belief in the everyday prospects they are given. We do not always learn to appreciate right away. The three stories described demonstrate perfectly that it takes a certain amount of disappointments, risks, dangers, tears and losses to comprehend the full value of one’s life against the background of an integral picture called “living”. It is not always your life that appears to be at stake, but the life of others that after all becomes as significant and valuable as yours. Great strength comes with high hopes. High hopes are born inside one’s heart.
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