Reflections: Sifting out what's good
Summer is here again. You experience high temperatures, humidity and bugs. It all goes along with more idealistic dreams of what the season might bring. You may visualize scenes of boating, wearing lighter clothing, walking in the warm summer sun, and you picture vacations filled with bliss. You've forgotten the unpleasant and choose to remember only the good.
Whatever you prefer, pluses and minuses are present in all endeavors, seasons, jobs, vocations and ventures -- within everything one does. My mother loved summer most of all. "It never gets too hot for me," she would boast, ignoring her obvious discomfort as she wiped perspiration from her brow. She recalled the frigid winters when she was forced to wear heavy outdoor clothing and shoulder the burden of hard farm work.
As I sat watching two ballgames on the same evening recently, I attempted to discern which season of the year I genuinely liked best. Summer certainly has its perks. I enjoy the warm breezy days with moderate temperatures. But during the first ballgame the sun was beating down so much that I searched for a shady place to settle into. Fortunately the weather turned much cooler during the next game. One might think the situation was perfect, then but the humidity soared. Consequently I felt sticky, sweaty and dirty, and mosquitoes bit into my flesh! It dawned on me that regardless of how hard you try to find perfection, there is always a challenge lurking in the background.
On the way home I asked the 12-year-old girl riding with me what she thought about the hot prickly weather during the summer. She had played in one of the games. I explained that I liked the hot weather if I could enjoy it from inside -- with an air conditioner. Jenny, however, did not share my perspective. She liked being able to swim outside and play ball. Jenny had forgotten the times she smothered in the heat, slapped at bugs and craved air-conditioning. The benefits the season brought to her outweighed the sacrifices. She saw the discomforts from a different and more positive view than I.
Even though you can sometimes do little to change circumstances, you can look for the good in them. The key to happiness and success isn't being free of obstacles but enduring and making the best of what you must. Living a happy life truly is a choice. When you're faced with situations you dislike, since you usually must suffer through them regardless, why make yourself miserable twice -- once through tolerating the undesirable experience and then by allowing it to destroy your peace of mind?
The happiest people are those who persevere and feel useful even if it's just by loving others. Loving others is the greatest gift of all, and St. Paul tells why in 1 Corinthians 13.
The cliche that "nothing comes without a price" is true. The best example of ultimate good coming with the greatest price was when "Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; that he was buried and that he rose again the third day." (1 Corinthians 15: 3, 4) Opinions of the results depended on who you asked. Unbelievers saw no benefits in Jesus' sacrifice and continued to live with no hope in a future life. Their spiritual vision was dimmed by secular sight.
When you search for the positive in all you encounter, you will live in constant delight. By sifting through the dirt to find the diamonds hidden there you may find glittering grains of sand, at least. So keep on sorting through what you must suffer and look for the good underneath. You'll find it!
Ellen Shuck holds degrees in psychology, religious education and spiritual direction and provides spiritual direction to people at her office.