Comforting words to fight our sorrow

By Herbert Vego

DECEMBER is supposed to be the merriest month of the year. It’s Christmas.  But in the wake of typhoon Odette that claimed hundreds of lives and devastated infrastructure and crops in Visayas and Mindanao, are there reasons to celebrate and expect a better New Year a week from today?

Judging from TV interviews with Odette’s victims who have suddenly found themselves “homeless and hopeless,” it is hard to visualize them regaining the comfortable lives they had achieved through decades of hard work.

A car-riding family was at a loss trying to find food and water. The woman behind the wheels was asking the TV interviewer why they had to agonize anew after fully recovering from similar devastation wrought by super typhoon Yolanda in 2013.

She cried, “What have we done to deserve another wrath of nature?”

“I am too old to work again for a living,” a tearful old man lamented to another TV reporter. The shattered concrete walls behind him indicated that he had built a home out of his savings.

How could he now discard such fatalism that borders on readiness to face death?

It’s indeed scary to even imagine that people who are supposed to rest on their laurels, having retired and are tired of any more work, may suddenly lose everything they have to natural disasters. Imagine a farmer who loses what could have been a bountiful rice harvest to “act of God.” He suddenly falls back to poverty – if not underground for eternal rest.

There are nevertheless ways to soften the impact of natural disasters. We have heard it said that God would not give us problems we can’t cope with.

It becomes harder to believe oft-quoted words, as in “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”

But what else do we have but inspirational words to overcome pessimism? There is a need to remind ourselves that where there is life, there is hope. If we can dream and chase that dream in order to rise above harsh realities, why not?

In a past column, I wrote of how I coped with the loss of my hard-earned personal assets to typhoon Frank in 2008.

I would like to go further. I remember that, against the usual tendency to bemoan one’s fate, I gathered the strength and faith to recover by reading motivational speeches and immortal words of famous men. To quote a few:

“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” – Oscar Wilde

“It’s not about how hard you can hit; it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. “—Rocky Balboa in the movie Rocky

The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”  – Winston Churchill

“If you are working on something that you really care about, you don’t have to be pushed. The vision pulls you. “- Steve Jobs

To sum them up, while good days give us happiness, the bad ones give us experiences to learn from. And so, may their words be our guiding light as we dash through another year of adventure, leaving behind the sad memories of the departing year, even if we had been victims of typhoons, floods, landslides, earthquakes and other natural calamities.

To the religious but superstitious, each natural disaster is literally an “act of God” to punish us for all our sins.

This writer begs to disagree. Why blame God when it’s we who “sin” against nature? An example of such “sin” is illegal logging that depletes forest cover, consequently causing killer floods.

Because of the fault of the few, the innocent also suffer.

On the positive side, we come to terms with this “punishment” as a wake-up call. It alerts us into realizing that we are not the owners but mere temporary custodians of the earth and all material possessions thereat.

As David wrote in Psalm 24:1, “The earth belongs to the Lord, and everything in it— the world and all its people.”