I just read a really inspiring story about an alumni from my old university (University of Alberta): Alfred Orono Orono was conscripted as a child soldier twice – different countries, different armies because after fleeing one, he was conscripted by another. He was imprisoned repeatedly for trying to escape. Then he worked in refugee camps with the raped, assualted, downtrodden refugees from those worlds. And now he is a criminal lawyer who is part of the tribunal meting out justice in Rwanda.
Alfred relates something really profound, that each of us can take and apply to the difficulties we face in our lives:
“People often ask him how he was able to overcome the horrendous experiences of his early life, and he has always maintained that it is because he channels his energy into combating the types of injustice he experienced as a child, a lesson he credits to his grandfather. “He once told me that there are three kinds of people on earth: the foolish, the clever and the wise. When a fool meets an obstacle, he falls into it and is crushed. When the clever person meets one, he walks around it. However, when the wise person meets one, he gets into it, finds a solution, and makes sure it is no longer an obstacle.”
We have all suffered – because suffering is a relative state. When you are sick and in despair from a divorce, or the loss of loved one, or a punishing illness, it doesn’t help to tell yourself, “Well, at least my children aren’t being raped at gunpoint, in front of me, like they are in Rwanda.” Whilst it may be true, it’s not going to reduce your suffering, or make you feel better for longer than a second.
But what can help you and can ease the burden of pain or suffering (whatever its source) is the advice of Alfred Orono’s grandfather:
“When a fool meets an obstacle, he falls into it and is crushed. When the clever person meets one, he walks around it. However, when the wise person meets one, he gets into it, finds a solution, and makes sure it is no longer an obstacle.”
Take that wisdom, apply it to your life. And then share what you learn with others.