In one of the most important books I ever read, Man's Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl wrote, "We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms - to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way."
Last night, at the Dale Carnegie course I take, I was in awe of my co-workers ability to choose the graceful path through man's inhumanity to each other. The majority of the 30 people in the class are front-line workers, individuals who work with clients on a daily basis. What they experience is sometimes beyond comprehension. One woman had her nose and cheek broken by an angry, intoxicated client. Another man was punched. And yet, regardless of how the clients were acting out, these individuals chose to act with grace, dignity and kindness.
Viktor Frankl survived three years in a concentration camp. When liberated in 1945 he wrote Man's Search for Meaning which was published in 1946 -- he didn't waste much time!
To Frankl, there were two types of human beings -- decent and not-decent.
I work with a lot of decent people. And, the people we provide service to are by and large, decent human beings. They've just lost their way and are searching for the meaning in their lives.
Often, on mainstreet, I meet people who have lost their way too. They're just not as visible in their distress. When I was with Conrad, even though I felt that so much of the meaning in my life was lost, there were values I upheld and could not let go of. One day, as we exited a grocery store, Conrad lifted a bottle of pop from the display outside the store. "Put it back," I told him.
"They won't miss it," he replied and ignored me.
I couldn't let it go. When we got back to our room he offered me a glass of pop. I wouldn't drink it. No matter how much he yelled, I could not drink that pop.
It is still amazes me that I couldn't get angry about what he was doing 'in my life', but I could see what was wrong with what he was doing outside my life. I couldn't stop myself from submerging my personality into his but I could hold my ground on going over to the 'darkside' by embracing his overt attempts to bring me down.
I was making choices to separate myself from him, I just wasn't making the big choice to look at what I could do to walk away.
That was then. This is now.
Today, I'm with Frankl. No matter the circumstances around me, I choose my path. I choose my attitude, my state of being. Today, I choose to surround myself with people who exemplify the qualities I admire and strive to embrace every step of my journey. Dignity. Honesty. Integrity. Kindness. Joyfulness.
The question is: What's your choice? What meaning do you place in your daily pursuits? Do you walk with grace and ease, regardless of the winds blowing around you? Do you choose harmony over discord to create a world of caring all around?