Many decades ago, when I was a college student, one of my reading assignments was Viktor Frankl’s book, Man’s Search for Meaning. Even though sixty years has elapsed, I still remember one part of his message. He wrote that the Nazis could take everything from them: their family, friends, job, health, possessions, even their names and the hair on their bodies; but there was one thing that remained truly their own, they got to choose how they would react to any given thought, emotion or set of circumstances:
“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.”Viktor Frankl
Another wise person reiterated this lesson for me recently. My son, Jeff, has multiple myeloma, and he is my teacher as he shows me and others how to tackle life with a life-threatening disease. Jeff posted the following on his personal blog recently. He’s an avid cyclist and for many years has ridden to raise funds for kids with cancer. It is reprinted here, with his permission.
Because I Can!
By Jeff Mulder
I have not met my fundraising goal. The lake is not super warm. It is not the start of summer. And there is no end in sight for my Multiple Myeloma.
So, why am I jumping out of the lake in triumph? The short answer is, “Because I Can!”
I can get in the 64-degree lake AND it makes my body feel better. I can raise money for kids with cancer AND it takes my mind off my own stuff. I can jump AND while not very high, you cannot tell in a lake. I can choose my attitude AND when I choose correctly it always helps me.
There is one more reason to jump, but it does not really fit the “can” theme. I have options for what is next for my myeloma. While it is a mind and spirit draining discussion every day for both Jeri and I, we are so lucky to have a couple doctors fighting for us. AND I know that so many others do not have a choice. We still do not know if we are doing the transplant or another line of therapy, but we are close and WE CAN CHOSE.
One of my seminary professors also agrees with Frankl and Jeff; for I remember him saying, “Every decision we make either lifts our world up or pushes it down into more chaos.” It seems that each one of us has power: the power to choose how we will respond to the circumstances which life puts before us.