“’This feel likes war — fire engines, police everywhere,’ said [Marc] Noel, as he and hundreds of other passengers toting their hand luggage were evacuated to the town of Zavantem.”1
Our son, Noah, is flying home today from his first trip overseas. A ten day trip with his school, split between Italy and Greece. I’m not usually one to over exaggerate or try to bring unwarranted attention to my own situations but, today I will suspend that just a bit. I had plans to write today’s post about another subject I’ve been thinking about for the last couple of weeks. I can’t do it, though. My thoughts are where everyone else’s thoughts are…Brussels. Noah and his school mates are getting a very personal taste of some of the evil that exists in this world. No, he was not in Brussels when the bombs went off. No, he wasn’t even in Belgium during this trip to Europe. I understand that he was not exactly close in proximity to what happened this morning as people lost their lives. But, it doesn’t mean he was not close in nature to what happened. He sat on a plane this morning waiting to fly from Paris to Atlanta when they were informed of the events that transpired in Brussels. I have not been able to talk with Noah to debrief with him about what happened or how he feels about it. Even though Noah was not near the bombings, it is hard as a parent not to run through the potential risks your kid is encountering when something of this nature comes up.
We have talked about these sorts of things happening as we contemplated our upcoming global adventure. We decided that we would not approach our trip blind. That we would go into it with the full awareness that, for all of the amazing adventures we will have, there is the possibility that something tragic could take place. You may have read Rebekah’s post, How We Got Here, where she recounts one of those nights where we were processing this and as we ended our discussion, Noah, very seriously, said, “I don’t want to let fear make my decisions for me.” It was a very proud moment for me as a father.
The epigraph for this post came from a man who stood 50 meters from where the first explosion took place in the Brussels airport. He stated that it felt like a war. He’s right. When tragedy strikes, though, it’s fragmentation is not solely in the physical realm of exploding bombs, shrapnel, and broken glass. It’s not a war where the intent is to kill the body, it’s a war to kill the spirit. When something tragic happens you can respond in one of a couple of ways. You can either let the tragedy inform you and catapult you toward the pursuit of meaning and significance or you can allow it to paralyze you and have it keep you trapped in fear.
It doesn’t matter what the tragedy is or what situation it originates from. Your responses to it will be the same. Don’t let fear make your decisions for you. Keep moving forward. Keep loving. Keep risking. I love what Viktor Frankl posits, “…life is potentially meaningful under any conditions, even those which are most miserable.”2 This coming from a man who’s parents, brother, and wife died while imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp and who was imprisoned himself.
You may not be facing personal tragedy like those in Belgium or Turkey, but someday you will face tragedy. Or maybe you already have. When it comes, you need to know that you have the authority to reframe that tragedy to fit the story you want your life to be. You have the agency to turn the experiences of your deepest pains and failures into something rich and constructive for the remainder of your life and for the benefit of the rest of the world.3
Do not despair, hope.
Do not cower, be courageous.
Do not hate, love.
DO NOT FEAR, trust.
- Man’s Search for Meaning, p. 228 Viktor E. Frankl; Beacon Press 2006
- Man’s Search for Meaning, p. 228-229