Life is beautiful, but it is also overflowing with raw, teeth-clenching moments of desperation. They make up the hard and holy times we all face.
In his profound book “Man’s Search for Meaning,” Viktor Frankl, a prisoner of the Nazi concentration camps, wrote: “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.”
In my own life, in the gut-wrenching moments, where fear and paralysis dominate my thoughts, I cling to the truth expressed by Frankl. Therein lies peace, comfort and empowerment.
No one escapes the frightening moments, but if we can look our terror in the eye and drive forward with kindness and love, then we have faced the giant and won. Our attitude triumphs.
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I see this in many Tacoma folks who have not just touched my life, but many lives. In the midst of enormous challenges, their attitude is triumphant and shines brightly. These people lead quietly, and they light the path forward for all of us.
One example is Russ. He was the quarterback at Franklin Pierce High School when I was a student there in the 1980s. Thirty years later his leadership skills are just as sharp as they were on the playing field, though today he plays a new game against an opponent named leukemia.
Russ shares his pain and struggle in inspiring and heart-wrenching social media posts. We all continue to watch his amazing attitude from the sidelines as he throws beautiful pass after beautiful pass, even though he’s been tackled and sacked time and time again. His leadership, authenticity and perseverance continue to dominate his opponent.
Kate, a young neighbor of mine, provides another profound example. At age 25, she was diagnosed with breast cancer but continues to smile with a superhero beam. Her young, regal demeanor holds dominion over the enemy approaching her border.
Kate maintains her majestic character while climbing an incredibly difficult mountain. She lifts and inspires all who journey with her. Like a star, she radiates beauty like nothing I’ve seen. Kate conquers pain with love. Her attitude shines.
Doug McArthur, now in his 80s, has been a game changer in Tacoma for years. He’s given of himself and accomplished so many community projects, I think he may be the original “Tacoma boy.”
Doug’s an all-star athlete, former athletic director at University of Puget Sound and recently retired as executive secretary of the Tacoma Athletic Commission. Everywhere he goes, Doug keeps creating community. Come what may, his indomitable “can do” attitude overcomes all obstacles.
Doug has inspired hundreds with his good-natured sense of humor and liberally distributes “attaways” throughout Tacoma’s athletic community.
His most recent accomplishment is saving the Highlands Golf Course from becoming condos, and – news flash – Metro Parks is awarding him the honor of naming the baseball field at Vassault Park “McArthur Field.”
T.H. White once noted that we are all drops in the great blue motion of the sunlit sea. Some drops truly sparkle.
Attaway, Doug. Attaway, Kate. Attaway, Russ. We stand in awe of your leadership. We stand in gratitude of your authenticity. We stand in respect of your ability to claim the ultimate human freedom to choose your attitude.
Thank you for showing us the way forward on the hard and holy journeys. You help us to see and more importantly to understand, no matter what, that life is beautiful.
Angela Connelly of Tacoma is president of the Washington Women’s Network. She is one of six reader columnists who write weekly for this page. Reach her by email at email@example.com