Not “Why?” but “What for?”

Our question today is not “Why?”, but “What for?”

That’s how Simon, the youngest member of the family featured in the movie The Impossible frames the question. The Impossible tells the true story of his family’s survival of the 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia.

His mother, Maria, shared his wisdom during an interview with Katie Couric. As they discussed the harrowing events of the tsunami, Maria admitted that there were moments when she wanted to die. And yet, as she moved through the catastrophe, she was surprised at the spirit that rose up in her. She even assured Katie that, looking at the story from the outside, you might be tempted to say, “Oh, I would just give up.” But, she said, you’d be surprised at the strength that comes during that experience.

She survived when literally hundreds of thousands of people did not. Katie asked her if she experienced any guilt about that survival. Maria said certainly the guilt was there, because you ask the question “Why?” Why me? Why did I survive when other people did not?

Simon, the youngest of her crew, suggested to his mom that they look at it a little differently.  Rather than saying “Why?”, to ask the question, “What for?” We’ve survived: what for? What a beautiful, heartfelt and open way to reframe that question.

We would be wise to apply this wisdom to all the losses in our lives as well.  As we go through a loss, especially when a plan or how we thought things were going to go and then life throws us a curve, there’s this space that is created. There’s this emptiness that says, “Well, I thought I was going to be doing this, but instead, what do I do?” As we acknowledge that loss and the space that has been created, we certainly need to grieve the loss and allow ourselves the time to heal, and to “fold” that loss into our lives as Marlo Thomas once said.

But Simon and the incredibly inspirational story of The Impossible invite us to not stay stuck in the “why”: Why did I lose this? Why did this happen to me? Why didn’t things go differently? And instead we’re invited to reframe that loss around the question of “what for?” When we ask that question, some really marvelous opportunities and possibilities open up for us. And that’s new life, and that’s what can come for us after a loss.

So, what do you say? Let’s notice together the blessings in life. When we pay attention like this, marvelous things happen. Let’s live Everyday Inspired!

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