This I Believe

M. Chris - Grayslake, Illinois
Entered on November 14, 2006

I believe that nothing all bad ever happens in the world. I believe that grace, hope, and love blossom from the darkest times in life.

I believe this even though I haven’t had the easiest life so far. When I was seven, my father was diagnosed with a terminal illness. My 7-year-old self felt relieved when people told her, “Oh, that’s just awful! I don’t know how you can stand it at all!” My 16-year-old self only feels sorry for people who think that way. Of course those anxious nights when Dad was in the hospital were awful, but nobody ever sees the blessings in disguise.

While I’ve been called insensitive and unsympathetic for my refusal to fall apart and become one-dimensional every time something happens to Dad, I never felt that my belief was directly challenged until Relay for Life came to my high school. I was ambivalent about the event; I’d seen one too many person fall victim to their anger and others’ pity. Sure, Dad didn’t have cancer, but I was in the same situation as all these other people. I’d grown up in one eternal doctor’s visit, too.

When Relay came, there was an outpouring of sympathy and money for the families of survivors. Relay united all the cliques and rivals at school, and I was the odd one out. I tried in my own inarticulate way to explain what I thought, but no one understood. I hid behind my indecision, secretly wondering if I was wrong.

I walked in the doors to the event late. Survivors were already on a makeshift stage, telling their stories. The whole crowd cried as one. I didn’t. I watched.

That night, I learned to cry in front of people, not because I wanted to but because I was expected to. I cried alone for all the people who would never understand, including, often, myself. I also found one place where I learned that I belonged – the room set aside just for survivors and their families. I wandered in by mistake and found people who understood everything I was feeling.

They would understand that spending a casual August afternoon with the family was special not only because of who was there but because of who wasn’t—the swarm of doctors and nurses and beeping machines. They would understand how the illness has brought our family together in a surreal way, and that even when we give up some dreams, we find better ones. They would understand how much beautiful art would never have been created if life was anywhere near perfect, and that I wouldn’t have found my voice in poetry so quickly. They would understand how wonderful plain, regular days are. They would understand what it means to slow down, to take things one long second at a time.

I left knowing I hadn’t felt wrong. I left convinced that life’s hard times can bring joy, and this I still believe.