Saturday, April 13, 2013

Two Stories: Two Powerful Men

The first job in my trade was in a small Lebanese shop ran by a man named Abdullah.
He had a wife, and young daughter, and a very young son. I remember them because they very often dropped by the shop for one reason or another.

I had worked there for four and a half years and it was only near the end of this time that I heard the story as to why Abdullah left Lebanon.
He has a previous wife and children. They were all killed in Lebanon during its civil war(1975-1990).
I learned little more details than that and I had no intention to push the subject.
The point that struck me the most was something Abdullah said.

Although I cannot remember verbatim, I most definitely remember the gist. He said that he had to leave and to let them go. To stay would mean to embrace the hatred; to retaliate; to exact revenge. That it would have led to path of hatred; a never-ending cycle.

He chose to abandon his hatred.

I fear this may be an aspect of the continuing conflicts within the middle east, but my point isn't one on politics or the Middle East. The bravery and wisdom of this statement has always stayed with me.
It has always influenced me. I have always attempted to look within myself throughout my life, in hopes of being able to see when and if I am influenced and blinded by hatred. And hopefully have the bravery and wisdom to let it go; to know when to simply walk away. I know in my past I have had struggles with anger and rage, and these things are feed by hatred, and simply walking away can be an inconceivable notion in those blind, raging, dark moments.


When my grandfather (on my father's side) was a young man and in the Canadian Army, he met and had a romantic affair or encounter with an English clearing woman before the Second World War.
Details are sketchy. (Both my grandfather and this woman are long since deceased). We don't know whether it was a 'one night stand' or a relationship. I cannot remember whether the woman was a cleaner or nanny.... but these details are of little importance for this story.

Pregnant out of wedlock, especially in the late 1920's, was a taboo, so she was unceremoniously 'shipped' out of Canada and returned to England. My grandfather was clearly aware but seemingly indifferent to the situation. They never seen one another again (nor the child).

In England, the woman gave the child up to a Navy run orphanage, and that was where the child was raised and when he entered and remained in the British Navy. That child would be my long lost uncle Jack.

He grew up in the orphanage and Navy. He made a career in the Navy being a diver (using the diver bell suits). Deactivate mines was what he did.
During the Second World War he would keep track of where various ships were sank, and after the war ended, he would open a salvage company, return to the sites, and salvage the wrecks.

By the time he retired, he sold the company for millions of Pounds, bought a small estate, and lives happily. His wife (my aunt) is a retired model and he has three beautiful daughters, all of which are married with children of their own. It was at this point when we discovered what would amount to my 'long lost uncle'. It was like discovering and having a third side of the family.

The last time we visited him there was a black and white framed photo in his dinning room. It was shocking how much it looked like my son. If I didn't know better I would have sworn it was my son! My wife and I commented on it and Jack told us, “Ah, yes! I can remember the day that picture was taken. It was the day I was dropped off at the orphanage.”

Silence reigned.

My uncle Jack is a wonderful man. He is full of life and one of the most positive people I know.
How we choose to live our lives are really our choices. We all have stories we could tell about how difficult it is to be us. How much injustice or pain or unfairness we have had to endure. I can all tell a story about how hard it is to be me. We all have our dark moments and histories.

Or, I can choose to see the brighter side of things.
Ultimately, we are not victims. We choose how we live our lives. It is not a matter of the hand we are dealt, but how we choose to play that hand. I leaned this lesson from my uncle.

If there is anyone that I know who would have justified reason to be cynical and bitter with the injustices of life, my uncle is that man. Abandoned by his father for reasons of society... abandoned by his mother... raised in an orphanage....I mean no comedy in this, but this could be the beginning of a Charles Dickens' novel. He had every reason to hate the world we live in. Every reason to feel sorry for himself; to be bitter, angry, cynical.

But he chose not to.

I wish I could type these words with more power. He chose not to. He chose not to be the victim, but to grab life, drink of it fully, love life and the world.... it touches me still to write this. It still chokes me up. I honestly don't think I have come across such a display of 'power' as this.

My uncle is a wonderful man. The lesson I take from him was taught passively, simply by his example.
I will not feel sorry for myself.
I will not be the victim.


I don't believe I could endure what these men have endured. (And I am thankful I have not had to).
I do not use them an examples to myself to remind me on days that I am down of how bad things could be. No, they have more value to me than a simple tool. 
They are inspirations!
They are exemplars, teachers of how life is to be lived!
Do not carry that darkness within you.
Play the hand you're dealt. Always see the positive. Learn from the negative and move on.

These are two wonderful and powerful men.

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