It is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to look at or listen to anything in life right now and not be immersed in the corona virus. Whatever your beliefs happen to be about the origins and the response to this modern plague, it seems like the news and entertainment media have chosen to focus on the negative aspects of how this disease is impacting humanity. Of course, the death, despair, and pain it is causing to families and communities around the world should be noted. But surprisingly, as this week has unfolded, I have found that the inundation of the corona virus in our lives has made me focus on two important points that are a direct result of the martial arts in my life over the past 28 years.
I learned compassion through martial arts training in a rather unorthodox way. I got thrashed on a regular basis. My laundry list of injuries includes 5 broken teeth, two brain concussions, three broken ribs, a torn MCL in my right knee, and all of my fingers and toes have been broken at least once. So, might you ask, how does this breed compassion? How did the brutality inherent in this training teach me to have compassion on my fellow man and woman?
Because I know what it feels like to hurt. I know what it feels like to have your daily routine hampered by a nagging pain that was inflicted on you by something beyond your control. It makes someone that has been subjected to this type of training less likely to inflict this suffering on another human being without righteous justification.
The ramifications of the corona virus go far beyond the illness itself. This is not meant to downplay the severity of the disease. I have read of the anguish that those who have been unfortunate enough to contract the virus have been subjected to. But the sorrow that encompasses this pandemic goes far beyond the physical. There is the fear of the unknown for the person who is sick. There is the fear of the unknown for the community. There is the pain of having to watch a friend or a loved one suffer through something that is complete happenstance. There is the awkwardness now of having to encourage those who are losing their livelihoods because of the effects of the corona virus on their business. It is a vicious cycle with no end in sight.
Today I spent the day with my family. We decided we just needed a day to ourselves. We went shopping. We went to a local restaurant and had lunch in our car, since eating inside restaurants right now is forbidden due to the current state of emergency. We were blessed to find some incredible bargains while shopping. I saw some things today that I have been taking for granted for most of my adult life. I went on my daily run, and a thought occurred to me.
A byproduct of my martial arts training is relishing life. This is also a manifestation of my faith. It is maintaining joy when you have no reason to be joyful. I noticed something today that I think many people are either refusing to see or they are so wrapped up in the sorrow of the moment that they are missing a colossal blessing. I have noticed something in people, especially in small towns.
I have noticed that by and large, people are being far more kind to each other. Sure, you can find evidence of nastiness online associated with hoarding. I personally have not witnessed this behavior. What I have witnessed is people smiling at one another more. Today I witnessed a small business owner grateful that we would patronize their business at a critical time in their history. In the places that I patronize, I have witnessed people wishing each other well.
There is a lesson here that emanates from my martial arts training. Well, there are two lessons actually. First, hardship makes you stronger. Trials and tribulations make you appreciate what you have in life. I have been at a stage in life that I lost everything. And when I say everything, I mean EVERYTHING. I’ve lost my house before. I’ve lost a job that I loved. I have been to a point in life in which I had a quarter of a tank of gas and found out minutes later that my checking account was $245 overdrawn. I have woken up on a bright summer morning to have my picture plastered on the pages of a newspaper and having my reputation besmirched. When that happens, it feels like the weight of the world is on your shoulders. But you use what you have learned, through the tempering fires of hardship, to overcome those obstacles. As time passes, you learn that it didn’t physically kill you. As more time passes, you will find that less and less scares you anymore. It is harder to take your joy away from you.
The second lesson that I am seeing unfold before my eyes that is a product of my training revolves around a mantra that was one of the core principles of my instructor’s teaching philosophy: By helping others, all benefit. Of course, we will not be able to financially support everyone that we encounter. We will not be able to offer assistance to everyone. But we can offer them a smile. We can offer everyone we encounter a glimmer of hope in humanity by simply saying hello. That person in line behind you in the morning as you are buying coffee? Just say hello and ask them earnestly how they are doing. I promise you this: It won’t cost you anything, but the rewards are eternal. We have deceived ourselves by believing that helping someone is solely an outward act of benevolence. By doing so, we have robbed ourselves of so much. We have lost the ability to connect with others.
I have a Doctor of Philosophy in Criminology. I have strong opinions about how this will impact the crime rates in our society. I have no idea how this virus will manifest itself in terms of public health. I have opinions on how this will impact our society, and our local communities specifically, but that is for another discussion. I have no idea where we will all be one year from now. But this I do know: this can either be a catastrophe, or it can be an opportunity. That is completely up to you, how you view the world, and how you respond to this monstrous challenge that lies before all of us.
My challenge to all of you that read these words: adapt and overcome. Yes, this is a daunting task in front of us that is social, economic, and political in nature. But at a basic human level, make sure that you do not lose sight of the fact that the person you pass on the street is just as frightened and uncertain as you are. You may feel alone, but you are not.
Take care of each other. This too shall pass.