My grandma often called me a “meshugina.”
It’s a Yiddish word. For her, it meant “get your head outta your a$s and be grateful!”
Most everyone living in the civilized world has ungrateful moments. Usually they are the inner dialogue.
“Oh Gooooodddddd… if we only lived in a bigger house it wouldn’t be such a mess!”
“I hate my job!!!!!!!”
“He makes so much more money than me. He was such a slacker in high school… how did this happen?”
Then, if we are paying attention, we hear stories about what people around the world are enduring just to get through a single day.
There’s a new book out right now, Find Me Unafraid. It’s the story of Kennedy Odede. He has created a school for girls in Kenya. He is leading a powerful journey, no doubt fulfilling his depth of purpose.
But his childhood was, for lack of better words, downright awful.
When he was 3, his grandmother who was raising him died after being bitten by a rabid dog.
He lived in constant hunger and poverty in the slums.
He was beaten by his drunk stepfather.
This was all before he turned 8, at which time he was so hungry, he once stole a mango from the market, only to be captured by the angry mob who then almost beat him to death.
He decided to join a street gang to protect himself only to have his best friend beaten to death by a mob.
So Kennedy joined a church only to be locked in a closet every week and molested by the priest.
Four of his best friends were castrated and bled to death…
ENOUGH! You can’t even read anymore, right? It’s terrible!
So I was reading his book on the subway and just had to stop.
I could not imagine such a horrific existence.
And to think I complained earlier that day about how long it took for a friend to text me back… That’s the meaning of meshugina.
But here’s what’s so hard to believe.
This guy, Kennedy Odede, found a way to stay positive.
He said, “While I didn’t have food…or when I was the victim of violence, I tried to appreciate things like the sunrise—something that everyone in the world shares and can find joy in no matter if you are rich or poor. Seeing the sunrise was always healing for me, it was a new day, and it was a beauty to behold.”
“There were times when my pain led me to do things like sniff glue and petrol. But I learned a trick; replace a negative addiction with a positive. I replaced my addiction to drugs with an addiction to books.”
“I grew to know that no situation lasts forever. I used to tell myself that even when the day felt dark, eventually the light would somehow come.”
“For every bad person I encountered who hurt me and caused me suffering, I also met a lot of good people. For the priest that abused me, I met a man of God who saved my life on the day I stole a mango and was almost beaten to death by the angry mob.”
“My mom taught me that while there is a God, that one God might be very busy, so we have to rely on the people we encounter in our lives who become what she called ‘small gods.’”
“When I was on the streets as a child I thought of what mom had told me, that no matter where I was in the world, if I could see the stars I should know that she could see them too, and I felt her love always.”
You know what’s coming next…
If Kennedy Odede can find the light after enduring impossible darkness, can you not find it with what you are dealing with right now?
Human beings are hard-wired for resilience. Deep down, we are all bad-a$s motherf*ckers.
But perspective is everything. EVERYTHING. What are you looking at each morning, at lunch, before bedtime?
In spite of being beaten and raped and starved, Kennedy Odede would stare at the sunset and the stars.
I spend most nights like a lazy bum in front of the TV watching Narcos, Anthony Bourdain, and professional sports…
As Kennedy Odede reminds us, great change is preceded by great perspective, great hope, great love.