I had an amazing experience last week. I was lucky enough to share the stage with the very energetic Suze Orman (thus the self-promoting image to the left) at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. But Suze Orman wasn’t the amazing part, despite being a very dynamic woman. And I wasn’t the amazing part.
Our Warriors in Transition were the amazing part. They are in transition because they’ve sacrificed their limbs and eyesight and hearing and sanity and dignity defending our country in Afghanistan or Iraq. And it was the honor of a lifetime to meet some of them.
Talking with these wounded soldiers changed the way I look at the daily problems I have. To summarize Nando Parrado, one of the “Alive” survivors, comparing his life now to 30 years ago when his rugby team crashed in the Andes, I don’t have problems, I have issues. Surviving 72 winter days at 14,000 feet with no food while those around you are dying from a plane crash, frostbite and starvation? That’s a problem. Returning from a tour of duty with no legs, no job and night terrors? Problems. Facing everyday issues like looming project deadlines, stock declines and even unemployment? Issues, and nothing more.
I don’t mean to devalue the difficulty of getting through tough times; I mean to keep them in proper context compared to actual troubles. It’s awkward using someone else’s difficulties to make ourselves feel better about the issues we face in our own lives. But I think that it is okay if we genuinely feel their pain and use it to give us perspective and inspire positive adjustments in how we live. And that is what I experienced at Walter Reed that I never fully understood just seeing it through the media — I felt our soldier’s pain, all the way to my bones.
That’s what makes Walter Reed such a special place — they patiently and expertly transition each and every wounded warrior back into an entirely new life. They provide framework and support to turn troubles back into issues. And they do it well.
For me, Walter Reed will forever symbolize the depth and strength of the human spirit. It will give me context on how much hardship a person can take without breaking. And it will encourage me to share the burden of another person’s problems. Like a wheel-chaired wounded warrior told me shortly after my speech, “Enjoy those legs of yours for the both of us, brother.”
Brother, I will.
Professional speaker John Sileo shares his painful experiences of identity theft and data breach with audiences around the world that want to keep the issue of data theft from becoming bottom-line trouble. His clients include the Department of Defense, Pfizer and the FDIC. Contact John directly on 800.258.8076.