What’s the Benefit of Finding Joy in the Midst of Adversity?
We can't always control what happens, but we can always control our attitude.
Posted March 9, 2019
One only has to tune in to see the exhausted look on virtually every TV weatherperson’s face to know that Mother Nature has many of us on a weather-related rollercoaster ride. This is just as true here in Southern California. While we are always in need of rain, the precipitation has been fast and furious this year—often arriving in torrential downpours that have lasted hours or even days at a time. Because this region is normally so dry and also due to recent fires, these storms have caused quite a bit of havoc.
One recent, very rainy Saturday, I was doing my best to not let the heavy downpours impede my normal routine. I know that may read as silly to those of you swamped by snow, but trust me when I assure you the streets were flooding and you could even spot mini tidal waves crossing the roads whenever heavier vehicles passed by.
It was while stopped at a traffic light that I noticed what seemed like a calamity unfolding across the intersection. A mother and her young daughter, both outfitted with umbrellas, were trying to safely cross the street. While there were no nearby vehicles inhibiting their journey, the rain was excessive. So exaggerated in fact, that accompanying wind caused the little girl’s umbrella to invert and immediately begin filling with rainwater (since it was now a virtual bowl aimed toward the storm clouds).
I watched with concern from my car as the little girl called out for her mom, who immediately turned around and tried to help the little girl navigate the mini swimming pool that the girl’s umbrella had become. Mom and daughter were trying to dump the water from the inverted umbrella without splashing it all over themselves. Then, suddenly, another gust of ferocious wind swept the mother’s umbrella from her hands, onto a nearby grassy embankment.
Concerned for them both, my Superman instinct took over and I immediately looked for a way to park and get across the street to help them (even though my traffic light was still red). I then looked back to the mother and daughter—finally realizing that they were both laughing with delight in the midst of their soggy adventure.
I couldn’t believe my eyes. But sure enough, they were both positively giddy as they (eventually) gave up on un-inverting the daughter’s umbrella, then scurried to the side of the street they’d originally been on to retrieve the mom’s umbrella. At this point, the traffic light changed to green—meaning that mom and daughter would have to wait for another cycle before they could attempt to cross the street again.
As my car passed by them, I was able to see not only their laughter and smiles up close, but also their palpable bond. While keeping a careful eye on the road (AKA mini lake at this point), I offered a quick smile and wave from the conveniently dry interior of my vehicle. The little girl looked at me with glee and waved back. And this was when I offered them both a silent “Thank you” for reminding me that nothing in life has the power to ruin our day—unless we let it.
This mom and daughter would have had every reason to get angry or to throw a temper-tantrum as the rain changed the course of their morning. In fact, I was initially a little nervous the mom might get angry with the little girl for lollygagging behind and accidentally getting her umbrella inverted. But no. Instead, the mom chose to smile despite the odds—surely reemphasizing lessons she must have previously taught her daughter about adversity. Because this little girl was clearly on board with the age-old edict to “Let a smile be your umbrella.”
There will be those who read this that roll their eyes. But I never want to be one of them. I really do consider the mother and daughter’s cheerful attitude to be a gift. A gift that has the potential to remind us all that no matter what we’re going through, there is a joy to be had—if we allow it. It’s all about getting out of our own way and accepting whatever so-called roadblock (or inclement weather) might be thwarting our intentions.
There will always be surprises in life after all. And Mother Nature will often have the upper hand. So trust me when I acknowledge that this reminder to find joy doesn’t mean we won’t be challenged by hardships. But we have the potential to make better, smarter and more informed decisions if we do so from a place of resolve and—if we so choose—a place of amusement.
No inverted umbrella required.