I recently read about a bizarre retreat for corporate workers in which they lie in coffin shaped boxes which are actually closed on top of them. It lasts just for a limited amount of time, with adequate air supply. Why would anyone sign up to experience something like that? Apparently, the exercise is designed to trigger an immediate prioritizing of what’s important in your life.

Well, sometimes life does that for you – no corporate conference fee required. This past week we’ve all likely been prompted to review our own lives, as we’ve watched the unfolding disaster in Japan. After the initial reports about the earthquake, came the added visual shock of seeing the powerful Tsunami sweep away all in its path: lives, homes, communities. Now, the nuclear emergency has escalated the emotional fear to a level we’ve not yet seen in this millennium, and we can only hope we’ll never have to face. But we empathize.

Here in the United States, many have been suffering in a different way, for a few painful years now. Personal economic disasters have swept away what we valued before this prolonged recession: homes, cars and other material belongings. With medical costs increasing yearly, people have sometimes been forced to compromise their health. And dreams of higher education have died for those who cannot pay the rising tuition bills. Fear has become a constant undercurrent in many families who wonder how they’ll navigate the future with so little to count on. It’s hard to feel grateful going through life challenges like these.

In one fell swoop, natural disasters leave great numbers stranded and helpless and they jar the rest of us to do an immediate life-check. We hug our kids closer, look at the roof over our heads and count ourselves lucky. They prompt us to reach out and help: both those in Japan as well as the friends, family and neighbors who face a different kind of desperation. And they remind us what’s most important: right here, right now, and the resilience, spirit, love and compassion that live in each and every one of us.


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