Written by: Daan Uijterwaal

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The water slowly wobbles the small glowing orange rubber boat. Packed, packed full of humans. Humans that, have never met one another before. Children and parents. None of them knows where they are going, nor how they will get there. The only goal is to not go back. To keep pushing onward, towards a place where they can be safe. Backward is not an option. The risk of not making it to the other side is worth it. At least they had the choice of making that risk. If they would have stayed the choice would not be theirs. They would have been slaughtered or starved to death. There is one man holding his child. Close to him. Trying desperately to keep the flow of tears in. To calm the little girl.

They might almost be there. Who knows? The shipper left them. He never even entered the boat. He just pushed them off. Nothing to control the boat but their faith. Their faith and hope to make it to the other side. A life with less suffering, with less pain. Will they make it? The world around them seems asleep. Dark black walls all around them. The sky is barely visible and indistinguishable from the black waters underneath them. How could they know where to go. Yet again, we must go. We must keep faith. This little girl deserves a better future. So they go on. With faith and with fear. Not knowing the end result nor in control of what will happen. They have no control over the boat, besides there are too many people on there anyways.

The boat is hit by a wave. Half of the people fall off. The other half tries to help them back up. The father and the girl have now taken a spot in the middle of the boat. Safe from the water. For now at least. Some people never made it back on the boat. Some did, yet their clothes were soaked and cold. Slowly cooling their body temperature down into hypothermia. Then suddenly more waves come. Pushing them ahead. With one striking hit, the boat flips. All the passengers including the father and girl, so desperate to hold on to each other, fall into the water. It’s icing cold. The girl screams because the water feels like icicles slowly trying to penetrate her clothes and skin. She can’t swim. Nor is she wearing a life vest to save her.

Her father is lost in the chaos of the other man and women and children screaming. He is looking. Quickly trying to adjust his vision to the dark night. Moving from one head to the other. Finally, he hears her call. He swims. Grabs her. Holds her and kisses her. He asks her to hold on to him. She wraps her arms around him and he swims off. Leaving the others behind. To where is he swimming? The father knew. He wasn’t going to let them drown and not do anything about it. He had faith and courage. Something to live for. Something to endure his pain and suffering. His child was more important than him. Her future must be saved.

After swimming for just a few minutes he hears the sound of water crashing on land. The sifting sound of water pulling back from the sand. Leaving behind bubbling and crumbling foam. He knew it then. He knew that he made it. His child was silent. She didn’t make a sound. She was still holding on to hem. He touched her hand around his neck. They felt the same temperature as the water. He was desperate. With his last energy, he pushed onward. Swimming harder and leaving the water. Quickly laying his little girl on the sand. She was cold. Soaked in the dark black liquid of the see. He looked at her. Was she dead? Did his attempt to get her to safety cost her, her life? But no. She moved her arms and opened her eyes again. “Dad?” She asked. “I am cold, really cold. Can we get a blanket?” Her dad was relieved from the suffering. With a sigh of relief, he lifted her. Seeing the small lights in the distance. “We are almost there. You will have a blanket, my dear.”

The endurance of pain

This story is but one of a million. Stories heartbreaking, yet comforting when we see the courage of the father. Enduring pain is something we all have to go through. Whether it was a decade ago in world wars or through the current global pandemic. Suffering is the balance the world needs. Some suffer physically, some mentally. We could distinguish the two and say one is worse than the other. We could also say this father and daughter suffered more than any of us reading this. This is true. Yet we all suffer and we all experience our suffering in the same way. Whether having to fight for your life or trying to make a living with your passion. These are both struggles. Only evolved in its complicity.

I do not try to say that these people suffer less than I do. Nor do I say that our suffering is equal. All I say is that we both suffer. Yet this story has something we can learn from. Something that I could not give you if it was not for this suffering. A lesson to take from it.

We can all endure our pain. Yet enduring pain is no fun. It is not something we want or wish for. We simply want a life in which we can be happy. A life without suffering. But isn’t this impossible? Suffering is part of life. It might not be possible to eradicate suffering. But there is a way to endure the suffering that makes it worthwhile. Just like the father we can show courage. Show faith and strength to push on. Not just to go on but for a purpose. To get his little girl safe. To save her future. It is this mindset, this strong belief, and courage that makes the father endure all the pain. That makes him complete his task instead of giving up and drowning when the boat got hit. This is not the only story. There are millions of these stories all over history. Even stories of people that seem to have nothing to worry about. Yet they find suffering and pain. They want to have a happy life. So they think that will come with a new and better job. Which means hard work and therefore some suffering. Yet this suffering is endurable because there is a purpose, a meaning behind the suffering.

There is no need in comparing the suffering of one to another. There only is suffering for all of us. It is what we do with this suffering. What we take from it, what purpose it serves. Knowing that in this suffering lies joy. If we can find a place in which all suffering is meaningful our lives become less harsh. We can endure the pain and build towards a life where the suffering is lessened. A life where we can truly be joyful. Not because there is no more suffering, but one in which we have come to terms with suffering. Making friends with it and learning from it. Enjoying the growth we go through.

If we find meaning in the suffering the load is lifted off our shoulders. As if God takes it from us and lifts it himself. Letting us know that suffering is part of life. Part of the experience of living. Suffering brings beauty to the world. It brings balance and strength. Teaching us as no other teacher could.

Today I Lived

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