SPIRITUALITY AND SURVIVAL
Spirituality and Survival
I just wanted to share a few thoughts on spirituality and survival. Survival certainly involves being prepared for disasters, getting your food storage, medical supplies, and all your other ducks in a row. But getting your spirit in order could be one of the most important things you can do to prepare for the uncertain future.
When I was young, I read Charles Dickens’ classic “A Christmas Carol”. In it, Old Scrooge meets the spirit of Christmas Present, represented by someone who reminded me of a survivalist Santa Claus. He came with a banquet room full of riches, but these weren’t the riches that really mattered. His lesson to Scrooge: The riches that do matter are your relationship with mankind, and what you have done to make the world a better place for your having been in it.
Most of the riches you’ll experience should be simple: things like a walk in the woods, a blue sky, a rain shower, a smile on a child’s face. Experiencing these things is what really makes a person rich: Rich in spirit, and that, my friends, will get you through the toughest times.
I’m a Christian, and so this is a Christmas greeting. But whatever you believe in, a benevolent Providence, the wonder of nature, or just yourself, having a sense of spirituality in your life can only make it richer. I always stress that learning is the key to maintaining your family’s health in times of trouble, but you don’t have to know a lot to be a spiritual person. What you do have to know is how to make the lives of others better by your presence. If you can do this, you and your family’s resilience in any adversity, whether it’s a natural disaster, an economic collapse, or even something personal, will keep things together, even if everything else falls apart.
An example of how spirituality will help you survive is the case of Lt. Commander Ned Shuman, POW and veteran of the infamous prison “The Hanoi Hilton”. Nine days earlier, after a failed attempt by U.S. Special Forces to liberate the prisoners, the North Vietnamese removed Ned and 42 other POWs from their cells and put them in a single holding pen. For several men, it was the first face-to-face encounter with Americans they had made since their capture.
The first Sunday after they were removed from their cells, they attempted to hold church services but were threatened with severe punishment. Seeing the men’s disappointment, Lt. Cmdr. Shuman (a naval aviator who would spend five years as a POW) stepped forward and asked each man: “I want to know if you are really committed to holding church services.” The answer was a unanimous “YES”.
The following Sunday, the trial by fire began. Lt. Cmdr. Shuman, the highest-ranking officer in the group, lead the soldiers in the Lord’s Prayer. He didn’t get very far before the guards grabbed him and took him away to be tortured. The remaining men, however, continued reciting the prayer in unison, in defiance of the shouts and the rifle butts of the North Vietnamese guards.
From then on, until the POWs were released as part of Operation Homecoming in 1973, there was a weekly church service. Everett Alvarez Jr., a naval aviator who was held as a POW for 8years by North Vietnam (and a former deputy administrator of the Veterans Administration) commented. “For those of us who were religious or spiritual, it was a very important part of our morale, optimism, and overall, it was a part of our survival.”
So think a little about what you can do to make your community a better place and yourself worthy of survival. Put a little time and effort into improving the lot of your fellow man, and you will become rich in spirit.
One last thing: Ned Shuman couldn’t make it to Christmas services this year. He passed away on Dec. 3 at the age of 82. Thanks, Ned, for your service and sacrifice, and for proving my point in the most emphatic way. Rest in peace.
Companion YouTube video below:
Joe Alton, M.D., aka Dr. Bones
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