Bryan Anderson and the open door
We hope you had a chance last week to read the latest story about Iraq War veteran Bryan Anderson of Rolling Meadows.
It's not the first time we have written about Anderson's poignant story. We've frequently caught up with him since his return home five years ago from a 13-month post-combat recovery at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
There is something about Anderson that is both captivating and inspiring. Not just his heroism, but as importantly, his outlook.
Here's someone who lost both legs and a part of an arm to war six years ago, who's had to endure devastating trauma, and yet he spends almost no time feeling sorry for himself.
Instead, as Staff Writer Melissa Silverberg wrote, Anderson has spent his time snowboarding, acting in television and movies, playing in a rock band, traveling the country, lobbying Congress, writing his biography and now starting a television program.
Explaining his reasons for "No Turning Back," the biography he co-authored with David Mack, Anderson says simply, "I want to inspire other people to start living their lives."
Inspirational, his story is.
It is a compelling reminder that life is not what happens to us, but what we make of what happens to us.
"Just because bad things happen or the world feels like it's crashing down, that doesn't mean it's not going to get better," Anderson says. "Everything is how you perceive it."
Or as Winston Churchill said, "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity. An optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
How many of us get up in the morning bemoaning what we don't have rather than celebrating what we do have?
How many of us tend to look in our relationships for slights, real or imagined, rather than embracing little acts of kindness?
How many of us criticize instead of praise? How many of us remember the criticism of others instead of the compliments?
There's an old axiom that whether you believe you can or believe you can't, you're right, and there's a great deal of truth in that.
"You can do anything you think you can," 20th Century psychologist Robert Collier wrote. "This knowledge is literally the gift of the gods for through it, you can solve every human problem. It should make you an incurable optimist. It is the open door."
The story of Bryan Anderson is a story of heroism and heartache and perseverance, but most importantly, it is a story of making your own happiness.
We all have the power to be happy. We all have the power to change our lives.
The essential first step is believing that.