It’s a question that can be either toxic or empowering, depending on your attitude. Regardless, it’s a question we all consider.
When I was in the fourth grade, I was coming in from recess one day with my sister, when we noticed an unusual commotion in the doorway of the school. As we got closer, we saw that there was a large pile of kids stacked 3 feet high, each kid shouting and struggling to get out of the pile. I don’t know how they got that way, but they looked so ridiculous that I laughed out loud. I pointed, saying to my sister, “Look at that! It’s a pile of people!” Suddenly someone bumped into me from behind. The next thing I knew, I was at the bottom of the pile. Well, almost at the bottom – I could feel an arm under me. Kids piled atop me, and I screamed with the rest. It was another minute or so before a teacher was able to get the pile sorted out and the kids all standing again. I remember going to class with a puffy wet face, and a feeling of utter humiliation.
I’ve thought of that situation many times since then, and it makes me laugh nearly every time I do.
It’s easy to laugh at life when I look at it from a safe distance, but when I get shoved into the pile, it stinks. Everyone clamoring to get above me while I’m just trying to get out of the pile. Pounding my fists while my head is being pressed to the floor, I wonder how I ever got myself into this stupid situation.
Sometimes I think of the people pile as an analogy of society – no one wanting initially to get into the mess of it, but once they do, they want to be at the top of the pile. What a strange system we have!
But there is another, simpler lesson that I get from this story. Thank heaven for memory. And thank heaven for perspective, which can turn a horrible situation into a humorous one. It takes work, but it if I’m willing to take a moment to think about it, I can find humor in nearly every challenge, and doing so makes life much more interesting. After I am clear of humiliation and danger, the worst piles in my life make some of the best stories. The worse the fix, the better the story.
So the next time you find yourself at the bottom of the pile, with your face being rubbed into the hardwood floor, just think of what a great story it will make later.