This past Saturday I spoke to over one thousand cancer survivors. The audience consisted of men, women, and children of all ages. They were all present to celebrate their lives and the courage it took to get through their collective experiences. I got the opportunity to chat with many of them after my presentation and over and over I was in awe at the myriad of stories that showcased how resilient the human spirit can be. What powerful examples they are for me. Many of us catastrophise about the littlest inconveniences and these individuals have somehow learned to reframe and reinterpret what’s happened to them in order to discover more of a reason to live, not less. Through sheer internal fortitude, they developed the strength to just keep looking for meaning, even when things seemed hopeless. It made me think that someone should really create a channel that showcases heroes and heroines to allow us to witness people who are capable of living through difficulty, and becoming victorious as a result. I know this would lift our spirits on a daily basis. Much of what we see today on television , particularly realty TV is about individuals who have done nothing to make a difference other than to try to seduce the public into following them on twitter, become their face book fan or buy their stuff. I am frankly sick of the constant parade of idiotic people with little character becoming role models for the young. I often recommend that my audience read Dr. Victor Frankls’ book “Man’s Search for Meaning”. Dr. Frankl survived the concentration camps and developed a therapeutic model called Logotherapy. Dr. Frankl asks us to answer this essential question “ Can we say yes to life in spite of everything?” His query presupposes that life is meaningful under any conditions, even those that are the most miserable. And in turn, it acknowledges the human capacity to creatively turn life’s negative aspects into something positive or constructive. Frankl goes on to offer us his triad for tragic optimism: 1. Turning suffering into a human achievement and accomplishment. 2. Deriving from guilt the opportunity to change oneself for the better. 3 Deriving from life’s transitory nature an incentive to take responsible action. It’s up to all of us to try to live our lives with more meaning, not only so that we can say yes to life, but also to honor those who are no longer with us.
I am often amused by the need for companies, organizations and even individuals to try to snow us with what they perceive to be better ways to serve the public.
The other day I called a company that I bought a lamp from online to try to get a missing piece. The number on the bill stated that it was customer service. From the get go the voice mail system was a nightmare. I pressed so many numbers that I began to think I was in Las Vegas playing with a slot machine. When I finally got to the right place, a voice announced that a “relationship manager” would be right with me. As I waited a faux human continually told me that someone would be right with me and that there were now two other people ahead of me. I can see this working in a doctors’ office, but all that did for me was make me wonder how long it was going to take the other two people to get what they needed. In between the announcements another clone described some other products I might want to buy, and if that wasn’t enough chaos, hellacious music blared in the background. I desperately waited hoping I wouldn’t have to be medicated after I hung up.
Finally, a real person began talking and told me they would get the part to me ASAP! This took at least a half an hour and it is not the first time I have experienced this kind of craziness. What insane group of people came up with “relationship manager”? When I called about the lamp I was not looking for anyone to help me through a relationship crisis. What’s wrong with customer service? I am a customer and I need service. Simple and to the point. But simple is no longer available. I remember a time when you called a number and a “REAL” person answered. If they were busy they called you back. Now companies have rid themselves of a lot of people in lieu of puppets that have some resemblance to the human voice but can’t think beyond their programming. They also have to come up with lots of ‘doublespeak” to confuse and stress you so that you begin to think you might be the crazy one. I remember hearing this craziness years ago when I was told by a company executive that I had been hired to boost morale because they were downsizing. I thought he was talking about putting everyone on a diet. But they had substituted “downsizing” for firing, as if that would make everyone who was getting the boot feel better. Let’s bring back real people giving real service. Now wouldn’t that help reduce stress?