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No doubt you’ve heard the saying “Perspective is Everything.” I was thinking about this phrase the other day when a memory of a very tough time I lived through, surfaced.

During a period of 4 years, I suddenly lost many loved ones. Truly, they were as close to my heart as one could get so to lose 8 of them in 4 years, and with 3 of them dying within a six-week period, it was traumatic to say the least.

Looking back at this time, I often referred to it as a ‘brutal’ period in my life. The word seemed to sum up the gut wrenching extraction of loved ones quite well. Then something changed. I interviewed Emmanuel Jal.

In preparation for the January 2013 interview, I read his book “War Child”. The seemingly unending horrors he lived through was nothing short of a shock to my system. At one point early on in the book I remember thinking to myself “My God, he’s not even 8 years old yet, how am I going to get through the rest of this book?”.

There were times when I actually had to put the book down and walk away from it because I couldn’t take in any more of the pain he was describing. But I would always return, telling myself that if he had the courage to survive it, then I would have the courage to read and bare witness to his story.

Reading his book, speaking with him and hearing his stories of abject horror and pain, only to be followed by triumph and peace changed me forever and in so many ways. One of which is that I no longer refer to that painful period in my life as brutal. Yes, it was gut wrenching, heartbreaking and devastating beyond anything I had ever experienced but I no longer describe it as ‘brutal’.

What Emmanuel Jal experienced as a child was, in every way, the true definition of the word ‘brutality’ and out of respect for that child and what he lived through, I made the decision to never again use this word to describe what I experienced.

What I didn’t expect was how freeing this would be.

When I changed my perspective regarding my loss and saw it within the context of a greater whole, taking into consideration and having such deep, all encompassing compassion for what another lived through, I unknowingly freed myself from a subtle prison of pain.

I don’t make the mistake of diminishing how difficult a time it was for me but I now choose to see it as one experience within the greater context of the collective human experience and that for me spells F R E E D O M !