Jerry Buelter: Message to our SSHS graduates of 2020
Victor Frankl (1905-1997), a survivor of the Holocaust and prominent neurologist and psychiatrist during his day, says our perspective of life is our final and ultimate freedom. Frankl was the founder of logotherapy that states our lives are healed through meaning. One way to add meaning is by making a difference in the world by our work and actions. If our life needs mending, then what are we prepared to do?
Frankl loved sharing a story he took from fellow psychologist, Dr. Edith Eva Eger, another Holocaust survivor. While at Auschwitz, those in her barracks were intrigued by a fellow prisoner who despite horrible illnesses was able to hang on to her life. When asked how she was able to withstand the horrid conditions, she replied that she had hopes of being liberated by Christmas. Christmas day at last arrived, and when the liberation had not occurred, the woman passed.
Dr. Eger goes on to explain how one’s perspective on life can literally make the difference between life and death. Not to sound morbid, but the point I am making is that we have the opportunity to create our own meaning of life based upon the perspective we choose.
As graduates of 2020, life this spring, to share the common vernacular of today, “sucks.” Graduations are times for celebration, reuniting of friends and family as well as acknowledging it is time to move forward. Meanwhile we wait. We wait for reopenings of favorite places and times when we can pursue favorite activities. At a time when we would prefer to come closer together, we are asked to stay apart.
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How we handle the COVID-19 situation will likely determine how we all behave in the days and years to come. In your lifetime you have already experienced how traumatic events have played out in our schools, airports and other public places.
Ironically, I had the opportunity to speak to the Steamboat Springs High School graduates of 2001. Reflecting on that occasion, I remember how choice played out in our behavior. Instead of toilet paper and cleaning supplies, we hoarded duct tape and visqueen. For a short while, we hunkered down with our family appreciating every moment we had together. When we finally chose to move forward with our lives, we did so with a new set of precautions.
We have hunkered down. And we have chosen to venture out. We had no choice as to what restrictions would be placed on us. We do have a choice as to how we act on them. Whether or not this virus disappears or stays with us indefinitely is probably beyond our control as individuals. What is within our control is how we choose to act moving ahead. International and national terrorism still exists as does the likelihood of another pandemic.
The way we live our lives is likely to change just as it did after 9/11. Your choices will have a lot to do with it. Congratulations graduates, and if there is a silver lining, unlike my generation, this is a graduation you will always remember.
Jerry Buelter taught and coached at Steamboat Springs High School for 20 years and served as an assistant principal and principal at Steamboat Springs Middle School for 17 years.
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