That time, a woman named Petra Nemcova was on vacation with her fiancé. Like everyone else, they didn't know a tragedy was about to strike. She saw her fiancé briefly before the tidal wave hit, not knowing that it would be for the last time. She spent eight hours clinging on to a palm tree and later on lying amid the mud and debris when the water receded. She heard the loud screams and the screams lessening. She was not only a witness to this calamity, but she was caught in the middle of it.
Her story didn't end there, though. She survived the tsunami. At the time the tsunami struck, she was a successful supermodel. Two years after the tsunami, she set up a charity called Happy Hearts Fund to help rebuild schools in the areas hit by catastrophes. Since then, they've built 130 schools in 10 countries. Right on their website, it says "We work during the gap period when children are forgotten after emergency response is complete, bringing hope and empowerment to generations of children and entire communities".
Like I said, her story didn't end in the tragedy. Her story is a testament to the strength of the human spirit, how we can continue to care after we've suffered so much, how we can use our own pain to ease the pain of others, how when our heart breaks, it breaks open to feel compassion for others. She said, "I know it may sound strange, but surviving the tsunami gave me so many gifts. Before the tsunami, I was always living my life in the future, making plans for what I should be doing. I've learned now to live in the moment, to make the most of what I'm doing now as you never know what's going to happen. It feels a like a heavy weight has been lifted off my shoulders. My life was slipping through my fingers before, now I'm living it fully in the here and now. It's very liberating. I take nothing for granted anymore. I'm a happier more fulfilled person as a result." One year after she set up her charity, she expanded her compassion even further to other beings. She connected specifically with fish, and so in 2007, she stopped eating them and became vegan.
We don't have to wait for a huge tragedy to build hope and strength. We don't have to wait for a disaster to learn that now is all that really matters. If you are in some ways currently in the midst of a personal crisis-- a heartbreak or a separation, mourning the loss of someone, feeling grief over hopes and dreams unrealized-- hang in there. There will be mud and debris, and you will see the water recede. All you need to do is hang in there. And if you're already at the other side, where tragedy has passed, then be grateful. Appreciate the gift of survival. Don't let life pass you by now. Guru Devo Maheshwara- our trials, illnesses, and calamities are our teachers. They teach us about the temporal nature of life, and that what we have now is all we really have. Tell those whom you love that you love them. Thank them. Say sorry to those whom you have hurt. Be kind. We remove our veil of ignorance by seeing impermanence as truth.