Sinkholes & Sochi: When Life Gives You Lemons

February 22nd, 2014

Recently a sink hole opened up in the middle of the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky. It swallowed eight very expensive Corvettes. It was a devastating and scary loss, but thankfully no one was injured.

As video footage of the occurrence started circulating around social media, everyone stared at wonder at the 40 foot wide by 30 foot deep hole in the middle of the local tourist attraction. Viewers could barely see four of the cars peaking out of the debris into which they fell.

According to security footage, the event happened around 5 a.m., but before dinner that evening, there was already a report coming out that some of the cars that had fallen into the hole might be used for a future “survivor” exhibit in the museum. My son and I laughed as we recognized how the public relations department was trying to put a positive spin on things. They were, I guess, trying to make lemonade from the lemons they had been handed.

Some of us call ourselves pessimists. Some of us are eternal optimists, and then there are those of us (like myself) who consider ourselves realists.

I admire the optimists. I feel sorry for the pessimists, and as a realist I struggle to remember that a lot of life is simply a matter of perspective.

The facts were clear about the sink hole. The museum had suffered a great loss. It was apparent that much work would need to be done in order to make sure that the rest of the cars were kept safe and that the museum itself would reopen and continue to be a major tourist attraction and money-maker for the community. The PR note about the survivor's exhibit didn't detract in any way from the facts. It didn't dilute them or negate them. It wasn't a “all is rosy” kind of message, but it was a hopeful statement. By adding a little “sugar” to the mix, the Corvette official was able to point towards a better future.

It reminds me a little of some of the events that have been taking place in Sochi during the Winter Olympics. In case you haven't noticed, several of the American “stars” have not done as well as our media had predicted. As a spectator, I have to say that there have been some very disappointing moments, and I am just watching! I cannot imagine how hard it must be for the athletes who had very realistic expectations of getting a gold (or at least getting on the podium) and then find themselves in the often untrod waters of (dare we say it) loserville? It can be heartbreaking.

As I have sat from the comfort of my living room couch and watched as one Olympian after another has found himself or herself in that predicament, I have been touched by the graciousness they have displayed in their losses. You know it hurts. You know that the last thing they want to do is be kind and complimentary. You know they want to make excuses, point fingers, and shift blame, but at least in my viewing experience, I have seen none of that. I have seen legendary figures such as Shawn White and Shani Davis, smile, hug and congratulate fellow competitors and winners in the midst of their own defeat. I have seen athletes take pride in their accomplishments and joy in their experiences even when things haven't exactly gone their way.

And while we would hope that this would always be the case, we know that it always isn't. So it is noteworthy. It is a reminder that we often don't control our circumstances, but we always control our attitudes. One night I watched as a Russian skier struggled to complete a course long after his chances for winning were behind him. He hobbled along with one ski so broken that a commentary compared it to a “slinky.” Then, from out of nowhere, I saw a Canadian coach—not his coach mind you—another coach, from a competing team—run onto the track and replace his broken ski with a new one. I watched, with millions of others across the world, as a simple act of human kindness made this man's painful endeavor a little more bearable and lot more memorable. The skier went on to complete, crossing the finish line last, but crossing it nonetheless, to an audience full of cheering fans.

That's what you call making lemonade.

Philippians 4:8-9 says,

“From now on, brothers and sisters, if anything is excellent and if anything is admirable, focus your thoughts on these things: all that is true, all that is holy, all that is just, all that is pure, all that is lovely, and all that is worthy of praise. Practice these things: whatever you learned, received, heard, or saw in us. The God of peace will be with you.”

Whether it's a sinkhole in Kentucky or an athletic loss in Sochi or any of the numerous trials we all face day to day, we can all benefit from that recipe. 

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