As I stood in the lobby of the attorney’s office today waiting to drop off my nonprofit application, I couldn’t keep my eyes off the sudden snowstorm outside. To make small talk, the receptionist asked, “So are you one of those people that likes the snow?” My initial thought was, “HECK to the NAH! I’m from Southern California! I like shorts and flip flops all year round. And when I say flip flops, I mean Rainbow, not Teva.”
But I didn’t say those things. Instead, I said, “No, the only time I like the snow is when I’m sledding or skiing.” Then I started to really notice the thickness of each snowflake. It was like confetti falling from the sky. I couldn’t keep my eyes off this miracle of ice crystal collision. I suddenly felt so lucky to be witnessing something so beautiful. It was as if God gifted me that moment to say, “What’s up, Melanie. I made this. And I can make anything beautiful. And that’s wassup.” (Because that’s how God talks to me.)
Just moments earlier I was thinking how much I hated the snow, and then suddenly my perspective changed.
I thought of the movie, Life is Beautiful, and how the main character, Guido, created joy amidst a terrifying experience. Guido, an Italian Jew, and his son, Giosue, were taken from their home and sent to a concentration camp. When Giosue asked where they were going, his dad pretended that he planned an elaborate trip for Giosue’s birthday. Guido convinced his young son that everything was a fun game, in order to protect him from the horrors of their reality.
Ever since I saw this movie back in 1997, I’ve been fascinated with this character, Guido. How was he able to keep his spirits up while he was beaten and starved and put through the worst circumstances imaginable? How did he spend so much energy to continuously create this game for his son? It was amazing that he was so persistent in convincing his son. How did he not give up? His bravery to protect his son makes me want to cry all over this keyboard.
Over the years, I’ve thought about this movie and its significance in my life. I’ve wondered if I were in such a horrifying circumstance, how would I handle it? Would I have hope and how would I retain that hope?
I’ve wondered why Guido turned it all into a game, instead of being honest with his son. Maybe Giosue would have given up if it weren’t for his father’s fabrications.
Eventually, Guido was killed by a German soldier. But his son and wife lived. After the Nazis left, the American soldiers showed up in a tank (which is what Guido told his son would be the prize for the winner of the game). The movie ends with Giosue embracing his mother and announcing that he won the game. And then these words scroll across the screen, spoken by an obviously older Giosue, “This is my story. This is the sacrifice my father made. This was his gift to me.”
No matter our circumstances. No matter our lot in life. No matter the trials we face. We have a choice. We can choose to be a victim of circumstance. Or we can choose to see our circumstances differently.
It doesn’t feel fair that I’m a victim of cancer. But it has taught me to perceive life differently.
Life is like snow, if you will. It can be cold and miserable (which, duh, it is), and you can spend all winter wishing you were in Hawaii. Or it can be beautiful and captivating, and you can make a game out of it by catching the most snowflakes in your mouth in the middle of the Kohl’s parking lot.