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Beyond Adversity

By HOWARD COOP

Contributing columnist

As the 14th year of my life began, things in our world looked terribly bleak. Pearl Harbor was only months in the past, World War II was raging in Europe, and each month young men I knew, in response to the draft, left home to enter the military. 

That fall I enrolled as a freshman in high school, and in a class of literature, I was introduced to “As You Like It”, a play by William Shakespeare. One of the first lines in that play that caught my attention, and one I have remembered across the years, was from scene 1 in act 2. In that memorable passage, Shakespeare wrote, “Sweet are the uses of adversity,” and then he ended that passage with “and good in everything.”

At the end of each day that fall, we gathered around the radio to listen to Lowell Thomas report the devastating news from Europe as the Allied forces contended with the Axis forces. With all that was happening, I wondered, “How can there be anything sweet in adversity and how can there be good in everything?” To be honest, as an adult, I have struggled with that same question, for, with all the hardships and trouble in life, it is hard to see sweet in adversity and good in everything.

And I remembered Thanksgiving Day in 1996. Four days earlier, I had had a serious heart attack, and the next morning I was scheduled to have quintuple bypass surgery. That day, alone in the hospital room while those who had been with me were gone to have Thanksgiving dinner, I saw nothing sweet in adversity.  But through the skill of the surgeon, the care of the cardiologist, and the attention of a good nursing staff, things went well. Life has been good for a little over 20 years, and I think of the words of Rosamunde Pilcher, “Beyond the pain, life continues to be sweet.” 

Shakespeare was right. Beyond adversity there is something sweet, and if we look for it, there is good in everything.