By James Ahola
“Hurriedly, I ventured out onto the frozen lake trying to calm my fears, listening to my skiis swoosh through the glistening white snow. I was half way across the lake when my greatest fear became a reality. In the distance I heard a warplane clearing the trees. Hopefully they wouldn’t see me, but not taking any chances, I sprinted for the shoreline to seek cover under the trees. I could hear the engine roar as the plane changed course and started pursuit. I’d been spotted. Sprinting hard, I could see the shoreline approaching, but not fast enough. The machine gun opened fire, and the noise ricocheted off the distant hill as bullets began to track closer to me. The bullets sprayed past me as I fell violently to the ground gasping for breath. I lay still and motionless, as my heart slowed and breaths quickly became untraceable. The plane circled, inspecting for movement, but found none. Conserving bullets, the plane silenced its machine gun and roared away over the tree line in search of my comrades. With the plane gone I quickly rose to my feet, fixed my skis, and sprinted for the trees. The bullets, which were too close for comfort, had in fact whizzed past me, allowing me to effectively play possum. Through cunning and luck, I got to live another day.”
This story, recounted to me as a child, is one of my grandfather’s wartime experiences. He lived well into his eighties, when a different, insurmountable battle took him away. This was one of many stories where difficult odds seemed to be miraculously overcome, however each encounter did leave scars. Cancer had taken one of his lungs, and fighting in two wars left inoperable shrapnel in his legs and demons in his mind that he would battle for years to come. But he lived on, becoming a loving family man, an example of healthy living to his peers, and a very good artist. My grandfather created many landscape paintings that gave joy to others. Where odds would have favored a life destroyed, he changed step, and thrived instead.
In life, we will come across battles that are not fair, with the odds stacked against us. Though some situations can and will be bleak, I firmly believe they can be overcome.
While I wish the story of my grandfather on the ice had him turning around, firing one shot that kills the pilot and sends the plane crashing onto the frozen lake in a ball of flames, I know that this scenario is unrealistic. In reality, fighting unevenly matched battles head to head is foolish. Rather, to survive we must fight using cunning, resilience, and all our resources, capitalizing on our strengths and our opponent’s weaknesses to foil plans and overturn an expected outcome.
Powerful opponents can overshadow us, rain on us, and deliver unrelenting blows, but they are not omnipotent. They would have us believe they will totally consume and dominate us, but the truth is, they cannot. Instead we can fight, side step, and thrive where they have limited or no power. If anything, this is what heroes show us, be they public ones like Terri Fox and Stevie Wonder, or private like my grandfather. They demonstrate for us what another form of winning looks like. The point is to fight, and never give up. Play up your strengths, attack your opponent’s weaknesses and fight on ground where they have no footing. When facing powerful unrelenting enemies, be they in health, business, or war, never give up, never give in, then thrive and dance wherever you can.