Through Great Adversity Comes Great Strength and Unity

By:  Jonathan Tomashefsky, For the Clock

Last Saturday was the 20th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center. Remembering the heroic efforts of passengers and flight crew on Flight 77 over Shanksville, PA, and the crash of Flight 93 into the Pentagon.  I was almost two years old at that time and cannot remember what was going on. What I heard was how everyone pulled together to support and love each other and to help keep our country safe and prosperous.  It did not matter your political party, gender, ethnicity or beliefs. We were humans.We were Americans. We were a society that needed to rally to overcome this horrific attack on our country. This great tragedy brought us all together to help one another get through such terrible times.

In recent years, we have lost our way and seem more divided than ever. From racial tension to political unrest, and attacking those who do not think, act or look like us. Somehow, we do not see that it is more important than ever to find what brings us together and support one another, rather than what divides and separates us.

I recently completed almost five years of cancer treatments; including one relapse and almost dying twice of sepsis back in the Fall of 2019. I did not have time to think about anything but trying to live and survive.  When I got diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia in December of 2016, all I cared about was how I could overcome this and still have a happy, joyous, and fulfilling life.  

At that time, all my peers cared about was doing well on the SAT’s and thinking about what college they hoped to get into.  None of that mattered to me.  I hoped to graduate with my class, go to college, graduate, get a job someday, and have a good life.  No score, specific college, or stress was on my mind.  I wanted to live more than anything, and with the help of my family, friends, hospital staff, my faith and even strangers who lent support and prayers, I was able to survive this horrible tragedy and return to college. 

I view experiences of life, people, and every new day with a positive perspective.  Finding the good in everything and every person is what keeps me going. Being there and reaching out when someone is struggling is vital to everyone.  This month is not only Pediatric Cancer Awareness Month but also Suicide Prevention Month. This month is a time for us to love, support, accept and find common ground with each other.  Someone could be suffering and simply a kind word could mean the difference. Between that person still thinking life is worth living, and thinking there is no light at the end of the tunnel. Rather than looking at what separates us, we should try looking at what brings us together. What makes each one of us enjoy the day a little more, and what brings a smile to our faces. This mindset can help us all realize life is good and worth being here to enjoy each and every day.  Here are 9 Important Values of Life.

1. Commitment

2. Compassion

3. Devotion

4. Effort

5. Gratitude

6. Honesty

7. Integrity

8. Sacrifice

9. Tolerance

If we can all try to live these values every day with our roommates, our neighbors, our professors, strangers on the street, someone who may not have the exact beliefs we do, we will find we have more in common than we thought. We can get back to where we were 20 years ago, when the worst attack on American soil occurred. This event was when we came together as a nation and helped lift each other up when so many were down. What a better world this would be if we can truly find what brings us together than what tears us apart. 

There were times in the last five years, I did not know for sure if I was going to live or die.  That changes how you live each day, how you interact with people and how you perceive every moment.  You show gratitude a whole lot more, you find and show appreciation for everything and everyone so much more. Lastly, your desire to find connection with people and life is so great because you cherish life on a whole different level.  It should not take a tragedy for us all to see life as valuable, wonderful and worth living, even on the toughest days.  Reach out, give someone a smile, and find joy today.  You never know how much of a difference it is going to make for you, but for someone else.