“The other side chose to turn every element, every aspect of life in Iraq into a battle and into a war zone. I chose to turn every corner of Iraq into a spot for civility, beauty and compassion.”–Karim Wasfi

If you have been reading my blog for a while, you know that I am a huge fan of public radio, partly because it connects me to stories that I might otherwise miss in my full life. I heard an NPR story last week that stopped me in my tracks. It was such a perfect illustration of the power and grace of the human spirit that I had to share it with you.

Here’s the short summary. Karim Wasfi is the conductor of the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra, and a cellist. After car bombs went off in his neighborhood, he took his cello to the bomb site and began to play. A friend video-taped his performance, and it has gone viral. In case you missed it, here’s the video:

Since then, the friend who created the video has been killed in a different bombing. Mr. Wasfi faces a daily level of danger that most Americans can’t quite imagine. I think that many of us would have stopped at that point. I know that I would be struggling with fear, anger, and a sense that this level of destruction and violence is profoundly unfair. The kinds of conditions that the citizens of Iraq and other countries living through war & terrorism are enough to bring many of us to a state of paralysis. But Karim Wasfi has continued to take his cello to sites of bombings. He has continued to bring “civility, beauty, and compassion” with him at each space.

While we might not be able to imagine being under threat of car bomb or IED on a daily basis, many people can identify with the sensation of being faced by a challenge or pain that they didn’t want or choose. That pain may be a betrayal, or an illness. It may be a loss. There are so many ways that we face unfair or undeserved pain.

What Karim Wasfi demonstrates is that, while we can’t choose the challenges or pain that enter our lives, we can choose our own response. We never lose the ability to choose how we interact in the world, and what we want to project out. So, if you are in pain today, I hope that you hear the beauty of Karim Wasfi’s cello, and that you are able to find something of yourself to choose to share.

Do you have a choice you’ve already made that you want to share in the comments? If so, I’d love to hear it. If you need help finding your way to the choices that best express you, I’m just a click or phone call away.

I’ll give the last words to Karim Wasfi:

“Unlike what people think, we have a choice of fighting back. We can’t just surrender to the impending doom of uncertainty by not functioning. But I think it’s an awakening for everybody to make a choice and to choose how they want to live, not how they want to die.”–Karim Wasfi

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