COMMENTARY: Hope in the darkest hour

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COMMENTARY: Hope in the darkest hour

by: Chief Master Sgt. Steve K. McDonald, Pacific Air Force command chief master sergeant | .
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published: October 12, 2013

JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii -- I recently heard a story of a young man who woke up every day and asked himself what he had to live for. Most would think that was a fairly common question. For this young man however, the difference was the number of reasons he could come up with to live for determined the number of bullets he would put into the clip of his handgun. If he could think of 15 reasons to live, no bullets would make it into the clip. This was his way of deciding if life was worth living.

When I was 16 years old, my older brother was faced with that thought and however he looked at it, he decided life wasn't worth it.

My brother hung himself and took his life. He took away his future. He took away the possibility of growing up and meeting his wife and having a wonderful family. He took away my older brother and I have often asked why.

I could probably think of a few things that contributed to him getting to that point in his life. There were some life experiences that probably left him a little confused. Unfortunately, I wasn't there with him so I will only say what I know to be true; that my 18 year-old brother had a moment on a Sunday morning in Columbus, Georgia where he made the decision that life wasn't worth living.

I have often thought about what my darkest hour would look like. Would it be when I couldn't think of a single reason to continue living? Would it be when all that I hold dear is snatched away or if there was a tragic accident and I lost my family? What if something happened to me and I was unable to provide for my family? What if I messed up very badly and was faced with legal problems? What if I did something that would cause extreme public humiliation for me and my family?

The honest truth is I don't know what my darkest hour will be but I do know that I had better be prepared for and ready to deal with it. Therein lies the dilemma. How do I prepare for something when I don't know what it is?

My answer is "HOPE." I am not talking about wishing your life will never have serious, life-altering issues. I am talking about having a hope.

Ask yourself the question "What in life is worth living for no matter what else happens?" What can you believe in that can't be taken away by circumstances? What purpose can you hold on to no matter life's circumstances? This is definitely an individual question with an individual answer. I can't answer the question for you. I can only answer it for me. I have a hope. Even though I don't know what my darkest hour would be, I know that I have a hope in life that there is something worth living for.

The Air Force has made great strides in the area of resiliency and expressing the importance of being able to deal with life's stressors and setbacks. Being emotionally, physically, socially and spiritually fit are essential to a healthy and stable life. Air Force resiliency can even help you identify the good things you have in life.

I thought my brother had a lot going for him in life. From all outward appearances, he seemed like a pretty resilient young man. But in his darkest hour, he ran out of reasons for living. He did not have a purpose. He did not have a source of hope.

Hope is generally not a good strategy but at our darkest times, it might be the only strategy. Please think about what your hope is before your darkest hour. Think about it today.

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