“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.” — Hellen Keller
I opened my eyes to see a crowd had formed around me. They had encircled me, peering down. I was so confused. What had happened? I was 16-years old, living on Long Island and I was on my way to my then-girlfriend’s house, Lauren. To get to her house I would take the Long Island Railroad from the Syosset station to the Huntington station.
The Huntington station was actually raised above a major street by a bridge. To get down, you had to descend these massive concrete steps. And the bus to her house was located on the other side of the street, which was separated by massive pillars that supported the train up above.
I descended those steps as I had done a hundred other times in the past. After crossing the first street, I made my way between the concrete pillars where I awaited the passing cars. For some reason, I hadn’t seen the car that struck me. In fact, I don’t even remember being hit. I just remember standing there waiting to cross.
When I opened my eyes to see all these people surrounding me I was beyond confused. If you’ve ever been involved in a traumatic accident before, then you likely know that the mind tends to erase it from conscious memory to protect you. That’s often how trauma works. So when I opened my eyes and came to realize something bad had happened, this sinking feeling set in.
Apparently, as I was crossing the street, I was struck by this car that was moving incredibly fast. Over 60 mph (almost 100kmh), and I had been vaulted some 30 feet across the street. I’m lucky to be alive right now. All I can remember, really, was a woman with blonde hair telling me I had been in a “little accident.”
A little accident? I just wanted to get up and go catch the bus. But I couldn’t move. Afterwards, blackness. I awoke again in the ambulance as they were tearing off my clothes and trying to assess the damage. I remember how loud the siren was and how blurry things were. Someone in the ambulance was asking me questions when I trailed off again.
I could only imagine the terror in my mom’s mind when the hospital called her to inform her that I had been in an accident. “What kind of accident? Is he okay? Will he ever walk again? Will I ever see my baby again?” were thoughts likely running through my mom’s mind at the time.
But I hadn’t even been able to process thoughts like that. I was still confused beyond measure. Perplexed beyond belief, not knowing what had happened, not even being able to remember the actual accident itself, was awful and awkward. Afterwards, several surgeries ensued, and I eventually spent 6 months in my room and missed an entire year of high school.
What Is Faith?
Before this accident, I would say that I had faith in God. I had always had faith, in fact. I don’t know if it’s something that we’re born with or something that’s taught to us, but unless you’re a man or woman of faith, you know just how much it tethers you in your heart and your spirit.
Whether you have faith in God or you have faith in Allah or Buddha or the spiritual oneness that binds us all, the importance of faith cannot be understated. But what had occurred after this accident, and the things that I witnessed were nothing short of miraculous.
You always hear things like, “God works in mysterious ways.” At the time, I had cursed everything. Imagine being 16-years old and having to spend 6 months isolated in your home. I effectively lost all my friends. Even my girlfriend left me at the time, which was traumatic at that maturing age.
Now, this was approximately 2 decades ago. So I can’t really remember all the days that I spent in bed, unable to move because they had inserted a metal rod and screws to augment the 45-degree break. A cast wouldn’t have helped, because it might have caused the bones to slip apart due to the angle.
To say that this was a terrifying situation is likely an understatement. I can only imagine the torment that my family went through. I can only imagine the pain that was caused to the people around me. But imagine how I felt as a teenager during the most important time of his life. Riddled with fear, I festered in the pain and anguish of the aftermath of that accident.
When none of my friends came to visit me, I came to some very important realizations. I had been running with a really bad crowd during that time. I was trying to fit in, looking for groups that would “accept” me. I think this is the difficulty of being a teenager and being introverted.
I suppose those 6 months isolated in a room really taught me a thing or two about life. I had always had faith before, but something inside me was stirred up there. I can’t really pinpoint it. I slipped into a bit of a depression but it didn’t last that long. I remember thinking about God and the meaning of my life.
When you come to the realization that you almost just died, something changes inside of you. I felt like time was running out and that I needed to do something important. I didn’t know what it was. I just knew that what I had been doing wasn’t working. I was trying to gain acceptance when I just needed to realize that I was already accepted by the people that really mattered.
I thought a lot about faith during this time. I asked myself what it meant to be faithful and to believe in God. Some time after the accident, when I was able enough to walk on my own without the help of crutches, my mom and I flew to Chicago. There was this house that we had heard about from someone else in our church, which had a picture of the Virgin Mary dripping oil.
First walking into that room where I could see the picture, which was hanging on a piece of plexiglass so that everyone could see through it, there was this powerful emotion that came over me. There were all these stories of the oil dripping off that cured people of illnesses and the room was filled with 50 or 60 people at any one time all watching the picture.
The oil would form on the sides, and make its way down to the corners, then meet at the center before dropping into this little tray at the bottom. That oil was used to bless people. When the oil dripped down, everyone in the room would start saying prayers. It was the most moving and miraculous experience of my life.
That house is still there, by the way. The picture with the Virgin Mary and Baby Jesus has been dripping oil since July 16, 1994 and another photo Jesus has been dripping since August 5, 1998. If you’re near the Chicago area, I would highly recommend going there if you can. The home is located in Elmwood Park, IL, just outside of Chicago at Mr. Daoud Hanna’s residence on 1901 N. 74th Court.
How To Have More Faith
I feel that I have always walked with God my entire life. There’s a meaning behind my life’s journey. But not everyone feels that. Although I’ve been through dark and troubled times, having experienced monumental failures, I often held onto hope. Deep down inside, somewhere, simmering inside of me, there was the flame of hope and an air of faith.
However, having faith doesn’t mean that you never ever lose hope. I’ve definitely lost hope at times. But I would circle back to my faith. Maybe it had been ingrained in me. Maybe it had been taught to me or maybe it was just encoded in my DNA. Whatever it is, faith has always been a resounding theme in my life.
Understanding what faith is and having faith no matter what are two different things. We might know what faith is, but we might lack the faith in not only our Higher Power, but also in ourselves. But if you have faith, and it runs deep down to your core, no matter what happens to you, no matter how many times you fail, you pick yourself right back up again and you keep going.
There’s a Japanese Proverb that says, “Fall 7 times, stand up 8.” And it’s a resounding theme in life. Because, how can you keep standing up after you keep getting knocked down, without having faith? Without faith, we are nothing. Although we lose faith from time to time, it comes back. It’s renewed and restored, because it’s not something that’s learned, it’s something that’s ingrained within us.
If you’ve lost faith or you’ve lost hope, then my heart goes out to you. I know that feeling very well. I know what it’s like to be wandering around in the darkness. But if you want to have more faith in life, if you want to believe in yourself, there are several very simple and straightforward ways to do just this.
#1 — Trust and believe in the unknown, and embrace the uncertainty in life
It’s easy to lose faith when we step into the unknown. But how could you operate or live your life if you were always fearing the unknown? How could you drive a car on one side of the road and not believe that someone will cross over from the other side and crash into you? All that separates you is a white line.
Learn to trust and believe in the unknown. Embrace uncertainty. It’s okay if you feel overwhelmed. It’s okay if everything around you is crashing down and falling apart. The path will be illuminated. That’s what faith does for you. Stop and take a few moments to breathe and reconnect with your faith.
#2 — You were put here on earth to serve a higher purpose and meaning
You can’t always expect to understand the meaning in everything. Faith is believing in the unknown. There is a higher purpose and a meaning to your existence. You can’t always understand it right away. Often, it’s in reflection on our lives that we realize the importance of certain things and the unimportance of other things.
No matter what happens, realize that you were put here on earth to serve a greater good. There is a bigger cause than you’re aware of, with forces operating beyond your control. It doesn’t matter what happens to you. The only thing that matters is how you respond to what happens to you.
#3 — Human beings were meant to thrive, not just survive
As human beings, we were made to thrive, not just survive. Our species has been thriving since the start. Think about our society. We once lived in caves and used fire for light. Today, we have computers in our pockets that allow us to access the world’s annals of information. How incredible is that?
But you also have to realize that you were meant to thrive as well. Not just society on the whole. If you’re just surviving, you need to cling to that understanding. God, Allah, Buddha, or your spiritual oneness put you here to thrive. Just because you’ve gone through a rough patch, doesn’t mean that you aren’t meant to live a wonderful life.
#4 — Things will never go as planned, but there is a reason for everything that happens
Problems will always occur. You will fail and you’ll want to give up in life. Things are not going to go as according to whatever plan you have set out. His plan is what counts. But as long as you don’t throw in that proverbial towel, and as long as you don’t give up, things will improve.
Don’t think, for one moment, that if something doesn’t occur exactly the way that you hoped or planned it to occur, that there is no meaning left in your life. Take a moment, reflect, and realize what’s important. Restructure, regroup and reinvigorate yourself to push forward no matter what happens. That’s what faith is all about.
#5 — Never give up hope and belief in yourself and in your limitless capacity to achieve anything
We all have a limitless capacity in this world and in this universe to achieve great things. The only thing that separates the people who reach dizzying heights in life and those that don’t is simply a matter of will. They don’t give up because they have faith and belief in themselves and what they were meant to achieve.
Never give up that hope and belief in yourself. You are capable of so many things. You simply don’t realize it. Even if you’ve suffered through trauma or setback after setback, keep pushing forward. When you reach victory and achieve your goals, it will feel that much sweeter.
#6 — Don’t allow life’s lessons to allow you to lose faith
I’ve failed so many times. I keep failing, in fact. But I don’t lose faith. I’ve learned a lot through failure, and so should you. But failure, as Henry Ford once said, “is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligibly.” Learn from your failures and your mistakes, but don’t lose faith.
There is a powerful meaning and a message behind everything that happens. You can’t wallow in failure or sadness for too long. You have to embrace failure and change and realize that having faith is more than having a massive setback. Stand up and do it again. Don’t quit.
#7 — You are capable of joy and happiness if you just believe in yourself and in the faith that’s in your heart
We hinge our happiness and joy on success. That’s the truth, isn’t it? However, we all have the capacity for joy and happiness. Don’t allow anything to dampen that. When you have faith, you believe, deep down inside, that you are capable and that you deserve happiness.
Even in the darkest of times, hold onto the meaning that faith brings to your life. Connect with others. Explore your spirituality. Then get to work. But rather than succeeding to be happy, you have to happily succeed. Have the joy in life for the little things. The birds flying above. The warmth of the sun on your face. And the deep-down belief that life is full of little miracles all around you.