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Turning stumbling blocks into stepping stones

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By Hyon O'Brien

German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) once said, "There will always be rocks in the road ahead of us. They will be stumbling blocks or stepping stones; it all depends on how you use them."

I think of the 27 years that Nelson Mandela (1918-2013) spent in prison: it is pretty clear from his biography, "Long Walk to Freedom," that he used those long years of confinement as stepping stones to lead the country when he was finally freed in 1990 and was elected as the first black president in 1994 in the first multiracial general election. The rock of the unjust and immoral system of apartheid was dissolved. The oppression of the black majority by the white minority was finally over. Mandela's 1993 Nobel Peace Prize was the proof of his endurance and of the transforming power of justice triumphing.

Corrie ten Boom (1892-1983), a Dutch Christian lady who together with her family saved many Jews during World War II, wrote about her time in a Nazi concentration camp in one of the chapters in her book, "The Hiding Place." One thing from the book that sticks in my mind is that her cell was infested with fleas. As a result of the cell's reputation for vermin, the prison guards left her cell alone. This seeming curse became a stepping stone for her, as she was able to study the Bible freely and pray fervently without worrying about interference from the guards. Her sister reminded her to be thankful for even the fleas. What a spirit of unshakable faith in God they demonstrated! They were more than conquerors over the unbearable conditions they were in.

I think of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) as another excellent example of turning a stumbling block into a stepping stone. In 1980, 13-year-old Cari was killed by a drunk driver. Her mother, Candace Lightner, founded the Texas-based organization (www.madd.org). According to statistics, in 2013, 10,076 people were killed in the United States by drunk drivers, a 55 percent drop in deaths since MADD's founding. (By contrast, in 1920, with only a fraction of today's U.S. population, nearly 25,000 people were killed in alcohol-related crashes, 50% of all traffic deaths that year.) I am so glad that Mrs. Lightner, instead of giving in to despair after her daughter's tragic death, and MADD succeeded in introducing the concept of the "designated driver" and radically changing the attitude of society towards drunk........

© The Korea Times