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What Good Can We Make of This?

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My mother was diagnosed with cancer in 1968. She was one of the first people to receive intensive chemotherapy. It was awful. But she asked her favorite question, “What good can we make of this?”

The way she made good of the cancer was to keep a daily record of how the chemotherapy affected her. She wrote out the details of the good days and the bad days. Before she died, she gave that record to the physician who guided her treatment.

I’m not sure when she started asking the question. It was well before I was born. My father told me he was sure she was asking it when they went to their first parish, shortly after they were married. She may have started asking it earlier.

Thanks to her, I’ve been asking that question my entire adult life. It’s helped me make more of a contribution than I might have otherwise. It’s helped me live a richer life. It might help you, too.

What good can we make of this?

Don’t mistake this question for optimism. It’s a call to action. Optimism is a judgment about how things will turn out. “What good can we make of this?” is a summons to figure out what you can do to make things better. You can use it in a variety of situations.

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