“The Day Lt. Onoda Surrendered”

I once read a story about a Japanese soldier who fought in World War II. His name was Lieutenant Hiroo Onoda.
Lt. Onoda was among two hundred soldiers sent to a small island in the Philippines in 1944.
When the Americans took the island in 1945, most of those Japanese soldiers were either killed in the fighting or surrendered. However, a few of them managed to hide in the jungle, and were so determined not to surrender that when the war ended they refused to acknowledge the news that it was over. And there they stubbornly stayed, living off the land, and venturing near civilization once in a while to pilfer needed items and perhaps get bits of news from the outside world.
By 1949, there were still at least three of them known to be hiding out. By 1954, one of them had died, and there were only two left. Eventually, another one died, leaving only Lt. Onoda. And finally, in 1974, 30 years after the war was over, Lt. Onoda came out of hiding and said that he was ready to surrender.
Finally, his personal war against reality was over. He was finally ready to accept the fact that the Japanese had lost, and the rest of the world had long since moved on. Perhaps worse yet, he had spent 30 years running away from all the possibilities that might have been awaiting him in life.
This story sounds so strange, but there are people who keep on fighting their own personal war against reality for 30, 40, 50 years or more – nursing a grudge about something someone said or did years ago. Resenting a parent who was perceived to have failed in some way. Resenting the fact that something in life did not work out as they had hoped. If this is the way you choose to deal with every disappointment you encounter, sooner or later you will find that the rest of the world has moved on without you. Persistence is a wonderful virtue in many circumstances, but not when we simply persist in making ourselves miserable. Eventually, other people grow weary of listening to the same old complaints over and over again.
Someone tells about a lady who was gently trying to make a point with her maid about the poor job the maid was doing at cleaning the house. The lady ran her finger across the top of a table and said, “Just look at this. I can write my name in the dust.” The maid said, “Isn’t that nice? That’s more than I can do. It just goes to show what an education can do for you.”
The lady wasn’t criticizing the maid for the opportunities she hadn’t had in life. She was making a point about what the maid had done, or failed to do, with the opportunities she was given. And that is the real test of any of us. Life brings us the raw materials, and it’s up to us to decide what we are going to do with them.
As someone once put it in the words of a little poem:

“One ship sails east, another west,
with the selfsame wind that blows.
It’s the set of the sails, and not the gales
that determine the way it goes.

Like the winds of the sea are the ways of fate
as we journey along through life;
it’s the set of the soul that decides its goal,
and not the calm or the strife.”

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