Thought I’d get your attention with that subject line!  Have you ever walked through HELL?  Or what you perceived to be HELL?  HELL on Earth, anyways!  That muck and mire of the craziness of life?  When perceptions are skewed, realities are feeble, and hope seems a looming figment of our imaginations.  When challenges grip us with clawing nails, and our feet slip on the ice of instability.  We’ve all been there, I know.

While I was living in Vienna, Austria, the powerful and hurtful winters would always teach me something.  Whether it be that I’m physically incapable of functioning in sub zero temperatures or that waddling the streets layered as thick as the Pillsbury Dough Boy is actually not as unattractive when everyone is doing the same thing, the frosty air does seem to conjure up some interesting thoughts.  Something happened there in the snowy Winter-wonderland of Vienna, Austria, that made me
think of an interesting parallel.

I was leaving a store called IKEA, which is a home furnishing department store.  Really cheap.  Really huge.  Really cool.  I bought a large frame for a poster, and as a typical means of transportation, set to walking to the bus stop, lugging my frame along.  During the first moments of my 7 minute walk to the stop, I entered into a new experience: walking through HAIL. Not the kind of hail storm us Southerners are familiar with.  No, no.  This was a driving, pain-in-the-face hail storm…the weirdest kind of weather I’d been privy to firsthand!

The natives on the sidewalk with me quickly picked up the pace, struggling to reach the oasis of the bus stop. I remained steadfast in my ambling, wanting to experience the full effect for fear I’d never have that oddly thrilling experience ever again.  As I walked, the frame made things a bit challenging, acting as a sort of sail, knocking me off balance with the blustering wind.  But, I finally reached the shelter with a smile on my face and the weight of Austrian stares.  I’m sure they were experiencing something new, too, as they watched this weird American who didn’t know enough to get out of the HAIL.  I was smiling at the experience…the thrill of a strange challenge…the excitement of a walk through HAIL.  I was covered with tiny pellets of snow and ice, and I was enveloped in the aura of it all.

I will always remember dressing for days like that, donning my multi-layered clothing- my long-johns, my coat, my scarf, my gloves, my hat, my wool socks, and my boots to make the trek through the snow to school, as I did every day for that really long, gloomy winter.  Now, in the warmth of the Georgia sun, I think back on those cold days in Austria and think to myself about what I can do now with that humorous experience, that walk through HAIL.  To play on words for a bit as my English degree forces me to do, I relate walking through HAIL to walking through HELL.  For the most part, when we walk through the trials we call HELL, we don’t or won’t or can’t smile at the experience, be thrilled at the challenge, or feel the excitement of the walk.  We bend our knees to the difficulty, bow our heads to the struggle, and cover our eyes to the threat.  Not that I have any room to talk or offer any morsel of insight, but I am reminded of two things by my walk through HAIL.

Like the Austrians, now I know enough to get out of the HAIL.  Run to the shelter.  Speed up until I reach the oasis from the storm.  Pick up the pace until I’m safely at the bus stop.  And parallel to my “utopia,” my safe shelter as the pellets of snow and ice were slapping me in the face, I press on.  Maybe we can’t oddly relish the discomfort of the pangs of the storm like I did, but we can recognize the storm for what it is…a passing blip on the radar, and we can press on.

In a matter of moments, the HAIL ceased and the sky was clear.  No remnants of the HAIL storm except little balls of ice in my shopping bag.  These little reminders made it all the way back to my apartment.  I was going to get some of them out and have a small snowball fight with Pinkey (my cat), but I decided to set them in the freezer to see how long they would last.  Eventually they got lost and were probably used to cool a soda.  Anyway, there will be little reminders, too, of your walk through HELL.  That’s the paradoxical delight.  Use the reminders for something beneficial.

So, be encouraged.  Press on through your HELL until you reach the shelter where lessons are learned, pains cease, sodas are cooled, and the reminders teach and delight.