Prior to the movie, “Unbroken” coming out, I had stumbled on the account of Louie Zamperini and was completely mesmerized by his story – his experience as an Olympic runner, his 46 days adrift in the Pacific ocean after his plane crashed into the ocean and his two years spent as a Japanese POW.
This man shook hands with Adolph Hitler! In many ways, his story reads like a real life Forest Gump.
After his release and a hero’s welcome, Louie dealt with the demons that remained from his time in captivity by drinking. His descent into alcoholism drained him of his finances, his dignity and it almost cost him his marriage. It was a Billy Graham Crusade that he reluctantly attended in order to appease his bride that rerouted his life in a dramatic way. After that, his nightmares ceased and an inexplicable willingness to forgive his former captives set him on a new course that allowed him to make an impact with an even larger audience due to, not only his experiences, but his new found faith and the obvious difference it had made in his life.
The movie, directed by Angelina Jolie, is very well done, but it’s one account in the book that caught my attention in the way it gives you a sense of perspective when you’re feeling like your day is especially challenging.
Louie and the other two survivors from the plane crash are floating in the Pacific. It’s been weeks since they’ve had a meal and the effects of malnutrition and exposure have already taken a toll. It’s late one night and..
Louie woke up to a tremendous crash, stinging pain, and the sensation of weightlessness. His eyes snapped open and he realized the he, Mac and Phil were airborne. They flopped down together onto the raft and twisted about in confusion. Something had struck the bottom of the raft with awesome power. The garden-variety sharks that made up their entourage weren’t large enough to hit them with such force, and had never behaved in this way.
Looking over the side of the raft, they saw it. Swelling up from under the water came a leviathan: a vast white mouth, a broad back parting the surface, and a long dorsal fin, ghostly in the moonlight. The animal was some twenty feet long, more than three times the length of the raft. Louie recognized its features from his survival school training. It was a great white shark.
As the castaways watched in terrified silence, the shark swam the length of one side of the raft, then bent around to the other side, exploring it. Pausing on the surface, it swished its tail away then slapped it into the raft, sending the raft skidding sideways and splashing a wave of water into the men. Louie, Mac, and Phil came up on their knees in the center of the raft and clung to one another. The shark began to swim around to the other side. Louie whispered, “Don’t make a noise!” Again the mighty swing, the shower of water, the jolt through the raft and the men.
Around and around the shark went, drenching the raft with each pass. It seemed to be playing with the raft. With every pass, the men cringed and waited to be capsized. Finally, the great back slid under, and the sea smoothed behind it. It did not surface again.
Louie, Phil, and Mac lay down again. The water around them was now cold, and none of them could sleep.
When I first read that, I put the book down and decided that my day, however frustrating it had appeared up that moment, was actually a pretty good day in comparison. I decided that the next time I let the events of the day chafe at my disposition to the point where I’m starting to feel a little exasperated, I’m going to visualize the mouth of a great white shark slowly approaching my raft from a dark and sinister depth…and remember that things really aren’t that bad after all!
So, the next time you’re feeling like you’re having a bad day, turn to page 170 of the book “Unbroken” and be encouraged!
Have a great day!