Some lives seem riddled with sadness and even tragedy. Many live a life of grief and despair. And yet there are others who experience similar lives who somehow become stronger and decide to make a difference in the world. I believe we have total control over how we respond to things that happen to us. We can choose to remain a victim or, after we have worked through our grief, we can decide to come out swinging.
I have had my fair share of sadness in my life – some from mistakes I’ve made, others from mistakes others have made. Astounding that those mistakes and the pain have given me purpose and direction. Let me share with you a few examples:
I made the mistake of dropping out of high school. As an adult I have co-designed and directed 2 schools for at-risk teenagers. I’m thrilled to report that the great majority of my students graduated from high school!
My dear brother committed suicide. Sadly, I also tried to end my life. Since then I have counseled many young people who were contemplating suicide.
I was married to an abusive man. As a professional, I helped victims of domestic abuse and counseled abusers.
Early in my life I was unmarried and pregnant. So many of the young women I counseled were taking sexual risks and/or were teen moms.
My mother removed herself from my life for over 30 years and I felt abandoned. Later, I became a ‘school mom’ to hundreds of teenagers.
I don’t know why bad things happen to people, but I DO know what you can do about it! Don’t allow yourself to stay stuck in the ‘victim’ mode. Get out there and fight! Your mistakes and the disadvantages you have experienced make you someone who can help others in similar situations. You may find this is your purpose in life.
Let me close with some sayings that have helped me throughout life:
Be kind to everyone no matter how they treat you. You don’t know what kind of a day/life they have had.
The most important thing to look for in a partner is kindness and honesty.
Everyone puts their pants on one leg at a time. It doesn’t matter the cut of the cloth – we are all the same.
Very few things are emergencies. Take a deep breath and don’t chase after it. It will be there tomorrow.
Fix the problem, not the blame.
Whenever I look at an elderly person I try to think of how I can help them. Usually it is just a smile and a friendly conversation. Sometimes it is more. I might be the only person who talks to them all day. I feel better and so do they.
Every morning I am happy to have another day. I smile and am aware of how lucky I am.
Whenever I see someone who is hurting, who is homeless, who is afraid, I think, “There, but for the Grace of God, go I.” I don’t see them as different. I see them as someone who is just like me and who is carrying burdens I’m fortunate enough not to have to carry.
Figure out what you want on your tombstone. THAT will decide your purpose, the legacy you want to leave. I hope mine will be “She earned her rent on earth.”
If I don’t get some sort of reward, some sort of afterlife, that’s ok. This life has been wonderful and it is enough.
You know you really love someone when you would take on all their pain if you could. How many times have I pled, “Please, God. If something bad is going to happen to one of my children today, let it be me instead.” I thought it would end when they were grown up and gone and, yet, I still find myself praying that.