Write Your Own Story

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I had a totally different column planned for today, one with a holiday theme sure to inspire cheer in all. However, as I sit down to write it, I find that, like folks all across the nation, my thoughts keep returning to the tragic events that took place last week in Connecticut.

While we all struggle to reconcile our holiday merry-making with the stark reality that a great evil crept into that community and snuffed out 27 innocent lives, I find myself considering an entirely different type of book.

I have often heard each individual life compared to a book with blank pages. We are each our own story’s protagonist, but the chapters have yet to be written, the plot is a work in progress, and we get to choose the main characters as we go.

If each of us then, is writing our own story, how we will alter its course as a result of these recent events?

While dialogue is swirling on every front about gun control, and mental health, and school security, I prefer to focus on those things that I can control in order to make my own story just a tad bit better.

As a society, the more technologically advanced we have become, the less we have had to rely on personal interaction. The world has now become a smaller place, but along the way, we have lost much of our sense of community. The friendly conversation with the clerk who scans our groceries each week, and the smile and nod at the neighbors as we pass by, have largely fallen by the wayside.

Would these kind gestures practiced in greater abundance have prevented tragedy from occurring? I would venture to guess probably not. They do however, help connect us as human beings. They make us feel a part of something bigger than ourselves. They give us the opportunity to make a cameo appearance in someone else’s life story, and allow them to return the favor.

Mahatma Gandhi famously said, “Be the change you wish to see in this world.” I can’t think of a time when this notion is more appropriate than now. If we are ready for change, then let’s uncap our pens and write a new chapter.

Let’s fill these next empty pages with a fresh start. Smile more. Hold the door for the stranger at the store. Be on the lookout for whomever around us might be in need of that extra little encouragement or kindness.

Let’s teach our children to write their chapters in the same vein. Be a friend to the friendless, set a good example, let the light of pure childish innocence pour out of them into the world instead of being extinguished by it.

This may all sound trite, but you can never underestimate the power of a simple kindness.  Small acts do have the power to change the world, and by practicing them, we absolutely have the power to alter our story’s course and inspire others to do the same.

I recently came across a quotation that is ringing especially true to me this week. Victor Frankl wisely said, “Everything can be taken from a man or woman but one thing:  the last of human freedoms to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.”

We may not have power over everything in our world. We cannot control the full cast of characters, and how they choose to let their stories unfold. No matter what the circumstances, however, we can always control how we choose to respond to all the unexpected plot twists we encounter along the way.

Each of us is the author of our own story. The next chapter is blank – how will you choose to write yours?

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