Sunday, April 26, 2009

Lessons My Son and I Need to Learn

I spoke at a Friends and Family Recognition Dinner at Opportunity Village in Clear Lake, Iowa, today. What a wonderful place with wonderful staff, volunteers and financial supporters.

Mark and I are deeply grateful for the services Stross receives through them. It's clear that those connected to the Village value and respect each person who is benefitting from their services.

Afterward, a man asked if I had the "five things" I mentioned in my speech written within the pages of Involuntary Joy. I don't. He reassured me that he had them written on his napkin and then showed me precisely that.

In case anyone else finds them worth noting -- either on a napkin or something else -- here are the five life lessons I am aware that both Stross and I need to keep working on:

1 - Brief encounters are deceiving: Don't judge anyone by what you see-or even hear. Get to know them and accept them for who they are. They are using the skills and abilities they've developed to this point, just like you are. No one's farther down the path - just on a journey different than yours. You should look for the life lessons they can teach you as you continue on your own life's course.

2 - Focus on your abilities and what you can do, not what you cannot. Abilities are the starting point for possibilities. They just are.

3 - Ask for help when in need. This one works best when you've gotten fairly good at #2. Others can help you accomplish things that may seem overwhelming on your own. It's not a sign of weakness to ask for help. On the contrary: It's wisdom at work. Empowerment begins when you facilitate accommodations that can help you overcome things in your path. Don't be satisfied to stay in one place if someone else can help you maneuver a bit farther down the road.

4 - Embrace a way of living and doing that works for you. Your life and how you live it needs to be as unique as you are. This may mean redefining things you used to take for granted: Who comprises family, what measures success, how you regard faith. Something happened that caused your world to feel a bit upside down. It makes sense you'll have gained a new perspective on a lot of things because of that.

5 - Look for joy in the midst of it all - it's there. It really is. Holocaust survivors attest to this truth. Even victims of other horrendous crimes have discovered this truth on their way back from despair. Life is amazing and deeply beautiful. Your life is no exception.

I think everyone has something or someone they can look to as a "joy compass." It's my deep prayer that you find yours. Mine is named Stross. I'll forever be grateful for the lessons he brings my way, even if involuntarily so.

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