When in a group of people, there are two questions that I love to pose to anyone willing to venture into a discussion. One of the questions is, “What book are you reading right now?” This question can lead to a lively discussion about topical information, fiction or non-fiction. However, the other question I love can make the responder and the questioner pause for reflection. Often I like to pose, especially in groups of my vintage…60 and older… “What was your favorite job during your life?” or “If you could do it again, would you do anything different, choose a different career?” People reply in stories of regret, awe at the goodness, wonder at what could be or could have been, and often contentment.
My father always told me that everything we do gets us ready for the next. I remember my first big disappointment when I did not get a job with the American Youth Corps right after high school. Dad first shared in my disappointment with his steadfastness and empathy. Then he gently changed the course of my thinking to “another possibility.” That experience helped me to understand that when we do not get what we want, it is not the end of the world. I have told you that our school staff has chosen one word that is our word for the year to ponder, live, turn to, or be. Rachel Bienemann, one of our preschool teachers chose for her word, #letitgo (let it go). Brilliant! By focusing outside of the disappointment we then are more able to find a bright spot somewhere else.
A former pastor shared during a sermon, a tale about a storyteller telling a story to a group of children. Half of the children were African and half were American. The storyteller related, “A hyena was trotting down a path in the African savannah when he came to a fork in the road. He didn’t know which way to turn; to the left, to the right, to the left to the right? Suddenly a delicious smell of a rotting carcass wafted past his nose from the right. He lifted his paw and began to turn in that direction, when an equally enticing aroma came from the left. He was fraught with indecision. To the left??? To the right??? He did not know what to do. In the anguish of his indecision the hyena split in two.” The storyteller looked at the children and asked, “Is this story true?” Immediately one of the American children stood and said, “No, it’s not true!! A hyena cannot split in two!” However, the African children remained silent even though they had been told this story many times from their birth. But they felt inferior to the American children. The storyteller pressed. “Is this story true?” Still no one said a thing. He pressed again, “IS THIS STORY TRUE?” Suddenly a little African boy jumped up and cried, “Yes, it’s true! Greed kills.”
We all carry with us disappointments in life. However, regrets and disappointments can become a toxin to our spirit…ever chaining us to the past or what might have been. Always wanting it all. It might be wise to take a lesson from Mrs. Bienemann and #letitgo. By doing so, you give yourself the freedom to celebrate what was, what is, and what might be. It takes practice. But, it is without a doubt the most worthy practice. Kind of like forgiving others…this time we forgive ourselves.