How to Find Someone’s Spark

Written in honor of Rachel Joy Scott, the first Columbine martyr, and the one who lived an amazing life, full of love and faith

Many times in my life, whether it would be people at school (when I was attending), at work, and even in the churches I attended; people have broken off contact with someone because of a couple bad incidents.  So, maybe they were really bad! Still, I think the following that Rachel Scott wrote in her essay, “My Ethics, My Codes of Life, “deserve serious consideration and application to our relationships:

[I]magine you had just met someone, and you speak to them three times on brief, everyday conversations. They come off as a harsh, cruel, stubborn and ignorant person. You reach your judgment just on these three encounters. Let me ask you something…did you ever ask them what their goal in life is, what kind of past they came from, did they experience love, did they experience hurt, did you look into their soul and just at their appearance? Until you know them and not just their “type,” you have no right to shun them. You have not looked their beauty, their good. You have not seen the light in their eyes. Look hard enough and you will always find a light, and you can even help it grow, if you don’t walk away from those three impressions first.

So, how can we find the light, or the positive parts of another’s personality, particularly if they do come off as cruel, stubborn, harsh, ignorant, or negative in any way to us?  How can we not give up on our relationships when things get tough?  How can we prevent ourselves from writing off people who we disagree with, or who aggravate us sometimes? (Note: This does not apply to situations of abuse or people who are genuinely unsafe to be around).  How can we cultivate a passion for loving those who are initially undesirable in some way to us? Here is what I learned about finding someone’s spark, or light, in their soul and how I would help it grow:

  1. Strive not to make snap judgments of others.—Much of our society makes snap judgments based on things that won’t matter in eternity, such as physical appearance and social class. I believe this is very sad, not only because many people in our world write off people who could be very kind and gentle inside, just because of something trivial like their physical appearance or how much money they make, but also because these judgers will not be able to grow past their preconceived notions of others and cultivate growing relationships with others.  Unfortunately, even making snap judgments about someone’s character is not effective in gauging who would be a good friend.  For instance, I know of several people at work who I initially did not get along with well.  Most people, if they were in my place, would probably quit their job and/or avoid these people at all costs.  However, God prevented me from doing so.  In addition, I even had to interact with most of these people on at least a weekly, if not, daily basis!  One thing I learned from having to interact with these people was not to make snap judgments of them, and instead look for their light in their souls.
  2. Learn their life stories.—Another thing that can help us find the spark in someone, is to learn some of their life story. Find out what kind of past they came from—what they had to endure to get to where they are now. Find out how they were treated in the past, if they have ever experienced true, sacrificial (agape) love, and not just a flippant form of “love,” what hurts and triumphs they have experienced in their lives?  When I learned some of the life story about someone that I initially did not really like, I began to understand why they acted like they did and began to have compassion and even love for them. When we are able to appreciate what someone we may not initially get along with, has gone through, I find that we are more able to relate to and/or have compassion for them.
  3. Do intentional acts of kindness for them.—What I have had to learn to do with certain people with whom it was difficult to get along is to intentionally be kind to them. This won’t work if you do this only out of obligation or because you say “I’ll be the better person” but inside you are still full of anger and resentment towards them.  However, if you strive to be kind to even those who you dislike, in order to show them the love they probably so desperately need, then the light in their souls will most likely start to expose itself.  For instance, if you live next to a grumpy neighbor, but he keeps a neat yard, compliment him on his maintenance of the yard.  Tell him how much you appreciate his hard work and dedication to do his part to make the neighborhood look neat.  Be genuine in your compliment, of course, but also don’t be afraid to encourage others in need.  For another example, I have had coworkers who I have had trouble dealing with at first, but when I tried to encourage them in something good that they did and tried to help them with their work, I found that I got along much better with them! Not only that, but I found some positive qualities in them that I had not taken the time to find before!

When we strive not to judge against people whom we initially not see eye-to-eye, when we strive to learn more about others’ life stories, and when we intentionally strive to be kind to those we don’t  like, at first, then we will be able to find the light in these people’ s souls.  When we find the light in them, we can help their light grow by continuing to apply these principles to our relationship with them. May we do that, and make the world a better place.

 

Source: Scott, Rachel Joy. My Ethics, My Codes of Life. March 1999. Retrieved from: https://rachelschallenge.org/media/media_press_kit/Code_of_ethics.pdf.

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Finishing Well: Living and Dying Without Regrets

There has been so much going on, in and around my life, that have shown me the frailty of life and how much we need to make sure that our lives are counting for something positive.  People all around us are hurting, begging for love and attention—Someone to give them a hope and a future. According to an article in the Business Insider, Bronnie Ware, who was an Australian nurse, asked dying patients what their regrets in life were. Here is what they said:

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
  2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
  3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
  5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

(Source: http://www.businessinsider.com/5-things-people-regret-on-their-deathbed-2013-12, article written by Susan Steiner of The Guardian)

 

And here are some things that people typically think of or are concerned about that, though may have lasting life effects, have absolutely no eternal effect on anyone.

  1. Outer appearance—Our bodies on earth will decay, and I believe, we are getting new bodies. Either way, regardless of how you believe religiously, how you look like now, will not be how you will look like after you die.
  2. Money—Money may be relevant to our lives now, but there is no way to take money, or any other material things with you when you die.
  3. Popularity—Many people aspire to be famous, but how long will it last? I don’t even know my great-grandparents personally! Even though one of my grandfathers was a prominent member of his community when he was still alive, he died when I was a small child. I, unfortunately, don’t remember him at all.  So, why are some of us chasing after popularity? It doesn’t last as long as we wish it could.

I don’t know about anyone else here, but when my race in life is over, I would not want to have any of the five regrets that Bronnie Ware’s patients are reported as having, before they died.  Here is what I have learned in my life so far that can help each of us keep our life regrets to the minimum:

  1. Tell your loved ones—family and friends—how much they mean to you.—How many times have we (including me, unfortunately) rush out of our homes we share with loved ones without telling them how much you love them, or how much they mean to you? I, think, we have done that far too many times.  What if it were the last day you saw them alive, or the last day they saw you alive, and they didn’t know how much you loved and cared about them? In Darrell Scott (father of my faith hero—Rachel Joy Scott), he relates to us how someone asked him what he wanted to say to Rachel if she came back. Scott said, “I said everything I had to say to Rachel. I told her exactly how I felt about her, and I told her how much I loved her. We left no stones unturned.” (Scott, 98). May we tell our loved ones exactly how we feel about them and that we love them. Let us leave no stones unturned. Let’s not be afraid to do that. You never know when and how your loved ones will be or could be taken from you. Let our love for them, triumph over our fear and busyness.
  2. Invest in people, not in projects—As I have often implied or reiterated, sometimes we are so busy with work and different projects, that we forget about people whom we are serving. Yes, we should always be diligent at our jobs in life. However, do not become so diligent that it becomes all-consuming, or an obsession.  We can invest more in people by being willing to learn their life stories, instead of being quick to judge them. If you are having lunch in school and/or at work, try to get to know the people around you, whether in your office or lunchroom.  When you spend time with even close friends and other loved ones, listen (really listen) to their concerns and stories in order to a.) learn more about them b.) Love them better and more.
  3. Don’t listen to naysayers.—Unfortunately, I listened to my share of naysayers for over 15 years, until, finally my mentor J believed in me and helped me to turn a deaf ear to them. For more on how I overcame the naysayers in my life and followed my dreams, see this post.  In order to live and die with minimal regrets, we should refuse to listen to negativity. Though we should listen to constructive criticism, so we can improve on our flaws and become better people, we shouldn’t listen to people who don’t believe in us or our God-given abilities. For instance, if I continued to listen to some of the people that said I could never drive, I would have never been motivated to learn how.  However, once I stopped listening to them, and my negative inner voices, I was able to drive myself.
  4. Don’t let petty stuff get in the way of our lives and legacies.—First of all, let us strive to forgive, forgive, forgive, and let the little things go. One of my friends sometimes says, “Don’t let [the little things] rent space in your head.” For instance, if a friend of mine doesn’t say “Hi” to me one day or if a customer gives me a dirty look because he or she thinks I’m beneath them, I can either be frustrated with them and let them ruin my entire day, or I can tell myself that they are having a bad day, and overlook their sour attitudes and go on with my day, not letting them affect me. When someone hurts us, either accidentally or on purpose, yes we can be angry with them. In fact, it is a natural and normal reaction to an injustice done to us!  However, don’t let the anger fester and have it turn into bitterness and resentment.  Being bitter and angry does not only affect you and the person who hurt you, but they also affect everyone around us, including people having nothing to do with our hurt and pain!  Also, do not value the superficial over the eternally important.  That is, don’t place a supreme importance on things that will not last. For instance, though we should value our finances, we shouldn’t be so obsessed with it that we are willing to rob others and/or fight against others in order to get more money for ourselves.

 

If we want to live life without the big five regrets that Bronnie Ware’s dying patients were reported as  having, we should always strive to tell our loved ones that we love them, and how much they mean to us; we should always be willing to invest more in our personal relationships, instead of projects at work or school. We should not listen to naysayers that hold us back from our God-given dreams. Finally, we should not let the small stuff of life get in the way of living a fulfilling life and a lasting, positive legacy.  What are some things you can do to leave a lasting legacy? May we live, and finish the race of live with much joy, love and minimal regrets!

 

Sources:

Scott, Darrell and Rabey, Steve. (2001). Chain Reaction. Tennessee: Thomas Nelson.

Steiner, Susan.  5 Dec. 2013. “The 5 Things People Most Regret on Their Deathbed.” The Guardian, via Business Insider.  Retrieved 3/25/2018, from the World Wide Web. < http://www.businessinsider.com/5-things-people-regret-on-their-deathbed-2013-12&gt;.

 

Being Kind in a Pain Filled World

I wrote the following poem in response to the pain around me.  While I was watching the news in my job’s break room on my “lunch” (read: dinner) hour, I heard of yet another school shooting where at least two people had died. I had just gotten done talking to a friend whose family is battling illness and pain.  I felt like I needed a good cry; I was nearing a feeling of overwhelm and anguish because I felt helpless and depressed for these people.  Then, I remembered  how one of my faith heroes, Rachel Joy Scott,  lived her life, and one of the things Jesus wanted me to accomplish on this earth—namely to spread His love in a world of pain.  Here is the poem I wrote:

 

Love in a World of Pain    written on : 3/20/2018

 

Hearts full of hate

People chasing

Longings that will never sate

The pain inside them leaks

 

Who will dare

To be the one who will care

Instead of giving them just

A blank stare

 

Before we leave a gaping wound

In someone’s heart…forever

Before tragedy strikes

And we are left reeling

 

So to whom will you give

The gift of agape love

The sacrificial type from up above

And change someone’s life for good

 

 

Then, I realized that it would do no one any good if I just sat there and moped about all the pain in this world that I could supposedly do nothing about.  I realized that I (and you too), can do something about the pain around us. One of the most effective ways to relieve someone’s pain is to be kind to them.  Here are some of the ways that I believe we can spread kindness and love around us:

 

  1. Do not ignore, ridicule, or stare at someone in visible (or invisible) pain. Reach out.—On the second stanza of my poem, I write, “Who will dare/ To be the one who will care/Instead of giving them just/A blank stare.” One of the most aggravating things a person can do to another in visible pain is just to stare at them. I hate this because this behavior implies that the person in pain is crazy or weird for expressing and having these emotions. First of all, we are not in the position to judge others’ expressions of emotions because we do not know the person’s whole story. We don’t know if we would have really responded better or even worse than if we were the same place they were.  Secondly, it implies apathy and a lack of care for the other person in pain because a stare implies that we are more concerned with how they are affecting us, than we are about the other person’s well-being.  In various things that I have read about Rachel Scott, she wasn’t one of the people who just stared at or ignored people in pain. She reached out. She not only talked to them, but was willing to be their needed friend as well.  We should follow her lead.  If someone is visibly upset, just asking them if there is anything you can do to help, or just listening to them vent can show that you care about them.  Yes, it does require some emotional labor to do this, but spending this labor can save someone’s life and is well-worth it!  Regarding the school shooting that I just heard about yesterday, what if someone just reached out to the person responsible for the act of violence instead of just ignoring, or even worse, ridiculing them?  What if their teachers or anyone around them showed compassion to them, and intentionally showed them several acts of kindness that would have demonstrated to them that they matter and that they could do something positive with their life? Reach out to someone in pain today, whether it is a friend or someone who no one would dare to reach out.
  2. Make it a point to be intentionally kind to everyone, especially the ones that could have hidden hurts. –On my birthday, I wanted the people that I work with the most to know that they mattered to me, and the hard work that they put in was worth it. So, one of the things I did was make them bookmarks with their name and their name meaning or meanings. Everyone has a name, every name means something. That is why we name people and some of our pets. They have intrinsic value to us. However, we typically don’t name inanimate objects. Sure, they may have some value, but those who you can have relationships with have infinitely more value and impact than any inanimate objects can.  Several of my friends make it a point to be kind to others, simply by smiling and asking them “How are you doing?”  Sure, it sounds simple, but how many of us constantly do it with a sincere and genuinely good-hearted attitude? Be kind, especially to those who are suffering silently.
  3. If you are religious, pray for people who are in pain.—If you are religious or spiritual, I would wholeheartedly pray for those around you who are suffering, either physically or mentally. Pray that they would be healed of their pain. Pray that they will receive some measure of comfort and peace, even in the midst of their pain. Pray that people around them (even you) would be able to and would be willing to help them in some way.  Finally, pray that they will have the strength to get through each day, because this in itself is often a struggle for those going through suffering and hurt.

 

These are some of the ways we can make a positive difference in a pain-filled world. We can reach out to those we see that are visibly hurting, instead of just staring at or ignoring them.  We can think of creative ways to get to the root of their hurt and soothe them with intentional acts of kindness and love.  We can also pray for those who are in pain.  Doing these things can not only alleviate someone else’s suffering, but can also show them that there is still love and hope in this world.

Benefits of Humility

Some people scoff at the idea of lowering yourself or allowing others to get ahead of you, because, they think, it shows weakness.  However, I believe, since it is unnatural to want to humble oneself or to allow others the greater benefit, the opposite is true. –In fact, I would even add that it takes great emotional and spiritual strength to truly humble oneself.  All around us, society whispers to us, in different ways, “Take care of number one first and foremost, then you will have great success,” and even “Be successful at all costs, even if you have to step on others’ toes to get there.” However, I would attest that most people, who are truly successful and truly make the greatest difference in our world, turn these whisperings upside down—through their willingness to sacrifice themselves for the benefit of others.  In fact, not only does humility grant us a type of success that can’t be measured by the society around us, but a humble attitude also has lasting benefits to you as well. Here are just some of them that I have observed when people (including me) demonstrate a humble attitude:

  1. Humility allows you to be your genuine self.—When we are entangled in arrogant pride, I find that we are constantly on our toes to try to impress the Next Bigger and Better person, sometimes in an effort to cover up our flaws and deceive ourselves and others, subconsciously, about them. It’s like we don’t want to face our flaws in ourselves, and we end up living in an illusion. Many people I have observed, who present themselves arrogantly, have deep-seated pain and/or flaws that they are desperately trying to hide from the rest of the world. They may be afraid of feeling rejected and unloved by others, or otherwise, being inadequate to the world. However, when we are humble, we are more likely to have a realistic view of ourselves. Contrary to some people’s beliefs, humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less. “Humility” that degrades oneself is not really humility, but reverse pride.  Degrading oneself says that “I am so broken and “special” that I can’t be fixed by anyone,” which is, of course, a lie, no matter how true it may seem at the time.  While having a humble attitude does acknowledge the self as a unique and beautiful creation, it acknowledges others’ beauty and worth even more! When you are humble, you are not afraid to be vulnerable with others and show your true self—the good mixed in with your flaws—because you are not afraid of rejection or lowering of status. Status and fear of rejection no longer matter to you. The welfare of others is more important.
  2. Humility diminishes jealousy and selfish attitudes.—I firmly believe that 99.9% of all jealous attitudes stem from pride. When we are jealous of others, it not only shows ingratitude for the gifts we already received in our lives, but also a kind of entitled pride that says, in effect, “ I deserve what that other person has, and he or she doesn’t! “ However, humility acknowledges and believes that everything, even life itself, is a gift.  Humility says, “Even though I don’t deserve much, I am grateful when I do get something.”  Humility has power and strength to think about the needs of others because it isn’t preoccupied with oneself.  Humility does not ever compete against another, whereas pride wants to beat everyone at their own game, so only it gets the benefit. Humility can be demonstrated when we put others’ needs and egos, ahead of our own.  For instance, if we have a humble attitude, we will readily admit when we do something wrong and sincerely apologize and repent of our actions.  In contrast, when we are prideful, we will often excuse our sinful (morally wrong) actions or diminish the true magnitude and seriousness of our sins.  Humility is happy when another co-worker gets the promotion we wanted, but pride is envious and resentful of the other coworker getting the promotion.
  3. Being humble will get you more respect in the end.—Although there are still some people who think being prideful will get you more respect, most people appreciate it more when one is humble. Being humble will get you more respect, because it allows you to consider their needs more.  Having a humble attitude develops our empathy because you think of yourself less, and on others’ feelings and experiences more.  Yes, there is a time for self-care, but all in all, being humble involves knowing that your needs will be met, in the process of caring for others. My faith hero, Rachel Scott, was a humble person. She didn’t tell everyone about all the kind things that she did to be noticed, but just did them out of her love and care for people. Her parents and others only found out about her kind acts from her recipients, and only after her death.  Jesus Christ, another one of my faith heroes, and my Lord and Savior, also demonstrated great humility by being willing to die an excruciatingly painful death in our place, so we didn’t have to.  Now, both Jesus and Rachel Scott, are greatly respected by many people because of their acts of kindness and humility.

As you can see, having a humble attitude has many benefits.  Humility allows you to be your genuine self, without reserve or regret. Humility eliminates, or at least, lessens jealousy and self-centered attitudes, and humility can get you more respect in the end.  Allowing others to be bigger than yourselves is a sign of great strength, not weakness. Humility does have a price of sacrifice to pay, but it is worth it in the end.

What I Want More Than Anything

When I came across this question, I knew I had to write about this! After all, these desires motivate me to live life well, and underlie almost everything I do.

 What do you want more than anything in your life? Write about the burning hot core of your desire, and how that desire has changed over your life.

(source: https://thejohnfox.com/2016/06/creative-nonfiction-prompts/)

 

When I was growing up, these are the three things that I wanted more than anything.

  1. For my peers to love and accept me for who I am, and genuinely like me.
  2. To be successful in school, so I could get a high-paying job later in life.
  3. To be happy.

Now, these are the top three things that I want more than anything in the world.

  1. For people to know God’s love and mercy for them.
  2. For God to say to me when I meet him at Heaven’s gate: “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
  3. To be able to fulfill God’s purposes in my life.

Growing up, as I have said in previous posts, I was a very self-centered and rigid child.  I did not know how to really love or care for people, though I did the best I could at the time with what I knew. I still remember one classmate in elementary school telling me that I was difficult to get along with!  From third grade until my freshman year of high school, I was also often the target of bullying from my peers.  I had few friends, and I really didn’t feel particularly close to anyone.  I yearned for the day that people would just invest in me and really be there as a confidante for me.  I remember being, often, lonely and/or bored with life, though I did have happy times as well. However, that was mainly with family, not my peers.

 

Looking back, I realized that I tried to stifle this desire by working very diligently in school. It worked. I remember rarely ever getting anything lower than a B (above average) on my report card. I wished to be someone successful and loved in the world’s eyes someday, a far cry from what my peers thought of me then.  Teachers did appreciate my efforts though, and encouraged me to “believe in myself” more, since I was also often anxious and worried about things.  I would probably have even been labeled a “teacher’s pet,” because I often looked to teachers to encourage and strengthen me in school.

 

All in all, I wanted to be happy with my life. However, it would be only after my teenage years were over, did I start to find real joy and happiness in my life.

 

One of the toughest times of my life came when I was sixteen years old. I had maybe only one or two real friends, and one of my teachers was so verbally abusive, that he left an emotional scar that is there to this day.  I was at the end of my rope. All my dreams of being happy, loved by my peers, and successful in the world’s eyes seemed to be coming to a shattering end. All I wanted at that point was to end this pain and suffering that I was going through.

 

That’s when God came into my life.

 

As God has come into my life, I believe, little by little, He has showed me a great purpose for my life. Because of His love and care for me, and because of all the love and support I have received from so many others after my sixteenth year passed, my desires have changed.  No longer do I strive as much just to be accepted and loved by my peers, though because of God’s commandment to “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with [everyone].” (Romans 12:18), I still try to get along with everyone.

 

I would not really be considered a success in the world’s eyes, at least, monetarily.  However, I no longer care about that, because I know that it is no longer a priority to my life.  However, I do strive to be a success in God’s eyes, and to be able to hear the words “Well done, good and faithful servant,” rather than “Depart from me, you worker of iniquity [sin]!”

 

Most of all, I want the world to know and experience God’s love. I have lived through the Columbine massacre, that claimed more than a dozen lives, one of them being my faith hero, Rachel Joy Scott. I have lived through 9/11 that claimed more than 3,000 American lives.  I now live during a time when the world is in turmoil, and people are hungering for love and care everywhere. I don’t completely understand why some people turn to violence and hurting people that didn’t do anything to them, to get attention.  I don’t know why many people just have stopped caring for others , and are giving up on making a positive difference in their world.  However, I know that everyone, including these people, need love and care.  Because of the positive impact that God’s love, as well as the love I received from those around me, has had on me, I can’t help but share it with others.  As it says in 2 Corinthians 5:14, “The love of Christ constraineth us,” meaning the love of Jesus Christ compels me to love others.

 

I apologize for all the times I did not show God’s love to others, because I am not perfect. However, I strive every day to love others with the same measure (and maybe even above) that has been given to me.

The Importance of Life Stories

I have three main occupations (and many “sub-descriptive” occupations as well): First and foremost, I am a follower of Christ. God saved me from the pit of despair when I was just sixteen years old.  I am a sales associate. This is my day job that helps pay the bills and where I serve God the most.  Finally, I am a blogger and writer.  In writing, I have been made very aware of the power of stories—both fictional and real—in order to cultivate learning and more effective interactions with others.  Letting people share their stories and telling our own are both vital in cultivating more effective and fulfilling human interactions.  Here are some reasons why learning other people’s life stories are so important to effect better communication and interactions with others:

  1. It eliminates prejudicial attitudes.—A lot of people call racists and other prejudiced people “ignorant,” which I believe is a fitting term for them because they are often judging without knowing their targets’ stories. Although there are elements in some circles of feminism that I disagree with, one thing I like about almost all feminism, especially intersectional feminism, is that they take the time to learn about others’ stories, especially those that are often marginalized and shunned by society. If all of us (me included) would take more time to just get to know others better without prejudging them as “bad” in some way, we would probably discover that they are more like us than we realize. For instance, there were some people at work that at first irritated and angered me.  However, as time passed and I got to know them a little bit better, I realized not only did they have a lot of similarities to me, but there was a lot of pain and hurt in their life stories.  I know it is difficult (even for me), but as Rachel Scott said in one of her essays, “Code of Ethics” about not judging others and showing compassion, “ [D]id you ever ask them what their goal in life is, what kind of past they came from? Did they experience love; did they experience hurt; did you look into their soul and not just their appearance? Until you know them and not just their “type”, you have no right to shun them. You have not looked for their beauty, their good.”  (source: http://rachelschallenge.org/media/media_press_kit/Code_of_ethics.pdf)
  2. Knowing other people’s life stories cultivates a sense of understanding. –When we learn about other people’s goals, likes and dislikes, what kind of past they came from, and their experiences with love and hurt, we understand them better and are able to interact with them more effectively. For instance, before I knew one of my former pastors well, I did not trust him. In fact, because of his gregarious and upbeat personality, I assumed he “had it all together” and would not be able to relate to my problems and issues, or anyone else’s. However, when he told me part of his life story, I realized I had it all wrong.  I realized that he didn’t always have it all together.  I realized that because of what he had told me that he would indeed have great compassion of all that I had been through in life. I have realized that when I know a person’s life story better, I begin to understand what motivates their actions and why certain things bother them, or why certain things make them very happy.  If we took the time to get to know others better, it would not only eliminate wrong judgments, but we would be more understanding and compassionate of them because we know what they have been through.
  3. Getting to know other people’s stories adds value to them as a person.—When we listen as people tell us their stories or when we have a genuine interest in another’s life story, we show that we value them. We are, in essence, saying to them, “ I want to know more about you because you are that important to me. I want to understand you better because the stories you will tell are valuable to that purpose. Your story has value, and I can learn much from you.” We are also saying we respect them and what they have to offer when we have a genuine interest in learning about them.  For instance, if a good friend of yours confided in you about being abused in his or her past, when you listen to them without offering advice, but instead offer encouragement and just a listening ear, we are telling them, “I care about what happened to you, and you are not alone in this.”

This is why learning about others’ life stories is so important. It would eliminate much of the prejudice we see in this society; we would truly understand others’ motivations better and not just assume they are doing things just to be “mean” or “nasty” or out of selfish desires.  It also tells others that they are valuable and what they have to say is important. What are some important life stories you have learned that helped you understand someone or several people better? Please feel free to share in the comments, but please do NOT use people’s real names or specific details of a situation.

 

 

Top 10 People That Inspire Me

While there are many people that have impacted my life in a positive way, these following ten people have inspired me the most. Each of these ten people has overcome some great trials in their lives. (For privacy reasons, some of their trials may not be mentioned). They have persevered when they felt like giving up or when there was no way out of their dire situation.  Some of them have had great personal struggles which they have or are working very hard to overcome.  So, without further ado, the top ten people that inspire me are (and why they inspire me):

  1. My mom—The more I learn about her, the stronger of a person I realize she is. Even though many people have hurt her in the past, she still tries to keep a positive attitude about life and perseveres through life’s challenges. She doesn’t just give up on people or relationships if she thinks that there is even a slight chance of reconciliation. My mom inspires me because she is still willing to help people and persevere in life even through the trials in her life. I cannot say that of too many people in society today.
  2. My dad—My dad inspires me because even though his work is often stressful and difficult, he still has a pretty positive attitude about life. He never slacks off in his job, and he is willing to sacrifice for the good of others. For instance, if a co-worker is going on vacation, he is more than willing to cover for him or her.
  3. Holly*–My online friend Holly has gone through some of the most challenging and horrific things a human being could face, but she is one of the sweetest, most caring, and validating people I know. Also, her perseverance to go on despite all the challenges that she has to face is amazing. I don’t even think I could go on if I had to face all the things that she has had to face. I am amazed by not only her care for others, but also her wisdom with words.  She is a great writer and a creative spirit.
  4. K—My other online friend is also amazing. Battling some tough things that could make anyone bitter, she determines to see the positive in life and not be held down by her disability or obstacles that stand in her way. She inspires me to also work hard and not to let the tough stuff of life hold me down.  Also, she is very humorous and is a fun person to be around.
  5. Frank Taylor—He is my former pastor, but he has had a great impact on my life. Sent to a boarding school when he was a teen, God took a hold of his life near the end of his tenure there. His life is a testament to the miracles God has worked in his life! Though he has had to go through some very difficult things, he still has a humble and gentle spirit about him.  He has taught me to a.) never judge people by their public appearances and b.) to be humble even if it costs you something.
  6. Chrissy—My friend Chrissy has had to go through her share of trials too, and like my mom, a lot of people have hurt and betrayed her. Despite this, she still has a heart to serve and love others. She is not swayed by appearances or flattery. She loves singing for God and once led a food pantry for the needy in our area.
  7. Ted*–My friend Ted has gone through a lot in the two years or so I have known him. Not only has he had to deal with some loss, but he has also had to work through severe physical pain. The fact that he still is willing to work through the pain and doesn’t keep calling off, shows not only a work ethic stamped with integrity but also an unselfish heart. In fact, he often helps other co-workers, including me, with the work we had to do, even when no one asks or requires him to.
  8. Rachel Joy Scott—My faith hero inspires me because of her great, positive impact on a large number of people in society. Even when others didn’t see hope in her killers, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, she reached out to them in love, trying to convince them that there was a better way. She also reached out to the friendless and the outcast in her school and didn’t bully anyone.
  9. Donald*—I met my mom’s friend’s son when he was just three years old, and he was very mischievous. However, he inspires me because God took a hold of his life, and uses his job and time to bless others and to share the love of Christ with others. Though he has gone through a lot, he loves like he has never been hurt and his passion and love for God are not abated.
  10. Jim–Before my friend Jim gave his life to Christ, he lived a very self-centered lifestyle. Now, he lives for God with all the passion, vigor, and love that his heart can muster. His prayers are powerful and effective because he uses his life to bless others. For instance, when he saw a book that could be useful for me, he bought it for me and didn’t expect anything back.  He inspires me because I, too, strive to love God and others and bless them in any way I can.

These are the ten people that inspire me to live life with more joy and gratitude than I have had before. Though each of these people has been through their share of suffering and pain, they have either overcome them already or are working to push through them.  Who inspires you? Why? Please feel free to discuss in the comments.

*=not their real names, pseudonym.

**=If anyone on the list wants me to add or delete anything on this list, please email me privately and I will do it. Thanks. 🙂