Leave a legacy of kindness. Show compassion. Practice pre-acceptance. Learn from mistakes. Forgive yourself and others. The second year presentation for Rachel’s Challenge struck new chords, perhaps stronger ones. The first was an emotional one-two punch as many heard about Rachel Joy Scott, her life and how she tragically died in the 1999 Columbine High School shooting. The ironies that surrounded her life and death took the emotion to another level.
The second year presentation couldn’t have that same impact as the story was already known, but for those who’ve become jaded, hardened, cynical by life’s hardships, it was refreshing. It was a reminder. Rachel’s story brought new life to the hope…the hope of wanting to help, be better, help make the world better.
Leave a legacy of kindness…that was the key phrase for the entire assembly. How we live, that dash as one poem refers to it as, or in this case, that space between the dates (our birth date and our death date) says so much without saying it at all. What do we want that space to say? How do we want to be remembered? It sounds like a page out of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” but it seems to be a truth. How a life is lived dictates how others remember that person. Rachel, not perfect, lived a life that no one will forget. Her ability to be kind when others wouldn’t have been, is incredible. She touched lives of people who carry her message with her even now and pass it along. Each life she touched, touches another and another. Her legacy lives on and will for a very long time if not forever. How does one manage to do that? It’s about putting aside fear, cynicism, coldness and self-doubt for the greater concept of being kind. Yes there are many unkind people, many who will hurt us, take advantage of us, but for that to ever change it’s important to rise above that. Is it easy? No. Is it worth it? Yes. When we can change ourselves, we can change others. It just doesn’t happen overnight.
Show compassion. There’s the saying about walking a mile in someone’s shoes. It’s true. It’s impossible to know a person’s journey unless you’ve been there. It’s easy to make an “assessment” that’s really a judgement about someone based on his or her clothes and/or behavior in public. We think we can possibly know but we don’t. Showing a little compassion to others is really an exorcism of negative energy; it abolishes negative thoughts and actions. It can only produce good things. It’s possible many aren’t willing to show compassion unless it’s shown for them. That’s wrong. True compassion is about putting the ego/pride/selfishness away and doing the right thing for the right reason. It’s not about getting something in return. It’s easier to do that for people we know but it’s worthwhile to reach out to those we don’t know. It could be that one guy, that one girl who that day is struggling but a simple act of kindness, showing a little compassion could change his or her life. It could change yours. It’s a risk – we don’t know how they will respond; they may reject us; they may be grateful for the help in the moment but turn around and misuse it. That’s not up to us…it’s only our “job” to show compassion. It’s a calculated risk – it’s one that even if we don’t see it, the results could be tremendous. Without compassion, the world will continue down this path of cynicism and callousness.
Practice pre-acceptance. Don’t pre-judge. There is the claim that prejudice is human nature; that we as people can’t help ourselves from looking at a person, evaluating him or her and coming to a conclusion. Perhaps so, but the beauty of being human is the ability to make a choice. Who says we have to choose to stick to that notion? Tolerance is being preached but that’s not good enough. It’s not good enough to simply “put up” with people who are different from ourselves. We must hold ourselves to higher standards. Practice pre-acceptance. Take the time to work on accepting people for who they are. This doesn’t mean agreeing with everything they say, do, the clothes they wear; it’s about knowing that’s just who they are and living and let live. It’s about making the effort to assume you know anything about a person based on their skin color, who they love, the clothes they wear, the religion they practice – it’s about saying to yourself…he/she is just another person.
Learn from mistakes. They say history repeats itself. It seems if that’s the case, it’s because we haven’t learned the valuable lessons presented to us. This goes for our own individual lives also. We tend to make the same mistake over and over if we don’t take the time to learn from it; people pick the same type of “wrong” significant other over and over because they haven’t taken the time to find out what the pattern is and how to stop it. Mistakes will happen – it’s normal and expected. It’s how you respond that makes the difference.
Forgive yourself and others. This is a very difficult one to do. Sometimes we’re particularly hard on ourselves; sometimes we’re particularly hard on others. The problem with holding onto anger, rage, hate, bitterness is it doesn’t hurt the other person, only ourselves. Those feelings usually hold nothing for us but negative results and rarely does anything to improve a situation. It’s one thing to hold a person accountable, it’s another to hold a grudge. This is so difficult because certain hurts can run deep. I guess forgiveness can be a selfish thing – forgive so you don’t hurt yourself over and over but really, it ties in with showing compassion. Others may not always know or appreciate the level of compassion it takes to forgive them for their mistakes, but again that’s not up to us. As long as grudges win out, anger, hate and other negative feelings win out – causing things like war.
Do you accept the challenge? Do you work for a better world/tomorrow by changing your own perspective?