When I think back on my childhood, growing up with my brother and sister, I have good and bad memories. I think most of us can find a memory, tucked away in our minds, which allows us to feel a sense of nostalgia or warmth as we ponder the whisper of moments as they come in and out of our mind’s eye. I think we may even have the habit of remembering events with positive lights, even when we weren’t necessarily positive at the time of their outcomes. Time and perspective will do that for all of us, and it creates in us a sense of hope for the future. If where we came from was possible to move past and where we are now is doable, then the future might just be manageable if we try a little. At least this is where my mind wanders when I think about my life and everything it touches and how those seemingly innocuous details can sometimes become the beginning of something which will change the course of my life entirely. The natural movement of the strands of time create in all of us a sense of hesitation, especially when it comes to the unknown. The change to what we don’t know, causes great consternation among many of us, and this leads to fear of the unknown. The only thing we can be certain of is change, change to our lives by events around us, change to our perspective because of experiences we never expected to have, and change to the world we live in because moving forward insists on leaving behind what once was.
When I was a kid, I lived in a typical home with two parents, a sister, and a brother. We played sports, went to church, and had friends over all the time. We lived outside of the city, so I was exposed to rolling farm lands, and livestock ranches. The house I grew up in was surrounded by land, back-roads, and a general kindness among all the people who lived around us. It was a place, where when someone drove by, you would receive waives and a nod, even if you had no idea who the person was. Riding a bike was always an experience, as my friends and I would ride for miles to meet up with friends. I shudder at the thought of letting my kids do this now; oh how times have changed. Once when I traveled back to the old neighborhood, I found the house I grew up in was changed, it somehow looked worse, perhaps less taken care of than when my father was in charge of its upkeep. The neighborhood seemed smaller, and more houses had been built since the time I left. Some of the fields I would ride my bike past, visiting friends, were bulldozed over and businesses and homes now dotted the landscape which was once filled with grass, bales of hay, and sunflowers as far as the tree line. Now, all I saw, were roofs, streets, and gas stations. Progress was now taking over this slice of heaven I once resided in. The funny part about it all was I never realized how beautiful it was until I was gone. I never took notice of how change would cause a pang of reality to set in throughout all the corners of my life. Not one inch of my life has been unaffected by change.
What struck me the most was the size of everything, the place I once scoured like an explorer hoping to find treasure and the unknown, was unutterably small. Everywhere I looked, I remembered the cracks in some pavement, but the pavement seemed tiny now. My wife and children were with me, the last time I visited, and as I nostalgically remembered the fences I jumped over and fields I ran through, they were most unimpressed. The represented the typical child, bored with anything not meant to entertain. They looked out the windows of our vehicle, heads resting on hands, in the universal boredom pose, and asked when we were going to head home. I did my typical dad routine, and informed them, “attitudes needed to change, or people would be walking home”, my bark is far worse than my bite. At any rate, my memories seemed to discount the facts, this is to say, what I visualized in my mind was exactly what it was, and this was causing some turmoil for me. Enough turmoil that I visited years ago, and now I feel satisfied to write about what I was experiencing.
So, as I look back on the events of my life, I have to be careful about how I actually remember what happened. I’m a very passionate and emotional memory kind of guy. I can’t remember phrases uttered in passing, nor can I remember when someone tells me their name, five seconds after they told me. I’m absolutely awful at those kind of things. However, if I attach an emotion to what I’ve seen, I can remember every detail, colors, words, actions, and outcomes. I can visualize each and every step of what happened, the only catch is, I have to properly relate the emotion to decipher what I’m seeing in my mind. It’s like using the glasses from the National Treasure: Book of Secrets movie; in order for the characters to see everything on the map, they needed to use the lenses properly. The same is very true for me, and I would presume many other people, in order to decipher the past, we have to use the proper lens of emotion or memory to see it in its proper context. In other words, when we don’t use the right context and perspective, our memories become all too horrible or rosy and lead us to conclusions deriding us from truth.
As we go through life, we only have our experiences and what we choose to learn, as points of context on what we see now, and what we hope to see in the future. This context, presents the ability to handle change as it’s presented to us. Imagine riding in a bus with many windows and many passengers, there are events happening in the bus, and events happening outside of the bus. As the bus picks up speed, we incorrectly assume the world is moving swiftly by our window, and we see things as a blur. If we look away from the window, we risk missing it entirely, but we hope to take in the events of the world we currently inhabit going on around us in the conversations of the people who surround us. However, perspective is key to this scenario. There is a driver of the bus, but he is down in front, and we really can’t see where he’s at, we know he’s driving but not where he’s going. When we look out the window, we see the blur of buildings and trees, some people and mostly cars zooming by the window. If we roll the window down we can feel the strong gusts of wind blowing against our hair and hands, as a reminder, just because we can’t see the wind, doesn’t mean it isn’t powerful enough to move us. As we reach our destination, the bus comes to a stop, and we stand up ready to disembark. Some memories of the ride come to mind, but they begin to fade, and all we have are the brief memories of what we saw for a split second. The interactions of the people in the bus last a little longer, and our emotion can be attached to snippets of these memories, but never a full recollection of the events, only those which stick out as memorable. As we disembark the bus, the driver is nowhere to be found, and we wonder did he get off before us, or was he ever there, then we see him patiently waiting to greet us into our new destination, a restaurant named “A Little Slice of Heaven”.
Life is a lot like this bus ride and we are a lot like the passengers, moving from stop to stop. Sometimes we ride the bus to a particular stop, and this is where the change slows down for us, until we get back on and begin moving again. For some people they were never meant to get off the bus and their life changes quickly, then is over. This differs from our perspective of change, and those of us, who are living a life considerably longer, feel short-changed when we can’t continue riding the bus with those we’ve come close to. Sometimes, the bus is filled with older riders, who tell us which seats to sit in and which stops to get off on, but since the bus never goes in reverse their advice is all we have to go by. Eventually, they ride till their last stop, and we eventually become the older riders, attempting to give advice to the younger, newer riders who get on. As we get older, we are less interested in the interactions going on inside the bus, and we begin to look out the windows and attempt to access our memories while watching the world move by at what seems a faster speed by the second. If we try to focus on one thing out the window, we miss everything else, but if we try to focus on everything else, we don’t see anything for too long. We change our focus, our perspective, and our memory with every changing second as the bus of life flies by the world around us. What we fail to see sometimes is the bus flying through life, is driving in the world in which life exists. It isn’t a fixture looking from the outside in, but something pushing its way through life and riding on the very surface of change itself. How fast or slow the change occurs is up to us. The subjectivity we choose to see life through, becomes the window of change, where we can no longer keep up with what we see, and then we become relegated to just watching events as they pass us by. Life is about knowing what is right through teaching, learning, living, and choosing. The change in our lives can either be one of acceptance by God’s Will, or one of pain by watching the events transpire and choosing to have no part in their outcome.
The one thing we do know in life is, change is always coming, it can be in the events close to us, like the conversations on the bus, it can be in the world surrounding us, and it can be in the path we walk as we choose to disembark the bus. At any rate, the path we choose to experience life with, is of our own choosing, most of the time. There are those people who choose a path for us, and this change can be taken with an acceptance of faith or none at all. Our humility is achieved by accepting God, and with a humble heart we can face whatever change occurs, Saint Teresa of Kolkata once said “If you are humble, nothing will touch you, neither praise nor disgrace, because you know what you are.” This is really what our bus ride is for, about learning the choices in life, about embracing our humility to quiet our souls and look out the window, to accept the change we see, even experience the change through our efforts of faith. As events occur and change is imminent, the younger less experienced riders will look to us for knowledge and wisdom on how to accept the change they see. They don’t need wallflowers or people who create a flaky wisdom subjective to change and at will to crumble upon the lightest of scrutiny. They need principled riders who will judge a situation correctly and who will want the good for them simply because they are there.
In business school, my professors were always talking about opportunities rather than problems, and in my youth this annoyed me to a great extent. I would always say something like, “if it’s a problem, call it a problem, and then fix it”, and my professors would sometimes ignore my ignorance, and other times would comment and say, “aw yes, but see you’re focused on the change which you can do nothing about, and I’m focused on the change where my opportunities abound”. My perspective changed, the opportunity is on the backside of the negative impacts of change, or at least the perceived negative impacts of change. In reality, negativity is based on a perspective of where you think you are now, and where you want to be in the future. The truth is, your reality, to one extent can never truly be known without the concept of faith as the true foundation. This is all I mean, with a foundation of faith, you properly surmise a situation as being what it is rather than what you want it to be, and as you see it for what it is, and you also recognize the potentials given to you by this change. Here is a good example, a man who is alcoholic finally enters a program to sober up, and he is given a stepped process to achieve his goal of drying out and being sober. He has several options for his perspective, but only one correct option; the option of opportunity is now at his doorstep and utilizing it for its intended purpose is the only way the change will work. He has several options at his disposal, but only one where redemption and repentance will heal wounds he caused and mend fences he’s broken (both figuratively and literally). His opportunity to humble himself through apology, through unselfish works, and through a disciplined promise to himself is the only way it can work. As we being to walk in our life, we recognize the one driving the bus isn’t us, God has the controls, we are here because he loved us into existence, and through our lives he teaches us, as we use our free will to grow. We have the choice to fall in love with God, or to sit at the back of the bus and just gaze out the window, leaving nothing to memory and nothing to work towards. However, if we choose to get out of that bus, we see a world he created, people he loved into existence as much as ourselves, and an ever growing humility as we realize we can accept what happens, because loving God is our ultimate goal, or we can resent what happens because failing to see the opportunity to love in every action has escaped us one more time.
I hope in your life, you’ve never experience too much negative change, but if you have, perhaps reading these words can give you a different perspective. Perhaps, knowing there are people out there like you struggling with the same issues you’re struggling with is a comfort, but also knowing you’re never alone. You’re very precious in the eyes of God, and if you are struggling allow another to know and allow them to help you off that bus and experience the beauty and colors of life, which were always meant enrich and not take away. Find the opportunity of God’s work at every movement of the wind, know that all change isn’t a matter of will, but a matter of perspective. I know I want to be with God for all eternity, life will change rapidly for me at times, but it won’t fade what I know to be the existential truth to life, God loves us all and wants us to love him. Jesus was proof of this, when he hung upon the cross and died for our very sins. The apostles at first, looked upon the change with negative implications, but upon the resurrection of Jesus, their opportunity to spread the good word was realized and they did just that. You have this opportunity, so don’t squander it because of fear, be courageous and embrace your change. May God bless you and your family!!!
God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!