|by Lee Simons
Bible readers revere the words of Joshua, "Choose you this day whom you will serve...But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." (Joshua 24:15) The thing that sets all mortals apart is the ability to make choices. Most importantly, we have the power to choose the relationships we develop.
Recently, I visited my old grammar school. Upon seeing again the playgrounds, bad memories began to emerge for I had been a prankster with a haughty spirit, causing myself many troubles. There was the fight with a former friend, a girl's tears for a torn dress caused by my chasing, and feelings of not "fitting in". But there were also good memories as I recalled my first "love" for a pretty blonde girl. I gladly endured the eyes and the chants of the other children as we walked together. While this choice was not considered "in" by the boys, it remains one of my better memories.
But there was a time a few years later when I made a particularly bad choice. In the school cafeteria, a girl slipped and fell. As she fell, her dress flew up and her plastic plate and bowl went bouncing across the hard tile floor. As a boy, I thought that was the funniest thing I ever saw, laughing, jeering, and pointing a finger for others to see. The poor embarrassed girl had to get up by herself and collect her strewn utensils and feelings. But for me, there followed in later years a lifetime of remorse for what was as opposed to what could have been. If I could re-enact the scene now, I would immediately go to help her up, grab some napkins for her to clean her dress, offer kind words, gather her dishes, and escort her to where she would go. But it can never be.
A lifetime later, as I walked into the school building, I remembered a sense of foreboding. I knew only too well where the principal's office was located for I had been a frequent visitor there as a troubled little boy. I walked through the open door of the office half expecting to meet again the stern, piercing eyes of the former principal. She was not there. Instead, I was greeted by a man near my own age. I showed him my "credentials" of old class photographs of myself, my classmates, teachers, and the former principal. He was absolutely delighted to see them and proceeded to give me the "grand tour" of the building, sparing no details of improvements and future plans. How things had changed during the 40 years since I had last walked these halls! As we came to the cafeteria, I expected again to be stabbed by an age-old remorse. But suddenly, the atmosphere seemed to completely change as the sunshine of the principal's cordiality melted away the guilt and conveyed a sense of belonging and acceptance.
After extending my thanks and taking leave, I knew immediately that it was good to have visited the school. I realized that more had changed than just the school building. I came to accept myself as the boy that I was. While I cannot change the past, I can choose to use it for reference to help build better relationships today. Sure, I will probably "blow it" a few more times, but with each mistake comes the opportunity of choice on how to deal with the mistake.
I have related this true life's story to offer a point: You have the power today to choose the course for your relationships with others. You can choose to try to be "in" with the critics, you can jeer and point a finger at others, you can scoff at someone's mistake, you can even choose to just stick your head in the sand and let others do what needs to be done by themselves - Or, you can choose to offer help, to involve yourself, and to comfort the down-fallen. You have the awesome power to develop relationships and memories to last forever - you have the power of choice!
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