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The Heart of Life: Alive

Sunday, November 28, 2010


The day of my high school graduation I asked my classmate to take a quick look at the speech I was giving that night--I planned to tell a story about her and a few of her friends and wanted to make sure they would be ok with that.

As she read through she pointed out a particular part to me. I had mentioned a few potential hardships that our class could face in the future, and one of them was, "We may make mistakes that will forever change our lives."

"That's me," she told me matter-of-factly. She had recently become a teenaged mother. The father wanted nothing to do with her or the baby. While the rest of us were trying to figure out where to go to college and what to major in, she was trying to figure out how to raise and provide for a child single-handedly.

She then pointed to the end of the paragraph. It read, "One thing is for sure: we will all be victims of hardship. And although we cannot pick and choose which hardships will be our own, we can control how we will react to them. It is our choice!"

"I believe this 100 percent," she said with conviction. "I've made some pretty big mistakes, but I know I have to have a good attitude about it. I want my son to have a good life."

And she did have a good attitude about it. On the top of her graduation cap she wrote in bold letters, "For my son!" And although one of the teachers made her cover it up for the ceremony, the words, "For my son," were still visible in her smile. Her life was complicated, but she was not conquered.

Three years later she was the mother of two little boys and had another baby on the way. She was unmarried and putting herself through nursing school. Things were not easy or simple for her, but she loved her kids and was making it work.

Three months ago Nicole was involved in a car accident. Nicole was in a coma for about a week and passed away on September 2, 2010. Throughout the week following the wreck, I checked her facebook profile regularly for her family's updates on how she was doing. Each time I looked at her profile I was touched by the sheer amount of beautiful and sincere posts her facebook friends had left for her. The day after Nicole died I went through and counted how many people had posted on her facebook wall since the day of the accident, and the number was well over 200. Her family and close friends still write on her wall frequently--her mom writes to her almost daily to give Nicole a report of how her boys are doing.

The life Nicole lived was not a glamorous one. And yet there are hundreds and hundreds of people who truly believe that Nicole's life was worth living. Hundreds of people were praying for her. Hundreds of people encouraged her to get better soon. Hundreds of people were concerned about her two little boys. Hundreds of people were sorry to hear that she had passed away.

Had Nicole recovered from the accident, I think she probably would have been a little surprised by the number of people who have been thinking of her. I know I would be. I think we all greatly underestimate our sphere of influence in this world. We find ourselves believing that the only people who care about us are our family and friends. This isn't true.

If you were to come across a person you had never met before who wasn't breathing, you would do everything in your power to save him. But why would you do that? You don't know him. Your life would not be different if he died. Your life would not be different if he lived. But you'd try to save him anyway, and not because of some legal or moral obligation you felt. You'd try to save him because something deep within you cares about this person you've never even spoken to. You'd do it because somehow you know his life is worth something.

Sometimes I forget that one of the greatest blessings in my life is to be alive. After all, there are billions of people who are just as alive as I am. It is the universal blessing shared by all who inhabit the earth, and this creates an incredible bond between all of humankind. Of course, there are exceptions, but for the most part this bond causes us to want the people around us to remain alive--whether we know them or not. Regardless of how we each choose to live our lives, there are hundreds and thousands and millions of people out there who sincerely want each of us to simply live. And that is a beautiful thing.



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