My hope in presenting you with the following Self Growth Stories is to help you to achieve all of the goals you have set for yourself. I understand that even the small things in life like a little inspiration can go a long way. If I can help you to achieve your dreams, goals and ambitions, then I have in turn achieved mine...
I grew up in the '50s with very practical parents. A mother, God love her,who washed aluminum foil after she cooked in it, then reused it. She was the original recycle queen, before they had a name for it. My father was happier getting old shoes fixed than buying new ones. Their marriage was good, their dreams focused. Their best friends lived barely a wave away. I can see them now, Dad in trousers, tee shirt and a hat and Mom in a house dress, lawn mower in one hand, dishtowel in the other. It was the time for fixing things.
A curtain rod, the kitchen radio, screen door, the oven door, the hem in a dress. Things we keep. It was a way of life, and sometimes it made me crazy. All that re-fixing, eating, renewing, I wanted just once to be wasteful. Waste meant affluence. Throwing things away meant you knew there'd always be more.
But then my mother died, and on that clear summer's night, in the warmth of the hospital room, I was struck with the pain of learning that sometimes there isn't any more. Sometimes, what we care about most gets all used up and goes away...never to return. So, while we have it... it's best we love it... and care for it... and fix it when it's broken... and heal it when it's sick. This is true for marriage... and old cars... and children with bad report cards... and dogs with bad hips... and aging parents... and grandparents. We keep them because they are worth it, because we are worth it. ------------------------------------------------------------------------
There was a boy in India who was sent by his parents to a boarding school. Before being sent away this boy was the brightest student in his class. He was at the top in every competition. He was a champion. But the boy changed after leaving home and attending the boarding school.
His grades started dropping. He hated being in a group. He was lonely all the time. And there were especially dark times when he felt like committing suicide. All of this because he felt worthless and that no one loved him. His parents started worrying about the boy. But even they did not know what was wrong with him. So his dad decided to travel to the boarding school and talk with him. They sat on the bank of the lake near the school.
The father started asking him casual questions about his classes, teachers and sports. After some time his dad said, 'Do you know son, why I am here today?" The boy answered back, "to check my grades?" "No, no" his dad replied, "I am here to tell you that you are the most important person for me. I want to see you happy. I don't care about grades. I care about you. I care about your happiness. YOU ARE MY LIFE."
These words caused the boy's eyes to fill with tears. He hugged his dad. They didn't say anything to each other for a long time. Now the boy had everything he wanted. He knew there was someone on this earth who cared for him deeply. He meant the world to someone. And today this young man is in college at the top of his class and no one has ever seen him sad! Thanks a lot dad. YOU ARE MY LIFE. -------------------------------------------------------------------------
Many years ago three soldiers, hungry and weary of battle, came upon a small village. The villagers, suffering a meager harvest and the many years of war, quickly hid what little they had to eat and met the three at the village square, wringing their hands and bemoaning the lack of anything to eat.
The soldiers spoke quietly among themselves and the first soldier then turned to the village elders. "Your tired fields have left you nothing to share, so we will share what little we have: the secret of how to make soup from stones." Naturally the villagers were intrigued and soon a fire was put to the town's greatest kettle as the soldiers dropped in three smooth stones. "Now this will be a fine soup", said the second soldier; "but a pinch of salt and some parsley would make it wonderful!" Up jumped a villager, crying "What luck! I've just remembered where some's been left!"
And off she ran, returning with an apronful of parsley and a turnip. As the kettle boiled on, the memory of the village improved: soon barley, carrots, beef and cream had found their way into the great pot, and a cask of wine was rolled into the square as all sat down to feast. They ate and danced and sang well into the night, refreshed by the feast and their new-found friends. In the morning the three soldiers awoke to find the entire village standing before them.
At their feet lay a satchel of the village's best breads and cheese. "You have given us the greatest of gifts: the secret of how to make soup from stones", said an elder, "and we shall never forget." The third soldier turned to the crowd, and said: "There is no secret, but this is certain: it is only by sharing that we may make a feast". And off the soldiers wandered, down the road. -------------------------------------------------------------------------
Around twenty years ago I was living in Seattle and going through hard times. I could not find satisfying work and I found this especially difficult as I had a lot of experience and a Masters degree. To my shame I was driving a school bus to make ends meet and living with friends. I had lost my apartment. I had been through five interviews with a company and one day between bus runs they called to say I did not get the job. I went to the bus barn like a zombie of disappointment.
Later that afternoon, while doing my rounds through a quiet suburban neighborhood I had an inner wave - like a primal scream - arise from deep inside me and I thought "Why has my life become so hard?" "Give me a sign, I asked... a physical sign - not some inner voice type of thing." Immediately after this internal scream I pulled the bus over to drop off a little girl and as she passed she handed me an earring saying I should keep it in case somebody claimed it. The earring was stamped metal, painted black and said 'BE HAPPY'.
At first I got angry - yeah, yeah, I thought. Then it hit me. I had been putting all of my energies into what was wrong with my life rather than what was right! I decided then and there to make a list of 50 things I was grateful for. At first it was hard, then it got easier. One day I decided to up it to 75. That night there was a phone call for me at my friend's house from a lady who was a manager at a large hospital.
About a year earlier I had submitted a syllabus to a community college to teach a course on stress management. (Yup, you heard me. ;-) She asked me if I would do a one-day seminar for 200 hospital workers. I said yes and got the job. My day with the hospital workers went very well. I got a standing ovation and many more days of work. To this day I KNOW that it was because I changed my attitude to gratitude.
Incidentally, the day after I found the earring the girl asked me if anyone had claimed it. I told her no and she said "I guess it was meant for you then." I spent the next year conducting training workshops all around the Seattle area and then decided to risk everything and go back to Scotland where I had lived previously. I closed my one man business, bought a plane ticket and got a six month visa from immigration.
One month later I met my wonderful English wife and best friend of 15 years now. We live in a small beautiful cottage, two miles from a paved road in the highlands of Scotland. 'THE ONLY ATTITUDE IS GRATITUDE' has been my motto for years now and yes, it completely changed my life. -------------------------------------------------------------------------
A woman came out of her house and saw three old men with long white beards sitting in her front yard. She did not recognize them. She said, "I don't think I know you, but you must be hungry. Please come in and have something to eat." "Is the man of the house home?" they asked. "No", she said. "He's out." "Then we cannot come in", they replied. In the evening when her husband came home, she told him what had happened. "Go tell them I am home and invite them in," he said. The woman went out and invited the men in. "We do not go into a house together," they replied. "Why is that?" she wanted to know.
One of the old men explained: "His name is Wealth," he said pointing to one of his friends, and said pointing to another one, "He is Success, and I am Love." Then he added, "Now go in and discuss with your husband which one of us you want in your home." The woman went in and told her husband what was said. Her husband was overjoyed. "How nice!" he said. "Since that is the case, let us invite Wealth. Let him come and fill our home with wealth!" His wife disagreed. "My dear, why don't we invite Success?"
Their daughter-in-law was listening from the other corner of the house. She jumped in with her own suggestion: "Would it not be better to invite Love? Our home will then be filled with love!" "Let us heed our daughter-in-law's advice," said the husband to his wife. "Go out and invite Love to be our guest." The woman went out and asked the three old men, "Which one of you is Love? Please come in and be our guest." Love got up and started walking toward the house.
The other two also got up and followed him. Surprised, the lady asked Wealth and Success: "I only invited Love, why are you coming in?" The old men replied together: "If you had invited Wealth or Success, the other two of us would've stayed out, but since you invited Love, wherever He goes, we go with him. Wherever there is Love, there is also Wealth and Success!" -------------------------------------------------------------------------
My family spent one summer vacation enjoying the beaches of beautiful Gulfshores, Alabama. My oldest daughter was about 6 years old and the youngest was 3. We bought a two-man inflatable boat thinking this would make for a really fun day at the beach for the two girls. And so it did, they played all day the two of them in that boat. But the little one got tired and was beginning to look pretty pink with too much sun. So, I took her to our spot on the sand and placed an umbrella over her as my older girl continued to play in the boat.
I probably became a little too involved with my younger daughter and spent a little too much time not noticing what was going on the small distance to the water. But as I looked I became concerned as I saw the little boat with my oldest daughter in it had moved far out from the shore and was moving even further. I called to her to come in closer to shore and she seemed to be frightened and doing all she could to accomplish just that. But the thing we hadn't thought to buy for the boat were any oars.
Her little arms were too short to reach across the boat and into the water. All she could do was paddle hard to one side and was just making small circles. About this time, others on the beach are noticing this little girl so far out but no one seems to be doing anything but watching. I'm standing as far out in the water as I can - shouting instructions to her with no success. There's a sailboat of teenagers not far from her, who start her way and then flip their boat.
I stood watching her go farther out - then looked to Heaven and confessed to God "Lord I don't believe you gave me this beautiful child for me to watch her float out to sea. Lord, you know I am a pitiful swimmer but somehow Lord I'm trusting You to get me out there". And so went my prayer. The first stroke of my arm seemed to be in slow motion, I couldn't believe I was doing this. I swam until I no longer knew or could feel that I had legs. But I just kept praying and keeping my eyes on her. I saw my arm somehow operating on its own hook over the edge of that small boat and began making my way back pulling her and calming her, when everything inside me was screaming.
We made it back to shore and even got some applause but my life was forever changed by that experience. I learned we don't always have to operate on our own strength. But, if we can trust enough and take that first stroke we have all the strength we need. I must say it changed my daughter's life too. She hates boats! But I hope she has gained more than that in the retelling of the story. She's 22 years old now and graduates from college this May. I see her horizons as limitless and I know with her faith she can go wherever God leads. -------------------------------------------------------------------------
The hospital I worked in during my stay in Swaziland sits atop the beautiful and very steep Lebombo Mountains. In this part of the world people often have to walk 40 kilometers or more in order to see a doctor. As you can imagine there are many people in the community who are simply too sick or too poor to get to a hospital. This is where home-based care comes in.
The home-based care team consists of several nurses who jump into a small truck/van every morning and travel out to the community to tend to the health needs of the truly destitute. Before I went out with the team I used to buy potatoes and carrots and apples to give to the people we met - because health care in Africa is often just as much about the provision of food as it is about medicine. I would always make sure I also bought a bag of sweets to give to the beautiful children we would meet out in the community.
I have learned that sweets are one of the great unifiers in the human world - we might look different and speak different languages - but most of us - especially the young ones - love sweets! One day we stopped at one of the 15,000 orphan-led households in Swaziland. Inside the hut we found a beautiful little girl with huge brown eyes. Her name was Tanzile. I gave her a sweet from my bag and she said something back to me in Si-swati, the native language, which the nurse next to me translated: "She wants another one doctor - to give to her little sister." I said "of course" and gave her another.
After we had tended to a man with tuberculosis a bit further down the road, we passed by Tanzile's house to say goodbye. To our surprise she seemed to be holding on to that extra sweet I had given her. I remember saying to the nurse "this little darling is clever - she has taken two for herself. If I was her I'd probably have asked for the whole bag!" But after the nurse had asked her some more questions this is what we learned: Tanzile is 7 now.
Two years ago when she was five her mum and dad both died of HIV/AIDS like so many have in this country. At the time of her parents tragic death, she was separated from her baby sister who was three at the time. Tanzile has not laid eyes on her since. But ever since that time, whenever Tanzile receives anything from anyone, including food, - she refuses to accept it, unless they give her two. Two carrots, two toys, two sweets - one for her and one for her baby sister (who in all likelihood didn't survive.) In fact, in the little mud hut where she lives, we found a pile of old things which she has been collecting to give to her sister one day.
My friends, people sometimes look at faces of African children or kids in the developing world and think that they are somehow different than our kids - that somehow they dont feel pain or sadness or love. But that is not true. Their pain is deep. And so is their love. I can still remember the nurse trying to convince her that "if someone gives you food Tanzile, you must accept it - even if it is only one piece and not two - for your own health and safety." And it was so hard for us to keep the tears from our eyes as she shook her head defiantly.
Her hope and her love was all that she had. It mattered more than anything else. When I returned home that day, I was shocked to find that this was not an isolated story but others in the hospital knew of orphans just like Tanzile - waiting with a little pile of things in their hut, for their sibling or their parent who they havent seen in so long. I think of that old Eagles song - "when we're hungry, love will keep us alive." I pray that for Tanzile's sake and the other beautiful children like her that it will. -------------------------------------------------------------------------
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