This I Believe
I believe in the power of choice. Not the kind of choice we talk about as it relates to abortion rights or the kind of choice we make as to which college to attend or what length to grow our hair or any of the myriad of small individual decisions we make every day. I believe in the power of choice that allows one to act with character and integrity in spite of environmental, circumstantial and situational pressures.
As a young girl growing up in the “Jefferson-Chalmers” area on the east side of Detroit, I found numerous opportunities to slip into the statistical norm. It took more inner strength than I can take credit for to escape the viselike grip of poverty, sexual promiscuity and drugs that were a part of my everyday existence. Teenage pregnancy was the norm. Alcoholism was the norm. Dropping out of high school was the norm. I was a “nerd”, “book-worm”, “snob” and was affectionately know as “KK”, which stood for the Kool-Aid Kid because I would not indulge in the accepted and expected practices. I reserved to right to make my own reality rather than rise, or in this case sink, to the expectations of others.
Some people start the practice of giving up power of choice early in life. When kids make excuses to their parents about why they didn’t get home by curfew or didn’t go where they were supposed to or didn’t do something they should have, the question is often asked, “Well did they have a gun to your head?” I think this sends the wrong message. Surely there are instances wherein a gun-wielding maniac has not fulfilled their side of a negotiated outcome even when the victim complied with their demands. The more viable question for parents to ask in these situations is, “Why did you give control of your reality to someone else?” If Johnny was driving, you should have picked up the phone to call for a ride. If you have a problem with forgetting your homework, you need to devise a system of reminders. The point is there is always a choice.
I believe every person must have two lists written upon their hearts. The first list should consist of experiences, tasks and goals that you pledge to get done in this lifetime regardless of the obstacles you must overcome or the hardships you have to endure or the pressures that life brings to bear. The second list should consist of things that you pledge to not do regardless of the obstacles you must overcome or the hardships you have to endure or the pressures that life brings to bear. Yes, life would be a lot simpler if we were told what to do and simply followed the rules. Life would be easier if we took the path of least resistance and went with the flow. In truth, many shun the power to make choices because with it comes the onus to accept responsibility for the outcome.
I choose not turn my back on those in need. I choose not look down on another individual regardless of their station in life. I choose not to conform to what others think I should be if that is not the reality I see for myself. I choose not to blame anyone outside of myself for circumstances that are fully within my control. I choose not to give my power to others be letting them enrage or elate me with their words, deeds and action, especially if I did nothing to deserve their criticism or praise. I choose to enjoy the life that I have been given to the fullest of my ability regardless my surroundings. I choose to seek out the good in other and work toward minimizing the bad within my society and myself. I choose to smile and respect the janitor at my work place just as fully as I do the CEO. I choose to simply say, “Thank you for asking but no”, rather than feeling compelled to make an excuse and accept the same of others. I choose to look at past hurts and pains as opportunities for growth. I choose to incorporate into myself the best of every circumstance and person I meet. Most importantly, while I am yet alive I choose to exercise the courage that is required to truly live.