A sigh of relief. Smiles for all. A deep sense of fulfillment and joy.
This was the experience I had this past week as I drove out of the parking lot of my neighborhood market.
As we had pulled in to pick up a few groceries, my youngest son Jackson said, “See Mom, he’s a kind man. Just look at his sign.” I turned toward where my son was pointing, and there stood an African American man with a big smile on his face, holding a sign that said,
“Love is the key, so why not use it?”
This man had been there on the corner of the parking lot entrance many times, and I’d seen the sign other times as well. But something about this moment was special. My son believed in the beauty of this man, and trusted in it. My older son Benjamin was a bit more skeptical, and said nothing. You see, he’d witnessed a situation in which another down-on-his-luck man had thrown some food he was given at the car that held the people who’d given it to him. That person wanted money, and nothing else would do.
Very unexpectedly, I said, “Ok. Let’s bring him some food.” I was not expecting what followed.
As we were in the market, the boys and I went to the deli counter, looking for a nice dish we could get. The boys were so involved. They were careful and thoughtful about what the man might like. Even Benjamin in his skepticism was interested. We picked something we though would satisfy the man outside, ordered a container of it, and then grabbed a couple of organic apples for him as well.
As we left the grocery store and got into our car, Jackson, sitting in the back seat, was anxious and excited. Benjamin was sitting in the passenger seat and I handed him the food and said, “Roll your window down. We can hand these things to the man as we drive out of the lot.” He got a look of sheer terror on his face. He said, “Mom, are you sure we shouldn’t just give him some money. That’s probably what he wants anyway.” I knew what Benjamin was remembering, and simply said, “He’ll like this.”
We pulled up to the smiling man. He joyfully approached our car. As Benjamin handed him the food, the man seemed to squeal in delight. He gratefully accepted the food, saying
“Thank you! Oh thank you dear brothers and sister!”
As we wished him a beautiful day, and drove out of the parking lot, Benjamin leaned back in his seat with a huge sigh of relief and said, “Oh thank goodness. I was so worried he would be angry, but that felt so good!”
We were all smiles, every one of us feeing fulfilled. We had offered a simple gesture of love for our common humanity, and we were rewarded with being called “brothers and sister.” The moment could not have been more beautiful.
What was particularly special about it for me as a mother was that in that single moment, my sons got a new perspective on humanity. They got to see the goodness, and set aside their fears of those who are “different” from them. We felt like we had just gained a new family member. The moment was priceless.
The sigh of relief I witnessed in Benjamin rippled through our car, and I’m convinced rippled through the world in ways we will never know. That single moment created a new story. The old story that induced fear in my sons was gone, and a new one had replaced it. In truth, it also replaced old stories filled with fear that I had been carrying as well. We were no longer victims of these old stories and fears. We had created something new.
I often teach and coach around the power of story. Stories and their archetypes resonate with the soul. We relate to them. This is why it’s so critical to consider the stories we carry within us. If our story is one of separation, competition, judgment, resentment, or victimhood, we will resonate with those things and experience more of them in our lives. On the other hand, if our story is one of brotherhood, compassion, forgiveness, understanding, interest and love, we will experience more of these things.
This week, I challenge you to consider your story.
Choose a situation in which you feel hesitant or fearful, and ask yourself the following questions:
What is my story about this situation? What do I believe to be true?
Allow yourself to step out of the story as an observer, and consider the thoughts and emotions connected with the situation.
Where did this story and these beliefs come from?
Are they mine? Are they based on one experience or many? Are they imprinted in me from my history? Considering where the story comes from is often incredibly eye opening. More often than not, the story is not even your own.
Is this story true for me?
Taking pause to consider the story and where it came from allows you to then have a clearer picture of whether or not it is actually true for you. I cannot tell you the number of times in my own life when I realized that I was holding onto a story I didn’t even buy!
What do I want the story to be?
Once you know the story, and the beliefs connected with it, you will be able to determine if it feels right for you or not. If it doesn’t, you have the power to create a new story. Yes! You DO have this power. You get to choose what you believe. So what do you want to believe instead of the story that generated fear, discomfort or hesitance in the first place?
What can you do to change the story?
In the example I shared with my boys, the story changed because we did the very thing that our story said would not be accepted. Sure, it might not have been accepted again, but in my heart, I knew we all believed in the goodness of humanity, and I was ready to take a chance on that. What can you do to courageously act in the face of fear or discomfort? What can you tell yourself that offers a new perspective? Are there other examples that might prove your old story wrong, and that you could now begin to put your trust in and move forward in a different way?
The stories we hold and believe in determine how we see and act in the world. You will continue to make the story true as long as you don’t examine it.
The wonderful thing is that you can create a new story anytime you choose. Can you believe in the story that says you are powerful and creative enough to birth a new story for yourself and your life?
May your new story bring fulfillment and joy!