Wednesday, September 11, 2013

We shape our responses so we can shape ourselves

I just dropped all the work I had planned to do to watch a livestream of a Theatre Sheridan performance of Come From Away. I had meant to attend the performance live last spring, but you know how it is.  My back was bad; work was busy; I didn't follow through.

It's the story of how the town of Gander responded when dozens of flights and thousands of people were stranded there when American airspace was closed on 9/11.  If you think the musical sugar coats the story, take a look at what Snopes has to say about the events. Sometimes, under the most difficult conditions, people choose to be amazing.

Do you remember the choices you made on 9/11?  Choices about what to tell your kids, or whether to change your plans, or how to feel about crowded spaces? I remember standing with my kids and their friends in our family room with the news playing endlessly.  I remember that we decided to go ahead with the first youth orchestra rehearsal of the season that evening. I remember sitting at a keyboard and writing a prayer to send out to people I knew well and people who just happened to be in my contact list.

I remember reading an email from a man I hardly knew, who talked about his very young sons and who also wrote a prayer.

Looking back, what changed my life was not the events of 9/11. It was the prayers. The prayers led to another email and that led to a meeting, and that led to all the work and learning I have done since. I suppose that from a certain point of view, all the people I have influenced in the past ten years are an answer to my prayer that day.

From another point of view, all that changed grew from my decision to respond to terror with affirmation. A prayer is an affirmation that the fear is not all that we are as human beings, and that hope is a choice we can make even when the facts are against us. You might not be a person who believes in prayer. But maybe you read this as a person who believes that how you respond to life makes a difference and that the difference you make begins with your willingness to let your best response shape who you are becoming.

When faced with something overwhelming, we ask "what can we do?" The people who then do something are taking an opportunity to be shaped by their will, their heart, and their impact. Our actions grow from who we are. And then our actions shape who we become.

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