Today I met an old man and his wife. They told me an incredible story. He was a high school dropout, expelled for poor behavior at sixteen. He and his wife married very young and had three children right away. When he was twenty-five, remorseful of his previous decisions and determined to beat the odds despite his disadvantages, he got his high school equivalency and enrolled in college. For four years he went to school full time during the day and worked full time at night. There were no satellite programs in those days, and his commute to school was one hour each way. For four straight years he kept this schedule: leave the house at 7 am, go to school all day, drive home, work until 4 am, get up at 6 and do it all over. Although he was home every night for between three and four hours, his children would kiss him goodnight on Sunday and not see him again until Saturday morning. His wife cared for them during all that time, and they supported each other. After he finished school he became superintendent over the same high school principal who expelled him years before. He eventually went on to earn a masters degree and was able to be very successful and effective working with the troubled youth in his district because he knew what they were going through from his personal experiences. When he finally retired thirty-two years later, without knowing it, he signed the high school diploma that was awarded to him honorarily for his outstanding work and example.
Talk about overcoming your past.
I sometimes wonder why I even keep a blog, since I write on it so rarely. The reason, though, is in the title: this is a record, in part, of reasons I see to rejoice in life. This man's example makes me rejoice. All around me there are children of the Lord in pain. Some of them are victims of other's poor choices, and some are living consequences of theirs'. In most of these instances I know, these kids will grow up to become people who never truly escape from the pit they ended up in. It's easy to blame others, it's easy to blame yourself, and it's very hard to continue trying to improve yourself and your life when it feels like an endless marathon up a muddy grade. What makes the difference between success and failure, I think, is perspective. You have to keep perspective and believe that life really can be better. Perspective equals faith. Faith that you don't have to keep living in that same muddy hole all your life. Faith that you can become the person you desire. Faith that, no matter where you've been, you can still make it where you want to go. Faith that "though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow" (Isaiah 1:18).
I saw a great example of that today, in the man and the woman I had the pleasure of meeting. I'm so grateful they shared a little of their story with me. To see them now, tan and happy on their annual vacation together to Hawaii, you would never guess where they started. But I imagine that their story and what they've been through together is a major part of the reason why they can be so happy, because they know what they've overcome. I thanked them for their example, and hope to be like them in many ways. Whatever life throws at me, I hope I can always keep the faith and perspective to overcome.