15 Short Stories From Everyday People About A Time They Were Taught A Priceless Life Lesson
November 3, 2014
Sometimes people say things to you at just the right time that will change your life forever. Perhaps it was a coincidence, perhaps it was all part of the master plan. I like to think that everyone you meet in life was for a reason. You learned something from that person, no matter how big or little the lesson may have been.
Reddit users responded to the question, "What is something someone said that forever changed your way of thinking?" The responses were truly inspiring...
Image credit: Gravity Of Life
1. When I was 38 I contemplated beginning a two year Associates Degree in Radiography. I was talking to a friend and had almost talked myself out of doing it. I said "I'm too old to start that. I'll be 40 when I get my degree." My friend said "If you don't do it, you'll still be 40, but without the degree." I'm nearly 60 now, and that degree has been the difference between making a decent living, and struggling to get by.
2. I was 13 years old, trying to teach my 6 year old sister how to dive into a swimming pool from the side of the pool. It was taking quite a while as my sister was really nervous about it. We were at a big, public pool, and nearby there was a woman, about 75 years old, slowly swimming laps. Occasionally she would stop and watch us. Finally she swam over to us just when I was really putting the pressure on, trying to get my sister to try the dive, and my sister was shouting, "but I'm afraid!! I'm so afraid!!" The old woman looked at my sister, raised her fist defiantly in the air and said, "So be afraid! And then do it anyway!" That was 35 years ago and I have never forgotten it. It was a revelation -- it's not about being unafraid. It's about being afraid and doing it anyway.
3. I'm the oldest of three kids. I'm older than my little brother by 2 years and my little sister by 9. When I was about fourteen or so, arguing with my dad in private about something I don't remember, he, being the second-oldest of eight kids, told me: "Any decision you make in this household, you make three times. Once when you make it, once when your brother makes the same decision after watching you do it, and once when your sister makes the same decision after watching you and your brother do it. How you treat your brother will tell him how he can treat your sister; and how you treat your sister tells her how she will expect to be treated for the rest of her life, even as far as her future boyfriends." That kinda shook me up and made me rethink my role as the oldest child; I started taking my responsibilities as the role model a lot more seriously after that. Even when you aren't trying to actively influence those around you, those who look up to and respect you will still base their decisions, in part, on how they've seen you handle similar situations. If you break down and get stressed and angry when something inconvenient happens, they'll feel better doing the same when something similarly small happens to them. But if you keep your cool in a dire situation and under a lot of stress, it can inspire them to believe they can do the same.
5. My dad was a deacon of a church, and one part of his duties was to visit with people in retirement homes and bring them communion. He couldn't go one day, and he asked me (I was in high school at the time) to go in his place. Perhaps obviously, with me being young and the people in the homes being elderly, age was a frequent topic of conversation. One old man told me, "The hardest thing about getting old is running out of people who understand you." That is, each generation has a unique way of looking at the world and what it means to be alive in it, and as new generations come and redefine what the world is, one's world gets smaller and smaller as there are fewer people around who understand your world in the same way.
6. I met a person who was in a wheelchair. He related a story about how a person once asked if it was difficult to be confined to a wheelchair. He responded, "I'm not confined to my wheelchair - I am liberated by it. If it wasn't for my wheelchair, I would be bed-bound and never able to leave my room or house." Amazing perspective.
7. My mom was dying. A friend told me, "You have your whole life to freak out about this. Don't do it in front of her." It really helped me to understand that my feelings are not always what's important. It IS possible to delay a freakout, and that skill has served me innumerable times.
8. My old boss, the CEO of a small hospital, told me a story from back when he was a lab technician (for simplicity, let's call him Dan). Dan had forgotten to check some sort of mechanism on a piece of equipment he used, it malfunctioned and broke the equipment which ended up having around a $250,000 repair bill. The next day Dan's boss called him in to talk about it, and he was sure he was going to be fired. His boss asked him why he didn't do a proper check, made sure he understood what happened and sent him back to work. Dan asked him "Am I not getting fired? I was almost sure that's what this was about." His boss said "No way, I just spent $250,000 teaching you a lesson you'll never forget. Why would I fire you now?" It seems silly, but that attitude always resonated with me. Don't make professional decisions based on emotional responses.
9. "People won't remember the words you say but how it made them feel."
11. "You have an attitude." It was said to me by a friend when I was about 25. I'm almost 40 now. He elaborated by saying that my personality carries a huge lack of humility. The things I would say or do, in most cases, was very off-putting to a majority of people. I always had a better story after someone finished theirs. I was full of knowledge on any subject, or whatever opinion I had on the matter was always superior and correct. My way of doing things was the best way. I appeared ungrateful, selfish, and pompous. And I had no clue whatsoever. I'll never forget that conversation and the paradigm shift my brain experienced that day. Once I was aware of this attitude I started thinking about my relationships and the environment I created. Over a few years I slowly learned so many things about myself and others. I learned how to listen. To enjoy myself in groups and not need to be the focus of the group. To be compassionate and empathetic. To give advice only when asked, or out of heartfelt concern or genuine worry. To put others first when it counts. To show up. To be a friend instead of a competitor. I'll never forget how that one small statement has had a long term effect on me.
12. In an episode of Louie he tells one of his daughters, "The only time you should look in your neighbor's bowl is to make sure he has enough." I'm sure Louis CK didn't invent that on his own, but it was the first time I'd heard it, and it's stuck with me.
14. "You are not required to set yourself on fire to keep other people warm." Really hit home for me, since I grew up trying to mediate my parents' issues and had multiple friends in and out of the ER for mental health crises during my teen years, among other things. As someone who spent the majority of her life feeling like she had to take care of others at all costs, it was kinda a shock to the system to hear that I was allowed to have my limits even with people who truly needed help.
15. My dad once gave me and my brother each a dollar out of nowhere. I scoffed and said "Dad its just a dollar, you keep it." He got really mad and said, "Never try to give anything back that someone gives you. It could be all they have to give and a huge sacrifice to them."
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