Five Life Lessons On Choosing Well

From a brief encounter with Harmony on a gray morning.

I was walking, in drizzling rain, sans umbrella, along the block where I worked. It had been a difficult morning. Mentally. I had spent my morning righting my mind while prepping for work, exercising, and while on my commute.

The low hanging gray clouds, whose droplets I swore I could pick, if I would only tiptoe, uttered words of understanding to me. They shared my feelings. They, too, wanted to erupt and let loose their heavy tears. Then, they would feel lighter and brighter and better.

A woman and a little girl of four or five walked just ahead of me. And just beyond them, were two more girls, maybe 10 or 11, and around eight, I’d say, skipping gleefully over the morning’s puddles on the sidewalk. The girls all wore identical jackets and boots. That was how I knew they were together.

As I approached and overtook the woman and the littlest girl, I heard the woman shout something. I did not hear all of it, and I thought she was on the phone. I was entranced with the beauty of play I was witnessing and was drawing the image on the art pad of my mind, to hang in today’s museum of my thoughts. Then, the woman called out again, “Harmony! You see where you is?”

“HARMONY! You SEE where you is?! If something was to happen, you see how far you is?!”

The taller of the two girls who were walking ahead turned around with a look of shame in sad, fearful eyes that immediately met mine.

I looked at her with sorrow and love in my eyes, which were now welling up, wanting and waiting for clouds, and Harmony to join me in a bittersweet symphony.

“YOU SEE WHERE YOU IS?! I’m gonna call your mother!” This time the gunfire of words erupted from behind me.

“Noooo,” begged Harmony, as she reached out her arm and grabbed the next girl, bringing her to a sudden halt.

At that moment, I turned to enter my workplace, now dressed in my grief, the heavy gray skies, and Harmony’s early morning lament. I was immediately charged with the morning’s instruction and reminders to choose and choose well.

Choose Well, the Words and Tone We Use.

The words and the way we speak to others should bring life, give options, and challenge us to rise. Our words and tone should combine to produce chords and progressions that please and resonate with positivity.

The words and tone that slapped Harmony this particular morning seized, cut, and filled an already wounded sprit with fear. There was something in the exchange I witnessed that told me this was an everyday occurrence. How much tearing down, intimidation, and bullying can Harmony take? How much can we take? How much should those we care about receive from us?

Choose Well, our Actions.

Like our words, our actions speak and leave indelible pictures. And, pictures etched in our minds are done with the deepest engravings. Those images should empower and emancipate, not diminish, and debilitate.

What are we choosing to do daily? How do we conduct ourselves at home, at work, in public, and private? Are our actions harming or helping? Do we need to hurt and humiliate others to feel better about ourselves? How long does the satisfaction of self-elevation, and the feeling of power that comes through belittling another last? Will we not have to carry out a similar action soon to get the same high?

Since this experience with Harmony, I have had more than a few opportunities to intervene and defend, and many days of choosing my words, tone, and actions. I have been mindful of taking them all, including when I was uncomfortable, and boldness was required, and when humility was needed. Hopefully, my actions have yielded both positive short- and long-term results.

Choose Well, our Reflections.

I said nothing, did nothing to intervene in Harmony’s crisis. I watched her happy skipping end abruptly. I observed the crushing of her form and spirit. And, I witnessed the stealing of her childhood freedom to access even momentary pleasure and joy on a gray morning before she arrived at school.

To what degree do I bare responsibility for not intervening? Was it my business to do so? What can I learn from the experience? What does this experience, and yours like this, teach us as parents, teachers, and human beings?

Having experienced similar events in our own lives, do we choose to reflect upon and amend our language, conduct, attitudes, and values? Do we beat ourselves up for our inaction in that one instance? Do we thank the universe for the awareness it brings, so that we can self-examine, make conscious decisions to change ourselves, and act upon the decisions made?

Choose Well, the Ways of Forgiveness and Gratitude.

By the time I made the 30-second walk to the main office, I was processing my self-disappointment and grief that I had done nothing to help Harmony and her siblings. I too hurt Harmony that morning. When our eyes met, was Harmony silently imploring me to help? Had I now become an accomplice to robbing her and her sisters (assumed) of their right to peace, freedom, fun, and childhood wellbeing? How was this experience going to impact the girls’ learning experience today? How was this experience going to change their lives?

When we encounter such experiences and any similar resultant gnawings at our minds, do we choose to forgive ourselves? Do we choose to repress and ignore our consciences and spirits when they want to learn and evolve from the teachings of the experience?

I chose to forgive myself for my inaction, and I also decided to be grateful. Because only by way of these two choices could I possibly deepen my awareness that every human being is Harmony. Everyone is seeking a harmonious living in mind, in spirit, and with others. Only by these two choices of self-forgiveness and gratitude, can we continue on our personal journeys towards self-actualization and self-transcendence.

Choose Well, the Path of Love.

A minute later, I turned the key in the lock to open my room. Immediately, I was aware of my renewed purpose and determination to love. To love myself, my students, my children, my coworkers, those dear to me, and everyone I encounter.

Love heals. Love is the antidote to pain, hurt, and suffering of all kinds. Love is benevolence towards others, and the greatest gift we can give.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. … And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians, 13:13, 4–7, 13, New International Version.

When we love, speak with love, and act in love, we choose to live in Harmony, and create Harmony with all others.

In pursuit of simplicity and meaning. Writing sometimes about my journey. Mom of young adults with Cystic Fibrosis @AbundantBreath

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