Early one morning, you hopped on your bike to ride to a new location a friend told you about. As you ride, you look around and you’re not surprised that there are so many people out today because the air is crisp and cool.
After riding for quite a while you stop to get a drink and take a rest. You sit on the only bench in the small park. You’re sharing that bench with an older lady who looks your way and smiles. You can tell she is happy to have the company because she continues to look your way hoping to engage in conversation.
“Good morning, I’m Hazel. I see you’re out riding your bike and enjoying the weather today,” she says. “Why do you like to do that?”
“Well,” you respond, “I don’t get to do it often, but it makes me feel good. I’m getting exercise and I’m able to be outside on this beautiful day.”
“Oh, I’m so glad to hear you say that. My husband and I used to ride bikes, but that was a very long time ago. I don’t think these old legs could peddle a bike anymore. My husband and I used to have a lot of adventures together before he passed away. We loved the outdoors. We loved visiting new places and creating new memories in the old places. Do you like adventures?”
“Yes, I do, but I don’t get to do them very much. I always have a lot going on at work and I have so many things going on in my life.”
“I understand,” she says. “I felt that same way when I was your age. There always seemed to be something demanding my time and attention. I used to let all those demands take what they wanted from me, until one unexpected day. I used to be a teacher of elementary students in a small town up north. I taught 2nd grade students for a while and then 4th grade. They sure were a rowdy bunch and I loved each one of them. One day after the new school year had already started I met a new 4th grade student coming into my class. Her name was Cali. Oh, I’m sorry, honey, do you have time for me to tell you a story?”
“Yes, I do. Please go on,” you say curiously.
“Oh, good. Now where was I? Oh yes, the little girl. As this little girl became part of our class, I noticed something different about her. She seemed so carefree and enjoyed everything so much. She was smart and thoughtful toward her classmates. I kept wondering, what made this little girl have such a positive outlook on life?”
“Well, parent-teacher conferences were coming soon and that would be my chance to meet Cali’s parents. On the day of the conference, I was grading a few papers waiting for my next appointment when Cali’s parents walked into my small classroom. I could see immediately that they had the same glow on their faces Cali had. I stood up to greet them and escorted them a few steps to where we would meet. I began by saying, ‘Your daughter has been a delight to have in my class. She seems to have a wonderful outlook on life.’”
Her parents smiled and looked at each other. ‘We are so blessed to have Cali. Early in her life we almost lost her. She was born with a rare disease that was fighting against her body. Because of the type of disease it was, we weren’t sure if Cali would live. We prayed and prayed and waited and waited to see if our precious Cali would make it.’
I listened with my complete attention as they told their story. Cali’s mom continued, ‘Slowly Cali became strong enough to come home, but we had a specific routine that we had to follow to give Cali a chance to survive. We had been having trouble in our marriage because we both had very busy careers. Our days were already filled with many meetings, activities, and events. We hardly ever saw each other. We had to figure out what we were going to do. The first day we brought Cali home, she was finally resting in her bed. We sat down to talk. We both agreed that Cali was our highest priority now and things needed to change. The things we thought were so important, now seemed so unimportant. We talked and talked and created a plan. We made changes to our jobs, our schedules, and our relationship.
We spent a lot of time with Cali, touching her, singing to her, holding her very close. Little by little Cali seemed to be getting stronger, at least that is what we were hoping. A few weeks after Cali’s follow up appointment, the doctor’s said they couldn’t really explain it, but Cali was indeed getting better. Her heart was stronger. Her breathing was easier. Her little body was developing properly. We were overwhelmed with emotion. We looked at each other and said, ‘It’s working.’ It continued to work and she kept getting stronger. As Cali grew, we taught her what is really most important in life. We never wanted her to experience where we had gotten. Cali’s mom welled up with tears as if she was overwhelmed all over again. We have raised Cali to appreciate every moment of her precious life.’
Cali’s mom and dad now speak to groups around the country telling their story and reminding people to make the most of the moments of life. They tell people from all walks of life that they don’t have to have a traumatic experience to step back and evaluate the priorities they have on their lives. They suggest that you plan your life around what is important instead of letting life or work dictate where you spend your time.
“That day changed my life,” Hazel reflected as she stopped talking and just sat back on the bench. You sat back, too, amazed at this unexpected and life-changing encounter with this wonderful lady. After looking out into the park for a while Hazel said, “I did what they said and I creatively planned my life and my living around what was really important to me. It wasn’t always easy, but I have been free and happy ever since. At this point of my life, I have few regrets. All of those demands in my life didn’t change, but I changed. I may have missed out on what others may have, but I never again missed out on what I know is important to me.”
You rode away…changed.
Deliberate Decisions Determine Destiny