It has been 18 months since the death of Trayvon Martin on February 26, 2012. When a tragedy of this scale occurs in the course of what might otherwise be described as an ordinary day, the word WHY pops up for me in capital letters.
A trial lasting over a month, 15 hours of jury deliberation, and countless media stories have attempted to answer WHY, various media outlets have taken sides on WHY, drawn lessons from WHY and still it strikes me that we know more inflammatory details than facts.
Yes, passion has entered into the picture. Words like ‘racially charged,’ ‘profiling, vigilante and ‘hoodie wearing suspect’ have been hurled about. Please consider however on that fatal night, that until shortly after 7:00 pm, the two actors in this tragedy were just ordinary guys like you and me going about the simple tasks of everyday life.
Then—in two minutes—life could no longer be taken for granted. According to Wikipedia, there were only two minutes between 7:15 pm, the time George Zimmerman hung up on his 911 phone call and 7:17, when Sanford policeman Timothy Smith arrived to observe Zimmerman and Martin, Martin by this time dead. Here’s another fact, again from Wikipedia: The scene of this death was but 70 yards from the unit where Trayvon Martin was staying at the time.
Would that Zimmerman had waited just 10 seconds until Martin arrived at his destination, opening his door with a key that fit the lock just right.
Only two minutes.
Do I judge Zimmerman in this? Do I judge Martin in this?
No, all I am saying is two minutes can last forever.
Be careful, even on ordinary days.
Ted Magnuson is the author of The Bouchard Legacy, the story of two step-brothers, one black, one white, and a fourth generation family business set in St Louis and America 1968-1979. Paul has earned his inheritance, but Randy owns it.
A friend of mine once explained it all to me. Life is like a giant staircase—something on the scale of the Grand Canyon. You go through periods of intense activity and growth, climbing up a step or two but then a year might go by, or two, where you consolidate stuff, don’t learn much, and just put life on autopilot. “It’s less hectic that way,” he explained.
His analogy may be very apt—depending on which plateau you happen to be on at the time. For the analogy does break down, doesn’t it? The ‘Staircase of Life’ aren’t necessarily navigated on autopilot.
The ‘prompts to climb,’ the times for growth, change, turmoil; call it what you will are many, are sudden, and can be trying.
The appearance of a ‘staircase’ could be as simple as boredom, or a new assignment at work. It could be as intense and tumultuous as the loss of a job, or of someone close to us. Whatever it is, crises/growth/the spur to change…happens. Can we choose to ignore change? Will it then go away?
Not in this life!
Change is inevitable. Our response to change is what makes all the difference.
In his book ‘A Stranger’s Gift,’ Tom Hallman describes how on Sept 11, his flight home to Portland from Chicago got grounded. He spent the next two days coming home on Amtrak. Conversations at dinner with fellow passengers prompted him to ask the larger questions; what did he want out of life, what direction was his life taking?
As a result of this train trip, Tom Hallman changed. He took a spiritual journey, which he generously laid out for us in his book ‘A Stranger’s Gift.’
Now, change is admittedly difficult. There is something in human nature isn’t there, that stubbornly insists “That’s the way it’s always been and always will be.”
But whether we see them or not, these facts, these prompts for change happen. We are the better for it, then; if we train ourselves to both recognize and act on these prompts for change.
Mainly, I believe, by the people we meet, the books we read, the broadening of our experience that we do in times when we are ‘on the plateaus’ of life.
Then when it’s climb time, we are ready.
In my own life, this past month saw the release of my novel The Bouchard Legacy. I have been working on this change, this project, this book for the past 15 years! Several things prompted me to write this book. And I could easily have ignored them. But having acted on them, look what I’ve got: my very own book. You may have heard it said; “Everyone has a book inside them? Or as Paul of Tarsus said “We are all books written by God.”
That being so, now I know that at least in my book, there are pages with stuff written on them! Hoo Haa!
How about your book? Are there pages with good stuff written on them? I hope so, for all our sakes.
If my own case rings true, I know there won’t be much good stuff on the page if I haven’t gone to the trouble of putting it there. Good doesn’t’ happen on autopilot.
How then does it take place?
Lately there’s been some talk about ‘hope.’
But what is hope?
A cure-all panoply?
Some kind of sleight of hand, woo-woo hocus pocus?
How can we nail hope down?
What if we reframe the concept of hope as believing?
Once we believe there is a solution.
We believe that we can tackle the job before us.
Then achievement is possible.
In my own situation, I’d always enjoyed reading, the idea of writing a book had always appealed to me, but it wasn’t until I decided I would believe, that I took steps towards writing my book. Suddenly, opportunities began to appear.
A writer’s conference is announced in the news; I will go.
A cheap computer/word processor appears at a garage sale; I buy.
I plug it in; it works!
And so day by day, change took place and now I have a book to my name. Hoo Haa!
Whatever the stimulus for change may be for you; an uneasy feeling, ominous undertones at work, a pink slip, a personal tragedy or even an unconscionable streak of good fortune, first keep your head.
Next: Be alert to your opportunities, your resources and your direction.
Finally; the last step is much the same as the first: Keep believing.
Again, to my own example. My novel, The Bouchard Legacy is about a family whose wealth is about to be passed on, possibly to a fourth generation. It’s about coming of age in the mid America of the 1970’s.
It’s about the journey from child to adult, boy to man, girl to woman, perhaps one of the most phenomenal changes of them all.
I offer this book to you as a proof, a product of what happens when we accept the challenge change presents to us.
What changes would you like to see in your life?
What changes in the world around you?
Can you can be that change?
About that staircase in your life? Is that a wall you see before you now…or a step?