By Choice, Not Chance

We panted as we took the last few labored steps before stopping on the side of the mountain. My five-year-old son and I breathed deeply as we turned to look back on the scene below. It was a lovely June day, and we could see the miniature houses, the toy-like cars, and the bisecting streets. It was a spectacular sight! Most intriguing of all was a winding, green-bordered street. I envied anyone who lived in that area. Squinting, I tried to determine which street it was that was so beautiful. Then I smiled to myself as I realized that it was our street. There was my rooftop. I was the lucky one.

This perspective also applies to our lives.

An acquaintance told me that she had decided to simplify her life by giving up her community and volunteer jobs. But no sooner had she done so than she found herself involved again. She realized that she really loved being busy; she craved all the activity.

A neighbor complained constantly about yard work, saying she could hardly wait until her children were grown so she and her husband could move to a condominium where they wouldn’t have to do any. She was so eager that they moved into a condominium even before the children were gone. But before six months had gone by, the family purchased another house—one with a big yard. “I feel sheepish,” she said, “but I miss the gardening.”

Another family saved for twenty years so they could emigrate to the United States. When, through a turn of events, the money suddenly became available, they discovered they couldn’t decide if they wanted to leave their homeland after all.

It seems to be a universal pastime to wish we were someone else, somewhere else, doing something else. But we need to realize that we are doing what we do, living where we live, associating with the people we do, because we made choices—sometimes consciously, sometimes unconsciously—that led us to where we are. If we could go back and start over, I venture that our choices would lead us either to the same life or to one very similar to the one we are leading.

Ruth N. Dickson Salt Lake City, Utah

A Mother’s Gift

I like myself! That may sound egotistical, but I believe it is the greatest legacy my mother has given me. What better gift could a child be given than to be taught to like herself and to feel loved, important, and capable of anything she might like to try?

My mother did many things that helped build my self-esteem, but my favorite was the “TL,” which meant “Tell Last.” When she had heard something good about me, she would tell it last—after I told something good that I had heard about her. If I didn’t have a “TL” for her, she would let me “owe her one,” and she gave me hers anyway. These special compliments have been a great source of confidence in my life. Even in my lowest moments I knew I couldn’t be too bad because someone thought well of me.

My mother never criticized her children in front of others. She always praised us—not just as her children, but as individuals in our own right. Now that we are all married, she and my father praise our spouses and our children so that they know how important and loved they are, too.

I feel that the best way I could honor my mother is to pass on to my children the great gifts my mother gave me. Oh, that they might like themselves, that they may fulfill their great potential!

Elizabeth Willis Barrett Gilbert, Arizona

[illustration] Illustrated by Chris Creek