It’s amazing when a few well-chosen words change someone’s life. Sometimes they make us realize something that should have been obvious all along. What’s really startling is when it is a child who utters those well-chosen words.
We published a story about this in our book about turning “lemons into lemonade” — that is, making the best of bad situations. Donald Quinn Dillon talked about how he was forced to cut back his busy health-care practice when his wife suffered such serious postpartum depression that she had to be hospitalized for weeks. He was forced to take full charge of his 3-year-old son Gabriel and his 9-month-old, Noah. As Don said: “Before this incident, I’d never been alone with the children for more than eight hours at a time. Now I was their primary caretaker.”
Don was feeling sorry for himself. But by giving up his daily two-hour commute, his packed appointment calendar and his volunteer work for a professional association, he was finally spending valuable time with his children. The turning point for him was the day that he and Gabriel were playing outside and the boy turned to him and said, “Daddy ... we make our own choices.”
Don said: “I stared in disbelief. How could a boy so young say something so profound? The full impact of this message did not resonate within me at the time. But as I relayed the story to friends and family, I understood the clear message.”
He went on to say: “I was justifying my long hours and professional position as being best for the family. I realized my family had not been my first priority, but instead my status, prestige and desire for more material things were. I would have to change if I wanted to experience the home life I desired and that my family deserved. I made the decision to choose balance and happiness.”
The French author and philosopher Albert Camus said, “Life is the sum of all your choices.” I guess that’s what Don figured out. We don’t have power over everything in our lives, but we do have the power to make our own choices within the context of our circumstances. Don realized he had to take responsibility for the poor choices that he had made about his life/work balance.
And now Don sees everything through the prism of his 3-year-old’s observation. He concluded his story by saying: “My life has far greater integrity now. My wife is strong and vibrant and the happiest I’ve ever seen her in our marriage together. The boys recognize the stability in our family and are confident, healthy and loving. I am aware that every day I make my own choices.”
Running a marathon is an amazing feat. I think anyone who even finishes a marathon is a hero. Most runners have brave, personal stories to go along with their accomplishment, whether they’re running for charity, running through disability or running as a personal challenge. Sara Celi ended up becoming part of one of these amazing stories on her road to the finish line.
Sara was running relay with her co-workers for the Tulsa Route 66 Marathon. As the last runner in the group, Sara was trying to finish strong when she came upon a man named Jeff Ortega who was struggling. “His stride looked painful; I saw him wince more than once. I wondered for a split second if he’d fall out like some of the other marathon runners I’d seen on past runs.”
“You can do this,” Sara said to Jeff. It turned out that the seasoned marathon runner had hurt himself on mile six — 16 miles back. “I want to keep going, but I’m afraid,” Jeff said. “I don’t know if I can make it, if I even want to anymore.”
For the next few minutes, the two ran together, and Jeff told Sara why he was running the marathon. Two weeks before, his son had fallen to his death from a balcony, and his running group was clad all in black to honor him. “Father and son had loved running and bonded over the physicality and the body stress that came with a race,” Sara explained. “Now this grieving man had just two and a half more miles to finish a race he and his running group had dedicated to his son’s memory.” Together, they ran the rest of the race, Jeff sharing memories of his late son the whole way.
The two runners crossed the finish line together, and Sara hugged Jeff, sobbing. “The best races in life aren’t the ones you win,” Sarah explains. “The best races in life are the ones where it takes everything you have just to finish.”
Syndicated by Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, online at www.chickensoup.com