From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Create Your Best Future


The education of young people occurs in varied ways and for many purposes. We educate to impart knowledge, to develop skills, to inculcate values, and to foster good character. We use many different means to achieve these goals, from the examples adults set to traditional classroom instruction to the use of the newest digital technologies. But from the beginning of human history, one of the most common ways we learn is through stories.

Such stories can teach us and inspire us along many dimensions. They can teach us to be strong and confident in the face of adversity. They can teach us to be kind, generous and forgiving to others, and to be grateful for those who seek to help us. They can inspire us to be bold enough to change what is wrong in our lives or wrong in the world we see.

Small children make few decisions, and it falls on parents and teachers to make decisions for those children and begin to prepare them for their future. Teenagers and young adults are still learning also, but at the same time they are beginning to make an increasing number of decisions of ever greater importance. They will undoubtedly make mistakes, and some of those mistakes will be with them for a long time. But they will also make some great decisions, and learn from some extraordinary people, and those decisions and that learning may influence the entire course of their lives.

The subtitle of this book reminds me of one of my favorite jokes. A journalist interviews a very successful person. He asks: “How did you get to be so successful?” After the pondering the question for a few moments, the successful person responds, “Making the right decisions.” The journalist follows up with another question: “Yes, but how were you able to make such good decisions?” The response after a bit of thought: “experience.” The journalist, being a very probing journalist, asks a further follow-up: “And how were you able to accumulate that experience?” Without hesitation, the interviewee responds, “By making the wrong decisions.”

The stories in this volume were selected by Dr. Milton Boniuk and the team listed in his introduction to assist you in making the right decisions. Dr. Boniuk and his wife Laurie are two of the most remarkable people I have met. They have generously devoted substantial resources to fostering religious tolerance in particular, but also improving the education of young people to instill broad values of tolerance and appreciation for diversity of all kinds. They believe that such education is the foundation of a better society.

This work takes place not only in the publication of this book through the efforts of The Boniuk Foundation, but also through an allied endeavor at Rice University, The Boniuk Institute for the Study and Advancement of Religious Tolerance ( The mission of the institute, founded in 2013, is “to understand and promote religious tolerance by using innovative methods to” undertake research, produce educational programming, and foster dialogue. It identifies religious intolerance as one of the root causes of war, discrimination, and violence in our world, and is committed to undertake those educational and research activities that will begin to eliminate such intolerance.

While the goal of this volume is much broader, and it illustrates many of the values and good behaviors we hope you aspire to, almost all of them also affect the degree to which we practice and foster tolerant, welcoming and supportive attitudes toward the differences we see in others. The Boniuks sincerely hope, as do so many of us, that through such efforts we can raise new generations that will end the hatred and violence that has ruined so many lives. This volume of brief stories celebrates the very best in the human spirit, and although aimed at teenagers and young adults, it is worth reading for all of us.

~David W. Leebron, President, Rice University

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