From Chicken Soup for the Soul of America

What I’ve Learned

Unfortunate events, though potentially a source for anger and despair, have equal potential to be a source of spiritual growth. Whether or not this is the outcome depends on our response.

The Dalai Lama

After the tragedies of September 11 the world changed. We awoke to a different world on September 12—no doubt about it. Despite our losses, our heartache and our fears, some positive outcomes have resulted from these events, outcomes that the terrorists who wished to destroy us could never have anticipated or comprehended. There is renewed patriotism in America. Our flag is flying proudly from churches, businesses, homes, cars and schools. Neighbors are taking an extra moment to wave to each other. Hurried citizens are slowing down, spending a little more time with family and friends, and being a little more kind.

In times of sorrow, we realize what is truly important. Here’s what I learned about the important things in life, during the sorrowful days that followed September 11:

• Life is too short to stay in an unhappy marriage, a job you loathe or a town you hate. If something doesn’t make you happy now, you need to move forward and find something that does make you happy. You may never get another chance. Live your life today! Be happy today.

• Value your family and friends as much as possible. Sometimes we get so busy in life that we think we “don’t have the time” to spend with family and friends that we should. But there is nothing more important than our relationships with our loved ones. Turn off the television and the computer, put down your book, and talk to those you love. They may not be here tomorrow.

• There are heroes all around us. A hero is someone who is willing to crash an airplane into a field, knowing that he is going to die, just to save the life of others—strangers he doesn’t even know. A hero is someone who runs into a burning building to help scared strangers to safety and pays for it with his own life.

• People really do care about each other, and they really care about what is happening in the world. People can put aside their differences and work together for the good of mankind.

• True leaders and true heroes emerge in times of crisis.

• In times of adversity, you learn who your true friends are. A friend of mine, who I have known since childhood, wrote me to say she wanted to tell me how much she has valued our friendship over the past twenty years. She wanted to say it now, just in case she never got another chance. That’s a true friend!

• Everyone around the world must overlook their differences and work together if we are ever to enjoy a truly peaceful world.

• Renewing our relationship with God cannot be put off until tomorrow. Tomorrow may be too late!

Finally, I’ve learned that all we need to do is reach out and help our neighbors, even when they don’t ask for help. Imagine what a better world this would be if everyone performed one random act of kindness every day.

Victoria Walker

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