Standing on the threshold of a new year, some of us will dare believe we can rise up like eagles and attempt what we have thus far only dreamed of. We will dare to contemplate possibilities that both excite and frighten us.
Working with out of control adolescents on the streets of Surrey and also at Camp Colonial in Hedley, I began to understand that within each of us lies buried a belief we are destined to accomplish something significant with our lives. This understanding was bolstered one morning when Mickey refused to get out of bed and go for breakfast. Only 15, he had been sent by a judge to the One Way Adventure Foundation in the hope one of our programs would foster a less adversarial, criminal mind-set. He was lodged with 11 other equally difficult youths in the Coach house. Fair haired and slight of build, he could be amiable when the gods were smiling on him. When discouragement overtook him though, he became obnoxious and obstinate. This morning, I told the workers to take the others to breakfast and I’d talk with Mickey.
I sat on the edge of his bed and we chatted casually about his family and past life. An atmosphere of despair hovered about him. His mom had visited him only once since he arrived several months ago. Her boyfriend disliked him. His mind had plunged into a deep abyss of resignation, and he had no compelling reason to get out of bed. I wondered if there was even a tiny spark that could be ignited within him.
Realizing he had awakened to a mood of utter disconsolation, I felt I needed to divert him in the most profound way I could think of. “Mickey,” I said, “do you want to do something important with your life?” A radical departure from our conversation to that point, I discerned from the sudden restlessness of his legs that the question had unsettled him. After a moment the restlessness ceased and a meek voice answered, “yah… I do.”
“Can I give you an idea of what it takes to do important things?” I asked. He nodded, probably hoping he wasn’t wandering too far onto dangerous terrain. “Almost always it begins with changing our thinking,” I said. “Changing our thinking about what we are capable of doing and about how we deal with problems. Hard things will often stand in our way. We can believe it’s possible to overcome them and do important things in spite of them.”
Mickey’s nod indicated he had not shut me out. He threw off the bedcovers, resolutely eased out of bed and reached for his pants and shirt.
Tennis super star Serena Williams could have given Mickey, and each of us, a much fuller understanding of a more productive way of thinking. In “My Life: Queen of the Court”, she discusses the value of planting positive, uplifting thoughts in our minds, and reinforcing them continually. When she was young, her mother told her “whatever you become, you become in your head first. You become what you think about most. Good thoughts are powerful.” Serena clung to these words and wrote dozens of post it notes, reminding herself of who she wanted to be and what she hoped to accomplish.
Mickey’s mother never learned the importance of planting a powerful, positive vision in the mind of her son. Like virtually every student of whom I asked the question, Mickey did have the desire to do something significant with his life. He also had at least the spark of a belief that he could.
I concluded from the experiences I had with our students there must be planted within each of us a belief we are capable of doing something that has meaning and value. For all of us, the start of a new year is a great time to think about what we want to accomplish in the coming 12 months, and in the rest of our life. We can believe for more and reach a little higher. We all have everything it takes to do important things.