Myra’s Story – No Lists

It’s the Sunday before Christmas and Myra is having a struggle getting ready to drive over to St. Anthony’s Assisted Living to visit nolistsAunt Grace, her only remaining relative on her mother’s side. Aunt Grace is in her nineties, is mentally very alert, but she can’t walk due to arthritis and is virtually blind. It’s not a chore to visit her; it’s just that everything around the holidays is like dragging a heavy weight around. It would be easier to go to bed and forget about everything. Continue reading

Jack’s Story – The Thirteenth Step

Jack's Story - The Thirteenth StepWho will cry for the little boy

Who will cry for the little boy who walks the burning sand.

Who will cry for the little boy who strives for hope.

Who will cry for the little boy who hold [sic] his faith in hand.

Who will cry for the little boy who puts his faith in God’s hand.

Who will cry for the little boy who tries to still his joy.

Who will cry for the little boy who’s[sic] love for life instill in him.

Who will cry for the little boy, the boy inside of me.

Who will cry for the little boy, the boy inside the man.

By Eddie C

The author understands that “The Thirteenth Step” is sometimes connected to a practice of some 12-stepers who attempt to take advantage of newer and more vulnerable people for selfish, ignoble purposes. That connotation has no part of this story.

Jack had learned a great truth today: one that he felt the need to share with others. Maybe an idea would come to him over the next few days, because this was a message that would be like sunshine after the storm for so many people who wear searching for a little light and a little peace. It was a truth filled with hope.

Jack had been involved with 12-step programs for over 20 years. He’s grown up with an alcoholic father and a mother who struggled greatly as the wife of an alcoholic. Jack’s feelings toward his father ran the gamut from anger to hate to shame to sympathy; but it had been a long time since he had felt any love and respect toward him.

Jack had first visited a 12-step program at the invitation of a close, college friend. Before that, he hadn’t known of anything that might help the family and friends of alcoholics. He quickly learned that there was nothing he could do to change his father, but there were things he could do to find peace in his own life.

Jack had always been an analytical sort. He was deeply curious about why things worked and why they didn’t work. This curiosity grew the more as he became more involved in 12-steps.

At some point, Jack’s father had started going to his own 12-step program and he seemed to be finding some limited success in managing his disease. Jack didn’t feel comfortable discussing the 12 steps with his father because it was such a personal issue.

Jack did introduce his mother to a program for family and friends. Giving her credit, she tried, but never really found personal peace. She was a private person and could never share the pain of her past with anyone else, either in a group or privately. So she drifted back to her own pain-filled world believing that nothing would ever bring her peace.

She and Jack had talked about the program; and Jack was that his mother failed to find any answers for herself.

Jack also attended an occasional “open” session for alcoholics because he wanted to see how the program worked for other people. And he continued to regularly attend his “family and friends” program.

He purchased materials from both programs including the daily readers that contained the dated short topics for meditation.

Let nothing said here be construed as criticism of 12-step programs. Jack was thoroughly convinced that there were great strengths in the programs both for the addicted and those who were near to them.

Over the years he reached several conclusions from his observations of both programs.

  • The steps contain great wisdom and when applied can be life-changing.
  • The traditions provide a focus when so many groups meld into activist or advocacy campaigns.
  • The social contact with others who understand their version of your pain can be supportive.
  • The reliance on a “higher power,” although often criticized, is necessary for any lasting change in the human psyche.

Jack’s observations also led to other conclusions:

  • Many come, most leave.
  • Many who stay continue to dwell on their pain, if the group sharing and individual stories are valid indicators.
  • Some of the encouragement can become trite. “Work the program” seems to be a catch-all response to virtually every need.
  • Some people, like his mother, are never able to share their pain publicly, yet the enthusiasm of the crowd seems to pressure them in that direction. So they leave.
  • Some groups seem to have a somewhat morbid fascination in who could share the most outrageous story.

As the years passed, Jack became even more fascinated with the people who left than with those who stayed. The standard group response of “still in denial” seemed to him to be a little hasty. The group-think was that if someone truly reached the realization that they were an alcoholic or that a family or friend was alcoholic and they needed help in dealing with it, then participation in the 12-step group was axiomatic.

Yet every year, dozens of new people came to local groups and almost as many left still searching for some relief and hope.

Jack began seeking out every newcomer at any meeting; to make them feel welcome and to encourage them to come back.

In doing that, Jack met Chuck – a grizzled septuagenarian – at one of the open meetings. Jack was struck by two things regarding Chuck: one, his simple self-introduction of “I’m Chuck, a sober alcoholic for forty-seven years;” and two, the simple, radiant joy on Chuck’s face.

Jack made sure that Chuck understood that he was himself a visitor and that his active involvement was in the “family of” program. Chuck accepted that with a simple question, “Why are  you here?”

When Jack explained his higher interest in why people left over why they came, Chuck said, “I think I’d like to buy you a cup of coffee at the diner down the street.”

Jack accepted and shortly they found themselves sitting at a table along the back wall of the diner with steaming cups of coffee between them. There were several other people from the 12-step meeting, but the table afforded enough privacy.

Chuck began to share his story with Jack.

“I’m not one who easily gets up and showcases my faults. I acknowledge them; and daily I deal with them; but I don’t like public displays of martyrdom.” He laughed, “You’ve just learned all you’re going to learn about my addiction.”

“I go to lots of meetings and I don’t consider myself a member of any single group. I take a lot of road trips to visit other meetings. I’m always looking for that one person, if any, who wants to know more about the program’s failures, not its successes. You qualified yourself when you told me of your interest in the people who left.

“I love the 12-step programs; but honest people will have to admit that the power of the program is one of mind-control. We teach people to say the slogans, meditate on the writings, call their sponsors, and above all to “work the program” which is to say, meditate, and call. I’m not saying that’s bad; those are just the facts of life in 12-step.”

“For people responsive to this form of mind control, the programs work.”

“For people too ornery, too stubborn, too educated, or too sophisticated, the program will never work. You have to be a little pliable. And my, never-to-be-documented guess is that the stubbornness group is a small percentage of those who leave for the second reason.”

“Like you, Jack, I made a habit of always meeting the new people. I got to the point that I could see the depth of pain in their eyes or the defeated slope of their shoulders and say to myself ‘That one won’t be here long.’”

“You see, 12-step programs require that you face your pain. So you ‘work the program.’ When the pain builds up, you call your chosen sponsor and he or she tells you to ‘work the program.’”

“The dated materials for both groups tell us again and again that negative thoughts will be stirred up and the solution is to ‘work the program’.”

“For many people, thinking about the hurt is too painful to face; and the easiest solution is to return to the drinking or the denial.”

Jack was curious. “Are you saying that we don’t have anything to help the people who get overwhelmed thinking about their pain?”

“That’s exactly what I’m saying, Jack. As good as our programs are, we are discouraged from using materials other than the officially endorsed books, pamphlets, and publications. So I share the Thirteenth Step for those who can’t deal with their pain with slogans, sponsors, and social contact.”

“Okay! You have definitely piqued my curiosity,” Jack pressed. “What is the Thirteenth Step?”

“It may be too simple for some people to embrace and apply to their lives. Formally stated, the Thirteenth Step says ‘I commit that whenever painful thoughts pop up in my mind, I will consistently say out loud to myself, ‘I will not think about that’. When the thought returns, say out loud again, ‘I will not think about that’.”

“If people use the Thirteenth Step consistently, they will find that the negative thinking comes less and less until it becomes insignificant to us. The fact is that we’re just built to handle negative thinking that way!”

As Chuck talked, Jack began to think of how much the Thirteenth Step could have helped his mother in her own search for peace through the “family and friends” 12-step program.

“Jack, I am living proof that the Thirteenth Step works. After I had gone to a half-dozen or so meetings, I was frustrated. Every time I started ‘working the program,’ my mind would begin to churn with all the hurts I had suffered, the hurts I had caused and the excuses I was making, you know, the typical mind clutter that all of us have, that I would get totally distracted from the program and totally involved with my negative thinking. Can you identify with that?”

He continued without waiting for my answer, “An old gentleman, a WWI vet, came up to me much like you came up to me tonight and asked if he could help me get through my negative thinking. We ended up sitting over a cup of coffee and he shared with me what he call the Thirteenth Step. That step has eased my way through this program for the past forty-seven years. It helped me so much that since then, I have shared the Thirteenth Step with people like yourself in every state in the Union and most of the Canadian provinces.”

“I asked a friend who knows something about computers to create an online course to teach the concept and provide the accountability to make the step a reality for anyone wants more personal peace. In just weeks, you can be free of most emotional pain and negative thinking. Then you can devote your peaceful thinking to solving your real life issues and living the other 12 steps.”

“I’m passing it along to you, Jack. Many old hands in 12-step groups resist ideas like this. I encourage you to keep looking for inquiring minds and share it with people who are truly seeking help. We have this tool already in each of us and all it needs is to be used. The online course shows us how to do that.

Jack and Chuck talked until the diner closed. He sensed that he would never see Chuck again; but he also sensed that Chuck had accomplished exactly what he came to town to do. He passed along the Thirteenth Step.

The end.

This fictional story introduces a principle that has been around for thousands of years. In addition to the Bible, philosophers like Confucius, Marcus Aurelius, Shakespeare, and others have written or spoken about our wonderful capacity to train ourselves not to ruminate on negative thoughts in order to minimize the effects of emotional or even physical pain in our lives..

Children as well as adults can easily understand the simple Thirteenth Step. The principles work for many negative emotions that result from almost any negative thinking.

 This concept is explained fully in an online eCourse called Finding Personal Peacehttp://findingpersonalpeace.com. The course leads you through these life principles and also covers topics like making good decisions, and dealing with serious stuff like death, illness, abuse, and addiction.

The eCourse leads one through a process of turning the habits of negative emotions into the habits of peace, freedom, and serenity.

You can read other short stories on life issues by searching the category, Short Stories, at the right. You can start with the course today and begin to find more personal peace in your life immediately.

All the best.

Copyright 2014 findingpersonalpeace.com. Birmingham, Al USA. All rights reserved.

Brenda’s Story – Playing the Blame Game

“Yourself to Blame.”

If things go bad for youBrenda's Story - Playing the Blame Game

And make you a bit ashamed

Often you will find out that

You have yourself to blame

 

Swiftly we ran to mischief

And then the bad luck came

Why do we fault others?

We have ourselves to blame

 

Whatever happens to us,

Here is what we say

“Had it not been for so-and-so

Things wouldn’t have gone that way.”

 

And if you are short of friends,

I’ll tell you what to do

Make an examination,

You’ll find the faults in you…

 

You’re the captain of your ship,

So agree with the same

If you travel downward

You have yourself to blame

 

Author: Mayme White Miller

Be inspired. Look beyond the blame and let no distract you from your goals, nor convince you otherwise.

Source: FOX NEWS INSIDER

 

Brenda was packing. She’d been at it all morning and had to leave in an hour; but her packing kept being interrupted by sometimes angry, always sad, and sometimes wistful thoughts that swirled through her mind.

She’d found herself sitting on the edge of the bed wondering why Marsha, her best friend from junior high had invited her back to the 40-year class reunion of the class in which she and Marsha would have graduated together had her father not dragged her away from the life she knew to a life that with which she never completely identified. She blamed her father, long dead, for the lifetime of pain that she had suffered because he wanted to start a new business 800 miles away from the town where she and Marsha had lived.

Brenda and Marsha had been Christmas-card and birth-announcement close for the past 45 years. Life had become too busy and too complicated to be any closer than that. She had little desire to see child-hood friends, but Marsha had been so insistent in her invitation and on the phone. “It would be so good to reconnect,” she’d encouraged.

There was an arrival drinks party on Thursday night. She’d need a nice slightly-more-than-casual pants and blouse outfit for that.

Brenda never quite got over blaming her father for his decision; and blaming her mother for being so weak as to let him put everything they owned on the line for his pipe dream. Hardly a day passed that she didn’t spend at least a few minutes in an emotional battle with her father, her mother, or both. Depending on what else was going on in her life, her emotions could range from smoldering hurt to outright rage.

Brenda had never made any real friends in high school and college. The town where they moved was so into Southern heritage and “being part of the right family” and Brenda had neither the heritage nor the family. So she spent a lot of time on the outside looking in.

Every party that she spent standing by the wall watching other kids have fun was the direct result of her father being so mean and stupid as to move the family without considering what it would do to all of them, especially Brenda.

She had no expectations that this reunion would be any different, but Marsha was so persuasive. And Brenda’s kids had thought she should go back home for the weekend, so here she was packing.

Friday’s events included a golf outing, shopping, and an informal dinner in the evening. So she needed to pack daytime casual and something a little dressy for the dinner. Brenda had no interest in the shopping, so when Marsha suggested renting a golf-cart and riding along as others played golf, she’d agreed to do that. Marsha said it would give them lots of time to “catch up.”

Robert had loved golf. Brenda had met Robert in college and married him 4 months out of college. She had no idea why he’d fallen in love with her. She’d never been really happy. She had blamed him secretly for her unhappiness. She didn’t understand why she had felt that way toward him. She was unhappy and it had to be somebody’s fault.  Robert had been totally devoted to her and had provided a good life for her and their son and daughter. He’d also been thoroughly entranced by their grandchildren. That had ended with his heart attack four years ago. So the golf outing with Marsha would be sort of a memorial to Robert, even though she blamed him for leaving her alone.

She’d often wondered why he stayed with her because her kids certainly didn’t. Well it wasn’t that bad, she thought. Both kids lived within an hour, just in different directions. They just didn’t visit her very often. It had always been Robert and Brenda visiting them instead of the other way around. The fact the she was often moody and bitchy (her choice of words) made life hard on her family. As soon as the kids left for college, time together became occasional weekends and holidays.

Robert had always gone to church, but Brenda seldom went. She didn’t think she fit in very well with the church crowd. They’d always gone to church when she was a child and she had lots of friends there. When they’d moved, they had tried church. She still remembered all the faces turning and looking at the weird people from up north as they walked in and took their seats.

That same “outside” feeling persisted throughout high school and college. There were times when she acknowledged that she could have been more friendly; but mostly, they didn’t want her there and she didn’t want to be there; and why did they have to be that away?

Her father’s business venture failed and they lost just about everything but their home. So there wasn’t any money to go back north for college, the out-of-state tuition and travel costs being prohibitive. So she went to an in-state school. It wasn’t too bad, but her shyness and moodiness made it easier for people to have other friends. The frustrating thing was that she had had lots of friends before they moved; and her father destroyed all that; and her mother had let him get away with it.

Robert and Brenda had done okay financially, but the memory of her father’s failure made her worry all the time about going broke. She shared her fears often with Robert and his assurances were never quite enough. She blamed Robert for her worries about money.

She’d told Marsha that she would really like to spend Saturday morning driving around and seeing the town she remembered. Marsha agreed with that and suggested some nice places for lunch. There was a tour of the old school scheduled for Saturday afternoon.

There was a dinner-dance scheduled for Saturday evening and she’d need to pack something dressy for that. She pulled open her lingerie drawer and decided that was absolutely no need to pack anything other than the white utility pieces. She certainly had no black-lace expectations about the dinner-dance.

Marsha met her at the airport about 5:30 and took her to her hotel. The cocktail party was at the hotel so they had a nice time visiting with a lot of old friends. Marsha apparently had prepped everyone about inviting Brenda because not one person asked why she was there since she was not actually part of the graduating class of 1970.

Marsha was twice-divorced and declared that her life was complete with her two daughters, handsome sons-in-law, and the five, delightful grandchildren. She had absolutely no interest in another romantic relationship at this stage of her life, she laughingly shared.

This attitude puzzled Brenda. How could Marsha be so light-hearted and happy considering her history?

Friday was a beautiful day and after lunch Marsha had driven them out to the country club where they arranged for a golf cart to follow the golfing crowd. Brenda was more and more intrigued how Marsha was so happy and jovial with everybody!

After an hour, Brenda steered the cart over to the little bluff overlooking the lake and they found some comfortable park benches and sat down for the talk Brenda had been planning to have all morning.

“How can you be so upbeat with your life: two divorces and everything else?” she asked.

Marsha’s quick reply was, “I just don’t think about it.”

“You don’t think about it! It happened to you, not once, but twice! How can you not think about it? I can’t help but think about the things people have done to me!”

“I have too many blessings to think about,” Marsha replied. “I don’t have time to mess up my life thinking about stuff that will only make me unhappy.”

Brenda didn’t reply, so Marsha asked her, “What do you think about most of the time.”

Thinking for a moment, Brenda answered, “When I’m busy, I think about what I’m doing. But when I have time on my hands, which I have a lot of these days, I tend to think about how my father destroyed my life by moving us away from here; and about how my mother let him do it. I think about Robert dying and leaving me alone. I think about worrying about money so much. I think about my kids not having any time for me anymore.”

“And how does all that thinking make you feel?” Marsha asked.

“It makes me miserable, to tell the truth. I sometimes get so worked up that I have to take a sleeping pill to get to sleep.” As if on a roll, she continued, “It causes me lots of anxiety and stress. I’m such a bitch sometimes that people don’t want to be around me. Then I blame them for being so stuck-up and judgmental. If they only knew how much I’ve suffered in life, they would be more sympathetic.”

“If thinking all those negative thoughts makes you so miserable, to use your word, then why do you think those thoughts?

Brenda shot back, more emotionally than she intended, “Why do I think about the negative thoughts? They’re the history of my life. How can I NOT think them?”

Marsha smiled warmly, “Whenever one of those negative thoughts pops into your mind, you can simply say “I will not think about that.”

Brenda almost shouted, “That’s the stupidest thing I ever heard!”

Marsha waited for Brenda to calm down and then said gently, “Let me tell you my story.”

“When my first husband walked out on me for a younger model after twenty-five years of marriage, two children and, at the time three grandchildren, I was furious and I made sure that everybody knew how furious and hurt I was. I was able to calm down after some years and during that time I met husband number two.”

“But every time I saw number one at a family event with yet another bimbo on his arm, I’d get furious all over again blaming him for all my pain.”

“After three years, husband number two told me that he had better things to do with his life than listen to a bitch complain about her first husband; so he left me. And he had the nerve to blame it on me.”

“So I became double trouble as a bitch. My girls stopped coming around, my friends at church deserted me, and I had nothing left but work and misery.”

“My Aunt Annie, since deceased, was in assisted living and I visited her one day. She was sharp as a tack; she just couldn’t walk and take care of herself any longer. I had just gotten off the phone trying to plan something with my daughters and they were using every excuse in the book to avoid being with me. I guess I was wearing my emotions on my sleeve when I walked in Aunt Annie’s door.”

“My ever-direct Aunt Annie nailed me after about five minutes. ‘I’ve known you since I changed your diapers all those years ago and I’ve never seen you this wrought up. Do you want to tell me what’s going on in your life?’”

“So I told her. When I’d finished, she asked me the same question I just asked you, ‘If those thoughts make you unhappy, why do you think them?’”

“I answered exactly the same way you did; ‘How can I not think about them?’”

Aunt Annie shared with me what she called a simple and effective Rule for Peace that she said had served her well for most of her ninety-two years.

She told me that whenever a negative thought pops into my mind, I should say out loud to myself, “I will not think about that.” Then I go ahead with what I’m doing. If the thought pops up again, I should say again, out loud, “I will not think about that.” I can say it softly, but I must say it out load to myself.

She told me that if I was in a social situation where it would be awkward to say it out loud, I could simply use my hand as if covering a cough and say it into my hand, “I will not think about that.”

She told me that I wouldn’t notice much difference at first. But she promised me that if I would dismiss my negative thoughts consistently, it will make all the difference in the world to me emotionally.

She then challenged me to keep a calendar of dismissing my thoughts. I should make a note on the calendar each day of how many times I had said, “I will not think about that.”

She also said that since she got lonely at the home, I should visit or call her at least once a week and tell her the numbers I’d written on my thought calendar.

“Skeptical, I left and had the opportunity to say the phrase in my car leaving the parking lot; and several other times before I got home. I made the notations in my calendar like Aunt Annie suggested.”

“Brenda, I have to tell you that I was amazed to see the numbers on my calendar. By the end of the first week, I was saying the phrase half as often as when I started. And more amazingly, I discovered that I was thinking more positive thoughts, not because I necessarily wanted to, but because I have the emotional peace where I could think about other things.”

“I faithfully reported to Aunt Annie every week but after about four weeks, we didn’t talk about my negative thoughts anymore. Each of my visits was filled with all sorts of stories about my family and the life that Aunt Annie had lived. What joy and peace!”

“When she died three years ago, I felt like I’d lost a dear friend, but more than that, I knew I have been given a priceless gift – the gift of personal peace.”

“Do you see why I wanted so much for you to come to this reunion? I had sensed that you were lacking peace and I wanted to share Aunt Annie’s Rule for Peace with you. I’ll tell you this, if you hadn’t come up here this weekend, I would have invited myself down to see you in a matter of weeks.”

“This is a fact, Brenda, You can experience personal peace in your life and it will make a world of difference to you!”

Marsha reached in her bag and gave me a card with Aunt Annie’s Rule for Peace and challenge on it.

“Brenda, I promise you this works because it worked for me. I predict that before I finish this sentence, you’ll be thinking to yourself, ‘This will never work for me. My problems are too bad.’ That needs to be the first time you say to yourself, ‘I will not think about that.’

At the dinner-dance that night, Brenda felt like a giddy teenager sharing a secret when she discovered how many times she discreetly covered a fake cough and said to herself, “I will not think about that.” She had a great time visiting with childhood friends and even sharing a few dances with some of the guys from the past. Each time she faked the cough, she would glance a Marsha and share a eye-smile.

At the Sunday brunch and later on the way to the airport, she thanked Marsha for caring enough to share Aunt Annie’s Rule for Peace. She truly felt optimism and hope for the first time in forty-five years; and that was a blessing.

The end.

This fictional story introduces a principle that has been around for thousands of years. In addition to the Bible, philosophers like Confucius, Marcus Aurelius, Shakespeare, and others have written or spoken about our wonderful capacity to train ourselves not to ruminate on negative thoughts and to minimize the effects of emotional or physical pain in our lives. The danger of ruminating on emotional pain is, in addition to more pain, stress, depression, anxiety, emotional issues, and worse.

Children as well as adults can easily understand the simple Rule for Peace that will work for many negative emotions that result from almost any negative thinking.

 This concept is explained fully in an online eCourse called Finding Personal Peacehttp://findingpersonalpeace.com. The course leads you through these life principles and also covers topics like making good decisions, and dealing with serious stuff like death, illness, abuse, and addiction.

The eCourse leads one through a process of turning the habits of negative emotions into the habits of peace and freedom. You can read other short stories on life issues by searching the category, Short Stories, at the right. You can start with the course today and begin to find more personal peace in your life immediately.

All the best.

Copyright 2014 findingpersonalpeace.com. Birmingham, Al USA. All rights reserved.

 

Mary’s Story – The Pain of Childlessness

Desires of a Barren Woman By Emily Hurd

Mary’s Story – The Pain of ChildlessnessA lifetime longing for life in one’s belly
is not a joyful life.
The most wonderful love can’t fill this void
no matter how hard he may try.
For what sin am I punished,
That I may never enjoy,
clinging to my breast, a blonde haired baby boy?
To know the love of a sweet child,
and the feeling of being whole-
These are the things I’ve always wanted to know.

Mary sat at her dressing table and brushed her hair carefully as she had most nights of her 57 years. She smiled as she looked in the mirror; and, she liked what she saw. She was wearing the nightgown that Joe had given her on their 2nd honeymoon five years ago.

Joe was out walking Gilbert and Sullivan, their adopted mutts. He didn’t know it yet, but when he got home, he was going to get “lucky.”

As she brushed, the mirror carried her back over the years as it often did. But the memories weren’t painful anymore. They were just the building blocks that made her life so special now.

She and Joe had grown up in devoutly Catholic homes just a few blocks apart. They had both gone to the same parochial school; then she had gone to the girl’s high school and Joe had gone to the boy’s high school. They were dear friends all through high school. Their lives were good in those days.

During college, they had dated more seriously and began to plan a future together. They were both going to work for two or three years to build up their nest egg and then start their family. Both wanted lots of kids because that was how they had grown up – big families, with lots of friends around all the time.

Theirs was the first wedding among their college circles; and there were lots more over the next few years. Weddings were always fun and offered such hope for the future for all of them.

Mary kept working after they started trying to have a baby in earnest.

Before long their married friends were expecting their first children. Mary and Joe were excited for them.

Then some of those couples started having their second child. Mary was still excited but a little anxiety started to creep in.

Family dinners were beginning to have the stigma of Aunt Mary and Uncle Joe. She truly loved and enjoyed their nieces and nephews but loving them didn’t fill the growing dread of her being unable to have her own child.

After a few more years, Mary convinced Joe that they should at least get a medical evaluation to see if there was a reason they could not conceive. They did several times; and the results were always the same: no apparent medical or physical reason on the part of the male or female that would prohibit or inhibit conception.

The root of bitterness

Mary found it easier to send regrets to invitations from other couples than it was to feel the pain in her heart as she sat and listened to them chatter on about their children. Oh, they tried to be kind, but it was natural for them to talk about what meant most to them: their children.

Mary and Joe were both advancing with their jobs. Joe was in sales with a well-established regional company and Mary was in human resources with an national company. Money wasn’t an issue but Mary read somewhere that stress could be an issue in conception. She was able to get a 12-month leave of absence to try to relieve the work-related stress.

Unfortunately, she was reminded every time they tried that she had to get pregnant in 12 months; then 11 months; and so on; or she would have to return to work without any a baby to come home to.

It hurt a lot when she was reminded each month that she was not yet pregnant. She took to her bed with a bigger burden of pain than her regular monthly discomfort.

They tried all the infertility treatments that church doctrine allowed with no success. There was a lot of embarrassment and a lot of dignity and money spent in these attempts.

Joe traveled a lot in his job and Mary began to look forward to the nights he would be away. She could be free to cry or scream or curse at all the unfairness they were suffering.

It was getting to the point that seeing a pregnant woman or a woman with her children in the mall would cause her to clinch her jaw and taste the bile rising in her throat.

Drinking and drugs were so repulsive to her that she wasn’t tempted to use them to mask her pain.

Instead, she would take to her bed, curl into a fetal position, and clutch the pain within her as if her womb was aching for the baby it would never carry.

She could get through the weekdays because work was a sufficient distraction. Nights and weekends were awful.

Mary didn’t know who to blame.

Some nights she blamed herself; other nights she blamed Joe. The most painful nights were the ones when she blamed God; her guilt was overwhelming.

Confession didn’t help. The priest would tell her to remain true to God and do the appropriate penance but nothing would ever really take the pain away.

She finally decided that she was never going to bear a child; but that didn’t ease the pain of the loss she felt continuously.

Joe suggested adoption but she had no desire whatsoever to adopt. She wanted a baby to form in her own body, to birth it, and then watch it grow up; something like all their brothers and sisters were enjoying.

They started another round of weddings with nieces and nephews; and another round of pain at the prospects of the newlyweds against the impossibilities in her own life.

Over time, she had lost all desire for Joe and he had reluctantly moved to the bedroom down the hall. She obeyed the church edict in her spousal duties; but the church couldn’t make her enjoy it.

The day came when she told Joe that she had taken a promotion with her company that would require her to move to the home office in the mid-west. She didn’t want Joe to move with her.

Joe was dismayed and explained that he understood her lack of desire for him but he didn’t understand why she wanted a separation. He committed his love to her and reminded her that he had promised twenty years before to stand by her “for better and for worse.”

If she needed to move, he wouldn’t stand in her way, but as far as he was concerned, they were still married.

His commitment to her actually made her feel more guilty, but she didn’t let on. They’d both done a lot of acting over the years, especially Mary.

They explained the separation on her job and the demands of his career; and family and friends accepted it with appropriate sympathy for both Mary and Joe.

Making Changes

Mary got settled in her new apartment and plunged into her new job. She felt a little more peace due to the excitement of making a change. Days were busy but the nights were still filled with more of the same pain and longing.

She still felt the same despair when she saw women with their children. There was a park across from her apartment and most evenings she cried as she sat on her balcony listening to the children laughing and playing in the park; knowing that she would never hear the laughter of her own child.

Professionals had told her years before that she needed medication for her anxiety but she had always refused. She didn’t like having to take pills just to live her life.

There was a church a few blocks from her apartment and she decided to go to Mass one Saturday after she had been there a few months.

She looked forward to the mass and she went early so she could have confession and take the sacraments. The priest listened as she described her anger and pain. Then he said something very strange.

He absolved her and told her that an appropriate penance would be for her to look into Hannah’s Sisters. She could find a brochure in a rack in the narthex.

Mary learned that Hannah’s Sisters was a group for women who were living through emotional pain regardless of the source of the pain.

The original group was for barren women and was named for Hannah, the barren woman who made a vow to give her child to God if he would give her a son. God honored her request and her son, Samuel, lived to become a great prophet and high priest for Israel. You can read Hannah’s story here.

The brochure had contact information. When Mary awoke the next morning after another night of tossing and turning, she decided to call the woman.

She called that evening and they made an appointment to meet for coffee the next day.

Margaret, the Hannah’s Sisters leader, was waiting for Mary. They got their coffee and found a place where they could talk undisturbed.

After exchanging pleasantries, Mary asked her about the group.

Margaret explained that there were only three members at the present time.

Mary asked, “Why are there so few members? Surely there are more women hurting around here than that.”

”Of course, there are,” Margaret replied, “but we don’t keep them around for long.”

“What do you mean!”

“Mary, we’re not a social club. Women don’t use us to provide an on-going social function like so many self-help groups. We want to help women overcome their pain, and when they do that, they can make the appropriate decisions to be reconciled with their families and friends.”

“I’m not sure I understand,” Mary said doubtfully.

“Mary, if there were a way that you could be free of your emotional pain in just a few weeks, would you be interested in knowing more about that?”

“Of course,” Mary answered, “but I doubt that’s possible after what I’ve gone through.”

“Mary, we care a whole lot more about where you want to go than about where you’ve been. In fact, we will never ask you about the source of your pain. If you want to learn about a simple and effective way to be free from your pain, whatever is causing it, come by the parish hall tomorrow night at seven o’clock and we’ll explain everything to you.”

The next evening, Mary joined Margaret and three other women on couches in a small room off the parish hall.

After introductions, Margaret explained that every week they review the three Life Principles and share their progress. She explained that they never talk about their problems because dwelling on past hurts always makes the hurt worse.

Most emotional pain is caused by rumination. In many cases, the original cause of the pain occurred far in the past. And if the pain is ongoing and there is no solution to the problem, then ruminating on it can cause more anxiety with inevitably leads to stress, depression and even physical pain.

She explained that the life principles they teach offer an easy way, that anyone can use, to deal with the negative thoughts that cause so much emotional pain.

“You asked yesterday, ‘why so few members?’”, Mary reminded her. “We’ve had over two hundred members over the years; but as they become successful in applying these principles in their lives, they don’t need us any more. So currently, we only have three members; four, if you want to join us.”

Mary nodded and Margaret went on to explain the three principles.

Three Life Principles

Life Principle 1 – Whenever a thought enters your mind that makes you angry, sad, or bitter, you simply say to yourself out loud, “I will not think about that.” When the thought comes back, and it will, you say it again, “I will not think about that.”

“If you prefer, which I do, you can say “I take this thought captive,” because that phrase comes right out of the Bible.

Each time we dismiss a thought, the thought is compelled to go away because that’s the way we are made. We own our thoughts and we do not have to think about anything that hurts us.

Margaret explained that this idea had been around for thousands of years. “We simply do not have to let negative thoughts control our lives,” she said.

She explained that each time we “take a painful thought captive,” we create a little bit of peaceful space in our emotions. As you take more negative thoughts captive, you create more peaceful space.

“The reason this works so well is Life Principle 2.”

Life Principle 2 – When you consistently practice the first principle, negative thoughts will pop up less and less often until you really don’t think about them at all.

She explained that we all have a part of our mind, called the subconscious, which has the role of helping us be happy and content. If our subconscious thinks that we are happy thinking about negative things and getting all worked up all the time, it will keep feeding us those negative thoughts so we can be happy.

But if our subconscious hears us saying “I take this thought captive” consistently, it concludes over time that we don’t really want to think about those things and it will stop sending those negative thoughts to us. It’s like our subconscious blocks those negative thoughts automatically.

Doing this consistently replaces your habits of anger, sadness, or bitterness with a new habit of peace.

Life Principle 3 – Use your habit of peace to make the best decisions for you and your future. She explained that this is true freedom: the freedom to do what we need to do when we need to do it to become the best that we can be.

When we’re not spending all our time thinking about painful things, we have peace. We can use this peaceful time to think about ways to get along better with others, to do the right things, and to reconcile with our loved ones.

Margaret said that she’s sure these principles work because she has shared them with women for over 20 years. She said they all have learned to break their habits of anger, bitterness, victimhood, or whatever and create new habits of peace.

Margaret handed Mary a card. The card had the Three Life Principles on one side and blocks for each day of the week on the back. She explained, “Every time a negative thought pops into your mind, I want you to say out loud to yourself, ‘I will not think about that’ or ‘I take this thought captive.’” If you’re someplace where it would be weird speaking out loud, put your hand over your mouth like you’re covering a cough and say softly, ‘I take this thought captive.’

“Then put a check card in the block every time you dismiss one of your negative thoughts. Each week when we meet, we review how each of you is doing. I predict by the end of four or five weeks, you will be making very few check marks on the card because the Life Principle 2 will be taking effect in your life. The question now is, ‘Will you do this?’”

Mary must have looked a little skeptical because Margaret suggested,”Mary, I suspect that you have a negative thought right now telling you that this stupid idea will never work for you. This is a good place to start taking it captive.”

Each of the women shared her results of taking their thoughts captive for the previous week. Each had fewer negative thoughts that the week before. One girl, who was in her seventh week said this was her second week with no negative thoughts at all.

Still skeptical, Mary said to herself several times driving home and that evening, “I take this thought captive.” Each time, the thought went away briefly.

When the painful thoughts of childlessness barged in like they did every night, Mary took them captive out loud. She was amazed when each thought went away. They came back, like Margaret said they would and she took them captive again. After doing this several more times over the next half hour, Mary dropped off to sleep; the first time in years she had done so without crying.

The weeks passed quickly. Mary made good progress and she was excited as the number of negative thoughts diminished daily.

Mary found she had time to think about Joe and about the fact that she would never have children.

She called Joe one week and asked if she could come home that weekend; she had something to tell him. Joe was definitely puzzled; but he readily agreed to pick her up at the airport on Friday.

After freshening up at their house, Joe took her to her favorite restaurant and they enjoyed a very nice meal. Over dessert and coffee, she explained to Joe what she had been doing at Hannah’s Sisters.

She told Joe that she was at peace with the fact that she would never be a mother. And she then asked Joe to forgive her for all the pain she had caused him over the years. With tears in his eyes, Joe forgave her and asked her to come back home to him.

Her heart was full as Joe paid the check and they walked to the car. For the first time in years, she was actually enjoying being with her husband; and her heart was doubly full that God had given her a faithful husband who had continued to love her in spite of the trouble she had given him.

Out of habit, Joe started down the hall to his room until Mary touched his arm and said, “Joe, will you sleep in our room tonight?”

It took a few weeks to ease out of her position at headquarters and for a spot to open back in the office where in their home town; but the company made it happen for her.

She used that time to talk with Margaret about making Hannah’s Sisters a formal, legal organization that could expand into a number of locations where its alumni were living. Almost without exception, the women who had learned to live without pain were eager to share the Three Life Principles with other women.

She heard the front door open and Gilbert and Sullivan scampered across the living room and kitchen to their beds in the mud room. She heard Joe start down the hall. Joe may be lucky tonight, but Mary dimmed the lights thinking about how lucky and truly blessed she was – she was free of pain after hurting for years and she was helping other women find their freedom, too.

The end.

This fictional story introduces a principle that has been around for thousands of years. In addition to the Bible, philosophers like Confucius, Marcus Aurelius, Shakespeare, and others have written or spoken about our wonderful capacity to train ourselves not to ruminate on negative thoughts and to minimize the effects of emotional or physical pain in our lives. The danger of ruminating on emotional pain is, in addition to more pain, stress, depression, anxiety, emotional issues, and worse.

Children as well as adults can easily understand the simple Three Life Principles. The principles work for many negative emotions that result from almost any negative thinking.

 This concept is explained fully in an online eCourse called Finding Personal Peacehttp://findingpersonalpeace.com. The course leads you through these life principles and also covers topics like making good decisions, and dealing with serious stuff like death, illness, abuse, and addiction.

The eCourse leads one through a process of turning the habits of negative emotions into the habits of peace and freedom. You can read other short stories on life issues by searching the category, Short Stories, at the right. You can start with the course today and begin to find more personal peace in your life immediately.

All the best.

Copyright 2014 findingpersonalpeace.com. Birmingham, Al USA. All rights reserved.

Jimmy’s Story – Finding Freedom Behind Bars

Jimmy’s Story – Finding Freedom Behind BarsJimmy was hustling around the kitchen of his home outside Watertown. He was getting breakfast ready while his wife, Jackie, helped Jared get dressed down the hall. Hearing Jackie leading Jared through picking his shirt, pants, and socks always brought a smile to Jimmy. He felt so incredibly blessed with Jackie and doubly so with Jared.

There could hardly be two people with more contrast in their lives than he and Jackie.

Jackie grew up in a totally loving home here in town with her parents, two sisters and a brother. They all lived in or near Watertown and all went to the same church. Jared loved to play with his five cousins: four older than him and one younger. Jared was three.

Jimmy’s Life

By contrast, Jimmy had grown up in a city across the state, on the coast. He could not remember a single time that his family – father, mother, or older brother, Buddy – ever sat down at the same table to eat together.

His father would never have even picked up a utensil or a pan in the kitchen. His MO was storming into the kitchen, slamming the door, grabbing a beer from the refrigerator, and blasting a string of curses toward Jimmy’s mother demanding to know why his supper wasn’t ready. It didn’t matter if his plate was already filled and waiting for him.

When he got through yelling, he would grab his plate, swear some more, and stalk into the den to eat in front of the TV. Woe be it to the boys if his TV tray wasn’t already set up in front of his chair.

Jimmy and Buddy would silently fill their plates and go down the hall to their room to eat. His mother usually ate standing in the kitchen.

His father would yell for another beer and then curse his mother because she was too slow in bringing it to him.

His father worked at the auto plant. His mother rarely got out of the house except to go to the market the day after payday when she would find $50 on the kitchen counter when she came down to fix breakfast for the boys. He didn’t know where his father ate breakfast but he figured he started his day at a diner near the plant over a wake-up beer with his buddies.

Buddy was six years older than Jimmy and the fact that they shared a room was about the only thing they had in common. Despite that, Jimmy absolutely worshiped his brother; and Buddy seemed to really care about his little brother.

Buddy graduated high school when Jimmy finished sixth grade; and immediately enlisted in the Army. When Jimmy asked why Buddy had to leave, Buddy sat him down on the bed, with a hand on each shoulder and said, “Jimmy, if I have to live another day looking at that son-of-b****, I swear I’ll kill him. I have to get out of here and the Army’s the best way to do it. Know what I mean?”

Jimmy understood, sort of, but he felt really alone with Buddy gone. Every day fell into a miserable routine: school, home, chores (grass cutting in summer and shoveling snow in winter) and trying to stay out of his father’s way.

Jimmy cared about his mother, but there was nothing he could do if she didn’t have the desire to do something on her own about the old man.

The bottom dropped out of Jimmy’s world when the Army men came to their door that day in Jimmy’s eighth grade. Buddy’s vehicle had run over an IED and his body came home in a box under a flag. Going to the church for the funeral mass was the first time Jimmy had been a church since he was little. His mother was faithful, but his father said it was stupid for the boys to go to church and wouldn’t let them go with her.

His contempt for his father plummeted to new lows and Jimmy counted the days to his sixteenth birthday when he could legally leave school and leave home. He knew some of Buddy’s younger friends and he moved in with two of them.

Jimmy supported himself, sort of, by making sandwiches in delis and working odd jobs. He managed to stay fairly clean and even managed to save up enough money to buy an old car to go with the driver’s license he’d gotten shortly after he was eighteen and no longer needed a guardian’s signature.

He discovered that he was a lot more popular now that he had some wheels. There were always friends who wanted rides to work and to parties.

His days were pretty predictable: Work at whatever job he had at the moment; hang with a few friends; and try like the hardest to avoid driving back to his mother’s house and beating the tar out of his miserable father. He was a very angry young man.

Yet he had some basic values and there were things he wouldn’t do, including drugs and drinking. The same couldn’t always be said for some of his friends.

Then came the day when he was pulled over on Prospect Avenue with three other guys in his car. One of the others was smarting off a little to the cop and before they knew it, the four of them were lined up being frisked and wearing handcuffs.

When the cop’s backup came, they searched Jimmy’s car and found a bag with some crack cocaine under the seat. Jimmy had no idea how it got there.

The real problem, as the district attorney explained it the next day, was that two of Jimmy’s passengers were only sixteen; all his passengers denied knowing anything about the crack; and since there were over three grams of the stuff and it was in his car, he was being charged with a class C felony of possession and with contributing to the delinquency of a minor. The possession had a sentence of up to five years and the sentence for contributing could be up to twenty years.

Nobody seemed to care that Jimmy didn’t know anything about the drugs. Before he knew what was happening, his attorney had worked out a deal with the prosecutor for Jimmy to plead guilty to the possession and spend five years in a minimum-security prison. The contributing charge would be dropped. He told Jimmy that if he went to trial he could get up to twenty years in a general prison; and no eighteen-year-old wanted to do that.

He didn’t know that his old man wouldn’t even let his mother come to see him in jail; and the next month, Jimmy was transferred to the state prison near Watertown without having seen her.

Jimmy was incredibly angry. He’d lost Buddy, his so-called friends had lied on him, and his mother didn’t care about him to be with him in court. He was totally discouraged when the prison van pulled through the gates of Watertown State Prison.

Prison Life

Jimmy was able to learn the rules and move into prison life fairly easily. He’d always had a knack for getting along with people; with the exception of his old man; but in his case the knack for avoidance.

Even though Jimmy was angry, he was smart enough to know that getting along with the system was better than trying to fight it.

Jimmy had to meet regularly with the prison psychologist and he really had problems with that. The man wanted him to talk about his childhood, about his family, and about Buddy. Every time Jimmy started talking, he would get overwhelmed with anger. So instead of opening up, he just clinched up, shut up and sat there.

They gave Jimmy a job working in the prison kitchen and paid him 15 cents an hour that he could use in the prison store once a week.

They had a GED program and Jimmy decided to use his free time to finish high school. He had two years to make up and it looked like he could do it in less time than that.

He was sitting in the commons one day watching TV when a man walked up and introduced himself as Roy who said he was visiting the prison from one of the local churches in Watertown.

Reluctant to offend, Jimmy acknowledged his greeting with a nod and continued watching TV.

Roy sat there for a few minutes, then stood, smiled, and excused himself by saying, “I’m here every week, and I’m a good listener. If I can help you in any way, I’ll be right here.”

One afternoon, Jimmy left the psychologist’s office especially worked up, and he happened to see Roy sitting alone in the commons.

“Waiting for someone?” Jimmy asked.

“Waiting for you, and from the look on your face and your clenched fists, you might need someone to vent on.”

‘You got that right,” Jimmy said as he sat down at the table.

And Roy just sat there; saying nothing.

“So what do you want me to say?” Jimmy asked.

“Say whatever you want to say; or nothing. It’s up to you.”

So Jimmy decided on nothing and just sat there.

“Tell me something,” Jimmy said after a time, “Are you like a priest where you keep whatever I say a secret?”

“Unless you tell me you’re about to commit a crime, I do,” Roy answered.

Jimmy considered that and finally started talking.” I’m about to lose it here. I can’t sleep at night. I’m barely able to work during the day. Forget the GED work. My head is so full of angry crap that it feels like the world is black and it’s closing in on me.”

Roy listened.

Jimmy talked some more and Roy kept listening.

Finally Jimmy said, “I’d like to hear your reaction. Am I crazy or what?”

Roy considered that for a minute. “No, I don’t think you’re crazy. I think you’re pretty normal for a guy who’s been through all the things you’ve described to me. But, truth be known, I don’t care that much about your past. There’s not too much we can do about that anyway. But I’m a lot more interested in where you want to go in your future.”

“I thought that I had to relive everything so I could understand and work through why I feel the way I do,” Jimmy countered.

“You can do that if it’s working,” Roy said. “So, is it working?”

“Uhhh, No! I’ve never been so frustrated in my life and it’s only getting worse. I don’t know what to do.”

“Are you asking me if I know what you should do?”

“Yeah, I guess I am. Any ideas?”

“Well, I’m a preacher, that’s like a priest, and I’m supposed to preach so I’m going to say four words from the Bible: ‘Take these thoughts captive.’”

“Okay, meaning . . .”

“Jimmy, it appears to me that you’re so overwhelmed by angry thoughts that you can’t possibly make any good decisions about the future or even about what to do right now.”

“Can I share with you three principles that I learned years ago and I’ve used over the years with a lot of people, and they always work.”

“Okay. . .”

“If you will use these principles consistently, I promise that all that blackness will go away and you’ll learn how you can really be free.”

“Free? I’m in prison, dude!”

‘Just listen, okay?”

Three Life Principles

Life Principle 1 – Whenever a thought enters your mind that makes you angry or could keep you from being the best you can be, you simply say to yourself out loud, “I will not think about that.” When the thought comes back, and it will, you say it again, “I will not think about that.”

“If you prefer, which I do, you can say “I take this thought captive.”

Roy explained that this idea had been around for thousands of years. “We simply do not have to let negative thoughts control our lives,” he said.

He explained that each time we “take a painful thought captive,” we create a little bit of peaceful space in our lives. As you take more thoughts captive, you create more peaceful space in your emotions.

“The reason this works so well is Life Principle 2.”

Life Principle 2 – When you consistently practice the first law, negative thoughts will pop up less and less often until you really don’t think about them at all.

He explained that we all have a part of our mind, called the subconscious, which has the role of helping us be happy and content. If our subconscious thinks that we are happy and content thinking about negative things and getting all worked up all the time, it will keep feeding us those negative thoughts so we can be happy.

But if our subconscious hears us saying “I take this thought captive” consistently, it concludes over time that we don’t want to think about those things and it will stop sending those negative thoughts to us. It’s like our subconscious blocks those negative thoughts automatically.

Doing this consistently replaces your habit of anger with a new habit of peace.

Life Principle 3 – Use your habit of peace to make the best decisions for you and your future. He explained that this is true freedom: the freedom to do what we need to do when we need to do it to become the best that we can be.

When we’re not spending all our time thinking about painful things, we have peace. We can use this peaceful time to think about ways to get along better with others, to do the right things, and to better ourselves for the future.

Roy said that he’s sure these principles work because he has shared them with people for over 20 years. He said they all have learned to break their habits of anger, fear, and victimhood or whatever and create new habits of peace.

Roy slipped a card out of his Bible. The card had the Three Life Principles on one side  and on the  back there were blocks for each day of the week. Every time a negative thought pops into your mind, I want you to say out loud to yourself, ‘I will not think about that’ or ‘I take this thought captive.’ If you’re someplace where it would be weird talking out loud, put your hand over your mouth like you’re covering a cough and say softly, ‘I take this thought captive.’

“Then put a check mark in the block for that day every time you dismiss one of those negative thoughts. Let’s meet again next week see you’re doing. I predict by the end of four or five weeks, you will be making very few check marks on the card because the Life Principle 2 will be taking effect in your life. The question now is, ‘Will you do this?’”

Jimmy must have looked a little skeptical because Roy suggested, ”Jimmy, I suspect that you have a negative thought right now telling you that this stupid idea will never work for you. This is a good place to start taking it captive..”

Jimmy smiled and said, “Good idea.” As he walked out of the commons, he said to himself, “I take this thought captive.”

To his amazement, over the weeks that followed, Jimmy found that he really was not thinking as much about losing Buddy or how rotten his father was or the frame job his so-called friends had done on him. He got a fresh card from Roy every week and he was putting fewer and fewer checks on the card.

He was thinking more about what he wanted to do with his life when he got out of prison. Soon, he was not thinking about his anger and resentment at all.

He and Roy had some fascinating conversations and Jimmy finally felt free to share how he really felt about life.

A year later, the GED work was wrapping up soon and Jimmy was talking with Dan, his instructor, after class one day.

“Did you know that the prison has an arrangement with Watertown Technical College where reliable inmates can check daily out and learn a trade? They call it the Extern Program. Would you like me to bring you some brochures?”

Jimmy agreed and then headed for the computer lab to learn something about Watertown Technical College on his own. As he learned about some of the courses at the college, he would go to Careerjobs.com and look at the demand for that skill both here and back on the coast, even though he didn’t really ever want to go back there.

When Dan brought the brochures, there were several interesting areas, but he was really leaning toward HVAC (heating and cooling) installation, repair, and maintenance.

Dan said he would recommend to the warden that Jimmy be considered for the Extern Program.

Long story short, two months later Jimmy began going to the college every day as an Extern taking classes in HVAC. It was a two-year program that would end just about the time of his release.

Meeting Jackie

The prison van would take Jimmy and the other externs over to the college in the morning and pick them up in late afternoon. The state paid his tuition and that included a card to buy lunches in the campus cafeteria; and that’s where he met Jackie.

Jimmy had noticed her in the cafeteria and finally worked up enough courage to go over and speak to her.

She was studying cosmetology and wanted to continue study to become an esthetician.

Because he wore regular clothes, she didn’t know that he was in the prison nearby.

He sensed that she would be open to his asking her out but he obviously couldn’t do that. He just couldn’t work up the courage to be honest with her.

He was telling Roy about her one day and was amazed to learn that Roy knew her; in fact, she and her family attended Roy’s church. Roy understood his problem and told Jimmy that he wanted to pray about what he might do, if that was okay.

They continued having lunch together and hanging out around the campus after school to study together. Jimmy would always have to make an excuse to leave in time to meet his van.

He decided that he had to be honest with Jackie. If she didn’t want to be with him, he would just have to accept that. He put Principle 1 to a lot of work the night he finally decided to tell her about being prison.

He looked her in the eye and told her how much he liked her, but he had something to tell her that would probably make her hate him.

She smiled and said, “Jimmy, are you going to tell me about being in prison?”

“Uhhhhh, yes.”

“Jimmy, this is a small town. I know every boy in town because I grew up here. When I you saw coming into campus on the van one day, I realized that’s where you are.”

“So, does that rule me out as a boyfriend?”

“Jimmy, I asked Roy to learn something about you. He said he didn’t have to learn any more because he already knew you quite well and that you were one of the finest young men he’s ever known. I decided then and there that I wanted to know you better when you became interested in me.”

Jimmy almost cried in relief. He and Jackie spent many happy months studying together and enjoying each other on campus. She introduced him to her parents on the day that they both graduated from Watertown Tech. She’d already told them his story and Roy had confirmed it to them at church.

As They Say, The Rest is History.

Jimmy poured orange juice for Jared and coffee for Jackie and himself. He pushed down the toaster lever and carried the jam and jelly to the table.

Jimmy finished the scrambled eggs and put portions from the skillet on the three plates on the table. Jackie and Jared came in as he was putting jam on Jared’s toast. Both gave Jimmy a huge hug. Over breakfast they talked about their day.

Jackie would take Jared to day care and Jimmy would pick him up and they would meet her at church that night for Wednesday night supper. Jared was excited that his class was going to the petting zoo today. He had fun naming all the animals they would see.

Jimmy was working for a local heating and air conditioning company where he had risen from repair crew to assistant manager in five years. The owner had offered to sell him half the company and let him pay it off over the next five years. By that time, the owner planned to retire and would sell Jimmy the rest of the company.

Jimmy regularly shared the Three Principles with his employees when he sensed issues where the principles might apply.

He had called his mother last Christmas and he and Jackie had taken Jared over to let him meet his grandmother. His father had died when Jimmy was in prison so the issue of reconciliation was not with his father, but just in Jimmy’s mind and he had already taken care of that.

Occasionally, Jimmy would reflect on his life and consider how free he was now that negative, painful thoughts were just vague memories that he could easily manage. He felt truly blessed!

The end.

This fictional story introduces a principle that has been around for thousands of years. In addition to the Bible, philosophers like Confucius, Marcus Aurelius, Shakespeare, and others have written or spoken about our wonderful capacity to train ourselves not to ruminate on negative thoughts and to minimize the effects of emotional or physical pain in our lives. The danger of ruminating on emotional pain is more pain, stress, depression, anxiety, emotional issues, and often worse.

Children as well as adults can easily understand these simple Life Principles. The principles work for many negative emotions that result from almost any negative thinking.

 This concept is explained fully in an online eCourse called Finding Personal Peacehttp://findingpersonalpeace.com. The course leads you through these life principles and also covers topics like making good decisions, and dealing with serious stuff like death, illness, abuse, and addiction.

The eCourse leads one through a process of turning the habits of negative emotions into the habits of peace and freedom. You can read other short stories on life issues by searching the category, Short Stories, at the right. You can start with the course today and begin to find more personal peace in your life immediately.

All the best.

Copyright 2014 findingpersonalpeace.com. Birmingham, Al USA. All rights reserved.

Jarvis’ Story – Running to Freedom; Freedom to Run

Jarvis’ Story – Running to Freedom; Freedom to RunCoach Jarvis Newcombe and the reporter walked slowly across the infield of the track. A photographer trailed them framing and snapping pictures of the young people working all around them. Some were running; others were working on the track; some were handling the equipment; and even more were serving as trainers and taping and icing sore ankles.

They had already toured the Freedom Center and  seen kids working on all sorts of developmental projects.

The news story was to help celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Freedom Track Club that Jarvis had led for ten years helping boys and girls learn and practice the skills to survive in an increasingly difficult world.

Any kid, between fifth and twelfth grade could participate as long as they remained in school and out of trouble.

The name was somewhat a misnomer because a kid didn’t have to be an athlete to be included. But more about that later.

Jarvis’ Personal Track

At age twelve, Jarvis was well on his way to serious trouble. He’d been in Family Court twice already. He mother couldn’t handle him and his father was non-existent. Jarvis was an outgoing kid who always seemed to be on the front row when trouble began and he had learned that there was some status to be had by being quick; quick to hit, quick to snatch something he wanted that didn’t belong to him; or quick to talk smack that usually led to a fight.

The family court had done a thorough workup of Jarvis, and had learned that he was also quick in another way – he was a really, really fast runner for his age group.

As he faced the judge a third time, his options were made very clear to him.

One, he could spend twelve months in Juvie for this second shoplifting charge. Or;

Two, he could agree to join a local track team that was run by Coach Maxwell Anderson.

The judge told him that it would be tough; that he would be monitored by a probation officer; and that Coach Anderson was a taskmaster who demanded total effort as well as keeping out of trouble. The reward would be staying at home and learning how to manage his life better. The downside was if he appeared in Family Court again, he only had one option left.

He looked at his mother sitting on the row behind him. The look on her face was pleading him to take the second option.

Coach Anderson

His first session with Coach Anderson was something he had never forgotten; not because it was awful, but rather because for the first time in his life, he felt an adult treating him with respect and expectations.

On the wall behind Coach Anderson’s table was a banner, “Freedom to Run; Run to Freedom.” On the banner he saw the names and signatures of dozens people.

Coach Anderson explained that Jarvis was looking at the name of every person who had successfully finished this program.

There were four requirements for successfully finishing the program.

One – he had to stay in school and make C’s or better.

Two – he had to stay out of trouble with the law.

Three – he had to treat other people with respect

Four – he had to agree to practice the three Principles of Freedom as long as he was in the program.

Coach Anderson explained the requirements.

Staying in school with a C average or better meant that he had to make a decision every day to do the work he needed to do that day to do well in school. He couldn’t play around in school and expect to succeed in the track club or in life. He also had to recognize when he needed help in school and ask one of the volunteer tutors to help him. Coach Anderson said, “Jarvis, nobody can read your mind. You have to make the decisions that will help you do well in school.”

Staying out of trouble with the law sounded obvious. Coach Anderson explained that staying out of trouble came from making good decisions every day. He would make a choice who he wanted to hang with. He would make a choice where to hang. He would make a choice whether to stop or to keep walking. As long as he made the right choices, he would most likely stay out of trouble.

Treating other people with respect flew in the face of typical neighbor behavior, where smack-talking and trash-mouthing others were the norm. “Jarvis, you will be treated with respect here; and you must treat others with the same respect. You must be man enough to apologize when you disrespect someone else; and you must be man enough to choose to walk away when somebody disrespects you.”

A look crossed Jarvis’ face that told Coach Anderson he had struck a nerve. “Jarvis, can you tell me what you’re thinking right now?”

“What you’re saying ain’t easy. There’s people out there who will push me around and then beat me up if I don’t fight back.”

“What I’m saying is not easy, Jarvis.”

“And I agree with you. I lived on those same streets as you. I know where you’re coming from. But let me see if I can explain the difference.”

“There are different laws in effect today and we choose the laws we want to live by.” Seeing the puzzled look on Jarvis’ face, he continued.

“On the streets, lots of people live under the law of victimhood. They accept the premise that they are victims of their circumstances and that there’s nothing they can do about it. So they do whatever necessary to be as invisible as possible so as to avoid trouble.”

“This is a bad law.”

“Then there is the law of control. Those people measure their worth by the number of people under their control. Their goal is power. These are the people who will beat you up if you don’t play the victim and beat you up if you stand up to them. When you think about it, the people who want to control others are victims in that they can’t do what they need to do to prosper under a higher law. And they can’t have power by themselves. They have to be part of a gang to give them any strength at all. Without their gang, they don’t have any power.”

“This is a bad law.”

“The common laws are established by the people through their government and are enforced by the prosecutors and the police. Part of respecting yourself is choosing to live under this law when other people are trying to force you to live as a victim.”

“This is a good law.”

“The last is the Higher Law that is superior to everything else. This law is characterized by the premise, ‘Do to other people like you would have them to do to you.’ It also says that you should love and respect other people the same as you love and respect yourself.”

“Part of loving and respecting yourself is being willing to say “No” when you’re tempted or threatened to fall under another law.”

“This is the best law.”

“The beauty of this law is that the Giver of the Higher Law does not ask us to do something that we’re not capable of doing. He gives us tools and created us in such a way that we can live by the Higher Law; and this gives us freedom.”

“Lastly, let me share with you the Three Principles of Freedom.”

“Jarvis, I’m guessing that you are like most of the young men living in this neighborhood in that you have a lot of angry thoughts rolling around in your head. Is that right?”

Jarvis thought about that and finally nodded his head.

“I lived with that too, Jarvis, for many years. Then I learned these Principles of Freedom.

Three Principles of Freedom.

Principle of Freedom 1 – Whenever a thought enters your mind that will cause you pain, tempts you to do wrong, or keep you from being the best you can be, you say to yourself out loud, “I will not think about that.” When the thought comes back, and it will, you say it again, “I will not think about that.”

Coach Anderson explained that this idea had been around for thousands of years and it’s even mentioned in the Bible. “We simply do not have to let negative thoughts control our lives,” he said.

He explained that we can get so distracted by negative thinking that we sometimes aren’t able to do the things what we’re perfectly capable of doing like doing well in school or staying out of trouble.

“The reason this works so well is Principle of Freedom 2.”

Principle of Freedom 2 – When you consistently practice the first law, negative thoughts will pop up less and less often until you really don’t think about them at all.

He explained that we all have a part of our mind, called the subconscious, which has the role of helping us be happy and content. If our subconscious thinks that we are happy thinking about negative things and getting all worked up all the time, it will keep feeding us those negative thoughts so we can be happy.

But if our subconscious hears us saying “I will not think about that” consistently, it will learn over time that we don’t want to think about those things and it will stop sending those negative thoughts or temptations to us. It’s like our subconscious blocks those negative thoughts and temptations automatically.

This principle gradually replaces our habits of anger or whatever with a new habit of peace.

Principle of Freedom 3 – Use your habits of peace to make the best decisions for you and your future. He explained that this is true freedom: the freedom to do what we need to do when we need to do it to become the best that we can be.

When we’re not spending all our time thinking about negative things, we have peace. We can use this peaceful time to think about ways to get along better with others, to do the right things, and to better ourselves for the future.

Coach Anderson said that he’s sure these principles work because he has shared them with all the members of his track team for over 30 years. He said they all have learned to break their habits of anger, fear, and victimhood and create the habits of peace and freedom.

“And those men who learned how to be free are the names you see written on this banner,” he said pointing back with his thumb. “I expect your name to be added to that banner in just a few years.”

He asked Russell if the laws made sense to him. When James responded with a “yes,” Coach Anderson continued.

“Here’s what I want you to do. Every week, pick up a card from that rack by the door there. Keep it in your backpack. There’s a place for your name and there are blocks on the card for each day of the week. Every time a negative thought pops into your mind, I want you to say out loud to yourself, ‘I will not think about that.’ If you’re in class or someplace where talking out loud would be inappropriate, put your hand over your mouth like you’re covering a cough and say softly, ‘I will not think about that.’”

“Then put a check card in the block for that day every time you dismiss one of those negative thoughts. Bring the card back with you next week and put it in the other rack by the door. Then get a fresh card. I predict by the end of four or five weeks, you will be making very few check marks on the card because Freedom Principle 2 will be taking effect in your life. The question now is, ‘Will you do this?’”

Jarvis must have looked a little skeptical because Coach Anderson suggested, ”Jarvis, I suspect that you have a negative thought right now telling you that this idea will never work for you. This is a good place to start.”

Jarvis smiled and said, “Yes, sir.” As he picked up the card and walked out of the office, he said to himself, “I will not think about this.”

Over the weeks that followed, Jarvis found that he really was not thinking as much about the negative things and he was thinking more about what he wanted to do with his life. Soon, he was not thinking about the anger and resentment at all.

Every day, he walked with two other boys from his school to the building where the track team met. In the first hour, they had to do their homework with Coach Anderson and some volunteers serving as tutors.

Three days a week, they worked out on the track. Coach Anderson was really good with running techniques and Jarvis’ speed was increasing every month when they did time trials.

Two days a week, they worked indoors learning about nutrition, hydration, and exercises they could use for strength and flexibility. They also learned study skills, how to speak in front of people, and neighborhood survival skills. The older boys learned how to write resumes, apply for a job, and do well in an interview.

On Saturdays, they had their meets with other community, club, and sometimes school teams from the area. There were always big crowds at the meets; and Jarvis soon noticed that some of the crowd had clipboards and stopwatches. Coach Anderson said these were college and university track coaches that he invited to the meets.

Jarvis was devastated when his grandmother died in her sleep during his ninth-grade year. Coach Anderson went to her service, and later found an opportunity to talk to Jarvis.

“Jarvis, the Principles of Freedom also work for grieving. It’s perfectly normal to be very sad when you lose someone you love.”

“So grieve. Be sad. But when the grief thoughts start to distract you from the things you need to do in your life, you can use Principle of Freedom 1 to keep that from becoming a habit of grief.”

By junior year, Jarvis consistently had an A-B average in school. He was also winning most of his meets running in the 400, 1000, 1500, and 2000 meter events. College coaches were coming to his home to talk with Jarvis and his mother about running for their schools.

Jarvis was also helping Coach Anderson work with some of the younger runners in the club.

He was also developing a plan for the future, but it was too soon to go public with that now.

Jarvis will never forget the day that he graduated high school, signed a grant-in-aid scholarship to run for the university; and most importantly went with a small group of special people, including his mother, to Coach Anderson’s office.

Coach made a little ceremony; the minister of his church said a prayer; and Jarvis signed the banner. He had never been so moved in his life. He actually did cry a little bit.

Jarvis ran track in college and eventually earned All-American honors. He ran in the Olympic trials but didn’t make the cut. He saw that as a blessing when he considered his ultimate plan.

Jarvis had majored in Business with a minor in Community Development. He went to work with a major state-wide utility headquartered in his city.

He could finally share his plan with Coach Anderson because his plan totally depended on receiving Coach Anderson’s blessing.

Over the years, Coach Anderson had spoken several times about retiring. He was over 70 years old and he just didn’t have the energy to head the track program much longer.

Jarvis’ Plan

Jarvis had Coach Anderson over to lunch in their corporate dining room. When they finished lunch, Jarvis asked him if he was still considering stepping down. When Coach Anderson told him he was, Jarvis asked for permission to show him something.

Jarvis opened his laptop and quietly went through a PowerPoint presentation about what he called the Freedom Track Club. He’d chosen that name because that was what Coach had given him: freedom to be the man that he wanted to be.

He envisioned a club that welcomed all kids from fifth grade to twelfth grade who agreed to he same requirements that Coach Anderson had required.

He pointed out that some really great kids would never be runners; but there was a place for them. There were all sorts of life skills they could learn on their own personal track to Freedom.

He had located a closed school that could be converted to the Freedom Track Center. The school board would lease the property to the track club for $1 a year in exchange for them maintaining the property. There was a run-down track on the property that could be restored.

The Three Principles of Freedom would always be the centerpiece of the program.

Jarvis’ company had agreed to keep him on full-time pay but he could spend half his time working as a Community Liaison. They would let him transition in to full-time liaison as the track club grew.

Jarvis outlined a plan for volunteers to continue tutoring and athletic training; and he wanted to add volunteers to teach health training, track maintenance, grounds maintenance, nutrition, social skills, and more to the kids.

There weren’t going to be any athletic stars. All the kids would be involved in all the growth and development programs they offered.

Jarvis would do the fundraising accompanied whenever possible by older kids to help with the presentations. This would be their training for participating in the world of business and industry.

They would have a club website maintained by the kids.

All Jarvis needed was Coach Anderson’s agreement to stay on the board as Coach Emeritus and his blessing to the plan.

Coach Anderson was thrilled to see his dream expand into new generations. He didn’t notice Jarvis nod discretely to a man across the room.

Jarvis stood as two men, the President and VP of Community Affairs of his company, approached their table. He introduced them to Coach Anderson as the Coach Emeritus of the Freedom Track Club.

They obviously were well aware of Jarvis’s vision and they sat down and committed the power of their offices to raise funds and bring the vision into reality.

As they talked, Jarvis reflected on the twelve-year-old boy who had stood before the judge so many years ago. He was excited and deeply grateful for the opportunity to affect hundreds of lives over the years ahead just like the Principles of Freedom and the Higher Power had changed his life.

The end.

This fictional story introduces a principle that has been around for thousands of years. In addition to the Bible, philosophers like Confucius, Marcus Aurelius, Shakespeare, and others have written or spoken about our wonderful capacity to train ourselves not to ruminate on negative thoughts and to minimize the effects of emotional or physical pain in our lives. The danger of ruminating on emotional pain is, in addition to more pain, stress, depression, anxiety, emotional issues, and worse.

Children can easily understand the simple principles of the Three Principles of Freedom. The principles work for many negative emotions that result from almost any negative thinking.

 This concept is explained fully in an online eCourse called Finding Personal Peacehttp://findingpersonalpeace.com. The course leads you through these life laws and also covers topics like making good decisions, and dealing with serious stuff like death, illness, abuse, and addiction.

The eCourse leads one through a process of turning tje habits of negative emotions into the habits of peace and success. You can read other short stories on life issues by searching the category, Short Stories, at the right.

Copyright 2014 findingpersonalpeace.com. Birmingham, Al USA. All rights reserved.

Russell’s Story – Learning to Live After Injustice

Russell’s Story – Learning to Live with Injustice

Paul Robeson
1898-1976

Russell stood in the wings of the Performing Arts Center with his accompanist listening to his introduction. Almost 40, Russell was an accomplished singer. He regularly performed in programs with internationally-known singers. He, himself, had not pursued a full-time singing career. That was a very demanding career and there were other things he needed to be able to do with his life.

He also had a successful career with one of the leading financial institutions in his city.

In moments like this, Russell liked to think back on how far he had come since that day, at age 13, when he stood before a judge and heard himself sentenced to 2 years in juvenile detention.

Russell’s Road

Russell’s father was never part of his life. His mother had never talked about him, except to say that “being a father was a little too much for him.” She had never bad-mouthed him.

When Russell was seven, his mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and had died when he was eight. From that point, Russell lived with Grandmother Rosa.

She did the best she could and Russell tried very hard to live the way she taught him to live. But life in his neighborhood was difficult for young black boys and he faced all the usual temptations and threats every day.

There came the day when four older boys gave Russell money to go into a neighborhood store and buy a hat. They told him to ask for a particular hat, one that was out of his reach, and to ask the cashier to come over and get it for him. They told him he could keep the hat.

Russell was shocked to discover one of the boys holding a knife to the cashier’s back as he reached up to bring down the hat. The four made the clerk empty the till and they all ran from the store; the four making their getaway, and Russell running scared to death.

Less than two hours later, the police arrived at Grandmother Rosa’s door asking for Russell. It seems that they had caught the other four from the security tape and they were all saying that Russell was part of their gang and that he had actually suggested the diversion with the hat.

It wasn’t true, at all, and Russell’s public defender was not able to make his case sufficiently to satisfy the court and Russell was standing before the family court judge hearing her verdict.

In Jail

Russell was determined not to let anyone know how scared he was when he was taken to the Juvenile Detention Center (JDC). They took him through the usual routine of the strip search for weapons and contraband and assigned him jeans and a t-shirt which was the standard inmate clothing in JDC. Then they took him to see the JDC psychologist for something they called an intake interview.

The counselor asked a lot of questions about his family which only included Grandmother Rosa. He encouraged Russell to express how he felt about JDC which Russell had no intention of doing at that time.

Russell had already noticed as they had moved him through the building that most of the boys looked really tough and many had tattoos. These dudes scared Russell but he wasn’t going to show it. He’d seen boys like that on the streets, but he could always cross over and walk home without confronting them. Now, there wasn’t going to be any way to avoid them.

One of Grandmother Rosa’s rules was no tats and no slang. She was well educated and always told Russell that his future lay in education and not body art. He told the counselor this when the counselor asked about having no tats.

Russell tried to explain that he had been framed and wasn’t guilty but his go nowhere with that. The counselor was not mean about it, but he told Russell that there wasn’t a person in JDC who wasn’t innocent, at least in their own minds.

But Russell sensed that he had made some impression because he had been considerate, soft-spoken, and well-spoken.

The counselor explained that all the boys had to go to school, and they all had to participate in one after-school activity. Russell looked over the list of things like basketball, karate, and other activities. They even had a chess club.

There was one that interested Russell the most: Chorale. When he asked about it, the counselor told him that the Chorale involved learning to sing traditional choral music and that the group would occasionally be allowed to leave the campus to sing in area choral events. He also said that the director, Mr. Tompkins, was an accomplished musician who had retired and spent several days each week working with the boys.

Russell decided right there that Chorale was his activity. His grandmother had loved choral music and had studied music in college and sung in a college choir.

The counselor seemed pleased with his choice and got to the last point of the meeting.

“Russell,” he said, “we always assigned new inmates an orientation partner. The person I’ve chosen for you has been here about a year and he is one of our model inmates. He’s also in Chorale. I suggest that you listen to him very carefully. Then he picked up the phone, dialed a number, and asked someone to send Marcus to his office.

A few minutes later, after a soft knock on the door, the counselor admitted a young man who appeared to be about 15 and looked like he could bench-press about 500 pounds. He was also unusual in that he, like Marcus, did not have a single tattoo on his face or arms.

The counselor explained that he would assign Russell to Marcus’ dorm and that they would be in the same class in school. Then he reminded Russell again that he should pay close attention to Marcus.

Marcus took him to the store where he was given three changes of clothing, and a few toilet items; and then took him to his dorm and showed him his bed in a room with seven other beds.

While he stowed his stuff, Marcus talked about JDC. He said there were some people who tried to bully others; but that he didn’t have any problem with them; and that he didn’t think Russell would have any problem either, “If you know what I mean.”

Marcus took Russell to the dining hall for lunch and then took him to the Chorale room to meet Mr. Tompkins. Afterwards, they went to the classrooms and library. Marcus explained that they could use computers in the library, but they could not do email nor have a social media page like Facebook or Twitter. They could google for information they could use in school. A lot of websites were blocked to them.

Life in JDC

Russell was in survival mode and he was glad that Marcus was his orientation partner.

Russell was also growing more and more anxious and ending up lying awake most nights thinking about what had happened to him. He was afraid that one or more of the dudes who had framed him would be assigned to JDC. He hadn’t seen them yet. He was becoming more and more angry about them lying about him.

School was easy. Russell discovered that Marcus was behind grade level and Russell was able to help him with his homework.

Chorale was intriguing. While there, he could almost forget that he was in JDC. Mr. Tompkins was a good teacher and Russell learned that he was going to be a bass when his voice finished changing. Right now Mr. Tompkins called him a baritone.

One day, Mr. Tompkins played a CD of a singer named Paul Robeson, who had lived between 1898 and 1976. The CD was a song named “Let My People Go.”

Russell was intrigued. He had never heard a black man sing a song like that. He had to do a report in school and decided that he would write something about Paul Robeson.

He also found a book in the library, “Twelve Years a Slave” that was written by a man named Solomon Northrup, a free black man in New York state who was kidnapped and spent twelve years as a slave in Louisiana during the 1840’s and 1850’s. He wrote a book report on that story as well.

He discovered that Mr. Tompkins was easier to talk with than the counselor. He would sometimes stay after Chorale to talk with him.

He told Mr. Tompkins about the book and asked if the song “Let My People Go” was written about the slave era. Mr. Tompkins said it was, but not about the slave era he was thinking about. He explained that the song was written about a story in the Bible, in the Book of Exodus, that talks about an entire nation, Israel, being slaves in Egypt. Robeson was singing about Moses and Israel. Mr. Tompkins said there were some Bibles in the library and suggested that Russell read about the slavery and escape of Israel.

When Russell expressed interest in Robeson, Mr. Tompkins asked him if he would like to learn how to sing and maybe be able to sing somewhat like Mr. Robeson after his voice settled.

Russell started meeting with Mr. Tompkins a couple of times a week for voice lessons. He was excited to learn how to control his voice and learn some of the songs he’d heard in Grandmother Rosa’s house.

Mr. Tompkins asked Russell the reason he was in JDC; and Russell told his story.

Mr. Tompkins was quiet and when Russell finished, he asked, “I can imagine it would be easy to feel angry about the injustice in your life. Would you allow me to share something with you that I learned years and years ago?”

He explained that he had been angry when his singing career was set back by someone lying and bribing judges in a competition. A mentor had described the danger of letting himself ruminate on the injustice and gave him three laws that would set him free of his anger.

Three Laws of Freedom

Freedom Law 1 – Whenever a thought enters your mind that will cause you pain or keep you from being the best you can be, you say to yourself out loud, I will not think about that.” When the thought comes back, and it will, you say it again, “I will not think about that.”

Mr. Tompkins explained that this idea had been around for thousands of years and it’s even mentioned in the Bible. “We simply do not have to let negative thoughts control our lives,” he said.

He explained that we can get so distracted by negative thinking that we aren’t able to do the things that we’re perfectly capable of doing like singing beautifully and freely or making good decisions about life plans.

“The reason this works so well is Freedom Law 2.

Freedom Law 2 – When you consistently practice the first law, negative thoughts will come to you less and less until you hardly think about them at all.

He explained that we all have a part of our mind, called the subconscious, which has the role of helping us be happy and content. If our subconscious thinks that we are happy thinking about negative things and getting all worked up all the time, it will keep feeding us those negative thoughts so we can be happy.

But if our subconscious hears us saying “I will not think about that,” consistently, it will learn over time learn that we really don’t want to think about those things and it will stop sending those negative thoughts or emotions to us. It’s like our subconscious blocks those negative thoughts automatically.

Mr. Tompkins said that he’s sure this works because they stilled worked for him and he has shared the Three Laws of Freedom with a number of his choral students over the years. He said they all have learned to break the habit of anger or victimhood and create the habit of peace.

Freedom Law 3 – Use your habit of peace to make the best decisions for you and your future.

When we’re not spending all our time thinking about negative things, we have peace. We can use this peaceful time to think about ways to get along better with others, to do the right things, and to better ourselves for the future.

He asked Russell if the laws made sense to him. When Russell responded with a “yes,” Mr. Tompkins continued.

“Here’s what I want you to do. Put this index card in your notebook. Notice that I have put blocks for each day of the week. Every time you discover a negative thought has popped into your mind, I want you to say out loud to yourself, ‘I will not think about that.’ If you’re in class or someplace where talking would be inappropriate, put your hand over your mouth like you’re covering a cough and say softly, ‘I will not think about that.’

“Then put a check card in the block for that day every time you dismiss one of those negative thoughts. Bring the card back with you next week. Will you do this?”

Russell probably looked a little doubtful. Mr. Tompkins suggested, ”Russell, I suspect that you have a negative thought right now telling you that this idea will never work for you. This is a good place to start.”

Russell smiled and said, “Yes, sir.” As he walked back to his room, he dismissed the negative thought by saying to himself, “I will not think about this.”

Over the weeks that followed, Russell found that he was not thinking as much about the injustice and he was thinking more about what he wanted to do with his life. Soon, he was not thinking about his anger at all.

Russell was devastated to when he got the message  that Grandmother Rosa had died in her sleep. A neighbor had called the police and they found her.

Mr. Tompkins arranged to take Russell to her service. On the way back, they had a chance to talk.

“Russell, the Freedom Laws also work for grieving. It’s perfectly normal to be terribly sad when you lose someone you love and in this case, you might blame yourself because she was alone when she died.”

“So grieve. Be sad. But when the grief thoughts start to distract you from the things you need to do in your life, you can use Freedom Law 1 to keep it from becoming a habit of grief.”

As Russell’s release approached, he realized that he didn’t have anywhere to go. He was still underage and would have to go into foster care. He was using the Freedom Laws to deal with this idea when Mr. Tompkins asked him to remain after Chorale for a moment.

Mr. Tompkins told him that, if Russell agreed, he and his wife wanted Russell to live in their home after his release. They could continue Russell’s voice training. The judge agreed to discharge Russell in his care instead of a parole officer. That became the plan.

A few days before his release, Mr. Tompkins said he had scheduled a pre-admission interview at the High School of Performing Arts (HSPA) in their city. He explained it had excellent academics and their vocal performance program was exceptional. He believed that Russell’s vocal and school work at JDC would make it possible to be admitted.

Russell was totally accepted into the Tompkins family and he settled into an exciting routine at HSPA. He continued singing; he was challenged in school; he learned to drive; he found a girlfriend at school. He continued to use the Freedom Laws whenever negative thinking popped up.

Russell earned a scholarship to a good university to study finance with a minor in voice.

Undergraduate school went quickly. Russell earned excellent grades and had some exciting recitals. He was invited to sing in some local productions and programs.

He would pause from time to time to quietly tell his mother and Grandmother Rosa about his life. He believed they both were very pleased with him.

He went to an Ivy League school for a Masters of Finance and then earned a Masters of Vocal Performance with a minor in Choral Pedagogy.

His goal was to make his living in the financial community and to spend his free time taking choral music to the neighborhoods where he had lived as a boy. Mr. Tompkins helped him by giving extra coaching to promising young singers. In the years since college, he had helped over 200 boys learn the joy of singing and the Freedom Laws.

His introduction complete, he put aside his thoughts, and walked confidently to center stage and nodded to his accompanist. He opened his concert with “Let My People Go” followed by “Trees”, “It Ain’t Necessarily So,” and “ Plaisir d`amour”

After receiving his applause, he waved to the wings and 22 boys and young men came onto the stage, each dressed in black jeans and t-shirt and wearing a wide smile. Russell knew them well enough that he recognized several of the smiles resulted from nerves rather than enjoyment of the moment.

As they settled in, he turned to the audience and introduced the group.

This was the Select Freedom Choir from among the 76 boys, fifth grade to twelfth grade in the Neighborhood Freedom Chorale that he led. The group met daily in a local church basement. Volunteers worked with the boys in many ways including tutoring, mentoring, and teaching them voice and instrument skills.

They also had volunteers that helped the boys learn how to present themselves well; how to manage personal care of themselves and their clothing; write resumes; apply for jobs and college; give interviews; even how to cook simple, nutritious meals that all the boys shared on Thursday nights.

He turned to face the boys and demonstrated relaxation by shrugging his shoulders and taking a good cleansing breath. The choir mimicked him and everybody laughed.

Raising his hands, he cued the accompanist and led the choir in a beautiful rendition of “Shenandoah,” a choral classic.

He closed the program singing with the choir, “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child,” a favorite Paul Robeson piece.

As he waved the choir into a graceful bow, he reflected on the joy he got from working with these young men and boys just like Mr. Tompkins had worked with him so many years before. He knew for a fact that each boy understood the Three Freedom Laws and several had described an almost miraculous release from their personal or emotional burdens.

Freedom had become a way of life for Russell and all these young singers; and he was grateful and blessed.

The end.

This fictional story introduces a principle that has been around for thousands of years. In addition to the Bible, philosophers like Confucius, Marcus Aurelius, Shakespeare, and others have written or spoken about our wonderful capacity to train ourselves not to ruminate on negative thoughts and to minimize the effects of emotional or physical pain in our lives. The danger of ruminating on emotional pain is stress, depression, anxiety, emotional issues, and worse.

Children can easily understand the simple principles of the Three Laws of Freedom. The laws work for many negative emotions that result from almost any negative thinking.

 This concept is explained fully in an online eCourse called Finding Personal Peacehttp://findingpersonalpeace.com. The course leads you through these life laws and also covers topics like making good decisions, and dealing with serious stuff like death, illness, abuse, and addiction.

The eCourse leads you through a process of turning a habit of being angry into a habit of peace and success. You can read other short stories on life issues by searching the category, Short Stories, at the right.

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