Person # 1: Oh,The People You’ll Meet.

The country primary school I attended had three teachers. One teacher taught years 1&2 another taught years 3,4 & 5 and years 6&7 were taught by the headmaster. It was a small school and cosy. It was easy to know everyone in the school and most of the parents knew each other and they knew you. Still we had our friendship groups and I was friends with three other girls. When it came time to move onto secondary school we all had to go by bus to the nearest city; two of those girls went to the Girls Grammar School and the other to the Range Convent, only I went to the State High School.

I arrived in year 8 at a the biggest school in the town and was put into a class of about 30 others where I knew no-one; it was quite daunting for this little country kid. Most other students had come from much larger schools in the town and so this was not such a big deal for them as they already knew at least someone. As we settled in friendships groups began to form and after a few trial and errors my friendship with one very beautiful person began to flourish.

Friendships work when there is a mixture of differences and similarities. There needs to be enough similarities for there to be a meeting of minds on some issues but enough differences for each person to be an individual and have respect, even admiration, for the talents and qualities of the other. When people are too similar they can be tempted into thinking friendship is a competition. P#1 and I have never had this problem as we have lead different paths in life, never lived in each other’s pockets and never needed the other to be something other than who they are. We have that type of friendship where we may not see each other or even talk for months but when we do connect we just pick up where we left off as we have such a rich history to draw on.

For every significant event in our lives the other has been there usually in person but if that was not possible, in heart. We have been friends for over 50 years now and I am certain my life is much richer for our friendship. While P#1 may not have actually changed or shaped the course of my life, I am abundantly blessed to have someone who has known me for so long, understands my family and background, has loved me through my heartaches and rejoiced with me in my victories and it is my privilege to have shared her journey also.

Many, many people come and go in life, many friendships are for a season and they fill a role and purpose, many people are acquaintances or work colleagues and it is always wonderful to catch up with folks from the past but it is easy to lose touch and wonder what ever happened to so and so. Along the way both P#1 and I have seen other people much more frequently than we have seen each other but P#1 and I have an enduring friendship and if God grants us the days, I see us as old ladies still catching up, picking up from where we left off last time and both of us always ever so thankful that we ended up in that same year 8 class.

Oh, The People You’ll Meet (Dr.Seuss)

The title of my blog, wayleadsontoway.life, is inspired from a line in Robert Frost’s poem The Road Not Taken, a nod to my love of poetry and a testament to the unfolding of pathways my life has taken. In the next series of blogs I am going to share with you just a few of the people who have impacted my life and shaped its course and without meeting them my life would have been very different.

The first person I met in life was my mother. A beautiful human and many times I have been told,”your mother was as angel”. My father was strict, fair and loving in that I don’t wear my heart on my sleeve because it gets too easily rubbed of there, stiff upper lip old British style. As the youngest of a family of seven, I had six siblings and from an early age my family was both contracting, as one by one older siblings left home to make their own homes, and expanding as brothers and sisters in law and subsequently nephews and nieces were added. I love all my siblings dearly and credit our parents for being fair and not showing favouritism to any of us or acting in ways which would pitch one against the other as sometimes happens in families.

We were taught to be honest, industrious, law abiding citizens; we were taught respect and understood that character and integrity were personal riches. We were taught to respect God and His Word and this set the trajectory for my personal faith. I have often wondered if I would have searched out Christianity for myself if it had not been taught in my birth home. I like to think I would have and because God does not have grandchildren, only children, regardless of any of the circumstances around us, the seeking of God must be a personal quest.

While on the subject of family as the people you will meet, I must include the four, now adult, children for whom I am blessed to be a mother. They are among my greatest blessings and best teachers, they have shaped my life and taken me to places physically, emotionally and spiritually I would not have missed for anything. They continue to bless me and my blessings include their spouses and my grandchildren.

I have meet countless wonderful people in my life thus far and expect to meet many more. I hope you will join in in this coming week as I look at five people, not family members, who have played, whether they know it or not, a very significant role in my way leads onto way life.

You will forget all this.

The next rule in The Rules for being Human

Rule NO. 10 You will forget all this. You will forget all the above rules unless you regularly practice some means of staying focused and grounded in the present. Your ego will continually try to trick you into blaming your past or becoming anxious about the realities of life.

Rule 10 reminds us how easily we can forget and become trapped in a cycle of blame, anxiety and /or depression if we do not stay focused and grounded in the present. It is true, we cannot change the past; we must do what we need to do in coming to some form of peace with it but it cannot be changed. We cannot capture, predict or control the future but we need to face it with hope and courage. All we have is the present and to begin each new day with resilience and the determination that for as much as it lies within me, I will make the most of today; this indeed is a gift.

Following is a post of the rules in context. It is my hope that you will find some that you can embrace.

Rule No.1 You will receive a body. You may like it or hate it but it will be yours for as long as you live. How you take care of it or fail to take care of it can make an enormous difference in the quality of your life.

Rule No.2 You will learn lessons. We are enrolled in a full time informal school called life. Each day, we are presented with opportunities to learn what we need to know. The lessons presented are often completely different from those we think we need.

Rule No.3 There are no mistakes, only lessons. Growth is a process of trial, error and experimentation. We learn as much from failure as we can from success. Maybe more.

Rule No.4 A lesson is repeated until it is learned. A lesson will be presented to us in various forms until we have learned it. When we have learned it (as evidenced by a change in our attitude and ultimately our behaviour) then we can go on to the next lesson

Rule No. 5 Learning lessons does not end. There is no stage of life that does not contain some lessons. As long as we live there will be something more to learn.

Rule No.6 There is no better than “here”. When our “there” becomes a here, we will simply discover another “there” that will again look better than our “here”. Don’t be fooled by believing that the unattainable is better than what we have.

Rule No.7 Others are merely mirrors of you. We cannot love or hate something about another person unless it reflects something we love or hate about ourselves.

Rule No.8 What we make of our life is up to us. We have all the tools and resources we need. What we create with those tools and resources is up to us.

Rule No.9 The answers lie inside us. The solutions to all of life’s problems lie within our grasp. All we need to do is ask, look, listen and trust.

Rule No.10 You will forget all this. You will forget all the above rules unless you regularly practice some means of staying focused and grounded in the present. Your ego will continually try to trick you into blaming your past or becoming anxious about the realities of life.

The answers lie inside us.

The next rule in The Rules for being Human.

Rule No.9 The answers lie inside us. The solutions to all of life’s problems lie within your grasp. All we need to do is ask, look, listen and trust.

So if we accept the premise that all of life’s problems and struggles are for our learning and their purpose is to polish us into a better human, it follows that solutions are within our grasp. It is just that sometimes, even often, the solutions are not the ones we think we want. We have made up in our minds, without knowing or understanding all the hidden elements of the situation how we want our problem to resolve so we push and shove, frustrate and exhaust ourselves… and nothing changes. I have been there more times than I would like to confess; it is no fun and in the end things turn out not at all the way I think they should but in hindsight, definitely for the best.

Rule No. 9 dovetails with Rule No. 2 which in part says, the lessons presented are often completely different from the ones we “think” we need and often so are the solutions. We just have to let go and let God because He does know all the unseen elements of any situation. It is important who we ask, look, listen and trust because we can be deceived and we can deceive ourselves. If the answers lie inside us, no one else can be the solution for my problem. Other people can love, they can listen, they can provide practical help, they can pray, and sometimes they can give wise counsel but the problem cannot be fixed from the outside.

Taking time to listen to the pain of others is important. No! They do not want you to tell them how to fix their problem, they need you to listen without judgement and in the process of their talking they will unravel the problem for themselves. This also is why quiet contemplation is so beneficial because in the quiet, feelings, hunches, even words, which are important so do not dismiss them, will come knocking on our consciousness.

Life in many ways is a mystery and there is so much one does not understand but it is true, finding the solutions to life’s problems is an inside job with an outside manifestation of peace.

What we make of our Life is up to Us.

The next rule in The Rules for being Human.

Rule No.8 What we make of our life is up to us. We have all the tools and resources we need. What we create with those tools and resources is up to us.

We are all different and we all have different gifts and skills which we are able to develop. God has given each and every one of us enough to work with to be the best human we can possibly be. Just because we don’t have the same as someone else, does not make us inferior, it just makes us unique and isn’t that wonderful! The quote, Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken is attributed to Oscar Wilde but it is a good one to keep in front of mind. The only person you can authentically be is yourself and it is important for you to believe that you are enough.

This rule is not a cop out; it will require work. Look at the words; tools, resources, create. Tools are used to do work or cause some result. I have my garden tools but if I don’t use them and do some work with them, they are of little benefit and my garden will not be beautiful or bring pleasure. Among the dictionary meanings for resource is the means at hand afforded by the mind or personal abilities and to be resourceful is to be skillful in overcoming difficulties, full of resource, ingenious. And to create is to make, cause to exist, produce, design or invent. Each of us has the perfect measure we need to be able to live life purposefully.

Life is not a blame game, it is unwise to give your power in life away by blaming whatever it is you feel inclined to blame for your situation. So go and find your tools, realise your resources and get creating for what we make of our life is up to us.

Others are merely mirrors of you.

The next rule in The Rules for being Human.

Rule No.7 Others are merely mirrors of you. We cannot love or hate something about another person unless it reflects something we love or hate about ourselves.

Ouch! This one hurts a little bit doesn’t it? Because it asks us to turn the focus back onto ourselves in self examination of our hearts rather than pointing a finger at others in blame and fault finding. There is that old saying about pointing the finger, when you do, one finger points towards the other person and three fingers point back at ourselves. Try in now and you will see this is the case.

It is easy to find fault but the key to being the best human you can be and also to seeing the best in others is humble self examination. One of the foundational teachings of Christian faith is to “examine yourself” and this too is a life long process; one will never come to the place where they are so good that they will not need continual self examination and correction. If you are anything like me, you will find keeping your own attitude under control is a full time job and leaves little time to pick fault in others but hopefully enough compassion to be kind to others.

There is no better than “here”.

The next rule in The Rules for being Human.

Rule No. 6 There is no better than “here”. When our “there” has become a “here”, we will simply discover another “there” that will again look better than our”here”. Don’t be fooled by believing that the unattainable is better than what we have.

This rule speaks to contentment in the right here and now and accepting that wherever we are, in whatever circumstances and with whatever boundaries our lives have, there is a purpose and this is for our growth. Many people waste countless years, making themselves and those around them unhappy because they will not see the blessings right under their noses and are forever chasing after something which is either unattainable or just plain not good for them.

The key word in this rule is “unattainable”. There is nothing wrong with striving to improve your situation but in my experience, situations are improved by doing the very best you possibly can exactly where you are. It’s called making the most of what you already have and being thankful for that measure. And it is amazing how when one has an attitude of gratitude how their blessings continue to abound. It is the thankful person who attracts opportunity and almost magically doors open and way leads onto way.

So right now, be thankful for your “here” and bloom where you are planted because usually the grass is not greener on the other side of the fence and if it is, it is because the folks on the other side of the fence are taking good care of their grass.

Learning lessons does not end.

The next rule in The Rules for being Human.

Rule No.5 Learning lessons does not end. There is no stage of life that does not contain some lessons. As long as we live there will be something more to learn.

Wow! This one I love! There is nothing better than a life long learner. Good teachers encourage students to see that learning does not stop when one exits school. Much of the job is to whet a student’s appetite for learning so that learning for one’s own development becomes the focus. In fact most of life’s learning takes place as we mature. I find it a great blessing that there are so many more lessons to learn. Sure beats being bored!

Our trials, our lessons, are for our refining so that the dross of our character is burnt off to reveal something that is precious. In church, we sing a song with lyrics, He’s still working on me, to teach me what I ought to be, and I understand this to be a life long process of developing a character that is wise, loving, humble, gracious and forgiving. For myself, I am trying to learn as many lessons as possible along the way because it seems to me that old age is a great test of character and if we have not learnt some important lessons in younger years, those lessons are thrust upon us when we perhaps have the least resources to accept them and very little time left to receive the blessings from learning them.

I hope you will embrace Rule no 5 and see it as a blessing.

A lesson is repeated until it is learned.

The next rule in The Rules for being Human.

Rule No. 4 A lesson is repeated until it is learned. A lesson will be presented to us in various forms until we have learned it. When we have learned it (as evidenced by a change in our attitude and ultimately our behaviour) then we can go on to the next lesson.

Do you know some people who just seem to be stuck? Have you ever felt like this yourself? Like it’s Groundhog Day and the same things just keep on happening over and over again; it’s one bad situation after another and you ask, ‘Why me?’

Well, this happens when you haven’t been paying attention to the lesson that is being offered. Sometimes we are just too stubborn, too pigheaded too, self righteous or even hurting too much to realise that we might need to change our attitude and consequently our behaviour. I was in my early teens when one of my older brothers gave me some very sound advice; it went like this, If you seem to be at odds with everyone else around, the person to look at is yourself. It is you who will need to make some changes; it is not everyone else who is wrong. This advice is consistent with the truth that we cannot change other people, we can only change ourselves but when we do change ourselves we change the dynamics of any situation.

If we look at nature it is clear that nothing grows or comes to maturity unless it changes. The lessons we learn and the changes we make are for our personal growth and transformation into a better human. Rule No. 4 states that when we have learned the lesson, we can move on. I just want to add one more thing that I have found from experience and that is that once we have learned the lesson, we are tested on it. That same circumstance will present itself again just to be sure that we have learnt something and that we respond in a way that would demonstrate our learning, when we have passed the test, then we can move on to the next lesson.

When life is challenging, the question to ask is, ‘What is it that I am meant to be learning here?’ For you can be sure that nothing changes if nothing changes.

There are no mistakes, only lessons.

The next rule in The Rules for being Human.

Rule No. 3 There are no mistakes, only lessons. Growth is a process of trial, error and experimentation. We learn as much from failure as we can from success. Maybe more.

There are no mistakes? Well I am here to confess that I have made a few, yes OK more than a few. In my understanding of life, there is no way to live it perfectly and we all stuff up somewhere along the line. We make decisions on the knowledge and information we have at the time and this is often flawed; imperfect. Sometimes we reject good advice and sound counsel and sometimes we have to learn the hard way.

The trick is to transform mistakes into lessons and in doing so, we transform ourselves. Often we can look back and think, You know what? I would not have missed that for anything; the lessons learnt are so valuable. There is always a lesson (remember that is Rule No.2) and wise people will look for the lesson and make application.

Failure is not a dirty word; I love the acronym for Fail First Attempt At Learning! So don’t stop after the first attempt those who succeed in life at anything are often not the best, particularly when they begin, but they just keep on going and in the process improve and succeed.

And when you have stuffed up big time, remember there is this wonderful thing called forgiveness. Forgiveness gives us a new clean slate and we can start again this time a little wiser. We can ask for forgiveness from others, we can forgive others and most important of all, we can forgive ourselves.