I was the keynote speaker for the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania last week. I am always honored and pleased when after hearing me speak, people are compelled to tell me their personal story. It tells me that something about what I said reached their soul or touched their spirit. That is my goal.
One man approached me later that evening and shared a picture of his son with me. The young man was holding a huge fish he had caught during the father and son fishing trip they planned every year. He heard me speak about my sons and felt connected, one Dad to another. I went to my room and returned with a copy of my book for him signed with this message: “I am honored that you shared that personal story and photo with me. You caused me to think of my sons and that gives me great joy. You also give me hope for the world. I know we can make a difference one child at a time.” His wife attended my breakout session the next day and told me how touched he was. “He hates to read. But he’ll read this one.”
Two perfect strangers lifted each other up by recognizing our sameness.
But earlier that day a gentleman from my area of the state told me this story. He spoke of war.
He had fought in Germany and spoke about the difficult times. But it wasn’t until he heard me speak about turning your adversities around and taking control of situations that are obviously out of your control that he remembered this very personal story.
“They say we had defeated this group of German soldiers. Actually they just gave up. I stood off to the side as a handful of our men gathered the Germans in formation. One by one each German soldier was stripped of his personal belongings. Some stood tall and without a struggle had watches, rings, and wallets removed. A few cried and begged to keep their wedding rings and photos, but to no avail. This was war.”, he told me in a humble, soft tone.
“Suddenly, a German standing close to me turned his head and as if looking around for someone he knew, grabbed my hand and placed his watch in it. I was stunned for a moment. Out of all the American soldiers nearby he chose me.”, he continued.
Pausing, now looking down at the floor and re-living that moment in his mind, he said, “He took control. Knowing that someone was about to take everything from him, that German soldier chose not to have it stolen but to give it as a gift to someone he selected. Me.”
We are all aware of the atrocities of that war. But let us never forget the battle fought inside each of the participants.
What troubles and pains are you experiencing now that you can reclaim control of, inspite of the obvious negative outcome. I challenge you to do what Robert H. Schuller tells us.
“Turn your scars into stars.”