(Note: as I mentioned in “About MMM,” some of these posts are from my former blog, because they fit the MMM theme. This is one of those posts… and it’s been modified.)
Anyone who knows me knows that I love football. I have many reasons for this that aren’t even remotely relevant to this post— so I won’t go there now.
Something that cracks me up about football, however, are the cliches you hear coming out of coaches’ mouths. Among my favorites: “the team that scores the most points wins the game” and “big players make big plays in big games.” Every once in a while, however, a coach comes along with a phrase that sums up everything perfectly. Like this one from former Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz:
“Life is ten percent what happens to you and ninety percent how you respond to it.”
This probably sums up best my attitude towards life. I’ve had this conversation with many people in the past.
There is no denying that bad things happen to good people. And it happens on a daily basis. How many stories do we hear about people suffering or hurting in some way— and think to ourselves, “how horrible! Life can be so unfair!” Personally, I can tell you when I was a journalist I felt an ache in my chest every time I I told a story of a family who lost a child to violence. And I know everyone who heard the story felt the same way.
And yet, when a horrific story happens, how many times do we see people focus their grief and anger in such a way that it brings about something extraordinary?
It happens more often than we might think. But it’s hard to recognize because it’s very difficult to see past the pain of the original incident. There are some truly evil people in the world.
On a January day in 1996, a man in Texas jumped out of a pickup truck and dragged a 9-year-old girl off of her bike… throwing her in the truck. A witness called police and gave them a description of the man and the vehicle. Volunteers, the FBI, and police searched the area for four days before someone discovered her body in a creek bed. An autopsy determined she had lived for two days before being killed.
Soon after, the girl’s mother went before Congress to call for tougher laws for sex offenders. Her father talked with other parents who’d gone through the same heartache… trying to find out what they believed police really needed to know immediately after an abduction.
Two things came out of this incident: the National Sex Offender Registry and what we now know as the AMBER alert — named after that young girl, Amber Hagerman.
Before I continue, I want to make something perfectly clear. I am NOT saying that Amber Hagerman’s death was a good thing… in ANY way. As a matter of fact— even though I am generally a positive and non-violent person— if her killer (who was never caught) were standing before me right now, he’d most likely be begging for mercy by the time I was done with him.
I have ZERO tolerance for anyone who would ever harm another human being— especially a child. IMHO, there’s a special (and not in a good way) place in the afterlife for those people.
Rather, my main point here is— the aftermath of this horrific incident could have gone very differently.
Amber’s parents could have chosen to back away and privately try to put their lives back together the best they could after losing their daughter. And no one would have blamed them for doing so. After something like that, I can’t imagine even trying to get out of bed day after day.
Instead, they took that anger and that grief and pushed it back in the faces of potential child abductors everywhere. To date, the AMBER alert has resulted in the successful rescue of nearly 500 children in the United States alone… including some who were released as soon as the abductor heard there was an AMBER alert issued.
And the program is now international. Who knows how many children around the world will be saved because of it?
Life is ten percent what happens to you and ninety percent how you respond to it.
Lou was onto something when he said that quote.
Most of us will never have to go through what Amber’s parents went through. Again, I can’t even imagine. But the fact that her parents were able to get back up and not let evil “win” in this case is inspiring to me.
Bad things happen. In most cases, we can’t prevent them from happening. What we do after those things happen, though, is up to us. We have that power.
When something bad happens to you, it’s up to YOU to decide whether you will allow those circumstances to paralyze you. When someone does something bad to you, it’s up to YOU to decide whether you want to continue to feel like a victim and let that person steal your future happiness.
It’s our choice. I hope we all choose to make the best of that other ninety percent.