When I was a kid, my mom had a refrigerator magnet that said, “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.” When I asked her what it meant, she explained that you have to do the best with what life gives you.
As a teenager, I thought it was just a trite saying. I decided that I was more highly evolved, that the logic found in Hallmark cards or Chicken Soup books or refrigerator magnets is beneath me. But in my day-to-day life I have realized that I’m just a regular person who needs reminders every day, whether it be the Bible on my night stand or a magnet on my refrigerator.
And it’s really true. You have a choice with what to do with every obstacle and gift that is in your life. You can choose to say “why bother?” when an obstacle is in your path, or you can say, “I am stronger than this” and overcome it.
I read this recently, and although I’ve seen it online and in print in various permutations, you get the gist of the idea:
Steve is the kind of guy you love to hate. He is always in a good mood and always has something positive to say. When someone would ask him how he was doing, would reply, “If I were any better, I would be twins!”
He was a natural motivator.
If an employee was having a bad day, Steve was there telling the employee how to look on the positive side of the situation.
Seeing this style really made me curious, so one day I went up to Steve and asked him, “I don’t get it! You can’t be a positive person all of the time. How do you do it?”
Steve replied, “Each morning I wake up and say to myself, you have two choices today. You can choose to be in a good mood or … you can choose to be in a bad mood. I choose to be in a good mood. Each time something bad happens, I can choose to be a victim or….I can choose to learn from it. I choose to learn from it. Every time someone comes to me complaining, I can choose to accept their complaining or… I can point out the positive side of life. Choose the positive side of life.”
“Yeah, right, it’s not that easy,” I protested.
“Yes, it is,” Steve said.
“Life is all about choices. When you cut away all the junk, every situation is a choice. You choose how you react to situations. You choose how people affect your mood. You choose to be in a good mood or bad mood. The bottom line: It’s your choice how you live your life.”
I reflected on what Steve said. Soon thereafter, I left the Tower Industry to start my own business. We lost touch, but I often thought about him when I made a choice about life instead of reacting to it.
Several years later, I heard that Steve was involved in a serious accident, falling some 60 feet from a communications tower. After 18 hours of surgery and weeks of intensive care, Steve was released from the hospital with rods placed in his back.
I saw Steve about six months after the accident. When I asked him how he was, he replied. “If I were any better, I’d be twins. Wanna see my scars?” I declined to see his wounds, but I did ask him what had gone through his mind as the accident took place.
“The first thing that went through my mind was the well-being of my soon to be born daughter,” Steve replied. “Then, as I lay on the ground, I remembered that I had two
choices: I could choose to live or… I could choose to die. I chose to live.”
“Weren’t you scared? Did you lose consciousness?” I asked.
Steve continued, “…the paramedics were great. They kept telling me I was going to be fine. But when they wheeled me into the ER and I saw the expresions on the faces of the doctors and nurses, I got really scared. In their eyes, I read “he’s a dead man. I knew I needed to take action.”
“What did you do?” I asked.
“Well, there was a big burly nurse shouting questions at me,” said Steve. She asked if I was allergic to anything. “Yes, I replied.” The doctors and nurses stopped working as they waited for my reply. I took a deep breath and yelled, “Gravity!”
Over their laughter, I told them, “I am choosing to live. Operate on me as if I am alive, not dead.” Steve lived, thanks to the skill of his doctors, but also because of his amazing attitude. I learned from him that every day we have the choice to live fully. Attitude, after all, is everything. “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” After all today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday.
Moses closed Deuteronomy with this advice: choose life.
I don’t doubt the validity of refrigerator magnet wisdom.