Wednesday, January 12, 2011

January 12, 2011 ~ Day 34
Second Chances

Today I read the text of President Obama's eulogy for the men, women and most tragically - child - shot and murdered last Saturday at a grocery store in Arizona as they waited to meet and chat with their local congresswoman.

The thing I really loved about his speech was its focus on the lives and values of the victims... not the fact that they died, but the fact that they *lived*, loved and believed. Their lives stood for something. As I read about the values, dreams and love stories of those who are no longer with us I wept. Even though I'd never met any of those folks I felt as though they could have been my own friends, neighbors, grandparents, students or child.

I've been disillusioned for a long time with our president and his actions, even though I worked ardently to get him elected just a little over two years ago. This speech brought back to me a sense of what I myself had hoped and worked for back in 2008. A sense that our country could be united rather than divided by engaging in an open dialogue where none of the parties are demonized for their differing points of view. I believed in 2008 that Obama would be a uniter, a moderate.

I feel today like maybe I can give Obama a second chance to be the president I once believed in.

All of this reminds me that we can always choose to turn the page. It's often worth taking another look at a person or an issue to see if, despite past failings, there isn't room in our hearts to care and try again.

Romantic relationships give a lot of opportunities for this kind of thing. Who among us doesn't have at least one friend whose happy marriage or long-term relationship is based on a second chance. People meet, they fall in love, they get together. Something happens, they break up. Then later, they find their way back together and realize that they both feel a strong sense of destiny or a deeper love... and finally, they choose to marry and spend the rest of their lives together. I personally know of at least six couples close to our family where this was the case - who now have happy, healthy, contented marriages based on second chances.

There are so many kinds of second chances in life... they happen for all of us, every single day. The police officer who pulled me over on Monday didn't take away my license or my car ~ she gave me the second chance to be a better driver (enforced by the payment of a hefty fine and hopefully, traffic school). My children don't picket and walk out of my life every time we have a rough day together, they awaken fresh each day without judgment and give me the chance to be a better mother. My older sister didn't write me off even during the 3? years when I immaturely chose not to speak to or interact with her... and one could argue that she really should have. Instead she chose to wait patiently for me to grow up and then gave me a second chance.

I've rarely been one for holding a grudge, so maybe I am also the queen of (giving) second chances. In some situations I suppose this has made me look like a bit of a pushover. When we were first dating my husband told me that he thought I was too nice to others, that I should toughen up a little. He was probably right. That said, I still believe that everyone deserves the opportunity to grow and become the best of themselves. Just because a friend has let me down once a long time ago does not mean that they don't have the capacity to become an amazing and dedicated friend for the rest of my life. In the same vein, I've definitely managed to let each of my own best friends down at some point or another along the way during the past twenty years or more... and they have been so gracious and generous about continuing to love me despite my many obvious character flaws. I am so lucky and so grateful for these friends.

How does the old cliche go? To err is human, to forgive divine.

I'm not arguing here that there should be third, fourth or fifth chances. I wouldn't take it that far. I'm also not saying that it is right to let someone back into your life who has been abusive in any way. Physical, sexual and emotional abuse should really be a zero-tolerance kind of thing in my opinion. If my husband ever hurt me or one of our children (which he would NEVER do because he is such a gentle spirited and kind man) we would be out the door immediately, forever.

A second chance though ~ when there has been no abuse, just disappointment ~ in most cases this seems pretty reasonable.

Every day that you take the time to read through this column, you are giving me a second chance to be a better and more thoughtful writer. I know that some days I let you down, and I am truly sorry. For a variety of reasons (fatigue, stress, distractions, noise and chaos in my house) I am not always on my game. I sincerely apologize and for those of you that keep coming back to read my musings on the meaning of life I am truly grateful. Thank you so much for giving me the continued opportunity to find my voice ~ and for valuing it enough to keep reading.

May this column bring you a day full of second chances, both given and received.

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