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A Story from the Book of Life…

By Julie Fink
Posted On Jun 22, 2016
A Story from the Book of Life…

Anyone who knows me, knows I carry around this odd, bulky, electric blue sketch book that I call “The Book of Life.” It’s something that I started in my early 20’s after college where I collect what the world leaves for me; be it a poem, scribblings left behind on a napkin, inspiring words I picked up from a stranger… messages from beyond. And I tape them, glue, staple, write them down and jam the words of the universe into my “Book of Life.” They are words of the world that move me and inspire me and I collect them to share with others, my future kids and their future kids.

I’d like to share with you one of those stories.

I was at a small business conference years ago where motivational speakers, thought leaders, and entrepreneurs gathered to chat about how to make the world a better place. During one of the breaks, I plopped down at a spot in the lobby and started in on my granola bar. There, sitting on the table in front of me was one piece of paper, all by itself. It had no title, it was just a copy of an article.

The introduction read:


“According to a National Geographic documentary, when a zebra is about to give birth, she moves to the edge of the herd. She knows the survival of her newborn depends on one vital factor – the baby zebra must see only its mother’s distinctive stripes during the first 15 minutes after its birth to imprint the pattern on its brain. Every zebra has different strips. If the newborn accidentally imprints the wrong stripe pattern, it will not know where to look for food and protection. It can make the difference between life and death.

Like baby zebras, people who live highly effective lives are those who manage to imprint the right habits and disciplines onto their life. In doing so, they are able to successfully navigate life’s diverse changes and challenges. Sooner or later most people feel overcome by sorrow, fear, hurt, sadness, depression, or even despair. Some will come through, while others will remain permanently bogged down. The difference between moving on and being endlessly consumed by pains and dilemmas lies in the habits and disciplines adopted long before the crisis occurs.”

My eyes were fixated on this article and I couldn’t put it down. I sat there grasping this random piece of paper like a koala on a tree branch. I wanted to know how to make my imprints. I wanted to know dang it! So I read on…

“Here are a few habits of people who live highly effective lives – habits any person can imprint on their own lives:

Habit 1: They are great givers.

Without expecting anything in return, they share generously and spontaneously with others. The Rev. Gerry Nolf, a missionary working in Kenya, tells of Zacharias, an elderly African Christian who died after a long life of serving Kenyans. After the funeral, Nolf was walking with a woman who said, “We’ll miss him. He went ki-sabuni” (Swahili for “like a bar of soap”). Confused, Nolf asked her why. The woman repeated ki-sabuni” and she said “In the house, the bar of soap sits next to the basin, availing morning, noon, and night to all – children, adults, the elderly, family, and guests alike. It never discriminates or complains of being used and reused. It is taken for granted as it slowly disappears, until someone exclaims, ‘The soap is gone!’ Zacharias was that kind of man.” The Reverend nodded.

Habit 2: They turn adversity into advantage.

Crisis inspires the best efforts of those who live effectively. Rather than give up in despair or defeat, they rise to the challenge. Anthony Burgess was 40-years-old when he was told he had a brain tumor, which would take his life within 12 months. Without much financial resources, he worried about his wife, Lynne, who would soon be a widow. The only way he could think to provide for her was to write a novel so she could receive royalties. “It was January 1960 and according to the prognosis, I had a winter, spring, and summer to live through and would die with the fall of the leaf.” During that time, Burgess wrote five novels including his most famous work Clockwork Orange. But Burgess did not die – the cancer went into remission and disappeared completely. Had it not been for his death sentence, Burgess might never have written his more than 70 books.

Habit 3: Their impulse to care is highly evolved.

When someone is in pain and is suffering, too many people hesitate to respond. Oftentimes, they don’t know what to do or what to say and are often afraid to make the situation worse. Those who live effectively are neither hesitant nor timid when they see a person who has been wounded in life. They are proactive and respond promptly. For example, a high school senior tells of crying through her final exam in history class. The teacher noticed her tears and asked what was wrong. “I told him that my boyfriend had been unfaithful. Coming from a home without supportive parents, I had been wrapped up in my life with my boyfriend and now I felt like I’d been thrown away.” After listening compassionately, the teacher asked a simple question, “What do you want in life?” The student was stunned. “No one has ever asked me that before. He suggested that I use this break up as an opportunity to follow my dreams and start over. He encouraged me to attend college. Four days later, I moved across the state, enrolled in college courses and started a new life. My life was changed because one person cared.”

Habit 4: They maximize their strengths and minimize their weaknesses.

An elderly Native American man was teaching his grandchildren about life and said to them, “A fight is going on inside of me. It is a terrible fight between two wolves. One wolf represents fear, anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other wolf stands for joy, peace, love, hope, sharing, serenity, humility, kindness, friendship, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside of you and inside of every other person as well.” The children though about it for a moment and one child asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?” The elderly man replied, “The one you feed.”

Suffice it to say, I sat, read, and skipped the afternoon session of the conference. I was so moved by these beautiful stories. I, like most, may not have been imprinted with the best stripes, as I struggle and rumble with emotions, jobs, relationships, my dreams and goals, etc. But that isn’t stopping me from making my own stripes!

I thought to myself, this one is going in the book, and I smuggled the sheet of magic into my purse.


This beautiful article was written by Victor M. Parachin, MDiv, who is an author (365 Good Reasons to be a Vegetarian), an ordained minister and freelance journalist.

Photos: Shutterstock