I’d like to share something personal with you, if that’s OK?
Jeff Goins, a favourite blogger and author of mine, talks about being ‘wrecked’. What he’s referring to is the effect that some events can have on you – how they can ‘wreck’ you. These are the life-changing events that impact you to such a degree that there is no way back from them. What was normal is gone, and what now is normal is something new.
I used to think of those events as being confined to third world mission trips, war zones and other far-away situations. I never imagined that you could be ‘wrecked’ in one of the western world’s most vibrant and wealthy cities, home to a multi-billion dollar film industry and over a hundred thousand millionaires. But you can.
A year or two back, I was in Los Angeles for an amazing conference. As part of the conference experience, we were housed in a $200 a night hotel. Ensconced in my funky, 300 square foot room, with flat-screen TV and mini bar, overlooking the LA offices of major banks and corporations, and surrounded by trendy bars and restaurants, life was as life is. Normal.
But it didn’t stay normal for long.
I quickly discovered that L.A. is a city of extremes. Extreme wealth and extreme poverty. Extreme happiness and extreme despair. Over 126,000 millionaires and over 50,000 homeless.
Like I said, extremes.
I knew the statistics. I’d seen the pictures and watched the movies. But knowing statistics, seeing pictures and watching movies did not prepare me for seeing those extremes right before my eyes.
Just a two-minute coach ride from my funky hotel room, with its flat-screen TV and minibar, was a reality that hit me with such force I am still reeling from it. This was a reality that my brain could not fully process. And what my brain could not process spilled over and broke my heart.
As we passed through a shanty town of tents and shopping carts that spread endlessly down the sidewalk, it took a moment for me to realise what I was seeing. And what I was seeing was a town of people whose homes were on the streets. This was Skid Row.
Sure, I’d heard the stories of Skid Row. But the stories were nothing compared to the reality. With over 5,000 people wandering its streets by day, and over 10,000 huddled in its corners by night, this was a meeting point for everything that is broken and messed up in our world.
As we drove from our funky hotel to our funky conference venue, my mind was overloaded with the story I saw around me. A story of brokenness, of pain, of despair, of loss, of hardship, of persecution, of injustice, of unfairness, of helplessness, and of hopelessness.
And, watching a woman forage a bin for food, inspecting cast-aside, half-eaten chicken wings to see if she could salvage something that would take away at least some of her hunger, my heart began to weep for a city 5,000 miles from my own, for which I could, in my present circumstances, do nothing to help.
In that moment, something inside me broke.
I was wrecked.
So why did I share that with you? Well, certainly not to burden or depress you. I shared it because I want you to take hold of two simple facts that, for me, were brought sharply into focus by that experience in Skid Row.
First, as Greg Hartle pointed out to me during the conference I attended in L.A., your temporary circumstances do not have to define your permanent reality.
Wherever you find yourself right now does not have to be where you find yourself forever. However insignificant, inadequate or overwhelmed you may feel, the place you find yourself today does not have to define your ultimate destination.
And the reason your ultimate destination does not have to be defined by the place you find yourself today is, as A J Leon says, because you always have a choice.
You can choose whether to engage or walk away. You can choose whether to fight for your revolution or to declare defeat. You can choose to be the hero, or you can choose to fade into the shadows of your unfolding story.
It may not always feel like it, but you really do always have a choice to make tomorrow different from today.
Take hold of those two facts, and go make your revolution a reality.