36 – February 5
“It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”—Charles Darwin
How big a risk is it that you’re afraid to take?
To take a risk is to embrace change. It’s been said that the only thing that likes change is a wet baby—and they cry about it. We long for the new, hoping it will be better than the old, but we are terrified it won’t be as good. So we spin a web of habits and endlessly repeat them, forgetting that the web was of our own making. Sometimes it takes what seems, at the time, a tragedy to knock us down so that we are freed to weave a new and finer web of life. We weep and wail and hate the change and curse our fate—and then, so often, find we are better off because of it. A lost job paves the way to a new and better career. A failed business shows us our mistakes so we do better next time. A friendship’s end opens our lives to new relationships. Our victories in survival create in us depths of understanding, compassion, and empathy.
Life, excitement, drama, experience, learning, and love are on the other side of change. The seed must turn into the flower and the caterpillar into the butterfly. Change leads to growth and the growth to new fulfillment. We must keep growing through the changes, even though we don’t know what’s on the other side. Every experience is valuable. What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. What a pity if the seedling were to refuse to flower because it had never done it before. If the caterpillar stayed locked in the cocoon, we would never have butterflies’ shimmering colors gliding on the breeze.
Change. Grow. Flower. Fly. Love.
“I am endlessly creative. Money flows naturally from my creative endeavors.”
I wrote this piece one summer after I was on jury duty. This experience quite changed the way I looked at it. We all have the opportunity to grow and change every day…if we pay attention.
A COURTROOM WITH A VIEW
“Oh, no! Just my luck,” I fumed. I was just selected as a juror in a criminal case downtown Los Angeles. Like the jurors described in the LA Times article a few months ago, I was not happy thinking about how this was going to interfere with my work as a small business owner.
But there was no help for it – I was trapped. The next day, I appeared with my fellow jurors, ready to hear the case against the young man accused of three robberies. But there was a delay. We were kept waiting outside the courtroom for quite some time when the Court Clerk appeared and told us that she couldn’t tell us anything yet but that “patience was a virtue”. We guessed that settlement talks were going on, and sure enough, soon afterwards we were invited into the courtroom where the judge announced that they had come to a resolution in the matter, and we were dismissed. Yay! Sighs of relief and high-fives all around.
A friend of mine who just happened to be selected for the same jury and I went outside to talk. The Court Clerk saw us and filled us in on what had happened: the young man took a plea bargain of 27 years in prison.
Yikes! I thought, 27 years! That’s a bargain?? I don’t think I’d last 27 days in prison…what had he been facing? She told us that the young man was 26 years old, had two prior convictions of armed robbery, and conviction on any one of the three robberies in the current case would have been his third strike. He was looking at 115 years in prison – a life sentence. The frail older woman sitting in the courtroom was his mother and dying of cancer with only six months to live. She didn’t want to die knowing her son was going to spend the remainder of his life in prison with no hope. If he accepted the plea bargain, she could die in peace knowing that there was hope for him to be released one day and have a better life. They were both crying.
How unutterably sad, to see this young man and his mother crying over his wasted life where 27 years in prison was the best option.
I am not usually sympathetic to criminals. The day before, when the prospective jurors were questioned, we were asked if we or anyone we knew had experienced violence, been burglarized, attacked, or robbed. It was sobering how many people had – nearly everyone raised their hands. When I was called upon, I recited my litany: “I’ve had my car broken into 3 times, stolen once, been burglarized 3 times, been attacked in my home at 3:00 in the morning, and been robbed at gunpoint in my parking garage.”
While the judge said he was sorry that these bad things had happened to me, the retired African American gentleman with the deep chocolate voice sitting next to me leaned over and said, “I’m amazed you’re not black with all that bad luck!” I cracked up, and we enjoyed a private chuckle over that.
The judge shook his head and commiserated that those experiences were regrettable, but asked if I could be impartial, recognizing that the defendant had nothing to do with any of them. “Of course, your honor,” I replied, “those things happened in the 70s and 80s and I don’t think he was even born yet!” There was some laughter at that, and then I said, “I don’t have these experiences anymore, because I changed my thinking.” I just had to give a little hint about the Law of Attraction, because I know the day I took responsibility for my experiences and consciously determined not to be a victim any more – and I haven’t been since that day. I mean, when you take your valuables to your sister’s house overnight because your home is being tented for termites, and she’s burglarized while you’re out for dinner and your jewelry is stolen yet again, you have to notice that the common denominator in all these experiences is you!
No one likes jury duty – we all have busy lives with a lot to do. It interferes with our plans, costs us time, money, and inconvenience. I had wanted to be excused – I had an 8-week telecourse coming up and needed the time to enroll more people in it. Like many small business owners, jury duty was potentially a big hindrance to my ability to produce income. I was nervous about being put on a long trial, and I was angry about this “enforced servitude.” I imagined what I might say that would get me excused.
I was embarrassed out of that attitude fairly quickly. I watched as some prospective jurors made it clear that they were angry to be there and searching rather obviously for the “right answers” to questions that would result in them being excused. You could see the lie on their faces. Those who answered truthfully spoke pf them later with scorn.
As I listened and learned throughout the court proceedings, my attitude shifted. Judge William Sterling honored us for our service and reminded us to appreciate our great country with its guaranteed freedoms protected by our laws and trial-by-jury-of-our-peers system. I was reminded anew of what a wonderful life I have, that I am among the most fortunate people on the planet. I felt reconnected to my community, beyond just my family, friends, and business associates. I saw how narrowed my world had become in my daily life. Here, I opened up to the sea of interconnecting people from all walks of life, seen and unseen, surrounding and affecting us every day, with their millions of stories of loss, tragedy, strength, joy, and hope.
I knew that if ever I was on trial, I would want you to show up for jury service. I would want you to be an honest, thoughtful, and caring juror. It is through the everyday actions of each citizen that our freedoms are assured and our way of life preserved. It is up to us.