there are little girls and little boys watching you and me, too. Let’s not let them down.
By Stacy Hawkins Adams
Every successful organization or business has a mission statement or brand statement that drives its leaders’ decision making and direction – why not you?
I shared this perspective recently with a group of women and men that I led through a series of teleconference calls about purpose, goal-setting and faith; and during our discussion, I offered to give them a peek at my personal library – the one filled with books that have guided and shaped my perspective on life, living with intention and executing with excellence.
As we sit on the verge of a new year, which always brings with it hope for second, third or any number of new chances and possibilities, I decided to also share these literary gems with you.
I’ve read the books listed here over a 15-year (or so) period, at various stages of adulthood and maturity; so you may find a few of the titles too elementary. Perhaps you can recommend those particular books to young adults you’re mentoring or helping raise.
Yet some of the books I’ve chosen may indeed pique your interest, grace your reading list and help you grow, too.
Vastly more important than having you embrace the topics and authors that have resonated with me is for the list to serve as a catalyst for you becoming a version of yourself that you can consistently honor and love.
Indeed, all of these books have been foundational in some manner to the expansion of my heart, my vision, my perspective, my dreams and my faith:
- Listen to Your Life: Following Your Unique Path to Extraordinary Success by Valorie Burton
- Making Life Work: Putting God’s Wisdom into Action by Bill Hybels
- The Measure of Our Success: A Letter to My Children and Yours by Marian Wright Edelman
- The Life God Blesses: Weathering the Storms of Life that Threaten the Soul by Gordon MacDonald
- Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now by Maya Angelou
- If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat by John Ortberg
- In Search of Satisfaction by J. California Cooper
- The Testament by John Grisham
- Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers
- The Color Purple by Alice Walker
I could include quite a few more! This is just a start, to jumpstart your efforts to embrace reading that can help you wake up, get up, trust yourself, believe in your dreams and stretch to new heights.
Buy a new journal to record your thoughts from the books you choose to read. Use that same journal to craft a personal mission statement or brand value, based on who you want to become.
As a man (or woman) thinketh, so is he (or she). The words you ingest matter, and so do you. Read your way to wholeness, joy and purpose, then write that vision – with tangible steps and timelines – to ensure that your goals become your reality.
I’m rooting for you.
A journey from anger to grace
By Stacy Hawkins Adams
Last weekend I had a headache that wouldn’t abate, and it led my thoughts back to Melissa – a woman I’ve never met whose choices on a summer evening long ago forever changed mine.
Melissa, you see, is the drunk driver who slammed into the car in which I was a passenger 25 years ago.
That night in Albuquerque, N.M. left me with an injury that to this day prevents me from sleeping with pillows. Which brings to me to reason I was thinking of her this past weekend.
I did a simple thing: dozed off on a few fluffy pillows as I propped myself up in bed to watch TV. When I awoke the next morning, my consequence was a throbbing pain above my left temple and behind my left eye.
I don’t get migraines often, but I recognize them when they arrive, and I could tell immediately that this one was connected to the pain radiating down the left side of my neck and to the knot of muscles that had formed just below.
Ah, the pillow. How could I forget?
Ah, Melissa. How could you drink and drive?
The summer that Melissa’s car rammed into the one in which I was a passenger, I was a rising college senior in the middle of a newspaper internship in Albuquerque, simultaneously honing my journalism and independence skills.
I had two awesome roommates, including one who was (and is) a professional singer. When an opportunity arose to serve as one of her backup “artists” in a karaoke performance (the only way I’d be asked to do this, mind you), how could I say no?
A group of us had just pulled into the Air Force base where our dining spot debut would take place. As our driver paused to check in at the security gate, Melissa’s vehicle plowed into the back of us.
Thankfully, I and my fellow passengers survived the crash, which, in Albuquerque at that time was no small feat.
According to prevalent news reports that year (1992), more alcohol-related traffic deaths per capita occurred in New Mexico than in any other state. Thank you, God.
Melissa’s actions knocked the car in which we were riding several hundred feet from its resting position and left it totaled.
I was the most severely injured – receiving a fractured nose from having the driver’s seat break loose on impact and slam into my face and being tossed around like a ragamuffin. I left the hospital with two black eyes and a severely sprained neck that I would protect with a brace off and on for years to come.
I was angry at Melissa, long before I knew her name. All I knew then was what her actions had cost me: My journalism internship ended abruptly. I spent the rest of my summer alternating between pain-filled periods of rest and physical therapy for the cervical sprain. I returned to my senior year of college still in physical therapy, which continued well into the fall, with lingering pain and forced rest cutting short outings with friends and opportunities to celebrate life before full-fledged adulthood.
I was still angry at Melissa a few years later, when a minor fender bender caused the neck sprain to flare at just the wrong time – days before a friend’s wedding. Ensconced in a new neck brace with my name on it, I spent her special day in bed with muscle relaxers instead of enjoying celebratory fun.
The anger lessened to frustration over the years as I participated in exercise classes and repeatedly sat out on sit-up routines that put too much strain on my neck, because my core wasn’t quite strong enough to lift me.
And as I matured and considered some of my own missteps and mistakes along the way, I thought about Melissa with fewer and fewer waves of judgment.
I was 21 when the accident occurred and so was she.
I had been in a car with new friends that evening, heading to a fun outing. When emergency medical personnel pulled her from her vehicle, they reportedly discovered that countless beer cans had been her companions.
With the expansion of heart that accompanied my becoming a first-time mother at age 27, the judgment ceased. Unconditional love for another will do that to you.
And as my work as a journalist gave me opportunity after opportunity to meet all kinds of people from all walks of life and tell their stories of tragedy, challenge, triumph and resilience, I embraced the reality that life doesn’t always happen for us – sometimes it happens to us.
That truth ushered in sympathy. I began to wonder what had become of Melissa.
At the time of our accident, drunk driving laws in New Mexico were fairly lax, and I don’t recall her serving any jail time. While she was forced to cover my and my friends’ medical and related expenses, she likely didn’t suffer other consequences.
I wondered, however, did her conscience bother her? Did she treat that serious accident as a wake-up call? Did she give herself a second chance?
I began to hope that just as I had changed and grown and sought to embrace my best self over the years, that she, too, had managed some measure of metamorphosis.
Today, as I lay here writing this reflection, with a heating pad on my neck and shoulder and pain meds nearby, I hope and pray so.
Like me, I hope she has gone on to have a full and meaningful life – one in which she shares the story of that night as a lesson learned, as a place from which she transformed.
I hope that the recurring pain I still experience every so often isn’t for naught, and that she is still alive and well somewhere, advising others to never drive while under the influence, because it can lead to real suffering for real people, other than oneself.
If I had the chance to encounter Melissa again and officially meet her, I’d tell her that while I hate the flare ups and radiating pain I sometimes experience and I hate her long-ago choices, I don’t hate her. Doing so would require too much energy and too much heart space.
Instead, I’m thankful to have been one of the ones who survived when so many victims of drunk drivers didn’t. My hope is that wherever Melissa is and whoever she has become, she feels that same humble gratitude – for my life and for her own.
Count it all joy:
The blessings that bring you happiness
The lessons that lead to wisdom
The heartbreak that teaches you empathy
The hope that helps you grow.
Comprise your daily gift – the life that only you get to live.
© Stacy Hawkins Adams
TGIF! Make this a “just because” kinda day.
Do a random act of kindness “just because.”
Hold your tongue “just because.”
Smile “just because.”
Give thanks “just because.”
Forgive “just because.”
Have fun “just because.”
Be happy “just because.”
All because life is a gift worth cherishing – your own as well as others.
By Stacy Hawkins Adams
Bring your best self to life today by reminding yourself that you’re a gift.
Only you can grace us with that smile, that laugh, that funny story, sweet song or moving prayer.
Only you can lead that tribe or love those lost ones or help others find their joy.
Only you can live the purpose that is tucked inside of you, and often straining to be birthed.
No one else sings with your tone, writes with your voice, walks with your style, hugs with your heartiness or lights up a room in your uniquely perfect way.
So just be you today, and be grateful for others around you who are being their authentic selves, too.