None of us knows what the future holds. But we do know the values we hold dear—honesty, integrity, love, compassion, empathy, respect, tolerance. As we raise our children, we instill these values. As adults, we model these values whether we win or lose, succeed or fail, sink or swim. Watching us, they learn, and, as they go forward into their futures, they will bring these values to their own decisions. If each of us does this, we will leave the world a better brighter place for our having been here.
Do you like to read the end of a novel first? Maybe especially when it’s a particularly stressful novel, and you want to make sure your favorite characters come out ok? It’s comforting, isn’t it? To know how the story ends, that no matter how deep the characters are in trouble, they will find a way out. And then you can read the book without being so nervous.
In this world, though, we don’t get to peek at the end of the book. We soldier on hoping and working toward better tomorrows. And we don’t know what will happen to our favorite people. Or even ourselves, for that matter.
But we do know, when we look back at the story of our own life, or at the greater story of the world, that great things have often come out of very trying times. Great art, certainly. But more than that, great advancement–inventions, cures, technology. Maybe even peace.
As we go through these challenging times, let us keep our hopes on the possibility that tomorrow will be a better day, even if that tomorrow is still a ways away.
Sunrise defeats night. The darkness will be driven away. When in the midst of the darkness, it may feel unending, but as day follows night, this, too, shall pass. The beauty of a sunrise is a lovely image to keep in mind when going through a problem. As sunrise defeats night, so hope conquers a problem. In times of great difficulty, we must hold on to hope that things will improve and that we can help.
Jane Goodall speaks to her hope for our future and, specifically, her hope in our youth in this moving speech.
She is right: if we don’t have hope, we give up, we do nothing. She says, “In this world of violence and fear, we must have hope for a better future.” That hope will sustain us and give us strength to solve the problems we face, as surely as day will follow night if we hold on.
It’s so easy to get caught up in the issue of the moment that we forget about the future. How will our behavior now influence our relationships and the world then? Dystopian books and movies can sometimes shock us into realizing that our actions have consequences, that nothing is insignificant, that everything matters. As we plow forward into the world we will leave to our children, it helps to consider–will that world be better because we were in it; will our actions have contributed to a stable future for the next generation; will we be leaving things better than we found them?
Have you ever wished you could erase someone or something from your mind? That you could go back to that time when you hadn’t messed up or been hurt? We long for that before, don’t we? We hold on to the anger or regret because we miss that before so much, that innocent time before something wounded us or before we wounded someone else.
But holding that emotion grounds us in the past and our wounds don’t heal, but fester. It happened. We can’t erase it or take it back. We need to acknowledge that bad stuff happens, sometimes stuff we do ourselves, and move on, forgiving ourselves and others, into the future we have in front of us now rather than longing for the future we had in front of us before.
This, right here, right now, is what your life is. The future in front of you is built on all the things that have happened to you and things you have done up to this point, even the bad things.
Step into that future, let go of the past, and be the best you you can be.
In “Sound of Thunder“, Ray Bradbury introduced the idea that one tiny butterfly could have a far-reaching ripple effect on later historical events:
In the year 2055, time travel has become a practical reality, and the company Time Safari Inc. offers wealthy adventurers the chance to travel back in time to hunt extinct species such as dinosaurs. A hunter named Eckels pays $10,000 to join a hunting party that will travel back 65 million years to the Late Cretaceous period, on a guided safari to kill a Tyrannosaurus rex. As the party waits to depart, they discuss the recent presidential elections in which an apparently fascist candidate, Deutscher, has been defeated by the more moderate Keith, to the relief of many concerned. When the party arrives in the past, Travis (the hunting guide) and Lesperance (Travis’s assistant) warn Eckels and the two other hunters, Billings and Kramer, about the necessity of minimizing the events they change before they go back, since tiny alterations to the distant past could snowball into catastrophic changes in history. Travis explains that the hunters are obliged to stay on a levitating path to avoid disrupting the environment, that any deviation will be punished with hefty fines, and that prior to the hunt, Time Safari scouts had been sent back to select and tag their prey, which would have died within minutes anyway, and whose death has been calculated to have minimal effect on the future.
Although Eckels is initially excited about the hunt, when the monstrous Tyrannosaur approaches, he loses his nerve. Travis tells him he cannot leave, but Eckels panics, steps off the path and runs into the forest. Eckels hears shots, and on his return he sees that the two guides have killed the dinosaur, and shortly afterward the falling tree that would have killed the T. rex has landed on top of it. Realizing that Eckels has fallen off the path, Travis threatens to leave him in the past unless he removes the bullets from the dinosaur’s body, as they cannot be left behind. Eckels obeys, but Travis remains furious, threatening on the return trip to shoot him.
Upon returning to 2055, Eckels notices subtle changes – English words are now spelled and spoken strangely, people behave differently, and Eckels discovers that Deutscher has won the election instead of Keith. Looking at the mud on his boots, Eckels finds a crushed butterfly, whose death has apparently set in motion a series of subtle changes that have affected the nature of the alternative present to which the safari has returned. He frantically pleads with Travis to take him back into the past to undo the damage, but Travis had previously explained that the time machine cannot return to any point in time that it has already visited (so as to prevent any paradoxes). Travis raises his gun, and there is “a sound of thunder”.
Bradbury’s genius in considering how small seemingly insignificant changes can alter the future has, of course, become a standard sci-fi plot device. But how about applying the principle to the present. What can we do now to ensure a better future for us all? We can’t possibly know the effect of the small acts of kindness we do each day. But we do know that one kind act leads to another, ever onward, each person touched by kindness more likely to pass it on, creating an entire chain, then web, outward, expanding farther and farther as it goes. That ever-expanding ripple of kindness can perhaps circle the world if we could only track it.
In this heart-warming, and tear-jerking (in a good way) video, one man discovers just how powerful a little gesture of kindness can be.
What can you do today to start ripples everywhere you go?
Even as each day is unfolding, taking shape, and then morphing just as we think we understand it, our future is unknown. Possibilities exist; nothing is set in stone; anything can be.
You do not need to stay trapped by old mistakes and regrets. You do not need to wallow in yesterday’s disappointments. You are not defined by what you used to be.
Today is a new day. Tomorrow is full of possibilities. Rise up and step ever forward into the promise of what is yet to come.
Consider the birds. They have so much to teach us. They sing; they fly; they soar. When the storm is over, they come out and sing, fly, and soar again. They vary dramatically from the tiny hummingbird to the great bald eagle, but they have so much in common. And, when we are quiet, they remind us to look up, to look to the future and the possibility that lies there. It turns out considering the birds is good for our well-being, keeping depression at bay.
Be still and notice the birds. Do you see the vulture with its huge wings soaring above you? Do you hear the hawk shriek? Do you see the crows tuck in their wings and dive to open them again and rise only after you gasp, worried?
Watch them bathe in a puddle, delighting in the way the water splashes around them. Listen to them sing.
They sing for you.
None of us knows what the future holds. But we do know the values we hold dear–honesty, integrity, love, compassion, empathy, respect, tolerance. As we raise our children, we instill these values. As adults, we model these values whether we win or lose, succeed or fail, sink or swim. Watching us, they learn, and, as they go forward into their futures, they will bring these values to their own decisions. If each of us does this, we will leave the world a better brighter place for our having been here.