Make something happen


While driving around this weekend, I caught a segment of Snap Judgement, a story-telling program on NPR. The story I heard was about Jason McLaughlin who was kidnapped by FARC rebels in Columbia. Jason was held for about a year against his will, with no way of telling his family that he was okay. The guy’s experiences are amazing, and it’s really worth your time to listen to this story. Two things really struck me while listening.

First, his attitude toward his captors borders on the sublime. As the narrator interjects at one point “he was kidnapped for a year, and the worst he can say about his captors is that they don’t like the banjo!” He emphatically states that he did not “lose a year of his life” as many people tried to claim on his behalf. He was there, living his life. It might not have been great all the time, but it was his life and he lived it. It’s pretty easy for those of us living comfortably, dealing with our minor tragedies, to lose sight of the fact that it’s our lives we’re living.

Second, Jason made a calendar to keep track of his time as a captive. Part of the process he developed was to write down each day something that had happened on that day. Jason quickly discovered that in order to make this worthwhile, he had to make something happen. Otherwise, his journal entries would all simply read “Still kidnapped”.

That kind of intentional living really floored me. I don’t think I would have been so composed were I in Jason’s situation. While mulling over the story, I realized why I never really kept a diary or enjoyed journaling very much: I was merely passing on whatever things had happened to me. It was a banal accounting of my own passivity.

The lesson to make something happen every day is great advice. The challenge, for me at least, is to find the energy to keep doing it. I get distracted with all the little tragedies of my comfortable urban life and give in to the inertia of passivity.

For the rest of this week, at least, I’m committing to make something happen every day. Hopefully I’ll overcome the inertia of passivity, and then Newton’s First Law can kick into effect.

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