No. 619



Have you heard the story about the passive mountaineer whose house caught on fire? One day a man from the city was driving down the road in the mountains and came upon this house that was on fire. The first thing he noticed was this old mountaineer leaning up against a tree several hundred feet away. This man from the city stopped his car, went over to the old mountaineer and said, “Mister, your house is on fire.” The old mountaineer said, “I know it.” This man then said, “Why don’t you do something?” He said, “I am. I am laying here praying for rain.” Obviously, the scene ends with the house burning to the ground.
The key word in this story is “passive,” and it means, “Not acting, working or operating; inactive; inert.” Sadly, there are millions of people in our nation today who are living a passive lifestyle. In other words they are not acting, working or operating, and as a result they are paying a high price emotionally and in the loss of self-esteem, which may be the greatest loss of all. It’s often said there are three groups of people in this world: “those who make things happen, those who watch what happens, and those who wake up after it’s all over and say, what happened?”
What I have just shared with you is my way of introducing you to a very important topic that I am calling, “Living a Proactive Lifestyle.” There are many benefits to living this kind of lifestyle, and if you are not already sold on doing this I hope to sell you before the end of the day. A few weeks ago I had a chance encounter with a young African-American man that turned out to be a real blessing. If I can communicate with you on a deeper level, the following story may help you gain some insights that will make your life more enjoyable and rewarding. My goal for each of these columns has always been to help you in some way.
One Sunday afternoon several weeks ago I stopped by a local restaurant for some take-out and had to wait several minutes for my order to be prepared. There was only one other person in the restaurant, this young, African-American man, maybe in his mid-20s, who was sitting on a bench. There were many empty tables and chairs in the room. Instead of just speaking and going to one of the tables, I sat down beside him on the bench. After a few moments I began to chat with him and learned that he had moved here from Charlotte, N.C., and worked in auto body repair. His name was Kevin, he was married, and had an 8-year-old daughter in one of our elementary schools.
I then asked him if she liked to read. He said no, that she was doing very poorly in school. He also said, “To be honest, I don’t read much either, just the classifieds.” At this point I began to tell him a little about our “Bookcase for Every Child” project. We continued to visit and then he told me that he was originally from Wynne, Ark. Just by chance, this column has run in the Wynne Progress newspaper for the past several years and Kevin told me what when he was much younger he used to work there. A few minutes later his order was ready, but in the meantime he told me that auto body repair work in our community was very sparse and the next day he and his family were moving back to Charlotte, where he had relatives and a job waiting for him.
He also told me that he was really concerned about putting his little girl back in school in this large city, but at this point he had little choice, at least it was this way in his mind. I told him how glad I was to get to know him and wished him well. He said he was glad to get to know me, too. Kevin got his order and, before leaving, he shook my hand enthusiastically and our eyes met, and the one thing he knew from our brief visit is that I cared about him. Just a young man I had never met, and will never meet again, but nevertheless a human being who is searching for a better life for himself and his family.
To go back to what I said earlier about communicating with you on a deeper level, this story is not anything out of the ordinary, save for the fact that I was living a proactive lifestyle. This conversation and making a young man feel worthwhile would never have happened if I had just gone to one of the tables and sat there in silence. This is only the tip of the iceberg of what it means to live a proactive lifestyle, because it involves every fiber of our being. Most people do not act in their own best interests in advance of a need or a problem. Rather they don’t act; they react, to most every situation that comes along. The person who lives a proactive lifestyle is in the first group: These are the people who make things happen. Are you living a proactive lifestyle?
(EDITOR'S NOTE: Jim Davidson is a public speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034. To support literacy, buy his book: “Learning, Earning & Giving Back.”)