There was once a man who cherished a book. Someone had given him this book as a gift or a prize, I don’t recall, and it is not nearly as important as how much that book meant to him. He cherished the book and was careful to turn the pages gently so as to keep the book perfectly new. He always put the book high up in a special place when he finished reading it four or five nights each week. He never let anyone else hold it or read it as they might ruin it.
Time passed, and the man was eventually blessed with a daughter. His interest and almost daily reading of the book intrigued the daughter as a toddler. It seemed like such an important book, and she became interested in looking at it as she saw her father do. He never would let her hold it or look at it for any length of time, however. To him it was an important book, and letting her hold or pretend to read it might damage it. One day, while the man was away, the daughter was able to get the prized book down from the high shelf. She was so excited as she opened the book and looked at the words and pictures. She had the idea to draw her own pictures and words on the pages as well and did so with her favorite crayons.
When the father saw what his daughter had done, he was enraged. He became so angry about the damage to his special book that he yelled and screamed at his daughter and about his daughter to his family around him. He said that what she did was bad and that she was bad for doing it. He became so bitter about his prized book that he threw it in a box in his rage and forgot the book even existed.
Time passed, and the daughter eventually died at a young age. One day, as the father was going through some things of his deceased daughter with the rest of this family, he found his once-prized book. As he leafed through the pages of this now somewhat unfamiliar book, he turned to the pages his daughter had drawn upon some 40 years earlier. Again, emotion welled up in him; uncontrollable emotion. He was so moved and again presented a public display. Those around him saw the father weep and sob uncontrollably. Through his tears he said, with intensity and conviction, how sweet it was to find this book with such a memento of his daughter. How cute the book was now with the daughter’s scribbling. What was once unacceptable and wholly rejected was now precious and valuable.
At any point in one’s life, events will provoke strong reactions. Be it by one’s philosophy, education or life experience, these reactions might be predetermined and understandable. These powerful and at the time congruent reactions are more a product of our experience of our lives than the things or people themselves. We often want to stand on our soap box or shout from the highest mountain top or even die for our positions. But, as we move further down our path, new philosophies, information and experiences will continue to shape our interpretation of things. Until one day, perhaps imperceptibly at the time, things stack up enough to make us turn completely around in thought, philosophies and behavior.
Things, ideas, values and priorities change over time. The importance of events that provoke strong reactions in us will change. Therefore, we should be wary of our reactions and what soap boxes we stand upon, what we shout from the mountains and for what we die. For these decisions that may be only fleeting reactions stay with those we share them with for a long time — long after the priorities that gave rise to them are gone.
Dwayne Stone of Columbia holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from U.C. Irvine and a master’s in social science from Southern Oregon State College. He has worked in the mental health field for more than 18 years in both public and private agencies and private practice as a counselor and life coach. He has developed a parenting program aimed at non-custodial parents and published three self-help books. His columns appear periodically in the Weekend Missourian.