Choose to smile
By the time you read this on Wednesday, the anniversary will have passed, with just a few family and friends remembering the tragic events of June 11, 2010. Some of us will never forget.
For those of you who don’t know, or don’t remember, it was in the early morning hours of that day that the Little Missouri River came raging through campgrounds at Albert Pike and swept away lives that are still mourned today.
One of those lives was young Nick Shumake.
You may recognize the name as the inspiration for Nick’s Backpack Mission. Nick’s family has dedicated their lives to the memory of that little boy, and use the memory of his laugh, his smile, and his spirit as they work diligently to feed school children.
Nick would be in high school now. No doubt he would be doing all of the things that a teenage boy does in high school like playing sports, having a girlfriend, playing on his smartphone, and going to church.
That is one thing I am personally convinced that Nick would be doing, because his smile radiated the love of Jesus even at his young age. He was a happy, little boy, and I think he would still be a happy young man today.
There is no doubt in my mind that he would be the class clown, the one who makes everyone else laugh, and one of the most popular boys in his class because he had such an affable personality.
Every year around this week I am drawn back to those horrible moments at Albert Pike and I wonder how life would be different if Nick, and all of the others had not been lost that day. This year is different, as now I know better than ever how Tony, Barbara, Lacey, Kelsey and all of the rest of that family have really felt since that day. Now I know the pain they felt, as it is only a pain you can feel after losing someone that owned your heart.
I also know how they survived it and how they overcame it and used it for something to bring glory to the only one that has the power to take such a loss and turn it into something good.
In this life, we all have little control over the events of the day. Our control lies in how we respond.
In watching one of my fav movies over the weekend, there was a line that my wife used to quote to me, and even though it came from Hollywood, it is one of the wisest lines ever in a movie.
A character played by Nicole Kidman says, “Control is an illusion, you infantile egomaniac. Nobody knows what’s gonna happen next: not on a freeway, not in an airplane, not inside our own bodies and certainly not on a racetrack with 40 other infantile egomaniacs.”
And she is right.
We have very little control over what happens next. We can save money, stockpile it in a bank, put it in a 401k or a money market account. We can plan for years of schooling and degrees, or make any other of a thousand preparations for the future, and it could all be for naught.
We just don’t know what tomorrow holds.
Now, I’m not saying don’t save money or make plans, I am just saying there are more important things.
Living a life that leaves a mark is far more valuable than cash in the bank. Look at little Nick.
Nick was just a child, barely in school, yet his life has left a legacy that has impacted hundreds of other school children for years now, and will continue to do so for years to come. Because his family made the choice to honor his life, love and spirit, his life lives on still today.
To me, that makes young Nick one of the richest people I have ever known.
And the deal is, no matter the circumstances, we all have the ability to make our lives something of value. We can take the bad days and the tragedies, and use them to make the world a better place, ourselves better people, and make someone else’s life just a little bit easier.
We don’t have a lot of control, but we have all of the choice. Everything we do is a choice.
As I finish this, I can see that bright smile on Nick’s face. That was a choice too.
If only we would all choose to smile.