I met a guy recently who has great expectations and wants his life to mean something—he wants to change the world and make it a better place. But he told me that he looks around and gets discouraged, it seems the good one does goes to waste. Our society is such that people put great importance in getting things for themselves, and more and more people are losing the touch and all attempts to change the world are futile.
I understand and agree that it’s not easy to always be unselfish, caring, and giving, especially when such efforts are met with ungratefulness, misunderstanding and sometimes even rejection.
I heard a story when I was in my teen years that has always been an inspiration to me.
The story is told of how a young bride from the East who, during the pioneering days, followed her husband to an army camp on the edge of a desert in California. Living conditions were primitive at best. He had advised against her moving there, but she wanted to be with him.
The only housing they could find was a run-down shack near an Indian village. The heat was unbearable in the daytime, the wind blew constantly, spreading dust and sand on everything in the house. The days were long and boring because her only neighbors were the Indians, none of whom spoke English.
When her husband was ordered farther into the desert for two weeks, loneliness and the wretched living conditions got the best of her. She wrote to her mother that she was coming home—she just couldn’t take it any more. In a short time, she received a reply that included these two lines:
Two men looked out from prison bars,
One saw mud, the other saw stars.
She read the lines over and over and began to feel ashamed of herself. She finally decided to she would look for the stars.
In the days that followed, she set out to make friend with the Indians. She asked them to teach her weaving and pottery. At first, they were distant; but as soon as they sensed that her interest was genuine, they returned her friendship. She became fascinated with their culture, history—everything about them.
She began to study the desert as well; and soon it, too, changed from a desolate, forbidding place to a marvelous thing of beauty. She had her mother send her books and studied the vegetation in the desert—Later, she became such an expert that she wrote a book about it.
The desert didn’t change. The Indians didn’t change. Simply by changing her own attitude she had transformed a miserable experience into a highly rewarding one.
How easy it is to focus on the problems around it, on the lack of progress, on the impossibilities—and yet if we were to look for the stars in our sky, we will realize how vast the universe actually is.
I made a resolution in my life to always look for the stars—and the darker the night, the brighter they shine. The stars are out there, the mud too as far as I know, but let’s focus on the stars—it is after all the better alternative.