Even if you’re not from Washington D.C. you may have heard of former Mayor Anthony Williams. He has a remarkable story. Williams was born to an unwed teen who gave him up. He was known as a "problem child" in foster care. By age three, little Anthony had still never spoken a word. It seemed that a pattern for his life was set, that is, until two warm and caring people took a chance on him.
Anthony was taken in by an opera-singing postal clerk and her equally generous-hearted husband. He soon began to speak and eventually thrived in their home. He excelled academically and later attended both Harvard and Yale Universities.
In 1998, he came from obscurity to win 66% of the vote to become mayor in one of the world’s major cities. In his inaugural address, Williams said: "Forty-four years ago, my parents adopted me and gave me a second chance. I feel this city has now adopted me and I will give to it everything my parents taught me about love, service, commitment."
It’s no doubt that, had he never been adopted into his particular family, his life would have been wholly different. He was saved by a second chance. And haven’t each of us been given second chances? He got a do-over on his birth family. Haven’t we been given do-overs on relationships, jobs, blown opportunities and the like? Quite often second chances are the result of the generosity of someone who cares a great deal. And sometimes we are saved by those second chances.
Author Dr. Seuss says in his book The Lorax, "Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not."
I recently came across a story of a young American woman who was saved by a do-over. During the second World War, she lost her husband. He died in India of a tropical disease and she became despondent. In time, despair turned into depression and she lost all interest in living. She just didn’t care anymore.
She booked passage on a ship back to America. On the voyage, she became acquainted with a seven-year-old boy who, like her, was all alone. His parents had died in the fighting in Burma. He seemed to want to be with the young woman, but her pain would not allow it. She wanted nothing to do with him and avoided him whenever possible. She felt so ravaged by loss, that she was unable to get outside of herself and care about anyone else. And she certainly did not have the energy to take on someone else’s problems.
Then one night the ship was torpedoed. The young woman made her way to the deck and prepared herself to go down with the doomed vessel. Some part of her actually welcomed it as an escape from her pain. The child, too, came on deck. He shivered with cold and fright. When he spotted the woman, he came over and clung to her.
That was when a lump of ice melted somewhere deep inside her. She put her arms around the child and led him to one of the lifeboats. For several days, as they waited to be rescued, she held him and he held her. Years later her friends would say that they didn’t know whether the woman saved the boy, or the boy saved the woman. They each gave the other a second chance at life and a do-over on love.
"Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not."
But it’s the people who give do-overs who truly change the world.
-- Steve Goodier
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