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Making a Difference

March 14, 2008

When I wrote the post Take Control (1): Be a Captain I got an e-mail from a friend in the Netherlands who told me a good story. It made me glad to see what great influence one person can have upon another, especially when communication between them is based on love and truth. And also, that each person can change his or her life for the better, if they really want to (as stated in the end).

Here is a part of Angélique van Tintelen e-mail:

“Your post made me think of someone I dealt with in my previous job. You know I worked for the district attorney’s office in Amsterdam for a few years, and while there had a “regular customer”, a 15 year old boy. Finally, after yet another arrest (for his 3rd armed robbery, no less), I asked him why he was back in my office with such regular intervals. He immediately started blaming all kinds of people, his parents for not giving him enough pocket allowance, his teachers for not giving him enough attention, people in general who didn’t like him or so he thought, and me, I was mean to him, and on and on he went.

“What was interesting is that this boy had an older brother and sister who excelled at almost everything they did. Brother in medical school, sister in law school, both honour students. So, my next question was why his brother and sister seemed to be leading a great life, with the same parents, same school, same teachers, same people, etc. I tried to tell him that I did not think he was getting a raw deal. He led the life he led because of decisions HE made. So I gave him a choice. He could either continue on the path he was on, which definitely would lead to more jail time, or I could try to put him in touch with a counsellor, he would go back to school and stay on the straight and narrow from now on. If he managed to keep out of trouble, his record would be deleted on his 18th birthday.

“It took a while, but after a few months (and a few more arrests, sigh), he finally decided to accept my offer. He finished high school in the top 10 of his class and now attends classes at the university here. What impresses me the most is the complete change he underwent. From a sulky teenager simply oozing hostility, he is friendly, clean cut, and simply happy (my mom actually thought he was a missionary when we ran into him at the mall :-0 ). He is, of course and unfortunately, an exception. But still, he is living proof to me of the fact that you are in control of your own life.

“You can make a difference, but you have to WANT it.”

So there we have it, one of life’s simply truths: You can make a difference in your own life – and in someone else’s – if you really want to.

Brother Louis

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