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Where Did That Smile Come From?

Updated: Nov 2, 2021

Connecting the Dots to Create Stories

We look forward to the future.

We learned this trait at a very early age. When Mom’s smiling face appeared to our infant eyes, we knew something special might follow; and we learned the correct response—a giggle here, a smile there, or maybe we blew a few baby bubbles. Throughout our lives we bet on a future that would come to pass because of the care we took to follow some pattern we thought would achieve the desired result:

  • If I share the new recipe, my friends can enjoy it as well.

  • If I pay attention, my marriage will succeed.

  • If I get a certain degree, my career will blossom.

  • If I follow the teachings of a community of faith, my life will be drawn to a fulfilling place.

We look forward. But…

Doubting is very easy. Doubt sets in when over a long stretch things don’t happen as we had planned or hoped. Doubt sets in when we fail. Doubt sets in when we get discouraging results. Doubt sets in when…we doubt.

We look forward but do not see a hoped-for result. What then?

Maybe looking back would help.

From that perspective I can see success where failure had threatened; I can see a good result where doubt had clouded my view:

  • Sharing the recipe did bring enjoyment to the friendship.

  • My marriage is strong and vital and in its 55th year.

  • My career blossomed.

  • I feel grateful for the life I have.

When I look back, I see connections between the start and now—even when the beginnings stretch far back in time.

I even see connections when the dots are not continuous. Yes, some strings of dots show erosion, failure. I never did become the astronomer I wanted to be when I was 14. So, if I had stopped there, I would have assumed failure, which would have cast the shadow of doubt over more than just my career.

On the other hand in retirement I’ve been able to take some spectacular pictures of celestial objects and introduce my grandson to the joy of seeing the sky through a telescope. The dots had dropped but started again. Decades later.

What about you? If you look back, do you see dots connecting in your life?

  • Riding your bike everywhere as a kid is part of the reason a bike rack rides on the back of your car today.

  • Using your pet dog as a guinea pig for your homemade bandages carried over into becoming a medical first responder.

  • That chemistry set exploded into a life-long career.

  • The boyhood friendship became a long-standing friendship.

  • The girl next door…?

These stories dispel doubt. They say, “Look! It worked out OK.”

What that means is that with a little reflection, we might help not only ourselves but also others find hope. How do we do that? Collect and tell the stories of dots connecting over time. I find sharing the hope I have experienced to be one of the more enjoyable aspects of retirement. It is not an activity that consumes much time, but the rewards are great.

You are reading the fruits of that effort right now.

The power of story is probably familiar to you. You may have business acquaintances who help your team through the stories they tell. Maybe you are fortunate to have a family member the whole family reveres for his gift of storytelling, which strengthens the family bond.

I treasure this little statue as a reminder of Uncle Zemo, our family’s consummate storyteller.

What do you have to lose? Others may find some peace, a little more joy, a bit of hope if you learn to tell the stories you know. Magically, you could have a new challenge ahead of you: Look to the past; recover the stories—yours and those of your community. Share them with others.

Let me know how that works out. Do you have a story you’d like to share with me or my readers? Drop me a line or make a comment below.

Ed Zinkiewicz

…the retired guy


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