Some time ago I discovered such a gem while reading a column written by Joe Brown. He was writing about a conversation he had with an ex-con. "We talked about many things," he wrote. "I could have stayed and talked with him all night. One of the things we talked about was how many of us waste so many days of our lives."
The man said, "I've wasted a lot of years of my life but I believe if I hadn't been what I was and went through what I did, I wouldn't see things as I do now. If I could change my past I would, but I realize I can't. It is what it is. I have to accept that and learn from it."
Now the ex-convict devotes a great deal of his time talking to prisoners, offering hope, and trying to help. "If I can reach just one guy my efforts are rewarded," he said. We need to hear his wisdom.
If what has happened to us in the past had not happened we would not be the person we are. We need to hear this wisdom instead of going around bemoaning what might have been if things were different. Things are what they are and we can't change that. The secret is to learn from what is past and get over it and get on with our lives.
The secret is to learn from the past and build a better future. A bad reputation has pulled many people down. A mistake is made. Mistrust of us is fostered. It's hard to overcome that.
It's much easier to go down from that point than it is to come back. When we are down we meet many unforgiving people. Like this ex-con, they know that without the bad experience they would not be what they are. Used properly, bad experiences can help us be better than we would have been without them.
It's something like a parachute. Used properly it does its job and has saved many lives. But try getting into the harness and open a parachute while standing in a windstorm. It will drag us around like a doll and smash us up pretty good.
Why do bad things happen to us? We don't know. We will never know. It comes down to the words of a prophet in the Bible, "Lean not on your own understanding, just acknowledge God in all your ways and he will take care of you."
Our bad experiences are like that parachute. Either we can use them and become better selves or they will smash us. The question is not what might have been, or what could have been. The question is what are we going to do with what is.
This week's question: A curious quotation from the Bible is, "The voice of the turtle is heard in our land." Where did this come from? Last week's question: What king of Babylon burned Jerusalem? Answer: Nebuchadadnezzar (2 Kings25:9)
(Robert Lind is a retired newspaper editor and publisher. He may be reached at this newspaper or at email@example.com.)