Choose life

After yesterday’s doldrums I went out of my way to get to work early, intent on having a cheerful and productive day. But despite my best efforts to complete the main (now urgent) task on my to do list I was thwarted at every turn; pulled into meetings I hadn’t known were happening or that I was meant to attend, asked for input on far less urgent things and generally wound up by events that were beyond my control.

By 5.30pm I was thoroughly disenchanted with life, having achieved none of what I’d planned. I was also, thanks to the weekend’s excesses, still feeling under the weather, which I knew full well would mean abandoning running club and sitting on the sofa enveloped in a grumpy mist of Eau de Woe for the remainder of the evening.

It was then that I remembered the film screening that two of my colleagues were attending with some of our young people this evening. It was for a documentary called One Mile Away, about two ex-gang members from warring factions in Birmingham coming together to try and bring about peace and end gang violence. I’d originally said I couldn’t go but now what was stopping me? My grumpy voice turned up its nose, folded its arms and demanded I go home and mope. But a louder voice said no, I will go to this screening, because instead of making it all about me I should do something to support my colleagues, our young people and the film makers who risked their lives to bring this issue to light.

And so I went. And I’m delighted that I did, because it interesting, illuminating and inspiring (and also because there were free drinks and popcorn, though I appreciate that doesn’t paint quite such a philanthropic picture). The young men in the film were intelligent and frank about their reasons for wanting to change their ways and fight for peace. They explained how hard it was to make the film, how frustrating it was to come up against so much opposition, time and time again. But at no point did they give up, because what they’re fighting for is too important to give up on.

I was particularly struck to learn that two young women in the audience had done 12 years in jail between them, one for armed robbery and the other possession of firearms. These were attractive, confident, articulate girls who had been dragged into gang culture and whose lives had nearly been ruined. And yet here they were, backing the cause for peace to ensure that other girls in their situation didn’t make the same bad choices they had.

Because that’s what it’s all about, this life: Choices. You can make good ones, you can make bad ones. At 5.30pm today I made the choice to turn my back on a frustrating day and the opportunity to wallow and instead spend the evening at an inspiring event with inspiring people, learning about a cause that needs to be shared. And just as I made my choice, so did the boys in the film, and the girls in the audience. They’ve chosen to shun the negative choices they made in the past and make new, positive choices for themselves and their families.

I’ve learned today that whilst you can’t always change your circumstance, you can choose the way you react to it. It’s never too late to turn things around, no matter how bad they seem. We only get one shot at life – no pun intended – so we should everything in our power to fight for it.

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