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Saturday, May 30, 2015

“What is a Good Life?” by Chloe Maxwell

Morrison Academy Graduate 2015
Yesterday Chloe graduated from High School at the Morrison Academy in Taichung, Taiwan.  Ian, Spencer and I were thrilled to be able to attend her graduation, and in honor of our amazing daughter I am posting, with permission, this paper that she wrote for her “Senior Topics” class this year.  The question asked was “What is a Good Life?” 

Here was her answer to that question:

“Life is full of memories that stack up as you wait in anticipation for the next one you will make. The question is, when you look back on those memories, will they add up to the good life you might have hoped for? We spend so much time, money and energy trying to reach our next goal, get the next best thing, continue advancing through life, but I fear that one day we will look back with regret. If we take a moment to stop and look back, look at where we are spending our time, then we might have a chance at living “the good life.”

One day during my Freshman year, I was at “Cirque” practice and my “coach” wanted us to take a break from what we were doing, spread out on stage, and lay down. The Seniors knew exactly what they were doing and seemed relieved, but I, clueless, and just followed along. Our coach told us to shut our eyes and to try to visualize what he was saying. We were told to imagine ourselves in the most relaxing place we could think of. Immediately, I was at the beach. He continued to walk us through this; what the place looked like, the colors, the temperature, etc. Of course, the bell rang and we had to wake up from our happy places and go to our next class, but when I think back to my “happy place” it really does line up with what I would love in reality. If I could live on the beach for the rest of my life in the sunshine, with no worries and unlimited funds, wouldn’t that be the life, the “good life”?   We could, “Imagine there's no countries, it isn't hard to do, nothing to kill or die for, and no religion too, imagine all the people, living life in peace…” as John Lennon says in his song Imagine. The beach, no worries and living life in peace?  All of those things sounds like a pretty good life to many, but not to everyone.

I look back on my life, all 18-years of it, and so far I would say I’ve had a pretty great life. Living on three different continents, riding elephants cowboy-style in Kenya, white-water rafting down the Zambezi river in Zimbabwe, climbing the ancient castles in Portugal, watching my mom being made a Chief in Malawi, these are all memories I will have forever and might be some of the coolest things I get to do in my lifetime, but without these memories and experiences I would still say I have the good life.

Growing up in a stable family that loves me and is healthy would certainly go on my list for the “Good Life” bucket list, but it’s the small things that make it onto that list, that are the most valuable. Sitting at the counter talking to my mom as she makes dinner with Norah Jones playing in the background, family dinners when we used to talk around the table and would laugh to the point of falling out of our chairs, walking through our garden in Canada watching the plants grow while stealing a couple of raspberries, strawberries and peas in a pod along the way.

Those are the things that make life good, but there are other memories that aren’t as sweet. 

I had a friend whose life that was the polar opposite to the fairy tail childhood that I experienced. After growing up neglected, abused and raped she was forced into prostitution to become a “magician,” as she used to call herself. Five children later, at the age of 24, she was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS as well as multiple drug-resistant Tuberculosis (MDR-TB). That was when I met her, the clock started and I only had two-years to build a relationship with Gcebile.

We were complete strangers from totally different backgrounds, yet we were still able to build a relationship that would bring us close enough that we would called each other sister. This girl that had had the hardest life possible, was still full of life and joy. We would laugh together, and she would tease me about boys always putting in her piece of advice saying, “I’m watching you, don’t be off doing anything because you will look back and not be happy about it.” The last time I saw her I sat on the edge of her bed as she was tucked in, barely skin and bones. Though I couldn’t admit it to myself, I knew this would probably be the last time I would get to see Gcebile, and I was heart broken.

That memory of giving her my favorite ring that she loved so much, seeing the joy in her eyes that she was finally home at Project Canaan, and hearing that last “I love you so much my sister, I’m watching you” will stay with my forever. When receiving that phone call that Gcebile had passed away, after building that close of a relationship, many might wonder what was the point? When writing plans for the “Good Life” you might wish for, this would certainly not be on most people’s lists, but it was on mine and I would never change that. I got two years with one of the most incredible, strongest people I would ever meet. Why would I change that for a life with no worries on the beach? “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Romans 5:3-4).

Gcebile’s perseverance and her character sparked hope in thousands of people praying for her around the world. Not hope as in a want or a wish, but a certainty, that God is good and his plans are best. Even the memories like this make the good life good, just in a different way than you might expect.

The perspective that I have has been developed over the years from the new cultures I have been immersed in, the diverse people I’ve gotten to build relationships with, and the incredible experiences I have had the opportunity to experience. I wouldn’t change any of it, but what does that mean for me? When I’m 80-years old and look back on my life, what will make me think that I lived a good life?

I started to think about this the past year a bit, and it made me pause and seriously think. I don’t want to be constantly waiting for the next event in my life or for the next destination travel date to come up. Instead, I want to pay attention to the present and live my life for today.

Referring back to the song Imagine with John Lennon, I could, “imagine all the people, living for today…” but maybe a better choice would be heed the words of the Apostle Paul, who said, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” (Philippians 4:12)  Paul had a purpose-filled life, and I hope to follow in his footsteps.

Reminding myself to pay attention to every moment and act as if it is my last, as opposed to just seeing the big picture and racing through. Focusing my priorities on other people instead of myself, as John Bunyan said, “You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.” Being able to look back on my life and know that what I did have a purpose, that would be the only way I could say I lived a good life, the good life.

I have been shaped and molded, and will continue to be as the years go on, but I hope that as I do I will be able to live like Paul talks about living in 1 Corinthians. “We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored! To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly. We have become the scum of the earth, the garbage of the world—right up to this moment.” (1 Corinthians 4:10-13).

I realize this sounds insane, and not at all like the life someone sane would want to live. It might even sounds fake as my faith is still so small, and it seems like a stretch to want to have a faith to live like this, but it is true. To live a life of total humility sounds like total freedom to me, and what Paul is talking about in this chapter is having humility and grace in our broken world.

The last thing that would contribute to the good life I might dream of, would be people. What would life be like if you didn’t have great friends to share it or go through it with? I want to make friends that will become my life-long friends. People that know me completely that I can be myself around that are non-judgmental and that I know I could trust. You want people who stay constant in your life that you can invest in each others lives and can encourage each other and be there for each other when things get tough. Not only that though, you want people in your life that you can laugh with and enjoy life with. This aspect of my good life equation would be pretty essential, but might be tougher than I realize. Life may just be a million memories, crammed together, to some people, but I will make my life, the good life.”   

Thank you Chloe for writing this.  We are so incredibly proud of you and we are so thankful that that you are such a big part of our "good life".

Live from Taiwan…I am incredibly thankful for HIS plans.


1 comment:

  1. Wow Chloe! I am so proud of you! You are part of my "Good Life!"
    Love Auntie Kim


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