If you want to start a great conversation, raise the topic we gave our columnists to write about this month: If I knew then what I know now. It's a wide open topic and, as a result, you'll find sentiments on the following pages ranging from the proper pitch of a sewer line to the power of forgiveness, as well as this cartoon done by my 9-year-old son, Louis.
As far as my son is concerned, just seeing his cartoon published on this page is the main thing. From the time he's been able to hold a pen, Louis has been drawn to drawing.
One of my lifelong memories will be the time he casually announced he wanted to be known as "the drawing boy." He was in kindergarten at the time. As important as the cartoon is to him, however, it's only a part of a larger lesson learned that more than a boy can put in place.
Months ago, we were sitting around one Saturday afternoon when he said he wanted to have one of his cartoons published. That's the thing about kids' plans -- they start with the impossible and build on from there.
I'll be the first to admit that the first thought that entered my head was "Well, that's a nice idea, but..." Luckily, that's not the first words that came out of my mouth. Instead, I promised him that I'd print one of his cartoons in our January issue. The gap between my first thought and my later attitude is the "wish I knew that then" part of my story.
All of life is on the inside, buried beneath skin and skull. It's God's greatest test to have given us the brainpower we possess, but little instructions on how to put this authority to its most productive use.
With a million thoughts racing through heads, what we tell ourselves and others is often dead wrong. It's all too easy to have thoughts twisted by illogic at best and negativity at worst. Such thoughts run through our minds without the slightest effort on our parts to put them there in the first place.
Your attitude follows your thoughts as surely as baby ducks faithfully follow behind their mother. It seems right, because it feels right. And that's just the problem. Rather than going all Oprah and getting in touch with your feelings, spend time getting in touch with your thinking instead. Your feelings will follow.
Good circumstance or bad, you may not choose what you go through, but you can choose how you go through it. With effort, you can train yourself to straighten out your twisted thinking and change the way you interpret and look at everyday happenings.
Rather than reacting automatically, you can pry open the gap between your attitude and thoughts and fill it with better ways to respond -- such as providing encouragement to a son and turning one small hope into a reality that will pave the way for other dreams to come true.
In some ways, asking people what they wish they knew is unfair since it sets them up for a pointless pursuit to go back to the past and start from scratch. Time travel of a different sort does exist. We may not be able to go back in time, but we can influence the future by determining our best actions to take right now. The time will pass anyway. The only question remains is how you'll use it and where you will end up. And where you end up is largely a matter of attitude. Do this, and "luck" will be the residue of design.
So here's to Louis, a published cartoonist at the age of 9. For now, seeing the picture will make his day. Reading the words will make his many days to come.