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Young People … Our Greatest Resource

A BIG Wake-up Call

While at the annual convention of the National Speakers Association earlier this month in San Diego, I attended an excellent training session put on by Toastmasters Golden Gavel winner (2000), Ed Tate. His session dealt with using real-life stories in a speech or presentation.

Ed shared that an effective story has four parts:

1. An opening thought

2. A “connection” to the audience

3. Humor (this one is not always necessary or appropriate)

4. A closing point or message

Here’s the story I developed in the session. It had to relate to a very recent event, and it had to come together in two minutes or less. That’s a challenge, but it’s not really as difficult as it sounds.


Few things touch us more deeply that our families and our relationships with them. I suppose that’s why Father’s Day, 2007, was so special to me. Everyone was at our house for lunch after church, everyone except our daughter’s husband. He was in the Middle East.

Our daughter slipped into the office after lunch and emailed some new photos of the baby to her husband.

Later that evening, I was checking my email. One line on the Yahoo news briefs caught my attention. I clicked on it. The article reported that a bus full of police instructors had been bombed in Kabul, Afghanistan, about twelve to fourteen  hours earlier. Over five dozen individuals were killed in the blast, most of them American.

Interesting, I thought. My son-in-law was also in Afghanistan.

Interesting, also, he was in Kabul at the time. (He was in transit to another location, but in Kabul at the time of the bombing.)

And he’s a police instructor.

And he’s DEFINITEY an American!

Can you recall ever having that moment of shock and disbelief when a lightning bolt tears a hole in your stomach?

“Oh, he couldn’t have been with that group,” I remembered saying to myself. But it was more than obvious that he could have been.

I remember praying, “Lord, please, please, let it not be him.” But what did that mean? Was God somehow supposed to spare my daughter’s husband at the expense of someone else’s husband? This wasn’t a “spare everyone” situation; men had already died.

What do you do when you feel absolutely and totally helpless?

The article shared how the authorities were having a difficult time identifying the bodies. Since this could take some time, I decided not to say anything to my daughter about it just yet. There was no need to compound her concern anymore than necessary until more information was available.

I was at her house a day later. I asked her if he had gotten the pictures she had emailed. She smiled and shared that he had, and that he was especially fond of the picture that showed off his son’s first tooth.

Well, I had my answer in that moment; he was fine. The effects of the bombing were quite real indeed; lives and families had been affected to the core. But my daughter’s husband had not been involved.

I managed to learn a few things from this whole situation, and I am making effort to act on them. Perhaps you will find them helpful also:

1. We might think otherwise most of our lives, but none of us are ever completely exempt from what happens in this world. Tragedy is not reserved for others only; even the innocent suffer sometimes. That’s just the way it is, and we are not going to change it. If we fail to understand this, our recovery from deep pain and loss can be seriously affected. 

2. We need not be selfish in our empathy. Just because my son-in-law was spared shouldn’t detract from the fact that others were not. An expression of caring and empathy, even toward folks we don’t know, is a good thing.  

3. We should all make it a point to never have any unfinished business with our loved ones. (I think I was alright on this one.) Life is a precious and fragile thing. Opportunities to reconcile, embrace and reaffirm might be more limited than we think.


Have a great week.

James Sutton, Psychologist   


July 21, 2007 - Posted by | adversity, family, Inspirational, Parents


  1. This poignant story reminds me too well of the early days of Intifada II. At work, I was continually scanning the news, because so much was going on. Around noon on Oct. 31, there was a brief report that two security guards at the East Jerusalem Bituach Leumi (National Insurance, a kind of social security/welfare) office had been shot. My neighbor, with whom I often drove to work in the mornings, was one of them. His funeral was held that evening in Jerusalem. How glad I am that only a day before, as we drove into Jerusalem, he had told me some cute thing his little daughter had done that day, and his whole face lit up with pleasure at the memory of it. How glad I am that his little girl still comes over to visit me, too, when she’s at her grandparents…


    Comment by Alifa | July 22, 2007 | Reply

  2. Thanks for the comment, Alifa. I think your story is better than mine.
    All the best,
    James Sutton


    Comment by docspeak | July 22, 2007 | Reply

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