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What To Do After Your Mistake Changed A Life

Your mistake has destroyed someone else's life. Don't run away. Do the opposite!

Today, 25 January, is National Opposite Day. It's supposed to be a fun day. It's supposed to be a day that allows us to live in opposition to the way we routinely live. Start the day with dinner and work back to breakfast. Say the opposite of what you mean; during an election year, we'd all save a lot of time if we limited the inconsistencies to just one day. Wear your summer clothes under your parka. Stuff like that.

My mom and I both experienced life altering illnesses for the same reason; someone made a mistake in judgment. My mom fell hard, hitting her head on the concrete, as she spun around to see who was calling her name from the other side of the big parking lot. It was a friend, someone who knew my mom had low vision, someone who made a mistake that forever changed my mother's life. The friend rushed to my mother, saw the blood gushing from her forehead and nose and got the building maintenance man to call the ambulance. The friend vanished. Neither my mom nor I ever heard from her again. The head injury gradually turned into the dementia that ended up taking her life 50 months later.

Someone verbally attacked me during a telephone call two weeks after I experienced an episode of stress cardiomyopathy (like a heart attack, but without the lasting damage). The verbal attack caused the stress hormones in my body to go into overdrive. I experienced a disabling stroke from which I am still recovering four years later. The other person heard my weak voice and yelled at me. The last thing I remember hearing him yelling was "Surely you can't expect me to believe that...." which I think was in reference to my previous email telling him my health was fragile in that moment and he shouldn't call if he wasn't going to treat me gently. I guess he heard me stroke out over the phone. I don't remember. The damage his mistake in judgment did to my life was enormous. He'd realized I'd had a stroke and apologized with words, not supportive actions, many months later.

If we're alive, we're going to make mistakes. Some of the mistakes we make can change the course of other people's lives.

I don't know if karma exists, it feels to me like a construct designed to turn life into a tidy good guys/bad guys scenario, and I have taught myself not to care. I care about how we can powerfully love each other and this planet.

Maybe you're carrying guilt for a mistake you've made that has changed the course of another life. Maybe you've been carrying that guilt for years. Today is National Opposite Day. If you want to rid yourself of that guilt, do something different today. Do the opposite.  Make a positive difference in the world.

Contact the person you've harmed only if you are certain that your contact would be welcomed. Ask the magic question: "How can I help you heal?" Apologies are nice. Supportive actions taken after the apology is made are even nicer. If you are not certain the contact would be welcomed, do something else. But do something.

In my mother's case, assuming the friend is alive and able to do something for someone else, the friend could visit elderly friends or relatives in extended care facilities, people who need to know they haven't been forgotten. In my case, the other person could promote stroke awareness on his radio show or in his community.

You get the idea.

Healing the world begins with healing ourselves. On National Opposite Day, instead of once more carrying the heavy burden of knowing you mistakenly did something that devastated another life, drop the burden, ask the magic question, and find a way to act upon the answer: "How can I help you heal?"

copyright Sheryl Hirsch-Kramer 2016 All rights reserved.