by Ginny Hildebrand, East District Lay Leader
When District Superintendent Susan Brims suggested that the East District Lay Leaders write an article about our defining moment in life, I thought, sure no problem. Then I set to running through my life mentally as I prepared to write. I quickly found it was impossible to discern just one defining moment, the truth is there have been numerous moments that have shaped my life, causing me to act differently, grow in my faith, and my understanding of myself. So then how do I write about them? How do I pick just one?
So I’ve been searching for some definitions and current thinking on the defining moment subject. About a year ago, Sidney Evans wrote for Forbes Coaches Council the following,
“A defining moment is a point in your life when you’re urged to make a pivotal decision, or when you experience something that fundamentally changes you. Not only do these moments define us, but they have a trans-formative effect on our perceptions and behaviors.”
Thinking on this, it is clear people probably have hundreds, or more of these times in our life. But the more I think about this, for me it is keeping my awareness honed for the times God is present with me, then quieting my surroundings and life enough to listen and feel what this presence means, and then the hard part, acting on God’s presence. Having an awareness, that is now referred to as “mindfulness” to recognize when God is present with us.
Then I had one of those “Ahh Hah” realizations. Yes, there are those big defining moments, but what happens more in our lives are the times when our actions, spurred by who we are as God’s children, are seen as defining moments for others.
I think too about the small defining moments. Times when people I know, or even I, choose to act a certain way, most of the time seemingly out of instinct or habit. These times are truly what is defining me to others in my everyday life and it is how my faith is played out. Boiled down it is the small things we do and how we treat each other.
Then I thought of my five year old grandson, Taz, the younger grandson in our family. A few weeks ago, we treated him to playtime at his favorite fast-food play area. While we were eating, he reached over and touched my arm and said, “Grandma, that little boy over there is all alone, and I don’t see his Mommy.” The child, probably about two years old, truly was alone at the moment. I assured Taz the little boy’s Mommy was probably just getting their food, but that we should keep our eyes on the little guy. And Taz did. Like a hawk, with laser-like intensity, Taz was already watching the boy. Then watching every child around the boy, to make sure he was OK, plus checking out every adult who came into the play area. Then he said to me, “Grandma, he doesn’t have a brudder.” I told him maybe his brother wasn’t there today, but that sometimes people like Taz and me were supposed to help make sure that little boy was OK. Just about then, the mom came in with their food and two older children trailing behind. I could see Taz take a huge sigh of relief. He then stood up, walked over to the boy, and asked if he wanted to play. The little boy looked up to Taz and away they went.
When Taz came back for a little break in the playing, I told him, “Taz, you are a good human being.” He just smiled at me. But it doesn’t end there…Then we left to take him for a haircut. When the barber was done, he offered Taz his candy jar, and Taz took one. Then the barber asked if he would like another. The barber said, “You can have one now, and save one for later.” Taz took one and said, “No, this one is for my brudder.”
Just experiencing this taught me so much. For a little guy so young to have this knowledge and act on it, as though it was instinct made my spirit soar. Maybe it was instinct…or maybe it was acquired through the examples of care to him by his family and his “brudder” as he was cradled and cared for that developed in his mind and heart so he acted in such a caring way.
Dr. Ryan Niemiec of the VIA Character Institute suggests that “taking time to reflect and focus on these moments can improve your life.” And I would add both the big and the small moments. This author goes on to suggest a four step exercise to think through your defining moment:
- First just giving time to identify one meaningful moment.
- Then thinking of what it generated in you, maybe a strength of character, or an expression of your soul.
- Next think about how this moment shaped you and added to who you are?
- And finally, in the larger view of things, beyond the moment itself, how did this moment influence other times in your life?
I’m glad for both the big and the small defining moments. May we all be more mindful.