People do change for the better

By KENNEY CHUMBLEY
Rantoul Press columnist


In life, it’s not unusual to encounter people who see us as we were rather than as we are.

Maybe they knew us as an immature adolescent and (for whatever reason) refuse to believe that we’ve matured and grown as a person. Some can forget everything about us except some mistake we made, which they take a twisted delight in forever hanging around our neck like an albatross.

In 1891, a Cambridge University student named Edward Wilson had such a bitter tongue and sour disposition that his classmates nicknamed him “Bill the Cynic.” In a letter he wrote to a friend he had offended, he acknowledged himself for the person he was: “I know I am hard, proud, conceited, scornful, bitter and hard and insulting very often, and always selfish.”

But Wilson matured — so much so that his colleagues eventually referred to him as “Bill the Peacemaker.” He became an explorer and served as the physician on Robert Scott’s journey to the South Pole.

Scott’s expedition arrived at its destination Jan. 18, 1912, only to discover that the Pole had been reached five weeks earlier by a Norwegian team led by Roald Amundsen.

On the trek back to their ship, Scott and his men encountered horrible weather conditions that made progress excruciating. They eventually got to within 11 miles of their supply camp, but by then they were too sick, too cold and too spent to go any farther. As he awaited death in an Antarctic blizzard, Capt. Scott wrote the following, “If this letter reaches you, Bill [Edward Wilson] and I will have gone out together. We are very near it now; and I should like you to know how splendid he was at the end, everlastingly cheerful and ready to sacrifice himself for others. His eyes have a comfortable blue look of hope, and his mind is peaceful with the satisfaction of his faith in regarding himself as part of the great scheme of the Almighty.”

Listen, leopards may not be able to change their spots, but people can change their ways. The ability to change for the better is part of the nobility with which God has endowed man.

Growing up (rather than just growing old) involves change — learning from our mistakes and making needed corrections. Some may have been born perfect, but I wasn’t. I’ve had to make plenty of changes in the past, with plenty more to come in the future. Refining character is a process that never ends.

In many relationships (such as families), it’s the case that we live together before we’re fit to live with.

Becoming fit to live with means that we realize that we’re part of the problem and that we will do something about the problem we are.

If we want, we can change for the better. And no one can stop us — including those who only remember us for our mistakes.

Kenny Chumbley, a lifelong resident of Rantoul, is a minister, author and  publisher.


 

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