Imagine you literally died and went to heaven. After your first hundred years of enjoying the peace and tranquility of the place, the Lord pays you a visit. He puts his hand on your shoulder and says, "You've been a good little angel. I'd like to grant you a special privilege."
"Wow!" you exclaim. "What is it, Lord?"
"I'll grant you one day on Earth. You can go wherever you like. Do whatever you want. See whatever sites you can fit into 24 hours."
Here's my question for you:
What would be the first thing you'd do?
I know exactly what I'd do. I'd visit libraries and bookstores. Of course, I have to get to Heaven first. The jury's still out on that one. But there's a good reason for my answer to this crazy question.
I truly believe we're all born with at least one gift. Some of us are lucky enough to have been born with many. I wasn't one of the lucky ones. But I discovered at a young age that I could write, and for that gift I'm grateful.
I also wanted to be published. I wanted to see my name in print, whether it was in an anthology of short stories or my own book. It was my dream and, even though I'm still on my journey, I can say I'm doing what I've always wanted to do.
So, as I'd return to earth on my furlough from heaven, I pretty much know how my day would be. I'd want to see that my stories survived me.
Perhaps books would only be accessible through computers or handheld devices, stored in some remote location electronically, waiting to be delivered at the push of a button or the touch of a screen.
Of course, some folks like me might still enjoy the experience of browsing down rows of books, reading the back covers as they decide in which world they'd like to lose themselves. However, instead of actual book shelves, there would be virtual ones to give the "old dinosaurs" of humanity this experience. Naturally, the books would still be stored at a remote location electronically, ready to be delivered at the press of a button or touch of a screen.
But even in such a future, I'm sure I'd find a catalog, such as the Library of Congress. And inside, I'd find my name next to the titles of my books and stories. Little markers to show future generations two things:
"Lawrence was here. Lawrence mattered."
Don't we all need to feel our existence made a difference in the world?
Sadly, not everyone gets to discover their gift. They live their whole lives based on others' conclusions of them and the world, instead of following their own beliefs. And, as we all know, there is no short supply of people who are all too willing to strangle the life out of our hopes and dreams. A number of years ago, I had the wonderful experience of being in the presence of someone who felt it her duty to announce to a group of strangers, "He thinks he's a writer."
I was pretty angry, but I maintained my composure. My answer was simple:
"Yes, and I've managed to fool a few publishers and editors into believing I'm a writer, too."
I guess writing short stories or even being in Chicken Soup for the Soul a few times wasn't her idea of a real writer. Okay, so I'm not Stephen King or J. K. Rowling. This is true. I'm just Lawrence D. Elliott. But I'm proud of what I have accomplished because the graveyards are filled with so many people who've never even come close to achieving their dreams.
For her to make such an announcement was asinine. People who do this are simply haters who don't have the guts to go for their own dreams. It's easier to just trample on yours or pounce on you when you make a misstep. Fortunately, I was blessed with others who took on an entirely different role in my life.
This week, BestsellerBound Recommends, a blog known for connecting readers with indie authors and books, published a "Getting To Know You" Interview of me. In the first question, I discussed the person I feel is most responsible for helping me to find my gift. But there were others who supported me along the way and I never want to forget them.
How about you? Who did you have? (And don't say no one! That answer is not allowed!)
Maybe you had a special teacher who encouraged you when others had given up on you or didn't feel you were worth the time.
Or maybe you had a mom who struggled just to put food on the table, provide a warm bed, and a roof over your head. Then, after learning of your gift, she scraped together the money to buy you things you'd need to make your dream a reality.
Perhaps you had someone who believed in you so much, he put his butt online just to say, "Okay kid, I'll be your first."
Maybe you had people in your life who took the time to encourage you, even if they didn't understand how you'd ever make any money from your dream.
Or perhaps you had those special angels in your life who bought something from you just to support you.
Maybe you had someone who drove miles and miles in the pouring rain for a special event and the only reason it was special is because it was your event.
And... maybe... just maybe... you had all of this and never realized it until you sat back and reflected on your life. Just as I once did.
So, before the day arrives when I walk through those pearly gates for the first time, I'd like to say something to all of the angels from my life, as well as to those who spend their hard-earned money and valuable time just to read my stories: Thank you.
Because in a hundred years, you won't be here to thank.