Your story need not be heart-warming or gut-wrenching—it can even be funny—but it should be real. Make sure your story ties to the essence of your daily life philosophy and the shaping of your beliefs. Be brief: Your statement should be between and words. The shorter length forces you to focus on the belief that is central to your life. Also, rather than writing a list, consider focusing on one core belief. Avoid statements of religious dogma, preaching, or editorializing.

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Be personal: Make your essay about you; speak in the first person. We recommend you read your essay aloud to yourself several times, and each time edit it and simplify it until you find the words, tone and story that truly echo your belief and the way you speak. Their advice holds up well and we are abiding by it. Please consider it carefully in writing your piece.

In introducing the original series, host Edward R. Related documents. This I Believe — Personal Essay. This I Believe. This I Believe Assignment Overview. Thematic essay belief systems. I felt humiliated, embarrassed, and oh so full of righteous anger. So Wrong! And I would never speak to Cynthia again, and certainly never forgive her. Now fast forward more than three decades. My husband had a form of cancer that kept recurring until it killed him, and I read everything I could find that dealt with the link between stress and healing. He was a specialist in reconciliation and traveled the world dealing with very difficult life and death cases.


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One was a woman in Africa who had been forced to watch her husband get beaten to death after he had been falsely accused by a neighbor of being against the regime in power. The woman became nearly mad with sorrow and anger and had no home, no family, and no life.

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He begged her forgiveness, and when she returned to her village she found some measure of peace. I was amazed at her strength. I filled a legal pad page! And at the top of the list was Cynthia! I thought, if that woman in Africa could forgive her neighbor, who was I to hold on to this childish wrong for all of these years? The book suggested going through my list and letting each wrong go, forgiving silently those who could no longer be contacted.

I did that, imagining each unforgiven act to be a bright colored balloon that I let go of and watched as it lifted toward heaven. One balloon would not fly. It was my absent father, who had left my mother with four girls to raise alone.


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The book suggested that for these difficult cases, a series of letters might work. I was to write the letters until I could let go and forgive my dad, who had been dead for years. The first letter was to be purely factual, outlining my history with my dad. The next letter, or letters, were to be about the hurt and the anger I had been holding onto.

I filled pages and pages with the venom I had bottled up. In the book, some people rid themselves of their anger at this point by chopping the letters with a hatchet, or nailing it to a tree with multiple nails, or burning it with trash. Just writing it down was enough for me. The final letter, according to Matthew Linn, was to be a thank you letter, thanking my dad for the gifts he gave me. Are you kidding me, I thought?! But, amazingly, I found there were gifts from this relationship, and that I felt some compassion for this man. Back then, when I let go of all the hurts and slights from the past, I felt lighter.

I felt at peace. I felt healed. And I vowed that I would no longer save up my unforgivens like so much righteous treasure.

If Jesus could forgive those who taunted him, reviled him, and crucified him, who did I think I was to withhold my forgiveness? People make mistakes. So do I. Usually the things I tend to take personally have absolutely nothing to do with me, I have learned. As Christians, when someone wrongs us, we are asked to be compassionate, and to forgive. I will admit it has not been easy. Using meditative visualization, I imagine Jesus and I in a beautiful, quiet place.

He listens as I tell Him what has hurt me and then wait to see what He will say. Natural disasters understandably have lasting effects on people. Frankly, the sheer magnitude and force made everyone in its path feel quite helpless. It was in Grand Forks where I truly saw the best in humanity. Upon graduating from high school in Battle Creek, I had my eyes set on the sky.

I wanted to be a commercial airline pilot.

I wanted the best, most respected flight training program available and that pushed me to the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks. Up until the summer before my classes started, I had never been to Grand Forks or either of the Dakotas for that matter.

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I had seen the movie Fargo so I had a pretty good idea that the people talked funny and that the landscape was flat and treeless. When my parents pointed the car back to Battle Creek and left me at Smith Hall, the reality of my situation suddenly hit. In my mind, I was on my own. My situation quickly changed however, as I made new friends. As I began to familiarize myself with the community, I found the people of the area to be among the most welcoming and hospitable I had ever come across. Eventually, Grand Forks started to feel like home. The winter of my freshman year was one for the record books.

Blizzard after blizzard, eight in all bringing record snow yet the people of Grand Forks took it in stride. As news of the impending flood began to materialize, I initially shrugged it off. The community had dealt with flooding before and had erected huge walls to protect us from the Red River of the North.

River crest predictions varied and we never really had a sense that this flood would be all that worse than floods of the past. In April as the temperatures rose, so did the river levels. The community was visibly in emergency mode. Students would arrive to class only to find that there was no professor and one assignment written on the board.

The Red Cross and home owners handed out water and sandwiches while the smart homeowners who wanted to insure help form college students provided kegs of beer. I had never seen anything like it. I had never seen so much good in people or felt so good to be part of an effort. And although the Army Corps of Engineers kept revising the crest forecast upward, we never gave up hope or gave up the fight.

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Unfortunately, after weeks of hard work, On Friday, April 18, , the Red River poured over the dikes and by the end of Saturday, floodwaters had spread over large areas of the community. Again I witnessed the best in people as surrounding communities opened up their homes to complete strangers. The Grand Forks Flood was one of the most impactful events of my 38 years.

I still get a little choked up reflecting on it. Others who have been in similar situation have told me similar stories of people helping one another. I guess that is why I believe the most challenging situations really do bring out the best in humanity. The closest thing I came to metal at my birth was a pair of rigid delivery forceps around my head, easing me out of my unwed mother.