Great Lessons from Great Lives What is one of the most serious shortcomings many young people have? Answer! All too many seem to live as if no one has lived before them, so they fail to learn from the experiences of others. Unfortunately, many are even slow in learning from their own experiences. Helping young people learn from both their own experience and the experiences of others is one of the most beneficial things parents, teachers and youth leaders can do to help them succeed in life. Indeed without these skills, all other knowledge is of marginal benefit, sometimes being helpful and sometimes being hurtful. Great Lessons from Great Lives is a collection of biographical and autobiographical sketches of individuals past and present, famous and obscure, who made remarkable choices, many in their youth, that enabled them to do remarkable things. These are individuals who rose above serious, but not uncommon challenges to do uncommon things. These are individuals whose experiences and choices we can all benefit from learning and emulating in our own lives. Perhaps, a few excerpts from the diary of Karen Bachman, a young girl afflicted with neurofibromatosis, a disease that in Karen’s case, turned inward, creating large benign growths inside of her body, primarily on her brain and in her spinal column will illustrate. As nerves pressed by the tumors no longer functioned properly she experienced significantly decreased vision and near total deafness. Her vocal cords became paralyzed so she could hardly speak. It became impossible for her to eat normally so she had to be fed through a tube implanted in her stomach. During a surgery to remove a tumor from her brain, nerves were severed that caused the right corner of her mouth to droop, making it impossible for her to smile. “….I’m a blind girl in this play and I was thinking after the play, I really am grateful I’m not blind. I have it a lot worse than most kids I know but I don’t care at all. I’m so grateful I can see. Other kids take vision for granted but not me… I guess I take hearing and smelling for granted. I don’t have any defects there…” “Dr. Gaufin just called. Here’s the news: the ringing in my left ear is caused by disturbed nerves in the brain stem (where the tumor was) and there’s nothing they can ever do about it. I just have to learn to live with it… It looks like I’ll be getting head pains and aches and living on pain killers the rest of my life. But worst of all, they said the tumor is growing and heading for my ear so that is why my hearing is going and it’s just going to keep getting gradually worse until I go deaf! I’m going deaf. How can I face that? I guess I have to and it’s hard to imagine right now, but I just pray I have my hearing long enough to normally graduate from high school. I just think of all the things I won’t be able to do when I’m deaf. It’s terrible.” “I may have a disease that can cause me A LOT of problems through life, but I’m not going to let it stop me. I don’t care what happens to me physically, I’m not going to be a nobody. I don’t care what kind of an invalid I turn out to be, I’m still going to make something out of my life. When I get up to heaven I’m going to be able to look down and say, I did it. I made life worthwhile. I’m not going to have blown my only chance.… I just don’t see the use in living any other way, because if you don’t make something of your life, no matter what your situation, then you blew your chance on earth, and it was a waste.” Karen graduated from high school with a 3.9 grade average and was a junior in college at the time of her death. Contained in the volume are experiences of individuals, some as famous as Abraham Lincoln, and some as obscure as Karen, all designed to help young people recognize they may have a larger range of choice options than they realize.