If you could go back in time and change one event in history, what would it be?

That question – or something similar – is the basis for countless movies, television shows, philosophical discussions, and theories about the space-time continuum. It was also the question at an online Table Topics contest I recently attended.

In a Toastmasters Table Topics competition, contestants are asked a question – generally an open-ended, there’s-no-wrong-answer question. They have to respond immediately, and speak for one to two minutes on the subject. All contestants are asked the same question, and are kept sequestered in another location until it is their turn to speak, so they can’t hear the question or how earlier contestants answered it.

If you were asked that question, how would you respond? Would you go back thousands of years, hundreds, or just a few? Would you prevent a world war or a natural disaster? Would you stop an assassin’s bullet or a tragic accident? Or would you stay closer to home, so to speak, and go back in time just far enough to keep  the coronavirus from becoming a global pandemic?

Those in the contest who had to answer the question reflected on the fact that their lives were shaped, directly and indirectly, by everything that happened in the past and brought them to where they are – and who they are – today. They were affected and influenced by events both good and bad, and by the hardships they or their ancestors had to overcome. So after all was said and done, they wouldn’t change a thing.

This is not to say any of them were cheering over the disasters and tragedies that have occurred throughout history. Or that they weren’t horrified by the atrocities human beings have inflicted on each other. Or that they were indifferent to the suffering caused by events of years gone by.

Instead, I think they were recognizing and acknowledging that strength can grow out of adversity. That life lessons can come not only from our own experiences but from those of others. And that it would be much better for us to learn from history than try to change it.

That would have been my answer, too.

September 26, 2020
©Betty Liedtke, 2020

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