As we travel down life’s road, we gather experiences, synthesize them into an attitude, share them with others, percolate them into wisdom and pass them on to our offspring and those around us.
Regardless of whether they are good or bad experiences, our ability to absorb the lessons each exposure offers shapes who we are for the rest of our lives.
Janice Butler’s experiences and the lessons she learned created a very wise woman and she has chosen to share her wisdom in her book Toes to the Front.
As artistic director for Kersley Musical Theatre, Butler invited would-be thespians to have fun with her, join a theatre family and expand their world.
People responded in overwhelming numbers. One production included more than 120 people in the cast, no small feat given every performance was in the small Kersley Community Hall.
Butler had the ability to expand her vision for any given production, including just about everyone who auditioned and providing a quality experience to every cast and crew, regardless of their abilities.
All she asked was they bring a willingness to be kind, learn and share.
Throughout the KMT’s 10-year run, with all the changing faces of the cast and crew (in reality many of the faces remained the same), Butler shared her wisdom and life lessons such as kindness, blessing others and, of course, keep your toes to the front.
As KMT was coming to an end, Butler wanted to give a gift to all those who participated, something to remember their time together.
“One of the best parts of that experience for me was having the opportunity to share lessons with the cast and crew,” she said.
“As I contemplated what I could give as a gift to these beautiful people, it came to me that I would like them to be able to carry these stories, these lessons, forward with them in their lives.”
And so her first edition of this current book was born.
Butler enlisted the assistance of Paula Sword, a veteran with KMT and an excellent photographer.
People were grateful and enthusiastic about Toes to the Front and asked for extra copies.
Butler continued to record lessons she learned and her arsenal of stories grew.
As a counsellor, she knew how important guidance was for her clients and as theatrical director she also recognized her role was much more than just on-stage direction. Expanding that wisdom to off-stage and almost every aspect of life, with a little push from an unexpected source, the plan for a more universal book developed.
Through a rather random connection with Nuala Grant, former journalist, former probation officer and wise woman, Butler found the editor she needed to take her plan to the next level.
“I asked her if she would edit my book of life lessons. She began the next day and told me she loved the book,” Butler said.
“Her words were like some kind of blessed message for me. If someone outside of the circle of those I wrote the stories for liked them, maybe they had some merit. It was just the push I needed and the ideas started flowing.”
With the added help of long-time KMT actor and friend, Doug Koyama, Toes to the Front took shape artistically.
The 62-page book includes 30 lessons, many quotes from wise and deep-thinking public figures and philosophers, exceptional photographs by Sword, all wrapped up in a beautiful presentation.
Butler admits she avoided politics and religion (she believes in spirituality but doesn’t practice any specific religion) however, all her lessons include kindness, responsibility for one’s own life, self-appreciation and a profound understanding that no one is ever completely alone that we all walk through this life rubbing shoulders with the rest of the world.
Butler credits her ability to teach these lessons because she’s learned to be an excellent listener and value those around her and what they have to say.
One wise man, whose life lessons were taught in the concentration camps, impacted Butler in a way no other has.
“We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
When asked if there’s another book in her future, with a twinkle in her eye, she confessed she’s always jotting down new lessons as they come to her.
“I hate to think my lessons will come to an end,” she said with a laugh.
“I’m always learning and will always want to share.”
Toes to the Front, at $20 a copy, is available from the author’s place of business, Janice Butler Counselling Services, 355 Vaughn Street, Joyful Expressions, Green Tree Health and Wellness, Karin’s Deli, Cariboo Keepsakes and Kersley General Store.