This I Believe

KUHF-Houston Public Radio’s “This I Believe” with Vance Kotrla

Vance is a native Houstonian, but is now living in Los Angeles working as a screenwriter. Vance was raised in Katy and the small-town values he was raised with still resonate in the fast-paced, west coast life he now lives. Vance believes in the “Golden Rule,” which he describes in his essay for KUHF’s “This I Believe.”

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Vance Kotrla began his scriptwriting career just as the Screenwriter’s Guild was beginning its recent strike.  Vance found work during the walk-out but was most relieved when the two sides reached agreement.  Screenwriting was not his first choice.  Vance comes from a long line of musicians, so music was something he wanted to pursue at the University of Texas.  That didn’t work out, so he discussed options in the School of Communications.  His interest in writing seemed like a logical pursuit and it has become his profession.  Vance says the music that has always lived in him, is now something his young son seems interested in.  The two-year old child is fascinated by all the instruments including the drums and guitars Vance has in the house. 

Here’s Vance Kotrla with his essay for KUHF’s This I Believe.
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“Several years ago, a friend of mine asked me why I wasn’t more sociable in public gatherings.  I told her it was because I just didn’t like people all that much.  She looked surprised and she said ‘You should.’  There was no accusation there; it was like she was just giving me friendly advice.

And she was, and I knew she was right.  So I made a conscious decision to start liking people, and caring about them, because really, that’s the important part.  I knew the trick wasn’t just to be more outgoing at parties, but instead I needed to make a fundamental adjustment in the way I looked at everything around me.  I had to try to come to grips with the idea that the world is not all about me.

And I guess I did, because today I believe that people are worth caring about and worth fighting for, and worth the extra effort that showing common decency sometimes requires.  When my friend told me that I should like people, it was like she thumped me on the forehead and said ‘Hey, you remember that whole ”Love thy neighbor” thing?  That’s important.’  But how does one do something like that?  How does one love his neighbor?  Is it just a different answer to the same question, where instead of saying I don’t like people now I say I do? 

I finally got the idea that love is a behavior more than just a feeling, and it’s a decision more than simply being struck by a bolt of lightning. 

So for me, it boils down to very small things.  When somebody cuts me off in traffic, I remind myself that I care about that person, and I wave to them instead of honking.  When I reach for a movie at the video store at the same time someone else reaches for it, I let them take it, because what do I know about that person or their life?  What if the universe conspired against them all day and the only thing they want in the world is two hours with Jimmy Stewart?  So on my best days, I let strangers get one car-length closer to home, or I let them take the last copy of some movie, because it’s what I wish someone would do for me.        

I also believe that the world may be so broken that it can never be fixed.  That doesn’t mean we should stop trying.  Because if we are to write the final chapters of human history, even if that’s the case – and I’m not saying it is – but even if, then we’re all in it together, and I believe that if I’m on a sinking ship I’d rather have someone hold my hand than hit me with a shovel.  I believe I should love my neighbor and do unto others and all that, because when I do, it adds up to a better world than the alternative.”

This I Believe.”

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