Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The River

I grew up in the country and a river ran right next to my backyard.  My brothers built a raft using four empty oil drums and some old wooden planks.  Like Tom Sawyer, they used a pole to push and guide it with and against the current, and from one shore across to the other.  Being younger, I never had the opportunity to be the ‘Captain’ of the raft.  No, that was for the older ones.

My little brother and I sailed little boats made of pieces of wood rescued from the trash bin in my dad’s workshop.  We’d run the shore following along as far as we could as the current took the boat on its journey. 

Our boats, and we, were at the mercy of the river’s current, sometimes swift, sometimes slow.  But ever moving.  Ever moving.

The Navajo believe that water, rivers, are the life-blood of Mother Earth.  For the traditional Navajo, each time he or she crosses a river, a ceremony involving maze carried in a ceremonial pouch is performed at water’s edge in the river’s, or Mother Earth’s, honor.  So strong is their belief in the importance of water!

Standing on the shore, watching The River run, even dipping your hand in its cool current helps you realize that you never touch that same drop of water again.  Once it passes, it’s gone.  Forever. Can’t get it back.  And, what you don’t touch passes and is gone forever.

Garth Brooks sang a song titled, The River, and in it is a lyric: “. . . Too many times we stand aside and let the waters slip away; ‘Til we put off ‘til tomorrow, Has now become today . . .”

On one hand, that lyric speaks of missed opportunities, of procrastination, of not taking advantage of a given moment. 

Wasteful, that is. 

Lots of lost opportunities, lost moments in our lives. 

With ourselves.  With others.  With our families.  With our loved ones.

But what is so very hopeful to me is that The River keeps running.  The River keeps flowing, keeps moving, so other opportunities present themselves to us. 

I wrote a post titled “Morning” that talked about the opportunity to begin again, to start over, to make right and begin new.  The River is a reminder that while opportunities pass by, other opportunities present themselves to us.  Perhaps we shouldn’t “. . . stand aside and let the waters slip away. . .” but if they do, know that there will be other, perhaps equally important opportunities that will come our way. 

Take hold of them.  Chase the current, run the shoreline, and seize the opportunity that presents itself to us.  We owe that to others and to ourselves.  Something to think about . . .  

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

Friday, May 10, 2013

The Prize

Remember way back when, once upon a time . . .

 As kids we’d dive into a box of Cracker Jacks to get The Prize?  It wasn’t much, but we’d put our sometimes grimy fingers into the caramel corn and peanuts (never enough peanuts, right?) and dig around and at last, we’d touch upon it, pull it out to see what it was? Eating the snack seemed like a second thought to The Prize, right?

I don’t know that we ever kept it.  It didn’t last.  We didn’t necessarily save it.  I think the hunt for The Prize was the big deal.

There were prizes in cereal boxes too.  I remember my mom getting really angry at us for opening up the box, sometimes destroying the box altogether, and rooting around until we found it, usually stuffed at the bottom.  My brothers and I would race to the cereal cupboard to get to the cereal first.  After all, first come, first . . . 

Sometimes, we’d have to send away for The Prize.  That wasn’t as much fun, because we knew what we were getting.  And, we had to wait for it.  Waiting was sometimes a killer.  Remember little Ralph and his Decoder Ring?  The anticipation, his excitement?

How things have changed.

McDonald’s Happy Meals gave us a choice: this toy or that toy.  Not as much fun because we knew what we were getting.  Maybe not the color, but we still knew.  The anticipation was gone.  The Prize was secondary to the French Fries.  I mean, is there anything quite as good as French Fries?

And then, we got older.

At some point, we didn’t care about The Prize at the bottom of the box.  Perhaps we thought The Prize was silly.  Worthless.  Junk.  Kid’s stuff.

We changed.  We grew up.  Got older, perhaps wiser.

The Prize never changed.  We did.  The Prize still sits at the bottom of the box, buried under the caramel corn and peanuts.  It’s still hidden deep in the cereal box amongst the Frosted Flakes.

We changed.  The Prize didn’t.

Each of us has a Prize we seek.  What is a Prize to one is junk to another, worthless.

Wouldn’t it be fun to have that innocence once again?  That excitement, that joy, that anticipation ?  Not for what’s in Cracker Jacks or in a box of Captain Crunch.  But in the joy and the anticipation of . . . well, anything?  Anything at all? 

When was the last time you were truly excited, hopeful, joyful?  When was the last time you shared that excitement with someone?  Anyone?  When was the last time you gave someone else the gift of excitement . . . of joy?

It doesn’t have to be a special occasion.  It doesn’t have to be ‘deserved’.  It can be just ‘because’.

Maybe today, just today, to celebrate that gift, go get yourself some Cracker Jacks and dig around in the box for The Prize.  You may experience a gift of your own.  A reminder of way back when, once upon a time.  And then share it.  Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Thing About Trust

Many years ago, I went out to dinner with my brother and his family.  His youngest, now married, was in a high chair.  She said her food was too hot and pushed it towards my brother.  Dutifully, he took it and blew on it to cool it off.  When he felt it was sufficiently cool enough, he pushed it back in front of his daughter, who picked up a spoon and began to eat it without testing the temperature herself.


As a first year teacher, I gave my students an assignment and walked around the classroom helping this student or that student.  I worked my way towards the back of the room and overheard two students talking.  One said, “I don’t get this.”  The other student looked over at his paper and said, “Ask Joe.  He’ll help you with it.”


My first year as a head coach, we played for a state consolation championship.  It was close: a one or two point margin.  In my quiet, subtle manner, I got on the ref who graciously gave me a technical foul- with a smile, as I recall.  The other team put their best player on the line who missed both.  They tried to inbound the ball, but we intercepted and we scored.  In fact, we scored the next six in a row and we won.  After the game, my senior captain, Tony, came to me and said, “Nice game, Coach.  That technical foul?  Brilliant!  It fired us up!”  Um . . . okay.  Not what I had intended.  I actually thought I had lost the game for us.  Actually relieved that we had won it despite my stupidity.


Kids are fearless.  It doesn’t matter if they are fearless in and of themselves or if they are fearless with respect to others.  They do things that we, adults, cringe at.  We did things that, looking back, we cringe at and hope no one ever repeats or finds out about.

The Thing About Trust is that it is earned, not commanded.  Sort of like respect in that regard.  Once that trust has been damaged, it is hard to earn back.  Once we’ve been burned, it is hard to give that trust back to the one who burned us.  We might forgive.  But, honestly, do we really ever forget?

Trust is sort of like a mustache.

I had one once or twice in my lifetime.  It takes a long time for it to look good.  In my case, it could be argued whether or not I ever looked good with a mustache.  But while it takes a long time to grow in, trim and take care of, it only takes two or three minutes to shave it off.  A week or two or more to grow.  Two or three minutes to shave it off.

Trust is like that.

It needs to be taken care of.  Respected.  A precious commodity.  Treated as if it were gold.  Because the reality is, Trust is more valuable than gold.

Trust is a belief between two people that we’ll take care of each other.  That we’ve got each other’s back.  Once that Trust is damaged and broken, do we ever feel that way again?  It takes a long, long time for Trust to develop again . . . if it ever does.  Don’t ever treat it lightly or take it for granted.  Once gone, it’s gone!

The Thing About Trust is a genuine care and concern for another.  The Thing About Trust is a belief that I’ll be safe with you and you can be safe with me.  All of me and all of you:  my ideas, my strengths, my weaknesses, my vulnerabilities.  All of me.  All of you. 

The Thing About Trust is that it matters!  Treat it as such.  Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Importance Of A Campfire

Several weeks ago, my youngest had to write a descriptive essay for her English class.  She wrote about the nightly campfire at her favorite spot in the whole world: her grandparents’ cabin in Northern Wisconsin.  That got me thinking, which is not necessarily uncommon, and can be considered dangerous . . .

I thought about Campfires.  For many years, we camped as a family.  As we grew older, several families would camp together. We’d pitch a tent or those who didn’t want to rough it, opened up their trailers.  A line would be stretched from one tree to the next to hang a wet towel and swimsuit.  Sleeping bags laid out.  The cooler strategically placed under a picnic table bench so the wily raccoon wouldn’t get into it.  Families in easy walking distance to one another’s campsite to share a cup of tea or coffee, a homemade cookie or brownie or piece of cake.  Play a game of cards or a board game.  Visit a bit.  Laugh a lot.

And when groups of us camped together, there would be the campfire.

Each night the kids would gather the wood and kindling and we’d build the fire.  Sometimes we’d cook over it.  Other times, we’d do s’mores.  We’d pull up lawn chairs and as the night grew darker and colder, we’d pull our chairs closer to the fire for warmth and comfort.  There would be jokes, and drinks, and snacks.  There would be stories of “Remember when . . .” The kids would lean in and listen closely, hoping for a tidbit to tease their parents or aunts or uncles with.

And of course, the Campfire. 

It was Important.  A ritual.  A rite.  One of the things we did.  There wasn’t a grand announcement.  No formal training.  It was something we thought was Important and needed to be done.

Warm.  Inviting.  Peaceful.

Watching for falling stars.  Pointing out the various constellations.  Listening to crickets, bull frogs croaking, fish and turtles splashing, the call of the loon.

Comforting.  Relaxing.

Somehow, we’ve gotten away from the rest and relaxation a Campfire can bring. 

We eat on the run, not necessarily eat as a family . . . together.  We watch a thirty minute sit-com where the “problem” is solved with two commercial breaks to push the good life.  Have a headache?  Take this pill because it lasts all day.  Have laugh-lines or wrinkles?  Use this cream or inject some Botox or have a face lift.  Out of touch?  Text.  Facebook.  Instagram.  Twitter.

I think we need a Campfire or two . . . or five or six.  We need the peace, the tranquility.  We need the warmth, the gentleness, the comfort.  To feel the night wrap around us gently, softly.  To wish on a star.  Dream.

We need to gather together.  Be together.  To talk.  Perhaps more importantly, to listen.  Perhaps to be silent with each other.  A gentle touch.  A hug or two.  To be present and in the moment.  Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!