Thursday, October 31, 2013

The World Through A Window

When my older brothers and sisters left the house for college or after marriage, my mom and dad were left with my little brother and me.  My dad had always wanted a camper, so he purchased a Winnebago and off we went.  Glacier National Park.  Yellowstone.  Texas.

I remember somewhere in Montana, Dad wanting to visit a ghost town.  It was off the beaten path . . . literally.  Gravel road.  Big rocks of gravel.  We never made it.  Never saw the ghost town. 

Three, yes, three blown tires later, Mom and Dad and my little brother got a ride into town to get the tires repaired.  Don’t know if I was elected or if I volunteered, but I stayed back with the trailer on the side of the road and waited.  Kind-hearted folks stopped and offered me a soda, a cookie or two, lemonade.  Not to accept anything from a stranger I was taught, so I thanked them and waited.  And watched.  And listened.  Noticed a thing or two.  Didn’t mind it, really.  Not at all.  Eventually Mom and Dad and my little brother came back and off we went again.

We’d travel miles upon miles and as I sat in the back seat, usually behind my mom, I’d stare out at The World Through A Window.  I was amazed at how it changed.  Rugged, gray mountains.  Farm land dotted with cows or horses or sometimes, goats.  Prairies of wheat fields.  Or prairies of nothing.  Sometimes lush with the green of trees, of grass.  Sometimes brown with sand.  Hilly or flat.  It changed.

I’d listen to the various regional accents.  Southern or Western twang.  The nasal and elongated o’s of the Midwest.  How words changed and sometimes the meanings along with the words.  I loved it.

I didn’t sleep when we traveled, afraid I’d miss too much.  I hated driving at night because I couldn’t see, couldn’t watch.

It really was watching The World Through A Window.

As I got older, and as Kim and I had our own children, we’d travel.  I think memories were, and are, made from those trips.  Good memories.  Lasting memories.

But . . .

I think it is one thing to watch The World Through A Window, one thing to listen, and notice, and be observant of The World Through A Window, and quite another to actually live . . . really live In The World.  To fully experience it.  To take part in it.  To be a part of it.  To give and to accept . . . to be a member of The World in which we live.

To watch, to observe and to notice The World is only living half of one’s life.  I believe one must do more.  I believe one must be fully, and completely, invested in The World.  Experience The World.  To be embrace both the joy and the sorrow, because without sorrow, we won’t know the joy.  To embrace both the success and the disappointment, because without the disappointment, we won’t know the success.  To embrace both the triumph and the failure, because without experiencing failure, we will never know triumph.

We must do much more than watch The World Through A Window.  Much more.  We must go outside that window and live, truly live, in The World.  All of it.  All of it.  Yes, really, all of it.  Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Gift Of The Shepherd

Living in Wyoming for three years, I had the opportunity to work on a ranch.  I also almost singlehandedly destroyed that ranch, but that is another story for another time.

The family, friends of mine, owned a lot of land and a lot of cattle.  We’re talking miles upon miles.  Sort of like the Ponderosa in the old television series.  No Adam, or Hoss, or Little Joe, or Hop Sing on this ranch though.  Just two hard-working sons and a father and mother who loved them very much.

They explained to me that sometimes, they would find cattle missing.  Big area of land.  Way out where no one was watching.  Can’t be everywhere at once.  I think in the olden days, they would call that ‘cattle rustling’.

I guess a shepherd would have helped, though you don’t normally find a shepherd working with cattle.  Sheep, yes.  Cows, no.

A shepherd lives a fairly solitary life.  The shepherd’s dog might be his only companion.  Well, a dog and the herd of sheep, of course. 

Sheep are skittish creatures.  They generally stay in a pack.  Easy prey for wolves and coyotes, maybe an occasional rustler.  Yet, sheep know the scent and voice of the shepherd.  The shepherd protects and cares for the sheep, allowing no harm to come to them.  No wolf.  No coyote.  No rustler. 

Remember the Bible story, the parable of the Good Shepherd?  One of my all-time favorites.

It spoke of how The Shepherd would watch over and protect the sheep.  When one went missing, The Shepherd would leave the others behind and search until the missing sheep was found.  The Shepherd would then bring the lamb back to the rest of the flock. 

I always wondered about the wisdom, the strategy, of leaving ninety-nine sheep behind just to find one stray.  What would happen to the ninety-nine if a wolf or coyote or rustler happened by?  Instead of losing one sheep, The Shepherd might have lost many more.  Doesn’t seem so wise to me.  Can’t see the wisdom in it.

Got me thinking . . .

What would it be like if I . . . if you . . . were that one lost sheep?  Lost.  Scared.  Alone.  Lonely.  Happens from time to time, doesn’t it?  Sometimes more than we think.  Sometimes more than we want.  Sometimes for longer than we want.

Comforting to know that a shepherd would look for me . . . for you . . . should we ever find ourselves in that situation, that circumstance.  We wouldn’t question the wisdom of leaving the ninety-nine if you or I were that one lost sheep, would we?  No, I don’t think so.  We’d be thankful.  Relieved.

Maybe that’s The Gift Of The Shepherd.

To know that there will be someone . . . somewhere . . . who will look for us, search for us, until we’re found.  Until we’re safe.  And then bring us back home.

And . . .

Perhaps we can be The Gift Of The Shepherd to others.  To watch over.  To guard.  To guide.  And, I think this is really important, to seek out, to search for, when someone close to us . . . or perhaps not so close to us . . . is lost or scared or alone or lonely.  Each of us can be The Gift to one another.  For one another.  That would be quite The Gift, wouldn’t it?  Wouldn’t that be something?  At least, it would be something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Inconvenienced By Tragedy

You know, when you plan a trip to the zoo or park and it rains?  How the weather doesn’t cooperate with you or your plans?  Maybe the car doesn’t start, or someone gets sick.  You end up having to change those plans, or postpone them, or . . .

I had planned on writing a much different post today.  Much different.  Lighter.  Happier.  As I said, different.

This morning as I was getting ready for the day and my phone rang.  I recognized the caller by the name and number on caller ID.  My sister, Judy, who I consider to be the Matriarch of our family, was the caller.

I don’t like early morning phone calls.  I received one when my sister Joanne was suddenly taken ill and became hospitalized for a long, long time before she passed away.  One month and a day after that morning phone call, I received yet another morning phone call.  My sister, Donna, passed away.  You might understand why I don’t care for early morning phone calls.

I ran through a list of possible reasons for the phone call.  I ran through a list of possible names that might be the topic of the phone call. 

Loved ones.  Truly loved.

My family of ten brothers and sisters, a bit diminished in number now, are close.  There is a bond that neither time nor distance can change.  A bond that is strong no matter what.  We’ve seen and have been touched and have felt tragedy. 

My Grand-Nephew, Jared, died in a car crash last evening.  Twenty-one years old.  Was to have graduated in December as an engineer.  Had been offered a full-ride to grad school.  Brilliant.  Playful.  Quick wit. 

It had snowed.  Slushy and icy.  Lost control and hit a guard rail.  But alive.  A Good Samaritan stopped to see if he was okay.  I can imagine Jared being shaken up.  Nervous.  Worried.  But he was okay.  However a third car lost control and hit Jared and the Good Samaritan.  They died.  Gone in the blink of an eye.  Alive one minute.  And in the next . . .

A future full of promise.  A future full of hope.  A lifetime to live.  To laugh.  To love.  To . . .

So my day changed.  The day for my niece, my sister, for my family changed.  Their lives have been changed.  Devastated.  Altered, never to be the same. 

Inconvenienced By Tragedy.

Left us, all of us, wondering why?  Why Jared?  Why?  Left us wondering what was, is, the sense of it all?  Left us saddened.  Hurt.  Bewildered.  Angry.  Confused.  Perhaps numb because it hasn’t sunk in yet. 

For me, tears will come later.  It hasn’t sunk in.  Heck, it might never sink in.  I just know that October will be different, changed, from now on.  I know that Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Year’s will be different, changed, from now on.  I know that my niece and her husband, my sister and their family . . . our family . . . will have a hole that won’t . . . can’t . . . be filled.  Not with time.  Not with anyone else.  No, never.

Inconvenienced By Tragedy.

I know that there are those of you who have suffered similarly.  I know that there are those of you who are suffering even now as you read this.  I know that there are those of you . . .

Wish I had something important to say.  Wish I had some nugget, some truth to impart. 

Folks, I got nothin’.  Nothin’ at all.  Not a thing.

Those of you who read my blog probably have come to know that I have a deeply rooted faith.  That won’t change.  My faith will not, cannot, be Inconvenienced By Tragedy.  I know to some that sounds simplistic.  I know to some that sounds illogical, perhaps ignorant.  Tough!  I know I might not have an answer for my niece, my sister, my brothers, my family.  I know, like them, I will question ‘Why?’ and will come up empty.  Don’t know.  Won’t know. 

I know that eventually there will be laughter.  I know that eventually there will be moments to celebrate.  Moments of joy and hope and inspiration.  I also know that there will be other tragedies.  Moments to wonder.  To sit in silence and feel the pain and the emptiness that tragedy brings.

So if nothing else comes from this post, perhaps it will cause you to hug your children and loved ones a bit tighter.  Perhaps it will cause you to call and reach out to those who are important and special and loved and let them know just how you feel.  Please do so, because it can all change in one moment, one breath, one eye blink, one heartbeat.  It can all change.  All of it.  Something to think about . . .

Live Your Live, and Make A Difference!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Voice We Listen To

When I drive, I listen to music.  I have my car tuned to about ten stations and push the buttons until there is a song I like.  When a commercial comes on, I switch stations.  Not interested in what someone is pitching.  I might listen to the traffic report, maybe the weather, but I seek music.

I have friends and family who listen to talk radio.  Personally, I think they’re crazy.  Why would I want to listen to some guy’s, some lady’s opinion on  . . . ?  It’s even worse now that we’re in an election year.  And not even the big election at that.  Just a local election with a few national spots thrown in. 

They harangue.  They nag.  They distort.  They color the facts.  They knock down, belittle, denigrate. 

They lie!  (I know . . . that comes as a shock to many of you.  Sorry about that.)

There are times I marvel at those who tune into hatred, to disrespect, to intolerance.  Stations even pay a salary to those who purport these sentiments, these attitudes, these feelings.  There are those companies who sponsor these individuals who spout these beliefs.

Sort of sad, really.  Okay.  Maybe a lot sad, really.

I think of the Bible story about John The Baptist.  Tough guy to listen to.  Not necessarily likeable.  Not a guy many would gravitate to.  Legend has it he wore the skin of an animal and ate locusts dipped in honey.  Hmmm . . . not necessarily my kind of guy.  Don’t know that I’d tune my radio to his station.

Then we have that Other Guy.  The Guy who talked about loving your neighbor as yourself.  The Guy who talked about peacemakers, the humble, the poor.  The Guy who wanted the children to come to Him. 

I think we have a tendency to seek out those who speak on our behalf, who give credence to our beliefs, be them right or wrong, good or bad or evil, tolerant or intolerant, accepting or rejecting.

My dad had a saying: “Garbage in, garbage out!”  A lot of truth in that, I think.

I think if we seek out those who preach intolerance, who preach indifference, who preach hatred and distortion, we become those same individuals.  How can we not?  “Garbage in, garbage out!”

And, if we seek those who preach acceptance, who preach kindness, who preach tolerance and belonging, isn’t there the possibility . . . the probability  . . . of becoming those same individuals?  Perhaps, “Goodness in, goodness out!”

If we surround ourselves with those who preach negativity, don’t we become like them?  Don’t we become them?  Wouldn’t it be better . . . wouldn’t it make the world better . . . our lives better . . . if we surrounded ourselves with positive people?

So . . .

I’m wondering what you’re listening to today.  Tomorrow.  Next week.  What is your station set to?  What is The Voice You Listen To?  What is it you wish to become?  What is it you wish your children to become?  Garbage?  Goodness?  What is The Voice You Listen To?  Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Life Guard On Duty!

My wife, Kim, loves the water.  I think she’s half-fish.  (Thankfully, without gills, fins or a tail.)

For our tenth anniversary, Kim and I went to the Bahamas with some very dear friends.  It was so much fun.  The resort was all-inclusive.  Five swimming pools.  White sandy beach and clear blue ocean.   

Peaceful.  Restful.  Relaxing.  Adults only!  (A trip without the kids!  Just us!  Really!  It actually happened!)

The four of us decided to go on a catamaran snorkeling.  So, along with twenty or so others, out on the boat we went.  Some of those who went were younger, some were older.  The captain guided us out to a reef and we got ready.

Hmmm . . . I started this out telling you that Kim loves the water and that she’s half-fish.  Remember that?

I like water and I like the beach.  Just not getting wet or the sand.  Doesn’t work for me like it does for Kim.  I’m not comfortable in the water.  Okay, I’m sorta scared of the water.  I can float.  I can get from point A to point B if I go slowly, take my time.  That’s the only speed I know, really.  I actually swim better under water than on top of the water.  Heck, I swim on top of the water and people jump in to save me.  Okay, not really, but it seems like that.  Silly, really.  I mean, I grew up on a river.  Sailed our homemade raft on it.  I love boats, just not the water.  I know, I don’t get it either.

So . . .

John and I chickened out, while Kim and Karen went snorkeling.  They had fun.  Saw different colored fish.  A sting ray.  Played around.  Every now and then they’d wave at us and we’d wave back.  Felt childish, I guess.  Maybe a bit ashamed. 

Ever notice the sign at some beaches:  No Lifeguard On Duty.  Swim At Your Own Risk.

Rather ominous.  Sorta scary.  No one there to watch over you.  Protect you.  Keep you safe.

Sometimes, we find ourselves in deep water.  Dark water.  Rough water.  We don’t know what’s down there near our feet.  Under us.

Sometimes we drift out too far.  We have to tread water.  The waves might push us, pull us, lap over us.

I think there outta be a rule about Life Guards.  There should be a Life Guard On Duty all the time.  Someone to Guard Us.  Protect Us.  Warn us if we drift too far out.  And if we struggle and flail, a Life Guard to come get us and bring us safely back to shore.  A real Life Guard. 

I mean, lifeguards are necessary.  Important.  They save us at the beach if we need it.  They should be on duty all the time, not just some times.

But I think a Life Guard is even more important.  Guides us.  Guards us when we’re in deep water.  Water over our heads.  Protects us when we’re in rough water.  Unsafe water.  When we don’t know what’s under us.  When we’re out too far.  When we’re on our own.

And perhaps, it’s important to be a Life Guard for others.  For those around us.  Near us.  Those who work with us.  A Life Guard for those we love.  For those who are important to us.  Yes, I think a Life Guard is important.  Very important.  Very, very important.  Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Erase Those Tapes!

There are times we get caught up in repetition.  Sometimes it’s a good thing.  Running.  Exercise.  Taking a vitamin.  Saying, “I love you!” to those who are meaningful in our lives.  All good things and worthy of repetition.

There are other times when the cycle of repetition needs to be broken.  “I’m not good enough.”  “I’m fat.”  “I can’t do it.”  “I’m not good-looking.”  “I’ll never be . . .” and on and on and . . .

We all have those things we say to ourselves.  It seems we push play and repeat.  And, we do it without thinking.  It becomes so easy.  Too easy.

Even worse, we’re reminded every day, multiple times a day, again and again until the message is drummed into us and we adopt that message as our own.

Sad, really.

We need this hairstyle.  That car.  Whiter teeth.  Hair too thin?  Need a closer shave?  Gaining too much weight?  This color, that color.  Take a cruise!  Go on vacation.

Yes, why don’t we go on vacation . . . from the endless repetition of those tapes. 

Maybe, Erase Those Tapes!

In the immortal and very wise words of Christopher Robin to Winnie The Pooh: “You're braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think.”

Now, that’s a tape worth repeating.  Push that play button and go on and repeat it over and over and over again.

I think we all need a Christopher Robin in our lives.  (Probably a Winnie The Pooh, too.)  We need someone in our life that points out that we are good enough.  That we’re okay.  That while there is always room for improvement, you know, we are pretty darn good just the way we are.

I had a friend, a colleague and workmate in California who I had overheard telling another coworker, “That’s okay!  You’re his ten!”  She was right back then, and she is right even now.

You see, we’re so much harder on ourselves than perhaps others are.  We beat ourselves up over mistakes.  It doesn’t matter if the mistake is small or big.  We beat ourselves up until we’re bruised and bloody.  But the reality is, each of us . . . every one of us . . . is somebody’s ten.

Yes, each of us.  A ten.

Maybe it’s time to Erase Those Tapes once and for all.  For our own good.  For the good of those around us.  Maybe it’s time for us to be the Christopher Robin to those around us, especially children.  Maybe it’s time to help them Erase Those Tapes before the tapes become too repetitious and before they become all too easy to push play and repeat.  We owe it to ourselves.  We owe it to each other.  We owe it to our children.  We really do.  Honest!  Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Lesson From Rafiki

Being the father of one son and two daughters, I’ve watched my share of Disney movies.  Still do, actually.  One of my all-time favorites was one of the older ones, Dumbo.  I’ve watched that one over and over, like I did with Mary Poppins and several others. 

Wil never had one favorite.  He sort of liked them all, especially the comedies because he loves to laugh.  Emily’s favorite is Mulan.  It fits her.  It’s the story of a girl hero in a man’s world, with a love story woven in.  My little romantic.  (I think you can see my smile and hear my sigh, can’t you?)  Hannah’s favorite is The Little Mermaid.   It fits Hannah because it’s a story of a girl who follows her heart and pursues her dreams, trying desperately not to disappoint her dad.  (Yeah, another smile and another sigh!)

But there is yet another, Lion King, I’d like to write about.  Specifically, The Lesson From Rafiki. 

I was reminded of it earlier this week when we had an assembly for the kids at my school.  The presenter mentioned it to the kids and a light bulb went on in my head.  It reminded me of one of the themes I’ve presented often in my posts.

Remember the scene when Simba, the young son of Mufasa, was feeling sorry for himself?  Rafiki bopped him on the head with his staff.  Simba said, “Ouch! What was that for?”  Rafiki mumbles, “Don’t worry about it.  It’s in the past.”  Simba complains, “Well, the past hurt.”  Rafiki answers, “You have two choices.  You can learn from it or run from it.”

The Lesson From Rafiki . . . learn from your past or run from it.

Yes, sometimes the past hurts.  One’s past can hurt a great deal.  I don’t want to minimize that because I’ve worked with kids and adults whose lives were anything but painful, ugly and grotesque. 

I get that because I’ve seen it.  To some degree, I’ve felt it.  

But sometimes, though, "remembering" the past can be distorted.  Sometimes "remembering" the past can be much worse than what it actually was.  Sometimes "remembering" the past, well, colors it to our way of thinking and what we actually "remember" about our past is actually rather fictional.

Recently, I wrote a post titled No Excuses!  In it, I wrote about two young men who rose above their pasts.  They rose above the pain and the life they were born into.  They made a choice and that choice wasn’t to let the past ruin their future.

You know, we all make mistakes.  We’ve all made mistakes.  Some big, some small.  We’ve tripped and we’ve stumbled.  And for the most part, we’ve picked ourselves up, dusted ourselves off, and we’ve moved on. 

That’s one choice.

One can spend so much time living in the past . . . and blaming the past . . . that one forgets to live in the present.  We play ‘ain’t it awful!’  We point fingers, and generally, never at ourselves.  Because we spend so much time wallowing in our past misery, an unbiased, objective observer might wonder if we enjoy it so much that we don’t ever want to leave it.

Hmmm . . .

And if we are that controlled by the past, if we dwell in the past, and if we don’t live in the present, we have no future.  None.

That’s the other choice.

The Lesson From Rafiki . . . learn from your past or run from it.  And I believe that if we run from our past, we end up actually never leaving it.  We actually end up living in the past instead of running from it.

So really, when you think about it, it’s not much of a choice.  Actually, no choice at all.  Something to think about . . . 

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!