Quiet Reflection

Quiet reflection. Some folks may have seen the title of this blog and decided they didn’t want to read it, thinking that this is just another one of those posts about someone reflecting on the year that has passed. Well, quite frankly, they are right…and wrong. Yes, this piece is about reflecting on the past, but it’s also about the future, about a goal we all have: living life.

You’ve heard me say this before, so stick with me for a minute and I’ll explain.

Our world today is a very negative place. We hear about tragedies day in and day out. It gets kind of old. Cops shooting people. Terrorists beheading innocent people. Schools being shot up. Men beating and raping women. People hating others because of skin color or sexual preference or religious or political differences. People killing others because one didn’t like the other’s favorite sports team. Drugs and greed and divorces and suicides and crime. Just turn on the television and you see it in all of its overhyped glory.

But it’s not just tragedies that make the world such a negative place. There are people—a lot of them, by the way—who are not happy unless they are miserable and unless everyone else knows about it. And don’t let someone else have it worse than they do. So many people have poor pitty me syndrome. Misery loves company and all that. It’s mind numbing.

I want to do something positive. I want to do something that doesn’t bring people down, but lifts them up.

But before I can do that I must reflect on my life, on me for a few moments.

I’m not perfect. In God’s eyes I’m a sinner, though redeemed by Jesus’ blood. But I’m not perfect. I make a lot of mistakes, both accidentally and on purpose. What? How can a mistake be on purpose? That’s simple: if you choose to do something even though you know it is wrong or that it can hurt someone, then that is intentional, and it’s a mistake. I’ve done this. I will make many more mistakes during my lifetime. I will be selfish. I will be angry. I will be judgmental. I will, from time to time, be lazy or obstinate. I will intentionally not do something someone has asked me to do (I will also unintentionally do the same thing). I am human. It’s the one quality every person in the world shares, no matter race, religion, political standing, religious beliefs, economical status—we are all human.

When I was younger I didn’t care what people thought of me. I spoke my mind, regardless of someone’s feelings. I held grudges for a long time. If I didn’t like you, I let you know. I was all about loving some me. Man, what a jerk. But I’m older now and I’ve watched the world change, just as my parents did and their parents before them and so on. I can honestly say not all change is good, just as not all change is bad. I have changed. Just ask anyone who knows me. Some of it has been good. And other things, well, not so much.

For the record, I’m not setting goals for myself. I think most goals are set ups to fail. Why? Because a lot of goals are so lofty attaining them is near impossible. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think setting goals is a bad idea, as long as you work to follow through with them. But let’s face it, most people make New Year’s Resolutions to be better people or to lose weight or to find a new job or to not be so danged lazy all the time or whatever. By the second week of the year, for the most part, those goals are wrecked and often times we are left feeling as if we failed and that we can’t start back over and try again. Two things: You can try again and you can start over. Yes, they are one and the same. Thank you for noticing. There is always that whole, ‘it’s just a New Year’s resolution, and no one keeps them’ mindset.

One more thing before I get to the gist of this. As I mentioned earlier, I am reflecting quite a bit on my life right now. Over the last few months I have learned something about myself I don’t like: I’m very negative. I have a negative attitude on a lot of things, and I do not like that. Look, I used a negative in that last sentence, but that’s not what I mean (oo0, look, another negative). I’ve never really had a positive outlook on things. I’m always thinking the worst about things, and let me tell you, that is a bad thing. Why? Because people pick up on that negativity and it can rub off on others.

Now, here’s the deal:

I’m going to do something and I hope others will get involved with it. It’s called the ‘I Lived For’ Campaign. What is the ‘I Lived For’ Campaign? Well, I never thought you’d ask, but since you did: The ‘I Lived For’ Campaign is taking a day and living it for someone else. No, not literally–you can’t live someone else’s life, unless you’ve murdered them and stolen their identity, but that’s frowned upon in society, so let’s steer clear of that. Okay?

The ‘I Lived For’ Campaign is simply living your life every day. Living. Do you understand? So often we wait for tragedy to kick-start our lives. So often it takes a death or near death experience for people to open their eyes and see that life is a gift that we so often take for granted. The people in our lives are gifts that we also take for granted. Our health, our jobs, our homes, our abilities, the things we have both earned and been given. These are all gifts. Sometimes life sucks. I know. I’ve been there and probably will be there again. If I’m honest with you all, there is one part of my life that sucks right now and has for the last couple years, and I’ve let that suckage control a large part of the rest of my life. Again, if I’m honest, it’s a gift. One that I may not always want, and one that I definitely need in order to support my family, but one that I haven’t been happy with for a couple years now. Sometimes we just have to make the best of a situation we don’t like, and I haven’t done that, and that, folks, is on me. I have had a negative attitude in that aspect of my life and it affects everything I do.

It affects how I have lived.

Living…Let’s take the ‘I Lived For’ Campaign just a step further. We’ve all known someone or heard of someone who has passed away or who struggles with various issues in life. It is for those people that we live for. To take a moment during the day and say, ‘hey, I’m going to live my day for this person,’ and then remember that person as you go through the day. The thinking behind this is simple. If I had to live one day of my life for someone else I would want it to be something that person could remember. It’s like a dedication page in a book. I dedicate this book to Gramma Haygoode and so on and so on. Only, this isn’t a book, it’s a day of your life. And what better to dedicate to someone than a day of your life in his or her honor?

I know, it sounds cheesy, right? Wrong. How often do we see an athlete dedicate a game or a season to someone? How often do we see someone doing something nice in honor of someone else? How often do we hear someone say after accomplishing something, ‘this is for…?’ So, why not dedicate a day to a person?

Or, why not dedicate each day to someone different? This is what I want to do: I want to dedicate each day to someone. I want to live life, not live the mundane. No, I don’t have to do anything special each day. No need to jump out of planes or try to mark off things on a bucket list (which I do not have one of). That’s not the point. The point is to live life happily, to live life with a smile and appreciate every second of every day. The ‘I Lived For’ Campaign is about enjoying life, and if living a day or a series of days or even a year’s worth of days helps us live life happily, then why not do it?

Today, the first day of the year, I have chosen to live life, not just for myself, but for others as well. Today, the first day of the year, though I have not felt well, I have chosen to live this day for my son, Logan. He is my little buddy, and yes, sometimes he drives me nuts, but he, like my little girl, Chloe, is awesome, and today, I lived for him, not feeling well and all.

One more thing, try this: do a random act of kindness for someone you don’t know and expect nothing in return. Don’t boast about it. And be humble when you do it. Not only will you make someone else’s day, you will make your own day as well. I believe if we, as a people, did one random act of kindness each week, the world would be a better place.

I’ve always ended my blogs with ‘until we meet again my friends.’ Well, that’s changing. Why? Because I love Ellen Degeneres, and I love how she ends her shows. Going forward, I will end my blogs like this: Until we meet again my friends, be kind to one another…

Chain Letters and Important Lessons

I get a lot of chain letters in my inbox each week–at least two or three a day on slow days. You know those things that say if you do this or that and make a wish and stand on your head and clap your hands while spinning in a circle three times then you will get your wish and life will be grand for you. But if you don’t do what the chain letter says to do then seven years of jock itch will come your way or you will become a poor person living down by the river in a van. (Please tell me someone got the reference there.)

Almost all of these chain e-mails come from people I know and for the most part they get deleted without so much as one word read.

This morning my good friend, Lincoln, sent me an e-mail. It was a chain letter. Just so you understand, he’s like me: chain mails are generally used to wipe his digital behind and flushed down the internet toilet and sent into the vast void of nothingness called Deleted. I read all the e-mails he sends me–there is always a purpose with everything he does, so there had to be some rhyme or reason as to why he sent this.

The subject line read: IMPORTANT LESSONS.

With the way it was written I thought my good buddy had penned it. I asked him about this and he said no, it’s a chain letter, but that it was too good for him NOT to send it to a few people.

I, for one, am happy he sent it to me.

Let me share with you the e-mail, minus the chain part:

Five Lessons About the Way We Treat People

1 – First Important Lesson – Cleaning Lady

During my second month of college, our professor Gave us a pop quiz. I was a conscientious student and had breezed through the questions until I read the last one:

“What is the first name of the woman who cleans the school?”

Surely this was some kind of joke. I had seen the Cleaning woman several times. She was tall, Dark-haired and in her 50’s, but how would I know her name?

I handed in my paper, leaving the last question blank. Just before class ended, one student asked if the last question would count toward our quiz grade.

“Absolutely,” said the professor. “In your careers, you will meet many people. All are significant. They deserve your attention and care, even if all you do is smile and say “hello.”

I’ve never forgotten that lesson. I also learned her name was Dorothy.

2 – Second Important Lesson – Pickup in the Rain

One night, at 11:30 p.m., an older African American Woman was standing on the side of an Alabama highway trying to endure a lashing rain storm. Her car had broken down and she desperately needed a ride.

Soaking wet, she decided to flag down the next car.

A young white man stopped to help her, generally Unheard of in those conflict-filled 1960’s. The man took her to safety, helped her get assistance and put her into a taxicab.

She seemed to be in a big hurry, but wrote down his address and thanked him. Seven days went by and a knock came on the man’s door. To his surprise, a giant console color TV was delivered to his home. A special note was attached.

It read:

“Thank you so much for assisting me on the highway the other night. The rain drenched not only my clothes, but also my spirits. Then you came along.

Because of you, I was able to make it to my dying husband’s bedside just before he passed away. God Bless you for helping me and unselfishly serving others.”

Sincerely,

Mrs. Nat King Cole.

3 – Third Important Lesson – Always Remember Those Who Serve

In the days when an ice cream sundae cost much less, a 10-year-old boy entered a hotel coffee shop and sat at a table. A waitress put a glass of water in front of him.

“How much is an ice cream sundae?” he asked.

“Fifty cents,” replied the waitress.

The little boy pulled his hand out of his pocket and studied the coins in it.

“Well, how much is a plain dish of ice cream?” he inquired.
By now more people were waiting for a table and the waitress was growing impatient.

“Thirty-five cents,” she brusquely replied.

The little boy again counted his coins. “I’ll have the plain ice cream,” he said.

The waitress brought the ice cream, put the bill on the table and walked away. The boy finished the ice cream, paid the cashier and left. When the waitress came back, she began to cry as she wiped down the table. There, placed neatly beside the empty dish, Were two nickels and five pennies..

You see, he couldn’t have the sundae, because he had to have enough left to leave her a tip.

4 – Fourth Important Lesson – The Obstacle in Our Path

In ancient times, a King had a boulder placed on a roadway. Then he hid himself and watched to see if anyone would remove the huge rock. Some of the King’s wealthiest merchants and couriers came by and simply walked around it. Many loudly blamed the King for not keeping the roads clear, but none did anything about getting the stone out of the way.

Then a peasant came along carrying a load of vegetables. Upon approaching the boulder, the peasant laid down his burden and tried to move the stone to the side of the road. After much pushing and straining, he finally succeeded. After the peasant picked up his load of vegetables, he noticed a purse lying in the road where the boulder had been. The purse contained many gold coins and a note from the King indicating that the gold was for the person who removed the boulder from the roadway. The peasant learned what many of us never understand!

Every obstacle presents an opportunity to improve our condition.

5 – Fifth Important Lesson – Giving When it Counts

Many years ago, when I worked as a volunteer at a hospital, I got to know a little girl named Liz who was suffering from a rare & serious disease. Her only chance of recovery appeared to be a blood transfusion from her 5-year old brother, who had miraculously survived the same disease and had developed the antibodies needed to combat the illness. The doctor explained the situation to her little brother, and asked the little boy if he would be willing to give his blood to his sister.

I saw him hesitate for only a moment before taking a deep breath and saying, “Yes, I’ll do it if it will save her.”

As the transfusion progressed, he lay in bed next to his sister and smiled, as we all did, seeing the color returning to her cheek. Then his face grew pale and his smile faded.

He looked up at the doctor and asked with a trembling voice, “Will I start to die right away”.

Being young, the little boy had misunderstood the doctor; he thought he was going to have to give his sister all of his blood in order to save her.

***

Let me add a couple of things to this, if you don’t mind.

A couple of weeks ago, my best friend, Keith, and I were walking down the street when a car suddenly shut off at the intersection we were about to cross. Several cars went around the vehicle and I saw more than a couple of drivers give dirty looks to the owner of the broke down car.

An older gentleman got out of the vehicle–one of those smaller SUV types–and began to try and push it out the road. I went over to him and asked if he wanted me to help him.

The man gave me this bewildered look and I asked him again. He finally said ‘Yes, if you don’t mind.’

I grabbed up my buddy and we started to push the vehicle. There were two problems wit this:

A: There were no parking spots along that stretch of road.

B: Everything electrical had shut down in the vehicle, which meant there was no power steering or any other electrical component that would make it easy to move the vehicle.

Keith and I pushed the car a full block and into the parking lot of the Supreme Court. It was all uphill. By the time we were done, my legs were burning, but I felt good. I had helped someone in genuine need. No reward was needed, no thanks was expected.

That’s the way it should be.

My daughter and son show examples of this all the time. I’ve written about them in the past, about some of their unselfish deeds.

Tomorrow I’ll repost something I put up on my old blog about my daughter, but for now I’ll say something about my son.

When we go places and spend money on our kids, my son always asks, ‘How much is that?’ We tell him not to worry about the cost, if it’s too much we’ll tell him. And he always looks at us with sad eyes and says, ‘I don’t want you to spend all your money on me.’

Sometimes, he’ll say, ‘Daddy, do you have enough money for that?’ If I say no, he offers me his little Lightning McQueen wallet and says, ‘Take my money and buy it.’

The boy’s a giving little dude, that’s for certain. And he doesn’t just do it with money, but food and other things as well.

The lesson for today is certainly how you treat people goes a long way, not just for the people you come in contact with, but for you also. Doing good things for people makes you feel good inside.

I love the Liberty Mutual commercial that shows one person helping someone and another person seeing it and then doing something nice for somebody else. Kind of like dominoes, creating a chain reaction, each person reacting to someone else’s kindness.

Life should never be about what’s in it for us. It shouldn’t be about how this can make me look good or what can I gain out of this. Life–understand that I am talking about LIFE here–should be about putting that best foot forward and helping others.

It doesn’t mean just giving money to people. It means giving of your time. Your abilities. Your resources. Your ear–listening is important. Putting yourself second is one of the hardest things to do, but that’s really what the good life is all about.

Jesus did it.

Soldiers do it.

Firemen do it.

Teachers do it.

Police officers do it.

Politicians do not do it.

However, one football player in Aledo, Texas did. Johnathan Gray, a young man soon to play football for Texas, gave of his time–which for the number one running back recruit in America is pretty valuable in the sports world–when he consistently visited, Leah Vann, a young lady with Leukemia, and a student at the school he attended.

The article appeared in Sports Illustrated and you can read it here: Adelo’s Gray More Than Top Talent

In today’s world of selfish, me first athletes, this is refreshing. Heh… in today’s world that’s refreshing.

While you’re out and about, if you see someone in need, even if it means simply holding the door for a person with their hands full, take a moment and lend a hand. Don’t wait for a thank you or a reward. Do it out of kindness.

Help a friend.

Help a stranger.

Help a loved one.

Help a co-worker.

Help a fellow student.

This isn’t about writing, though if you wanted the context to be so, you could help other writers by buying their books, telling folks about them and using that word of mouth that goes a long distance these days.

A word of caution: If you are one who asks what’s in this for me, then helping others is not for you. The only true reward in helping others is the satisfaction of doing a good deed.

One more thing and I’m done for today. If you see a soldier, you tell them thank you. You tell them you appreciate what they’ve done for this country, for your freedom.

With that I say to Lincoln and Keith, both soldiers, thank you for all you do and all you’ve done.

Until we meet again, my friends…