Give with all your ‘mite’ …

I was out of town recently and found myself walking slowly on a sidewalk behind a woman who inched her way along. She slightly wobbled as she walked and she took up most of the sidewalk. Because of this, there was no room to get around her. I had no idea where she was going or where her destination was, but I just continued behind her slowly as patiently as I could. I didn’t want to be rude so I simply slowed myself down and allowed her continue at her pace. As rushed as we are as a society today, I have to admit, it pained me a bit to slow down for her. I think that slowing down is exactly what I needed to do in that moment though. You can learn a lot when you change your pace. I know I did.

As I walked nearly the entire length of a city block behind this slow moving woman I couldn’t help but notice her clothing was not very desirable. Her hair was a mess, as the clip she was using to hold her hair down appeared to be broken. Her shoes were old and I’m guessing she either walks a lot or she hasn’t purchased a new pair for many years. I’m guessing by the way she was dressed that when she got those shoes they probably weren’t even new then. I’m not saying all of this to run the woman down or give a negative portrayal of her. I’m simply wanting those who are reading this to understand that this woman didn’t appear to have anything. For all I could tell she lived there on the street somewhere. It was what I saw next that made me realize that this woman had more than most people ever will have.

The woman moved over out of our way, grabbed a windshield wiper blade of a car on the side of the street and lifted it to place what looked like a bookmark bearing the words ‘God is Joy’ under it. I’m not going to lie, sometimes I can’t stand getting that stuff under my wiper blades. I usually have to pull my car over to remove it so it doesn’t blow away while I’m driving. Not only is it annoying in that sense, it may really upset someone who do not have certain religious beliefs. Regardless what you or I believe, though, I was very impressed with what I saw. Here is a woman who has nothing but she is giving what she can to make someone else’s day better. Although we may see litter on our cars, in her mind, she is trying to brighten someone’s day. Suddenly I felt like no matter what a person’s religion is, I would be happy to know they care about me so much as to give me the only thing in this world they have to give. It doesn’t matter who you worship or if you worship no one at all, it’s good to know someone cares. The woman could barely walk but she walked that block for someone.

I’m guessing the person who owned the van probably rolled their eyes when they looked on their windshield that day, but they’ll never know about the woman who took all day (it seemed) to walk to their vehicle to brighten their day. I’m guessing if anyone at all who had anything at all would do the same for this woman, she wouldn’t have looked the way she did that day. I would never have noticed her if I wouldn’t have slowed down. We should all slow down and notice the sacrifices of others. This woman didn’t have to be out in the hot weather walking to reach others with her cause. She could have sat at home and hoped that someone else would do it. How many would walk a mile for her? I doubt very many at all. I realize that some who are reading this will only look at the religious part of this story and will over look the effort the woman made to make someone else’s life better. I will apoligize to you if you are offended. Suddenly, though, I find myself much less offended by these people. I don’t care whose name you do it in, if you want to show me love, I’ll take it. Hopefully someone will read this and decided to give the best of themselves to others as well, especially those like the woman on the street that day. These people could really use it. Some people hold out their hands. Others hold out their hearts. This woman held out her heart. Sadly, I’m not sure anyone will ever reach theirs back to her. We all need to slow down and take notice so we can give back to those who give so much of themselves for us.

Stepping off the path…

Last night I went for a long walk in McArthur. In some parts of town that means I walked in a well lit area and had no reason to be concerned of finding obstacles in my way. In other parts of town, however, the streets were very dark and I had to rely on the small amount of light that was shining from other areas to provide me with enough lumination to know where to put my feet down with each step I took. I did have my cell phone with me and could have used that to provide a guiding light for myself, but instead I was Facebooking, which means the light wasn’t shining on the road, it was shining in my eyes and making it even more difficult to see where I was going. Instead of walking in a straight line I was all over the road. I stepped of the sidewalk into the street or into the grass on the other side. I learned that texting and driving is far easier than texting and walking, especially in the dark. I think next time I go for a walk at night I will leave my phone in my pocket so I don’t get picked up for public intoxication.

It seems like the older I get the more my walk in life becomes like my walk through McArthur. I have one set direction – a set path I want to walk in, but I find myself distracted by other things that throw me off course and make me step off the path. The road is darkened by the night and the distractions are too heavy at times for me to find my way. I’ve stepped off the path far too many times, it seems, and I wish I could just get to where I’m wanting to go. I can’t. I’m intoxicated by the world around me and my fullest potential cannot be reached this way.

I want to walk a straight line. I want to walk tall and bold. I want to stand above the crowd. Somehow, somewhere along this path I got off track. I stepped off of the course and my walk led me astray. I’m just a simple man and I don’t know much, but I know this: It is so much easier to work to build someone else’s dream than it is to work on building your own. I’m going to keep walking. I’m sure I’ll step off of the path again..and again, and again, and again. I may never even get to where I’m going because of my inability to walk straight, but I’m going to walk. I’m sure most people who are reading this have stepped off the path in their own lives at times. Some may have their foot in the grass right now wondering how they ever got away from where they were wanting to go. I bet we all get this way sometimes. Let’s all continue to fight through our distractions and keep our feet moving one right in front of the other. I think death may be the only destination we ever actually reach in life and the only thing that should matter to us is the steps we’ve taken all along the way. Sometimes I feel like people are critical of my walk. To those people I would like to say this: I don’t walk this road for you. I walk it for me. If you don’t like where I’m going, watch out, because you’re probably going to put your foot in a ditch. You should probably be focused on your own steps, not mine. Get back on the path.

One Nation Under Tebow…

As an Oakland Raider fan I was thrilled to see the Broncos humiliated by the Patriots in the playoffs this year. I can’t imagine any other outcome would have made me happier in football so soon after the Raiders flubbed up and missed their chance to get in themselves. Just to give some background on myself, I am not an avid television viewer. When I watch sports, I make my own analysis. I come to my own conclusions. I do not let the media decide what opinion I will carry of what I see in the games. Still, after the Broncos-Patriots game, I was bombarded with people telling me I am listening too much to the media when it comes to Tebow. Sure, I was harsh on the kid. He is not a good quarterback. My beef is that we have a nation of people fawning over a man who has done very little for the sport. Everyone knows I can’t stand Tom Brady, and haven’t cared for him since the “Snow Bowl” when he fumbled the football and was given a second chance when the refs called it an incomplete pass. Still, I say, let Tim Tebow do half of what Brady has in the NFL and I’ll start telling my kids to go bow down and “Tebow” before bed. The fact is, he hasn’t done anything. I was simply unaware of the criticism that would come from the statements I made on my Facebook wall during the game. Don’t expect me to take any of it back, but I will say I learned a valuable lesson that day.

Before I get to that though, let me say, I hate the Broncos. They are a division rival. I can’t stand any team I face twice a year. That’s just the nature of the business. Where I live it’s Browns, Bengals or Steelers. If you like one, you hate the others. Well, that’s how I am with the Raiders. If you are a Bronco, Charger, or Chief fan, I’ll let you know how I feel about your team. When the Broncos won the division (which no team in the AFC West even deserved to do), I didn’t like it. My sole purpose for watching football was now simply to watch the Broncos fall flat in the playoffs. They did. I know they beat the Steelers, but if anyone thought the Steelers were going all the way this year, they need to hand over some of those happy pills. They lost some steam this year. I expected that one to be close. I knew when the battle of Tim versus Tom took place though, the tides would change for the Broncos and I would have another reason to smile. Believe me, I was smiling. I was also trash talking Tebow on my Facebook wall. It didn’t take long for the multitudes of Tebow faithfuls to come out of the closet though to rain on my parade. They told me the media is what makes Tebow look good or bad. They told me Tebow is a good Christian kid who deserves to be respected. They said they were ashamed of the way I talked about him. Where did all of this come from? Suddenly, without having done anything different than I had ever done before to any other player, I was getting the evil glare of the Cult of Tebow. His religious faithful were ready to attack on his behalf. I never criticized his faith. I didn’t speak an ill word of his manners. I simply explained how I felt about his quarterbacking ability – simply put, he has none – athletically maybe he is skilled – but in his position, he doesn’t have what it takes.

Ok, this has gone on long enough. This is what I’ve learned. People don’t care about production anymore. All that matters to fans is that Tebow gives his all. I don’t mind that. I, like anyone else, enjoyed watching the old Rudy movie more times than one. People simply don’t care if you are great. You could sit the bench and people still love you because you give your all. This doesn’t mean Tebow is magical. Determination gained every one of those players a spot in the NFL. I guarantee you not one of those players just woke up one day and decided they wanted to make a living playing football. We need to give everyone the credit they deserve for the effort they put in, but we should never idolize them for it. This is what happened with Tebow. My earlier reference to “Tebowing” wasn’t one I made up myself. The nation is wild over this terminology. I’m sorry to all of those Christians who got upset when I made an ill comment about Tebow, but it’s like this, when you see the world replacing the word prayer with the name Tebow, there is a problem. The kid doesn’t walk on water, and I’m pretty sure he doesn’t have the answers to your problems in life. He is a mediocre football player trying to make it in a sport that is too big for him. What better reason to pray? Stop praising him and simply respect him for his efforts.

It is easy to look for a savior in life. Trust me, when it comes to football, I’m a Raider fan. We’ve needed a savior for more than a decade now. Even outside of football though, people look for their answers everywhere. I say we stop idolizing people or things that seem to be a temporary answer just because it feels right or looks good. There is a better answer and it’s not in anyone else. We need to look in ourselves to find that answer.  Let Tebow find out how to complete half of his passes in a game. As for you, find out how to complete half of your goals in life. If prayer helps, great! Go pray, but when I watch Tebow bow down, I don’t want to listen to a nation rallying behind him as if he has a cure for cancer. He is a football player. Tons of football players pray or point their finger toward heaven after a big play. We haven’t idolized them and many of them are actually good at what they do. I like Tebow and wish him the best. I’m thrilled by his loss though, because I would be more than happy to go a couple of weeks or more without seeing social media postings about how god-like he is. He is a man. Aren’t we all? He lost. Now we can all focus on ourselves.

 

Interception of a dream

I understand that at the mere mention of football, many of you may navigate away from this page, but I should tell you, this is not about football. This is about life. Let me start by saying I have loved the Oakland Raiders since I was a young child. As a matter of fact, I can’t tell you why I love them or how that love was inspired. I can only say, It is a love that has always been. After watching the team share a horrible display during the last ten years, that love has not changed. This year, for whatever reason, has been a year I hoped to see some change. The team has been very strong and has had a great ability to score and stay in games until Sunday’s game. The Raiders lost their quarterback to an injury in the previous game against the Browns and was forced to make some changes at the position. With only one week to properly prepare, none of the quarterbacks on the roster were prepared for what was to come against their division rivals, the Kansas City Chiefs. The team played two quarterbacks in the game, each of them finishing the game with three interceptions and no touchdowns. The Raiders could not get into the end-zone at all in the game and lost 28-0.

I’m not sure what kind of a setback the team will face after Sunday’s loss or how they will come back when they play again, but this game had to hurt. After a decade of not being able to win, they finally seemed to be on track, only to be humiliated against a division foe who came into the game with a worse record than them. It didn’t matter that the Raiders actually played pretty good on the defensive side of the ball and that it was the interceptions that made the difference in the game. They lost. You come out with a ‘W’ or an ‘L.’ That is how it works in football. It is also how it works in life.

I can say, in my personal life, I feel very much the way the Raiders probably do. After many years of feeling like a failure  in various aspects of my life, I feel like in the last couple of years I have really started to grow up. I felt like I could put a few ‘W’s’ on the board and move away from the past that has haunted me. Everything seemed to be moving in the right direction. I was holding a winning record for once, but then I recently ran into my division foe. Interception after interception has kept me from reaching a score. I feel like I did when I was watching the Raiders play Sunday. I know that I may lose this game, but I would like to see a touchdown, a field goal, a saftey, I didn’t really care. I just wanted to put something on the board to maintain some respectability. That did not happen for the Raiders Sunday, it may not happen for me.

I’m sure many of my readers are aware that I recently lost a job I loved having. I was proud of that job but in the end, that job wasn’t proud of me. Interception. Just when you think you are on track and you are ready to score, someone steals the ball. I have been working to give my kids a better future. They deserve the very best. I want to provide them with a good home a healthy family life, and the best that can be offered. I feel like I have been intercepted. The older they get, the more I realize they may never know what it is to be a part of a real family…  In school, I have maintained straight A’s in all of my classes. It was my goal to continue that, but I was intercepted. I was doing so good, but when I scored 88 points in one of my classes at the end of my last term, that goal was ripped away from me like the Chiefs ripped it out of mid air from the Raiders… I finally found someone in my life who I cared about deeply and was given the same in return. I had finally grown up. Everything else was immature. Now I was ready to love real. I was ready to be loved. It’s time to put some points on the board, but wait, just when I throw a pass into the air, Interception. It wasn’t meant to be. Doesn’t matter how bad you want something, if that dream is intercepted, you lose possession. It’s just not my turn anymore. I’ve thrown plenty of interceptions recently, that I wish I could have back, but we can’t turn back time. We can only wait for our next chance. I’ve done that consistently. I have held on for another set of downs. I’ve waited to have another chance, only to throw another interception. Suddenly, I know why I like the Raiders so much, They are who I am. After so many turnovers and no score on the board, I feel like I have lost this game.

It’s a good thing life isn’t played in a single game. This week the Raiders have a bye week and will have some time to prepare for their next game. I don’t know if I’ll ever get a bye week, but I could sure use some rest. My heart hurts, both literally and figuratively and rest may be needed to prepare for future games. Why still play? Because I know that while I’m here, I can always suit up again and keep taking the field with the intent to win. I don’t just want to score. I want to win – not just one game. I want it all. I want the championship. Maybe my interceptions have displaced me temporarily from the dreams and goals I have in life, but I can’t give up. There is a championship on the line. I want to win it. I need to win it. I deserve it. I’ve played hard. I’ve been focused. Maybe I’ve been a little unprepared at times, but I’ve been focused. Please, please, please.. let me win. I don’t want to lose anymore.

Out of Control…

I rushed out to the scene of an accident a few days ago to find a young man standing next to his smashed up vehicle. He had rear-ended the lady in front of him on his way home from school. He had told me that he hit his brakes to stop before hitting the car in front of him, but it was too late. He had lost control of his vehicle. The impact not only affected him and the driver in front of him, but it affected another driver as well. Three cars in all were damaged because of the accident. I felt sorry for the young man as he explained what had happened. We all have moments in which we momentarily lose control. Unfortunately, some are not as lucky as others when it comes to the time and place those moments take place. I noticed that the young man was very respectful when he talked to me, even though he had just encountered a crisis. I wish more people would be so open to make you feel welcome in their lives in spite of what condition they may be in.

The wreck with the young man is not the only wreck I have been on the scene of here recently. I have been to several, and most of them are the same story. The driver momentarily loses control, for whatever reason, and is unable to keep the vehicle on the road. Some of these wrecks looked like they would be impossible to have brought about a different outcome no matter who was driving. Even though these drivers may be listed as being at fault, I think we all understand there are circumstances that can always cause us to lose control, if even for a moment. It is very humbling to consider the lives of the people involved in these accidents. Whether they were injured or not, they are all affected by something that I would say is very devastating. I don’t think a person can ever be prepared enough for the life changing events that take place in these types of situations.

Maybe, in some way, I do understand what these people are going through. I feel like I have lost some control in my own life here recently. To be honest, I don’t know if there is a stopping point. I don’t know if I will be able to correct the course that I have taken, or if I will have to crash and view the results later. It is one thing to lose control behind the wheel of a vehicle. It is quiet another to lose control behind the wheel of a family. Both can cause devastating consequences. I only hope that my loss of control doesn’t break me or injure me in such a way that I can’t recover. I’m not going to lie. I fear the unknown. I feel like my wheel has went off the berm and I can’t get it back on the road. Where will I hit? I fear the impact of what will happen next.

I know most people try to keep a positive attitude, and I do too. My fears do not extend to my knowledge or understanding of who I am as a person. I trust with full confidence that I am good enough to travel any road. But so are these vehicles that I find busted and dented up on the side of the road. I don’t think anyone understands how difficult my tragedy is. In the same way, I don’t understand how difficult the tragedies of these people in these accidents are. We all face our own struggles. Mine are overwhelming me right now. I don’t know if I can keep my head above water. I’m drowning here. Is there hope? I don’t know. What I do know is I need a crew to rescue me when I hit. I feel like I’m almost there. I try to prepare for the best, but still, I fear the worst. I lost control. I’m not used to not having control. Like the rescue crews I see on the scene of these accidents all the time, I hope someone is there for me when I hit.

Building Others…

These kids built bears for children in a hospital. The story seems simple enough, but I learned a great deal from them and the service they provided to society that day.

A couple of weeks ago I was at the mall in Charleston when I ran into a group who were working together at the Build-A-Bear store. The group was mostly middle school age children and there were several adults with them. They were making stuffed animals and dressing them. I originally assumed the group was having a birthday party or something. I went into the store and began talking to one of the guys working with the group and he told me he belonged to a church group. He said the group he was with was a Sunday School class that had recently learned a lesson about giving without receiving a reward. He said the group had put together a plan to do that with the help of the Build-A-Bear store. The plan was for the group to make stuffed animals to send to kids at the Children’s Hospital in Cincinnati. That in itself was touching enough, but the man went on to explain that he has a young family member who regularly makes visits to the hospital because he was badly burned in a house fire when he was younger. These kids were wanting to help people like this. What a wonderful plan.

I immediately fell in love with the group and called the local newspaper in Charleston to ask them to provide a reporter for the story. The story was no good for me because, even though I was a reporter, the story was not related to my area in any way. Still, I thought these kids deserved to be recognized for what they were doing. I was told that the newspaper’s reporter was on assignment already and they didn’t have anyone else to send on a Sunday so I enthusiastically asked if I could write the story for them. I told them I am not interested in money for writing the story, all I wanted is the satisfaction of bringing recognition to the kids who were building these stuffed animals. I was given an okay and I began to write the story. It would later be the most wide spread story I would ever write. The newspaper’s circulation well exceeded any of the newspapers I had written for before. I felt kind of special. More importantly, I felt like I had made these kids feel special. If my name had not have been on the story, I would have still been happy that it ran. They deserved to be recognized.

Why was I so intrigued by the story of these kids? I’ll tell you why. These kids were not only building bears that day. They were building others. They were creating something that was going to place a smile on the face of a kid in the hospital. They may not ever get the chance to meet the children they are helping, but they are doing it. It’s not about a reward for them. It is about sharing love with someone who is in an undesirable situation. It makes me feel good to know that there are people who would go out of their way to make the day of another. I’m glad to know that there are those who want to build someone up even when they are down. We should all learn a lesson from these kids. We should all learn to work for the people who need it most. It isn’t only about ourselves. This life is also about serving others. I’m glad I ran into these kids at the Build-A-Bear store in Charleston. I’m glad I was able to write a story about them. They deserve to be recognized. We could all learn a lesson from these kids. I learned a valuable one that hasn’t stopped teaching me yet.

Accidental Arrival…

I went to the Reds/Indians game over the fourth of July weekend with my girlfriend. My girlfriend is from Cleveland and has always been an Indians fan so when the game ended with the score of 8-2 in favor of the Indians, I thought that my night had gotten even better. We watched the post-game fireworks show and then headed out on our long journey back to my house in McArthur – a two and a half hour trip. I have only been to Cincinnati a few times, so I am not very familiar with the proper navigation to get back on the highway that will get me back home quickly. All we had to rely on was her gps and other Ohio license plates that were on the road ahead of us. I’m not sure if any of you guys have ever tried to drive in unfamiliar territory with a woman who wants to get somewhere, but it can be an unpleasant situation if you don’t get her to where she wants to go and quickly. For her the destination was Steak-N-Shake. Trying to rely on the gps to get on the right road and Google Maps for the nearest Steak-N-Shake, we ended up going several miles off the correct route and deeper into unfamiliar territory. The great night was turning into a nightmare rather quickly for both of us.

After spending a while on the wrong route we decided that Steak-N-Shake was out of the question. We agreed that by the time we arrived at the next one, we wouldn’t be hungry enough to eat. Instead we would be ready to lay our heads on a pillow and go to sleep. It was already late and we still had a long ride ahead of us. We were discouraged and hungry, but we were headed home. I decided that the gps was going to take me home regardless of whether or not I knew the route so I figured that I would just follow it home and quite trying to get back to a road I was more familiar with. I took the first exit I saw so I could grab a  somewhere to go and get back home on the alternate route that had been given to us. Even though a decision had been made on which way we would get back home, I couldn’t help but wish I were in the passenger seat. It’s never fun to get lost, especially if getting lost is affecting the person in your passenger seat too. Both of us were hungry and irritated at the way the night was turning out to be. Even though we wanted Steak-N-Shake, we gave up on food. We just wanted to get back.

Shortly after I had taken the exit, in the midst of our discussion about dropping the idea of food, my girlfriend started laughing. I wasn’t sure what she was laughing about, but I wasn’t in the mood to laugh. I just wanted to get home. I looked up and what did I see directly ahead? A sign for Steak-N-Shake. It wasn’t the same Steak-N-Shake we had planned to drive to, but it was a Steak-N-Shake nonetheless. We were both instantly revived from our bad moods. We still had a more than two hour trip ahead of us, but we had just arrived at one of our destinations, one we had thought we were going to miss. It was very amazing to me that we would arrive at a Steak-N-Shake after I had intentionally ignored a few of the turns the gps told me to take and I finally decided to take it’s advice. When I did, I reached my destination.

While this story is amusing to me, and may be to the readers of this blog, it also gives a very real representation of what many of us experience every day in our own personal walk in life. Many of us start with a strategic plan to reach a specific destination in life. With time these plans change for most of us. None of us can control what will happen in our lives from one day to the next. Some of us even give up and decide that we may never reach the place in life that we wanted to go. I found out over the weekend that there is still hope even when you are lost. You may not even know the way, but you can still find your destination. We had given up on Google. We gave up on the gps. All we had was a general idea on how to get home. What we found was even better. We found the only thing that either of us really wanted that night. It wasn’t the food. It was a working plan. We all have hope. Keep your head up as you walk through this life. It doesn’t matter how lost you may think you are in life, your accidental arrival could come any minute. You might be one exit away from reaching it. Don’t give up. Keep going. You might not be lost at all.