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.

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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.

Dream vs. Fantasy

Today I attended a local event that began only a few short years ago, but has quickly drawn a great number of visitors. The event focuses on a mythological world of fairies, trolls and pirates and many other characters we don’t see in the every day world that we live in. Many different age groups participated in the event as it drew similar crowds with a wide range of personalities showing up for the very same cause – to bring their fantasy world to life. I wasn’t sure when the event first began how well it would be received among the community, but it has been a huge hit and I don’t believe it will slow down anytime soon. As long as this event continues to attract people, I’mI sure the community I live in will see more and more about it as time carries on.

I am not much of a person to get into character for events such as the festival I attended today. While I did enjoy watching others act out a world of imagination and wonder, I was fine being the camera guy who was there to snap pictures of it. That is all I needed to be. Sometimes I do very good to find the time to play out the role of being myself, let alone another character. I enjoyed watching other people live out their fantasies at the festival. It reminded me of a similar hope I have had for myself for quite some time. I want to live out my dreams.

What I learned at the festival is that dreams and fantasies are very different from one another. We can put on a costume and act out a specific character. We can role play and become the very object we desire with little imagination required. Living out the fantasy world is an easy process that anyone can learn to complete. We can all live in a fantasy world if we would like to, or we could attend festivals as a pirate or a princess. It doesn’t matter what we want to do, our fantasies have no limit as long as our imaginations don’t either. The dreams we have set for our lives are quite different though. I don’t dream to sail the seas on a pirate ship and find buried treasure. I dream to have a decent job and a nice house with a happy family to fill it with excitement every day. I dream to love like I’ve never loved before and have the same in return and never lose the spark that ignited the flame that led to a lifetime of happiness. I dream that my kids will be successful because of a drive and dedication that was given to them through watching their father climb the ladder of success and always strive to reach the top. These are dreams. You can’t put a costume on to achieve any of this.

When I left the festival today, I realized I was walking out of a fantasy world. It was a world that people imagined and brought to life. In the same way, I feel we all dream up ideas about who we should be or how we should be or what we should become and we try to make it a reality. The reality is though, we are not what our dreams are. We are dreamers. We are dreamers who hopefully someday will reach the goals we have mapped out for our lives. Some of us will reach those dreams and some of us will not. My fear in life is that my dreams will always be dreams and will never become a reality. I want to be able to enjoy the fantasies of life, but I want to live my dream. I don’t want to put a costume on and pretend to be everything I ever wanted. I don’t want to hide behind a masked smile that says I have arrived at my destination in life. I want to live my dream. All of my life I have been a dreamer. I’m ready to live. I don’t want to role play anymore.

Spilling My Lucky Charms…

Every child (and adult for that matter) has clumsy days. One day not too long ago was one belonging to my son Trace. He had the Midas touch, except everything wasn’t turning to gold. Everything he would touch that day would become an inescapable accident. He didn’t mean to have such a clumsy day, but it just happened. After a few incidents had taken place,  I wanted to tape him to the wall, but I knew better. There is no tape strong enough. So I tried to let him be, figuring that the horrible rash of negative influence he bestowed upon each object in his path would slowly fade. It didn’t.

In one particular instance, I heard a loud sound of a million tiny objects falling to the floor. I rolled my eyes wondering what mess I would find upon my arrival to the kitchen. When I got there, I saw Trace standing with an lucky leprechaunupside down box of Lucky Charms. A perfect mixture of colorful marshmallows and cat food shaped cereal was still falling to the floor. He had asked me earlier if he could have some, and I told him no. When he put it on top of the refrigerator, he didn’t push it back far enough. Later when he opened the refrigerator door again the box came tumbling down. He tried to catch the box, but it was too late, and the right side of the box was not up. There were Lucky Charms all over my floor. It was a brand new box and I was unhappy with what had happened. Being fed up from all of the other accidents that had happened that day, I told him to go sit down and don’t get up until I talk to him about his clumsiness. He did. I wanted to feel sorry for him, but I couldn’t. I was too busy cleaning up his messes.

As I was cleaning the breakfast off of my floor, I realized that we all have lucky charms in this life. We have special items or people who we don’t want to lose. We struggle to hold the box upright, but at one time or another, it will tip. It is a fact of life. We all will lose something we treasure at one point or another.  We will all face the loss of some lucky charms in life.

Quickly, after Trace spilled the box onto the floor, he bent over and began scooping it all back up and placing it back into the box. I told him there is no use of trying to save any of it now. It was lost. There was no bringing it back. Such is the way with life. We need to be careful how we handle the every day operations of our lives, because if we are not careful, we may lose the things that are most important to us. We need to strive to preserve those things the best way that we know how. I have spilled some lucky charms in my own life. Even today I look at myself and think I am standing with the box in poor position. Everything is spilling out, and I can’t keep it from falling. I am losing my lucky charms and I need to find a way to protect them. Hold on and don’t let go, but hold it right, don’t let any of it be wasted. Whatever it is that you may call a lucky charm in life, cherish it. Don’t drop it. Don’t spill your lucky charms.

Coloring Outside the Lines…

I don’t really remember at what point in my life I began to properly color a picture and stay inside the lines.  I know that as a child I must have colored all over whatever picture I was working on.  We all have.  In watching my own children, I have noticed that, as they mature and get a little older, their pictures have become more precise.  They have gotten better at coloring inside the lines.  I do remember in school that some of the children were better artists than others.  Even though we all began the same and all improved our ability to stay inside the lines, some became masters of their artistic ability.  While some were creating what seemed like a masterpiece for the parents refrigerator door, others were doing their best to just keep their crayon inside the lines on the page.

As an adult I feel like i still suffer with this battle.  I have never learned to create a masterpiece.  My whole life has been a struggle to keep it between the lines.  From the time I was young I have wanted to paint a beautiful picture of what I felt like life should be.  Unfortunately I am not a very good artist, at least not in creating the portrait of my life.  I struggle every day to stay inside the lines and not destroy the good that I do have.  In the same way that a little child wants to present the picture he colored in class to his parents when he gets home from school, I also want to present the most beautiful picture for the people I love.  I want to give my children, my family and my friends a masterpiece.  I want them to be proud, but I cannot paint.  Even as a journalist, I want to create a masterpiece for those who read my stories.  I want to present a beautiful piece of artwork, still, I struggle.

One day my kids will grow up.  They will have a life of their own.  Have I colored the picture of them the best way I possibly can to provide a promising future?  Have I stayed between the line enough to build on my relationship and create a masterpiece that will forever be cherished?  We can’t all be great artists, but is what little I can do enough?

I am going to try my best to simply keep it between the lines in this life.  I hope no one expects a masterpiece.  Maybe in the future I will be able to create stand out work.  Right now, It is more than a full-time job to keep everything between the lines.  Maybe you have struggled with this as well.  We all want a masterpiece.  Many of us fall short.  I feel like I couldn’t ask for better people to be in my life.  I can only hope I live up to offering back to them what they have given to me.  I want to give you all a masterpiece you will never forget.  I’m going to keep it between the lines.

Reading the wrong book…

I recently made the decision to take some college courses and try to open up more opportunities for my life.  I made it through a good bit of my work feeling pretty good about myself and the small accomplishments I had made toward completing my coursework.  Suddenly though, I was working on one of my assignments and found myself totally lost.  I had no idea why the material had shifted so heavily in another direction.  The work I was doing on my computer didn’t seem to match what I had read and taken notes on in the book.  In my research to find the problem, I found out that the book I had read for my classwork was the book I will be using in my next term.  All of my reading was in vain.  I had to start over and begin again.

In a world where every second counts, I felt like I had taken myself far off course.  I still am not certain of the ramifications of reading from the wrong book.  Will it leave me behind for the entire term or will i catch up and stay on top of each assignment?  Perhaps everything will be fine, and I can also look forward to having a jump on my course work in my next term.  I am not sure of where this will lead me, but I am sure of one thing.  I will get a better understanding from the book I am reading now, than from the one I was studying before.

I think many of us find ourselves “reading from the wrong book.”  I’m pretty sure we have all finished chapters upon chapters of different aspects of our lives, only to find that we were reading the pages of something that does not apply to us.

We all want our actions to make sense.  All of us have ambitions and hopes for great things in our lives.  To apply ourselves and bring ourselves to a point where we feel we can reach these dreams, we have to make sure we are lined up in the area of our learning.  We can’t be successful in any test life puts us through if the course we studied was not intended for us.  The chapters I had already read were beyond my level.  I will reach that level at a later time.  Right now I need to focus on where I am at.  Similarly, we all are on separate levels in life.  I cannot expect the lessons of your life to serve as a guide to my own.  I can learn from you, but my course work is much different than yours.  If I read the wrong book, I won’t succeed when I am tested.

As you continue through life’s journey, reach for the book that describes your life where it is now.  Don’t try to reach above or beneath the level of understanding of your current standing in life.  You have the necessary tools to excel.  Don’t read the wrong book.  Take up every opportunity to create hope for your life and apply it whenever you can.  You can pass this test you are going through.  You can ace your next quiz.  All you have to do is keep on track.  Aim for that promising destiny you believe in, but never seem to be able to grasp.  First, you need to check out your book.  Is it the right one?  Are your actions in life based on a clean heart and a pure intension or from something you learned on a television show or a magazine?  Study at your level.  Pass your test.

Aren’t we all the same?

I have always believed that we all are similar.  Everyone of us, while unique in our own ways, match each others actions in certain situations.  Sure, we may have a different hair or eye color.  Some of us may speak different languages.  Some people grow up wealthy and some grow up in poverty.  These things make us different, but aren’t we really all just the same?

Every person I have ever met has cried, this shows me that we all hurt.  All of us have laughed or smiled, revealing that we like to be happy.  We all fall in love, showing our desire to be close to another person.  We all share the same basic emotions.  These are universal.  We all use them differently, but we use them none the less.  What gives us a unique personality is the type of surroundings we grew up around and how we reacted to the emotions given to us from that foundation.  A child who has parents who were both athletes is likely to follow the same course.  A child who grew up in poverty has a much higher likely hood of living in poverty as well.  It all falls back on the way the child was raised.

What makes you who you are is not the environment you grew up in.  That is simply what helped you find yourself in the environment you are in today.  You are not the surroundings you grew up around, you are the person who reacted to those surroundings.  How does the life you have lived affect who you are?  Are you a better or worse person because of the way you grew up?  I don’t necessarily believe so.  I would like to challenge that mind set.

A goal driven person will find ways to reach their destination regardless of circumstance.  It is in their nature.  This is why you see some people come from a very poor family, but find ways to suceed and become wealthy.  While the case is rare, it does happen.  We also see celebrities, who came from well known families, make major mistakes.  You determine your course, not the influences of nature around you.  Only you can decide how to react to each obstacle in life.  This is what determines who you are as a person.

We should probably learn to overlook a persons social status when deciding how we feel about them.  We should look past the influences that have changed their circumstance, but not the person.  If we could peel back the shell of who we are we would find that we all have similar traits.  We all want the best for ourselves and our families.  We want to suceed.  We all want to be happy.  We all like to laugh.  None of us want to hurt.  None of us want pain.  We don’t really want to be alone. . . Not forever anyway.

I say everything I just said to try to point out that the person you judge walking by for the way they look or the way they act, that person could be you.  If you had only grown up in their environment, you may be their twin.  I think we could all look at ourselves and find sucess and failure in our lives.  I think we can all also look at ourselves and say we are proud of who we are.  Many may disagree here, but don’t be too quick on this.  I don’t believe anyone wants failure.  Because of this we all try.  We do the best we can with the best way we know how to do it.  Sometimes it just takes a little push from an outside source to teach us to do a little more.  Or maybe we need a little more motivation from somewhere, anywhere, but we still know everyone wants to suceed.  We all just haven’t had the same push.

I guess all I am asking from all of this is when you look at someone else, don’t judge them.  They grew up different than you.  The person you are looking at is not the drug dealer or the prostitute, the begger or the dirty person you pass by on occassion.  This is just the environment they live in.  The real person is inside.  The person who hurts, cries, laughs, smiles and wants to be loved.  This is the real person.  Rather than judging their situation, help them out of it.  Share your sucesses and ideas that have helped you along the way.  You had help.  Somewhere along the line, the helpless lonely person, that is you, was given help that got you to where you are.  These people could be there too, they just haven’t had the help.  We all do it the best way we know how.  They just don’t know how.  You may think it is easy, but for them it is not.  Don’t be too hard on them though, you could have grown up in that environment.  It could have been you.  They aren’t where we are, just like we aren’t where some others are.  None of us are without flaw.  Why?  Because I believe we truly are all the same.