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.

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.