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.

Advertisements

Writing the story before it happens..

Yesterday was election day.  In the past, election day has been a day where I go vote then head home to turn on the television and watch results.  This year was much different for me.  Now that I am a reporter, it was my job to make sure people received information about the election.  I was the one who was responsible for writing the stories that would be in the newspaper the next day.  Let me say, the task is not an easy one when you are up against a deadline.

I was fully aware the day would be hectic.  I knew ahead of time that I would need to prepare my stories, laying the ground work for news that would be coming, so I began writing election stories prior to the vote count being taken.  This was new for me.  It was the first time I had written a story before it actually happened.  I felt though that the job would be much easier If I would anticipate outcomes based on my knowledge of what was happening and write the stories as closely to that as possible.  Of course, I was able to later change some of the information depending on what happened.  I left blank spaces for all of the numbers and additional spaces for any quotes I might receive after the election.  I found this to be very helpful in assisting me at getting the stories out in time last night.

I realized after the long day had ended, that life should also be the same way.  I have always struggled at planning ahead.  I think if something happened today that I was not ready for, I wouldn’t know what to do.  I would be lost.  There are some people who are really good at anticipating the future, I am not one of them.  I know now that preparation takes more time in the beginning, but saves a great deal of time in the end.  I really hope that in the future, in all of life’s moves, I will begin writing my stories before they happen.  I want to leave blanks for the spaces that can be filled in later, but for the most part, I want to be prepared for what happens next.  Obviously I cannot predict love.  I cannot predict tragedy.  I cannot predict the moments that change the course, but I can prepare for anything.  I can look at my life and consider the course I would like to take.  Sure, there may be changes or alterations, but If I write the story before it happens, I won’t have to start fresh each time something changes.  I will only have to fill in the blanks.

Look at your life as well.  Where do you want to be in the future?  Where do you expect to be in the future?  Where do you WANT to be in the future?  You have the ability to write the course for yourself.  This is your story.  Life is only a co-author.  Don’t let all of life’s situations tell the story for you.  You need to author this.  In the end, you will find it easier to make the best of your time if you have a pre-written life.  Don’t be the person who waits to see what happens before you decide what to write about your life.  Write it now.  It is time to start writing your story…Before it happens.

Behind the Mask…

I spent the day with my children yesterday walking the streets in search of Halloween treats.  It seems to me, with every new year, there are more and more children dressed up and wandering around, door to door, to fill up their baskets of candy.  My kids went as the Mario Brothers.  They seemed to get a pretty good response from passers-by as they passed other trick-or-treaters on the streets.  You should have seen them with the big mustache that covered a large part of their face.  I couldn’t help but smile when I caught some of the responses of people as they walked by.

While my kids had a simple costume, you could tell who they were by looking at them.  Some children were completely covered in a body suit.  Whether they were going as a gorilla, a race car driver (complete with helmet), or any other costume requiring a mask, I couldn’t tell who these kids were.   Some of the kids who passed by waved at us, but I couldn’t recognize them.  The only thing I knew about these kids was what outfit they had on.  I could recognize the mask, but beneath it, the mystery loomed.

I think we all wear a mask from time to time.  Obviously, I am not speaking of a literal mask.  I am talking about something that covers us, and makes outsiders recognize us in an entirely different light than the people we reveal ourselves to.  Many of us wear masks to hide our imperfections when we are around other people.  By wearing a mask we can become unrecognizable.  We can hide the part of us we don’t want people to see.  We can become another person.

Why do we all have to do this to seek another’s approval?  Shouldn’t we find comfort in ourselves and walk boldly in front of the crowd?  I think the world would find itself in a better place if some people would take off their masks.  While my mask may suggest I am a young, happy father of two kids who lives a comfortable life as a reporter in the county I live in, I struggle.  My life is not easy.  When I think about it, I don’t know if any single aspect of my life has been easy.  Although some people may look at me and see failure, if they had walked in my shoes and been in places I have been in life, they might begin to believe I am a great story of success.  What makes success?  To be honest, I must say the answer to that question is still up for debate, at least in my head.  What I can tell you is that the prettiest mask you can wear will not change your leve l of success.  Your mask will not make you better.  It is solely dependant upon the drive of the person under the mask where you will go in this life. 

Take off your mask.  Nobody wants to see a lie.  People want to know the real you.  They will only respect the real you.  Your mask can’t earn respect, and while people may respect your lie, it is a matter of time before the mask proves its inability to carry your load.  You are better without the mask.  Your progress will come when you lay it down and move forward without it.  Regardless of your position in this life, wherever you may be, your mask will never go further than you carry it.  It is your footsteps that get you where you going in life.  Throw down the mask, and walk on.

Act your age…

I had a difficult time trying to get my kids ready for school this morning.  My oldest son, who is eight-years-old, is constantly making noises, singing or talking.  Sometimes this can become very annoying very quickly and cause me to yell at him.  I don’t know how many times I have had to tell my son to act his age.  What I think I am missing about the whole thing is that he is eight.  He is not old enough to be an adult or act like I am.   I rememeber when I was young, I always acted similar to the way he acts now.  I enjoyed singing or making noises.  It was fun to run in the house or climb the walls.  I am not saying that it was permitted.  I just knew it was fun and did these things when I felt I could get by with them.  I wonder when I yell at my children to act their age, if what I am really saying is, “act my age.”

I often wonder if I am failing as a parent.  I can’t help but wonder if I am good enough or if I provide the necessary needs that should be provided for a young one.  I have been divorced for over three years now and it seems the further I go, the more I realize, I am not a mom.  It is easy to be a dad.  I enjoy the role.  Most of the dad traits just come naturally to me.  But to be a mother . . . not so much.  I struggle to give them what they need and can only hope that what little bit of good I can instill in them will grow in them, causing them to be great when they get older.

Now, I look at myself.  Do I act my age?  Am I as mature as the common 29-year-old man?  I want to tell myself that I am.  I can’t help but see all the areas where I am lacking though.  I am not acting my age.  I am acting like someone who doesn’t have it together.  Sure, I am stretched to the limit with my hands and feet spread apart, clinging to what little bit of life, peace, hope and happiness I can hold on to, but in the end, I feel I have fallen behind and not only is it a struggle to act my age, but to be my age.  I fail.  I fail regularly.  Is it this failure in me that has caused me to redirect my children when they act like me?  The very things that make up who I am is the things I try to change about my children.  I wonder if it is fear that they will one day become me, and fail in the same way that I have.

The outcome of my life is still under my control.  I may seem to old to change my ways, but this old dog is going to learn new tricks.  I am ready for a different life.  A life where my kids can look up to me and feel proud to be my son.  A place where my kids can be themselves without fear of getting reprimanded for it.  I love my children.  Really, they are my life.  Without them I am nobody.  They have shaped in me the very essence of who I am.  With all that they have given to me, I feel it is time to give back.  My kids shouldn’t teach me, I should teach them.  I am their father.  It’s time to act my age.