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.

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.

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.