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.

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.

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.