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.

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.

In the Ashes of the fire…

I spent some time at Moonville Friday with the Zaleski Fire Department.  A fire had ignited in the woods near the area and while some departments put together efforts to contain the fire, others stood by and kept watch for other dangers.  It was already near dark when I arrived at the scene, and containment efforts were winding down.  I stood with some of the firefighters who were keeping watch on the road near the Moonville Tunnel, as we all waited for the latest updates on the conditions in the woods.

As we waited, I noticed something falling from the sky.  Further observation of the falling material revealed to me that I was standing in a shower of falling ash.  I could not see the fire from where I was standing, but the smoke, the burning smell and the ash that was falling caused me to realize I was probably closer to the fire than I had thought.  Suddenly I knew that if containment efforts fail, I could be in a dangerous place.

I didn’t doubt at any moment that the situation was being properly handled by the firefighters.  I didn’t fear that at any point I would need to scramble to quickly remove myself from the area.  I felt secure.  I was safe, and I didn’t feel the need to panic.  I wonder though, if the fire department hadn’t been on the scene if I would have felt the same way.  Would I have jumped into my car and get out of the woods as quickly as possible if I had been alone?  I am not sure what type of alternative outcome would have came if I wouldn’t have been near members of the fire department.  I am thankful for the people who sacrifice their time and effort to protect people like me and keep me safe.

I think about the way I felt in the woods Friday.  I wonder about my own life and the lives of those around me.  How do the people who depend on me feel when they are near me.  Do my kids watch the ashes fall and know they are safe because I am their father?  Does the burning smell cause my loved ones to fear where they stand or do they feel comforted because I am near?  When the smoke is thick and the only thing left to do is count on someone else for protection, am I the one people feel they can turn to?

My life feels like a fire sometimes.  It seems that there is always a fight to protect what little I have.  I think the people who are close to me can see the smoke.  They can smell the fire.  They watch the ashes fall when they are near me.  Though some run away for fear that the fire will grow, there are those who stand in a safe place.  They feel safe in spite of the proof of dangerous territory that surrounds them.  I want to end the fire that burns in my life.  I want to rise above the smoke clouds that roll off of my existance.  I’m not going down in flames, I’m emerging from the fire.  I am climbing out of a death trap that has held me bound for years.  If you watch the ashes fall, don’t fear the fire, just know I have taken another step into the clear.

In the future, I hope that my children feel safe because I show no signs of destruction, rather than because I carry them through it.  I want the best for my kids.  Even though we have marks to prove we have been through the fire, I hope they’ll carry on without fear of that fire.  If my success marks the success of my children, then I must succeed.  There are no other options.  The ash still falls, but the fire is behind me.

Navigator down…

Yesterday I decided to travel to West Virginia to visit with my girlfriend who is moving there for a job that she just started working recently.  Unfamiliar with the territory, I decided to use the gps on my phone to navigate the course to the hotel she is staying in.  I was probably about half way into my trip before I realized there is something wrong with my gps.  It refused to work for me.  I was without direction.  Luckily, i remembered the route in my head from when I looked it up earlier in the day.  I arrived at the hotel with no problems, but I did show up with an understanding that I need to figure out why the gps on my phone isn’t working.  I could have easily gotten lost if I had not remembered the directions.

It is always nice to have a voice to tell you which turn is the right one.  It helps to know which road we are on and which one is coming next.  It is comforting to know there is a turn coming up that we previously were not aware of.  These are the kind of things gps will point out to us, but without them, we must navigate on our own.

I feel like this is the lesson we need to learn in life.  All of us can appreciate that voice telling us where to go and how to get there, but many of us are finding our own way.  Most of us do not have the course mapped out for us.  The best chance we have is to take the turns that seem to be the right ones, and hope we end up where we set out to go.  The answer is coming to us in spoken form, but it comes with a good educated guess and hopes of heading in the right direction.

The promising thing for me was that I did have a map to look at before I left.  Although I relied heavily on my memory to get me to my destination, I was able to get there without a navigation system.  I think the reason why most people don’t get to the place they were wanting to go is they didn’t take a moment to look over the map before they got on the road.  Without the map, finding direction is an impossible task.   You will get lost, and you most likely live that way.

Take a moment to map out your course before you make a move on the road of life.  Your gps system may fail you, but with the proper direction locked into your mind, you can get there.  You can and will succeed in finding your destination in life if you take the time to seek for proper direction.  I’m late.  I tried to drive the course alone.  I went with no gps, no map, no voice to tell me where I am or where I’m going.  I went alone.  Still, I don’t think it’s too late to look at a map and get on course.  This way, every step I take from here on I will know where I am, and know exactly how to get to where I’m going.  I might feel a little uncertain without my gps, but with the directions in my head, I can and will get there.  You can too.  Map it out.