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Friday, September 23, 2016

Words And Actions



Twenty-three years ago, my daughter, Hannah, was one month and one day old the day I flew to Guatemala to pick up our son. Kim and I had hoped to travel together, but with Hannah just being born, we thought it better that I go alone.

There are many events that I remember clearly as if it were yesterday. One of the most significant was the day after our consulate gave us the final approval for Wil’s adoption. We traveled to Casa Shalom, Wil’s orphanage, in order for me to see it and for Wil to say goodbye to Tom and Elizabeth, the orphanage “parents” and for him to say goodbye to the kids with whom he had lived for the better part of a year.

Two things happened that day. We stood in the living room, which was sparse and devoid of much of the trappings we would find in our own living rooms. There were two boys standing off to the side. The taller boy had his arm around the smaller boy who was crying. The taller boy whispered something to the smaller boy in Spanish and the smaller boy nodded, but kept on weeping. I turned to Elizabeth, who had overheard the statement, and she, too, was weeping. I asked what was said, and she told me that the two boys were brothers. The older boy told his younger brother, “It’s okay. Someday we’ll have a daddy, too.”

It broke my heart. I wanted to take them home with me then and there, but I couldn’t. Deep down, I knew that, but at some level, it touched me. I can still picture that whole scene and those two boys clearly today.

The other event that took place happened as we walked out to the car, got in and started our slow drive down the dirt track to the road. The kids, along with Tom and Elizabeth, lined up on either side of the road and waved goodbye. Some cried. Others smiled. In all, there was a sadness that I saw and felt.

The car we were in was a small Datsun hatchback. Wil pushed himself towards the front and held my hand. He started to wave at the kids, but couldn’t. He bowed his head and wept. I have to admit, I did, too. Saying “Goodbye” is hard. And, there have been a lot of “goodbyes” in my life. Yours, too, I suppose.

I ran across a story on Facebook and then on the ABC Nightly News. It was a beautiful story about the team manager or water boy with Down Syndrome. His name is Robby Heil. His team and the opposing team conspired together to get this boy into the game so he could score a touchdown and surprise his mother who has terminal cancer.

If you care to watch it, you can view it and the story at:

This nice thing is that this was a close game. I believe the score at the time was 7 to 7, so the touchdown had significance. A lot of significance, actually. For the two teams, for Robby, and for his mother. Probably a heck of a lot of other people, too.
And then there is a letter from six year old, Alex, who wrote a letter to President Obama, about a little five year old Syrian boy, Omran, who sat in the back of an ambulance by himself. He was covered in blood and dirt. A bomb blast had just killed his entire family, leaving Omran by himself.

Alex wanted his family to adopt Omran and even had a plan to share his bike and play with him. The story, and it is heartwarming and moving, can be found at: https://www.yahoo.com/news/boy-6-writes-obama-syrian-183600994.html

I think there is a direct correlation between one’s Words And Actions . . . if there is truth and sincerity. I believe one’s Words And Actions come from the heart. What the heart nurtures gives birth to one’s Words And Actions. In each of these stories, there is beauty, so much so, my words are inadequate. Woefully so. So today, I ask each of you to listen to your Words and to watch your Actions. They bear the fruit of what is in your heart. Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

To My Readers:
Please feel free to connect with me at:

Twitter at @jrlewisauthor



If you like to read thriller/mystery, check out:
Book One of the Lives Trilogy, Stolen Lives:
Two thirteen year old boys are abducted off a safe suburban street. Kelliher and his team of FBI agents have 24 hours to find them or they’ll end up like all the others- dead! They have no leads, no clues, and nothing to go on. And the possibility exists that one of his team members might be involved. http://tinyurl.com/Stolen-Lives-J-Lewis         

Book Two of the Lives Trilogy, Shattered Lives:
Six men escaped and are out for revenge. The boys, recently freed from captivity, are in danger and so are their families, but they don’t know it. The FBI has no clues, no leads, and nothing to go on and because of that, cannot protect them. http://tinyurl.com/Shattered-Lives-J-Lewis         

Book Three of the Lives Trilogy, Splintered Lives:
The FBI knows a 14 year old boy has a price on his head, but he and his family don’t. With no leads and with nothing to go on, the FBI gambles and sets up the boy and his family as bait in order to catch three dangerous and desperate men with absolutely nothing to lose.
http://tinyurl.com/Splintered-Lives-J-Lewis       

The Lives Trilogy Prequel, Taking Lives:
FBI Agent Pete Kelliher and his partner search for the clues behind the bodies of six boys left in various and remote parts of the country. Even though they don’t know one another, the lives of FBI Kelliher, 11 year old Brett McGovern, and 11 year old George Tokay are separate pieces of a puzzle. The two boys become interwoven with the same thread that Pete Kelliher holds in his hand. The three of them are on a collision course and when that happens, their lives are in jeopardy as each search for a way out. http://tinyurl.com/Taking-Lives-J-Lewis

Friday, September 9, 2016

Connections



I watched an interview several years ago with Garth Brooks. He is a "hands on" performer, often working with the roadies setting up the stage. There was one story where the lighting guy was working with a new sound guy setting up spots on mics. The sound guy asked the lighting guy, "How do I know how high to set the mic? How tall is he?" The lighting guy laughed and said, "Why don't you ask him? He's setting up the drum kit."

Brooks talked about what he wanted to do on stage during his performance. He said it was his goal to "connect with the guy sitting up in the highest seat furthest away from the stage." Lofty goal, pun intended. For that particular concert, he had himself strapped up and a boom lifted him above the crowd to the outer reaches of the top balcony. Up close and personal.

Kenny Chesney said something similar about connecting to his audience, both collectively and individually, and making it a memorable experience that would be felt as much as it was heard. I’ve watched Chesney, Keith Urban and Ryan Tedder of One Republic often change positions on stage, using preset mic stands so they can get closer to the fans. At one awards show, Darius Rucker climbed off stage and walked up into the wings to get closer to the fans- all while singing.

When I was in eighth grade, my school had a science fair and the top three were chosen to take part in the Marquette University science fair. My project was on Old Faithful. My dad and I made a replica out of it using an old coffee pot and Plaster of Paris. I did the research and found that Old Faithful wasn’t all that faithful.

What I remember most was that my dad worked alongside of me, with me. He didn’t do the work for me. I did it with his guidance and suggestions. He did the same with my Cub Scout projects and Pinewood Derby race cars.

Honestly, that was how I remember my dad best. He wasn’t all that talkative. He wasn’t all that demonstrative. He liked to laugh and he liked to work with his hands as much as with his heart.

And what I remember best was that his heart was for each of us, all of us. That was his gift to us . . . his heart. His patience. His kindness. His laugh.

As I write this, it is Friday of the first week of school. And I wonder as adults, as teachers and coaches and staff members and administrators . . . as parents . . . how are we connecting with the kids? How are we connecting with each other? Are we working on developing relationships with our kids, with each other?

Kids learn when they perceive their teacher as caring about them. So I wonder . . . do our kids know that we love them?

I learned a long time ago that kids who are loved at home come to school to learn. Kids who aren't loved at home, come to school to be loved. I think there are a whole lot of kids whose homes are sometimes inadequate, and I hope each of us are reaching out to them and connecting with them.

Do we find some way of reaching out to the kid sitting up in the highest seat furthest away from us as Garth Brooks did? Do we climb off stage and walked up into the wings to get closer to the kids as Darius Rucker did? That’s often where we find the kids trying to hide, trying so hard to not be noticed, while at the same time, trying so desperately to be noticed.

We might not be able to find and catch them all, but I think we cannot stop trying to do so. We simply must try. We cannot ever give up trying. Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

To My Readers:
Please feel free to connect with me at:

Twitter at @jrlewisauthor



If you like to read thriller/mystery, check out:
Book One of the Lives Trilogy, Stolen Lives:
Two thirteen year old boys are abducted off a safe suburban street. Kelliher and his team of FBI agents have 24 hours to find them or they’ll end up like all the others- dead! They have no leads, no clues, and nothing to go on. And the possibility exists that one of his team members might be involved. http://tinyurl.com/Stolen-Lives-J-Lewis        

Book Two of the Lives Trilogy, Shattered Lives:
Six men escaped and are out for revenge. The boys, recently freed from captivity, are in danger and so are their families, but they don’t know it. The FBI has no clues, no leads, and nothing to go on and because of that, cannot protect them. http://tinyurl.com/Shattered-Lives-J-Lewis        

Book Three of the Lives Trilogy, Splintered Lives:
The FBI knows a 14 year old boy has a price on his head, but he and his family don’t. With no leads and with nothing to go on, the FBI gambles and sets up the boy and his family as bait in order to catch three dangerous and desperate men with absolutely nothing to lose.

The Lives Trilogy Prequel, Taking Lives:
FBI Agent Pete Kelliher and his partner search for the clues behind the bodies of six boys left in various and remote parts of the country. Even though they don’t know one another, the lives of FBI Kelliher, 11 year old Brett McGovern, and 11 year old George Tokay are separate pieces of a puzzle. The two boys become interwoven with the same thread that Pete Kelliher holds in his hand. The three of them are on a collision course and when that happens, their lives are in jeopardy as each search for a way out. http://tinyurl.com/Taking-Lives-J-Lewis 

Monday, September 5, 2016

Taken, Stolen, Shattered



In late December of 1989, I hopped on a Northwest flight from California to Wisconsin to spend the Christmas holidays with my family. I was a high school counselor at the time, living in California and loving it. I wasn’t married at the time, just a single guy, and I used to spend Christmas and part of the summer back home. I still call Wisconsin “Back Home.” Think I always will.

Killing some time, I snatched a magazine from the pocket in front of me and opened it to an article about an eleven year old boy, Jacob Wetterling, who was abducted at gunpoint by a man wearing a mask and carrying a gun, and in front of his best friend, Aaron and his little brother, Trevor in late October of 1989.

The three boys had been on their way home from a convenient store after buying some candy and renting a video. The Wetterling house was just down a dirt-gravel road nestled amongst other homes surrounded by woods and farmland in St. Joseph, Minnesota. Peaceful. Quaint. Americana.

The man with the gun ordered the boys off their bikes and to lay down in the ditch. Trevor, only nine at that time, was ordered to run into the field and to not look back or he’d be shot. The man gave the same order to Aaron. When Aaron caught up to Trevor, both boys turned around and didn’t see anyone. Not the man in a mask with a gun. Not a car. Not Jacob.

I’m not sure why this story affected me the way it did. Perhaps like Jacob, I grew up in the country in the Midwest, though I was born and raised in Wisconsin. Perhaps like Jacob, I liked football and when I was growing up, like Jacob, I wanted to be a football player. Not sure what the reason was, but this story affected me. Still does.

I spent the holidays with my family, but Jacob’s story stayed with me. I ended up contacting the Jacob Wetterling Foundation and offering my services. I studied and researched and ended up giving workshops to parents, to students, to teachers and community organizations on behalf of the foundation and mostly, on behalf of kids. I became friends with the Wetterling family.

I met my wife, Kim, and started a family. I found that I couldn’t give those talks anymore, because instead of some “faceless” child, I pictured my own son, Wil, and my own daughters, Hannah and Emily.

Still, the story of Jacob Wetterling stayed with me. For twenty-seven years, Jacob’s story stayed with me.

I ended up writing four books on human trafficking: Taking Lives (the prequel to the Lives Trilogy), Stolen Lives, Shattered Lives, and Splintered Lives. I dedicated the first book, Taking Lives, to Jacob and to all missing children. I wrote these books to bring to light an aspect of ugliness in our society where children are used and abused by adults who are known and unknown to kids, and who are sometimes trusted by parents and children they end up abusing.

You see, Jacob was Taken from his family. He didn’t go willingly. Not at all. Jacob’s life was Stolen from him. His childhood. Growing up. Becoming a young man. Starting his own family. And the Wetterling family was Shattered. How could it not be? Their child was Taken. Their child was Stolen from them.

Through all of this, what I admire most about Jerry and Patty Wetterling was that instead of giving into hate and despair, instead of giving into bitterness, they founded a foundation that educates parents and children, the public and lawmakers about the evil of human trafficking and child sexual abuse. The Jacob Wetterling Foundation was built on hope that someday, Jacob and other missing kids would be brought home. Home to their families. Home to their loved ones. They lobbied for child safety and a law was passed that carries Jacob’s name. So much good and positive energy was generated from such an ugly situation and circumstance.

And this past weekend, Jacob’s remains were found in the same county in which he lived and in which he was Taken. A man who preyed on children, a monster, led authorities to the spot where they found Jacob.

For all these years, from 1989 to just this past weekend, there were only questions and theories mixed in with the prayers and hopes of so many. Now, Jacob’s story has an end. In so many ways, it is unsatisfying. The ending wasn’t what any of us had hoped for. The ending wasn’t something that one would find in a Disney movie. The stories of the sexually abused and missing children rarely, if ever, are. All we are left with is the hope that there might be some peace and the hope that this will never happen again. Never happen again. Ever!
Something to think about . . . And, pray for!

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

To My Readers:
Please feel free to connect with me at:

Twitter at @jrlewisauthor



If you like to read thriller/mystery, check out:
Book One of the Lives Trilogy, Stolen Lives:
Two thirteen year old boys are abducted off a safe suburban street. Kelliher and his team of FBI agents have 24 hours to find them or they’ll end up like all the others- dead! They have no leads, no clues, and nothing to go on. And the possibility exists that one of his team members might be involved. http://tinyurl.com/Stolen-Lives-J-Lewis       

Book Two of the Lives Trilogy, Shattered Lives:
Six men escaped and are out for revenge. The boys, recently freed from captivity, are in danger and so are their families, but they don’t know it. The FBI has no clues, no leads, and nothing to go on and because of that, cannot protect them. http://tinyurl.com/Shattered-Lives-J-Lewis       

Book Three of the Lives Trilogy, Splintered Lives:
The FBI knows a 14 year old boy has a price on his head, but he and his family don’t. With no leads and with nothing to go on, the FBI gambles and sets up the boy and his family as bait in order to catch three dangerous and desperate men with absolutely nothing to lose.

The Lives Trilogy Prequel, Taking Lives:
FBI Agent Pete Kelliher and his partner search for the clues behind the bodies of six boys left in various and remote parts of the country. Even though they don’t know one another, the lives of FBI Kelliher, 11 year old Brett McGovern, and 11 year old George Tokay are separate pieces of a puzzle. The two boys become interwoven with the same thread that Pete Kelliher holds in his hand. The three of them are on a collision course and when that happens, their lives are in jeopardy as each search for a way out. http://tinyurl.com/Taking-Lives-J-Lewis