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Friday, May 31, 2013

Never Quite Finished


Ever notice that some things just don’t seem to end?  That some things keep going and going
and . . .  Sort of like the Energizer Bunny!  Annoying at times.

Each Saturday morning, I begin the laundry.  I sort it and do one load at a time.  Depending upon the fabric, I either hang it on a rack or throw it in the dryer.  About five or six loads later, I declare myself done.  Yeah!

Oh, but wait . . .

Emily finishes with soccer practice or a game.  I now have another pile to do, perhaps two piles, since one jersey is black.  Heaven forbid if you wash black with white.  Worse if her red warm-up jersey is dirty.  Might take three loads. 

Oh, but wait . . .

I forgot- Hannah’s home from college.  Two or three more loads, maybe four.

Same thing with the dishes.  I wash and then dry.  Maybe I use the dishwasher.  Throw the dishes in, the soap, and turn it on.  Done!

Oh, but wait . . .

Someone decides to have a bowl of ice cream.  A glass of milk.  Popcorn.  Lemonade. More dishes!

It’s Never Quite Finished.  Such is life, really.

Last night, I finished the first edit on a book I wrote.  It is actually a sequel to the first.  When I got to the ending, I realized that it wasn’t quite done.  There was more to the story.  It has a satisfying ending, but it isn’t quite finished. Not yet. 

Life is Never Quite Finished.

I’m certainly on the backside of the mountain of life. I’m taking my time, choosing my steps on that path. I’d like to think that my wife and kids would miss me when I’m gone.  Hopefully, they’ll have good memories and those memories and stories will be passed on to their children.  But their lives will move on.  I expect that.  I want that.  I don’t need anyone mourning over me.  Think of me in the good times.  The things I did or said that made you laugh or might have caused you to pause and think.  I want life to move on.  It’s going to anyway.  Nothing I can do to prevent that.

Try this sometime:  Fill a bucket with water.  Stick your arm all the way in and then pull your arm out.  Is there still a hole where your arm was?  No.  The bucket and water doesn’t even miss you.  It’s like your arm was never there.  Or perhaps the next time you’re at the beach, stand close to the shore as a wave laps at your feet.  You feel yourself sink in the sand.  You step back and you see your footprint.  That is, until the next wave laps the shore and your footprint disappears.

So, too, is life.  It is Never Quite Finished.  It goes on.  Keeps going.  It needs to.  Past us, beyond us, despite of us.  I think that’s why they call it the circle of life.  Life is Never Quite Finished.  And, it shouldn’t be.  Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Another Beginning



This is commencement season.  Kids wear their best clothes, their graduation gown and “hats”.  They’re decked out in tassels and stoles, medals and pins.  Confetti and balloons.  Cards, gifts, parties.

In 1972, I graduated with a class of 32 friends.  The school is no longer there.  When we’re back in Wisconsin visiting my wife’s family, we drive past what was once my school.  Most of it is falling down.  A shell of what it once was. 

I had to give a speech that day, one of two students to do so.  I remember it, actually.  I doubt if others do.  My dad and mom and my sister Donna sat in the audience.  We didn’t wear robes or “hats”.  Just my blue double-breasted suit. 

I’ve been through many commencements in my 37 years in education.  Last year’s was tough.  Hannah graduated.  I still get choked up remembering her introduction of me.  She was class officer and part of her introduction was, “You know him as the principal.  I know him as ‘my dad’”.  Yup, choked up again.

When I became principal, I decided against a traditional “principal speech” and instead, pick a song that represents or typifies the graduating class.  I sing to them. 

I had to sing after Hannah introduced me.  Tough to sing with a lump in one’s throat, with tears running down one’s cheeks.   I didn’t do “My Wish” any justice.  Still, the thought and my hope for them, for Hannah, was there. 

Commencement doesn’t, however, mean an end.  It actually means a beginning.

Rather ironic when you think about it.  I mean, you spend 8 years of elementary and middle school, four more years of high school to . . . begin again? 

Sure, college.  Graduate in four or five years, sometimes longer to . . . begin again?

Commencement.

To go forward.  Begin again.

Find the path.  Walk on it.  To and Through the door of your, perhaps His, choosing.  As He holds your hand.

As parents, we do the best we can with what we have to offer.  Kids stumble along the way.  We help pick them up, dust them off, and give them a pat on the back and tell them, “It’s okay.”  With a nod and a smile, perhaps a tear, they begin again.  We begin again.  Once again.

Oh, and my school that’s falling down?  The historical society is involved.  It’s creating a thrift shop for folks who can’t afford new.  A playground and a nursery.  Beginning Again.

Commencement doesn’t really end with one beginning.  Each day is a commencement.  Each night is a commencement.  A chance, an opportunity to begin again.  Take advantage of it.  Live it.  Love it.  It’s yours.  Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Merry-Go-Rounds and Roller Coasters


When I was a kid, I loved going to fairs and amusement parks.  I’d buy a bunch of tickets and go on the rides all day or all night.  I think night was the best.  The lights.  The sounds.  The smells.  The faster, the better. 

I never liked the Ferris Wheel because I don’t do heights very well.  It seemed like most of the ride was either loading or unloading passengers.  I hated getting stuck on the top.  And, was that one little bar across your lap really supposed to prevent you from falling out?  Yeah, right!

Merry-Go-Rounds were okay if you were little.  When my kids were little, they’d try to find the fastest horse to ride and we’d race.  Of course, my kids always won.  Funny how that happens.  But as I, and they, got older, Merry-Go-Rounds got stale.  I mean, all they did was go around, and around, and . . .

I prefer Roller Coasters.  The slow, steady climb up the hill.  The building of excitement.  The heart pounds, beats faster.  As you near the top, you hold your breathe.  As you go over the pinnacle, you throw your hands up in the air and scream.  Okay, maybe you don’t scream, but I do.  Sometimes just in my head because I don’t want to look like a wuss to my kids.  We race around turns, through loops and corkscrews.  It doesn’t last but a minute or two, but it’s fun.  It’s exciting.  And, you find yourself climbing on board again, and again, and . . .

I know people who never seem to get off the Merry-Go-Round.  They spend their day going around, and around, and . . .  They get up in the morning, put on their “uniform” symbolizing they are ready for “work”, climb on a wooden horse and go around, and around, and . . .  Each day.  Every day.  Same routine.

Pretty boring really.  No thrills.  No excitement.  Same sights.  Same music.  Same, well, everything.

I prefer to live my life like it was a Roller Coaster.  Twists and turns.  Ups and downs.  Sometimes slow.  Sometimes fast.  Climbing towards the top, and then plunging down over the pinnacle only to level out and climb another hill, then plunge down once again.  At times I want to hold my breath.  At other times, I want to scream out of fear, sometimes out of joy.  At times I have enough and want to get off, but I find myself climbing back on board.  I near the top and throw my hands in the air and just go with it.

Merry-Go-Rounds or Roller Coasters.

It’s really a choice. Your choice.  My choice.  Rather than the Merry-Go-Round where you go around, and around, and . . . in a never-ending circle, choose the Roller Coaster.  It’s more exciting.  Slow.  Fast.  Up.  Down.  Twists.  Turns.  Your choice.  Hang on and enjoy the ride.  Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Hell On Earth


I think we’ve all heard the term or have a concept of Hell On Earth.  Do we really understand it?  Perhaps our own perceptions and experiences and backgrounds color the meaning for us.  I think some common ground lies before us, though.

The shooting in an elementary school in Connecticut.  The hurricane that hit the Northeast.  The tornadoes in Oklahoma.  9-11. Watching a loved one slowly, progressively succumb to death. Losing a child to death or abduction.

Losing a job and not being able to provide for one’s family.  A loved one suffering through alcoholism or other substance.  A marriage or relationship dissolving.

I think all of those might qualify as Hell On Earth.  I’m willing to bet there are others I haven’t thought of.

But our experiences and backgrounds color and influence our thinking, our understanding when it comes to Hell On Earth.

Children mention their parents fighting.  Children talk about being bullied, excluded, made fun of. 

Is their “Hell” any less than an adult’s view of “Hell”?

I think not. 

It is just as painful.  Just as hurtful.  Just as isolating.  Their “Hell” causes self-doubt, causes a lack of self-worth, causes a lack of value as a human being, as a person.

I remember a sermon recently about Eternity and what that might ‘feel’ like.  It was described like this:  There is a mountain off in the distance.  It is high and hard and seemingly insurmountable.  A bird fills its beak with a bit of dirt from that mountain, flies off, and deposits that bit of dirt on the ground a distance away.  The bird makes trip after trip, day after day, week and month and year after day, and week and month filling its beak with a bit of dirt and depositing it in the same spot.  Eventually, after a long, long time – Eternity – the mountain disappears and a new mountain is formed.  Eternity.  At the very least, a very long time.

As a counselor and teacher and coach, I watched kids who hurt and suffer on a daily basis.  My heart breaks as I remember their names, picture their faces.  I know adults who live day after day suffering, worrying.  Their Hell On Earth.  Their Eternity.

We might not even be aware of who is suffering. We might not know what to do or how we can help someone who is suffering.

Perhaps listen.  Perhaps be present with them, letting them know they aren’t alone.  Supplying a shoulder to lean on.  A welcoming touch.  A smile.  A hug.  A gesture that tells the sufferer that “I understand.”

I know it doesn’t sound like a lot, but sometimes just knowing that you’re not alone is enough to help get you through.  And I think we’ve all been in a place where a hug, a smile, a shoulder to cry on or lean on was something we needed.  Something we were thankful for.

Hell On Earth is a very tough, ugly place to find oneself.  To have Hell On Earth for what seems to be Eternity . . .

As fellow human beings, I think we have an obligation to help, to pitch in.  To listen.  To be near. To somehow lessen the load, help bear the pain.  After all, we’re in this together.  And, we never know when we might find ourselves in our own Hell On Earth.  Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

Friday, May 17, 2013

A Matter Of Faith


There is a story about a woman watching a butterfly struggle out of a cocoon. 

She decided to help it by opening up the cocoon herself, making it easier for the butterfly to break free.  The problem was that the butterfly failed to develop sufficient strength in its wings and legs, so it died.  The woman only tried to help, to ease the struggle of the butterfly, but in the end, the butterfly died.  The butterfly needed the struggle in order to live.  It was in that very struggle that made that butterfly strong enough to survive.

Paraphrasing a statement from the Bible: “. . . if you had Faith the size of a mustard seed, you could move a mountain.” 

Hmmm . . . I’m thinking a front-end loader at the least.

When I was little, my brother’s and my bedroom was at one end of the hallway and my parents’ bedroom at the other.  I remember many, many times peeking into their room and seeing my dad on his knees at the side of the bed.  Eyes shut.  Hands folded.  Silent.  And every night.  I was no more than six or seven years old, but that image was burned into my memory and has stayed with me for over fifty years.

I know my conversations with my dad revealed to me that he was a man of great Faith.  Faith in God.  Faith in humanity.  Faith in his family.  Faith in himself.  Don’t know if that qualifies as a mustard seed or a front-end loader or perhaps a steam shovel, but I believe he had Faith.

There is another story from the Bible that I like.  It’s the story of the sick woman who felt that if she was near enough to the shadow of Jesus, and if His shadow passed over her, she would be healed.

Wow!  That’s what I call a steam shovel!  Now that’s Faith!  Can’t say I have that much Faith.  Can’t say that I have that big of Faith.

There have been many times in my life when my Faith has been shaken.  Tested.  Times in my life when I really questioned my own Faith in God.  In humanity.  In myself.

Haven’t we all? I don’t think I’m unique in this regard, but I could be wrong.

“. . . though I walk through the valley of death, I will fear no evil . . .”

Because?

Certainly not because I’m overly tough.  Certainly not because I’m overly brave.  And honestly, I don’t know how to drive a front-end loader.

Like the butterfly, we struggle.  Each of us.  Sometimes we share that struggle with others.  Sometimes we are silent and go on about our business, our lives as if there is no struggle.  But we do struggle.  Not necessarily all the time.  Not necessarily continuously.  But there are times when . . .

And I contend that in those struggles, we develop Faith.  Weak and small at first.  Tentative.  A wisp of a seedling.  And sometimes we lose Faith as quickly as it comes.  Gone.  No trace of it having existed at all.  We start over once again.  An opportunity presents itself where we, our Faith, takes gentle root.

There are other times, the wisp of a seedling is planted in firm, rich soil.  There are caretakers making sure that wisp is safe, protected.  Taking care that when damaged, it is repaired.  And our Faith grows.  Strong and true and straight.

I wrote in a post that Storms pass.  Night brings day.  Rain stops and gives way to a Rainbow. 

Through our own struggle, we develop the wings to fly and the legs to stand.  In our own struggle, we develop our own Faith.  Whether it is a mustard seed or a front-end loader, it doesn’t matter.  Because Faith can, and will, grow.  And when it does, it is a thing of beauty- for ourselves and for others.  Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!