On Christmas Eve of 1914 in a field in Western Europe, German and British soldiers sang Christmas songs, exchanged gifts of pudding, games, and simply enjoyed each other’s company for a short while. It was a cold and muddy place, but the miracle of Christmas sought them out, bringing happiness to most, if only for a moment. Because less than 36 hours after the Christmas truce had started, which had been suggested by Pope Benedict XV, the warring Armies of WWI resumed their horrifically bloody battle of the trenches, replacing songs with death, and laughter with tears.
That night in Europe demonstrated with extreme bias the dichotomy that exists in our world; where good and evil, or right and wrong, exchange positions in an unlikely way, creating either grief or joy, depending which side is supplanted. Goodness found its way into a very bad place by the actions of a few great men and women; actions we often see as a requirement of the job. Continue reading →
Nate was a bully, and a braggart; he pushed his way into every conversation or meeting in the village and then always set out to prove his opinion was the only right one – which it rarely was. His height alone was intimidating at 6 feet, 6 inches tall, but add in broad shoulders and narrow waist; Nate was a man that you wanted to avoid being at odds with, but just couldn’t. He wouldn’t let you.
One day God spoke to Nate while he was saying his morning prayers. God asked him to do something that would be very important to his village and all the people in it. God said, “Nate, I have chosen you to be my instrument of change, to do something of great importance.” Nate was astonished; not really, he always thought God needed to consult him on big items.
The Southwest flight from Phoenix landed in Sacramento on-time that Thursday night; a welcome end to a long and hot trip as witnessed by the sweat stains on the collar of Brad Smith’s white button down shirt. Why do I ever wear long sleeves to Arizona? Because his boss thinks it’s more professional than wearing a polo shirt, even though it was 102 degrees by 9:00 am this morning, and his last sales call ended at 6:15 that evening (with a resounding and fully anticipate NO!) Clearly rejection is professional when wearing a damp and smelly long sleeve shirt Brad thought as the plane landed.
The mechanical lady’s voice coming from the speaker on the air conditioned shuttle told Brad that he was headed toward the main terminal. Rather than go straight to his car parked on the 5th level, which was normal, he was headed downstairs to retrieve his suitcase from the lower level. The jogging gear Brad packed but did not use rendered his overhead bin sized suitcase too small, so he used the bigger one; ( note to Brad – stop pretending you will ever exercise while traveling when all hotels that you stay at have a bar). The shuttle stopped when Brad wasn’t paying attention and he bumped the lady next to him.
Every Saturday morning, just after our second cup of coffee, Lea and I make a list of what we need to accomplish before sleep overwhelms our tired and spent bodies late Sunday night. The staples are always present: laundry, mow the lawns, grocery shop, and clean the pool. We rarely list the fun things; movie, dinner out or play time with the grand kids, because we don’t want them to feel like a chore. Fun, although well planned, should be spontaneous by design. When we complete an item on the list we check it off with pride. Often on Saturday afternoon we review our list together to assess our progress. If we have done something not on the list and completed the task, we add it to the list so we can check it off. Our system of measuring weekend accomplishments has taken decades to perfect and has managed to successfully keep full blown OCD at bay. We have considered teaching classes on our method, but so far have decided against it. (However, if it ever makes the list we will do it). Our weekend ritual of making and checking boxes for work activities is both functional and enjoyable for us, but I wonder, what else in my life has become a ritual of checking the box?
What was the last major milestone experience in your life and when did it happen? A milestone is a significant event that happens to you, or a loved one, which forever changes your view on life, and can even reset your personal priorities. It can be good or bad, inevitable or sudden, but a milestone creates a permanent change in you.
Marrying Lea thirty-four years ago was my most significant milestone event, and it was inevitable. God put us together and we never looked back. Because of the first milestone I was able to have three more; the births of my children. These four events didn’t just change me and my view of life; they made me, because I would have lived an incomplete existence if not for them. There are other milestones of course: I quit smoking at age 21, one of the best decisions I have ever made. When I was 50, I returned to school to obtain an MBA, which has become a path altering event. Of course, when I stopped hiding from God, and let him find me in my early twenties, I crossed a milestone that has had eternal consequences for me and my family.
The title of this story was the classic response from Jesus, when after healing the ten lepers, only one came back to say, thank you. “Weren’t there ten of you?” He asked. Of course He knew how many there were; he had just healed them. He wanted the one person who returned with a grateful heart, and us, to know that He was questioning the whereabouts of the other nine. In effect, Jesus was asking, “Were the others happy to be healed of this terrible disease as well? Why didn’t they come back and say so?” Undoubtedly, the other nine men were very happy and excited to be healed; most likely, that was the problem. They were so excited that they forgot who to thank for their gift. They ran off to their homes and villages to show off the miracle, to stand before the crowds and reveal how fortunate their circumstances had changed. The gift became the focus of all, the center of attention; and the giver, the most important person in this moment, was cast in a supporting role. The nine were confused and mistaken. It was not the gift that was important, but the giver of the gift who was the real story. In their haste, (and happiness) they forgot about gratitude.
As Thanksgiving approaches there will be numerous articles written, radio programs broadcasted, and television shows aired bringing to our attention the need to be thankful. Setting aside one day a year to remember, and acknowledge all the reasons we have to be thankful is a very good tradition. I encourage everyone to embrace this holiday; to be with friends and family and carefully consider how lucky we are to be American’s, living where we do, having food in the pantry and people who love us. Only, my goal this season was not to write about Thanksgiving simply because everyone else is, yet here I am mentioning Thanksgiving three times in the first paragraph. So, I’ve decided instead to focus my writing on You’re Welcome; it’s what happens after thanks.
Saying “You’re welcome” is the finale of a three part process initiated by an action; not just any action though. For instance, stepping on someone’s foot while dancing doesn’t usually lead to you’re welcome, nor would denting a car door in the grocery store parking lot. To arrive at the desired good outcome, the first step is to do something that brings joy, happiness, relief, comfort or love to another person, whether you know that person or not. An action is needed to start the process. Being thankful unto itself normally is a passive experience, and living in the level of good fortune that we do, begs for more than a passive gratitude.