As a hobbyist and small-time collector of modest-sized antiques and items of character, I have realized that some of my most cherished things were popular during either the generation before mine, or, quite often, my own youth. From where I sit as I write this, some items in view include my second Slinky (each of us who had a metal one knows what happened to the first), a handmade wooden truck, and some tiny license plates from travels with my grandparents. So yes, the AARP and I have concluded that I'm over 50 and, thus, an antique.
Spring is right around the corner, and many of us are starting to wonder how to spend our warm sunny days. Though a change in season doesn't mean we will have more hours in the day to enjoy the company of family and friends, the warmer weather and longer periods of daylight and sunshine make it easier to connect with loved ones and spend quality time.
In the blur of today's cultures, it may become necessary to reflect on the thoughts of forward thinkers from simpler times whose words were intended to better future generations. The following poem, "Desiderata," is one of my personal favorites. It is written by Max Ehrmann and displayed prominently in my office and in my home. I reflect on it often because its purity and direction still ring true.
This past year certainly was interesting. "Interesting" in the way that you might politely respond to a question from an inexperienced chef about your opinion of a meal he/she prepared or in the way a book falls short of its mark due to the writer's vague plot. For the most part, my year was pretty good. It managed to hit the incredible level a few times, and it was downright amazing on occasion. I was blessed to become engaged to a wonderful lady and marry into a family with two active, polite, intelligent kids. We also managed to do a little traveling while staying safe, healthy, and happy.
Much goes into building our character, and I daresay, not much of it is pleasant. True character and integrity arent usually made of sunshine, smiles, and tea bubbles. Most of the time, tears, blood, and gristle are what forge a successful young adult from his/her humble beginnings as a child.
Despite all the challenges presented to us these past many months, let's start by being thankful that we've made it to this point. Just being here — being who we are with what we have is a blessing indeed. In no uncertain terms, we are fortunate to have the opportunity to take a break from the stress and sinew of all that is swirling about and just read a little bit. That in itself is something to be thankful for, so let's take a breath together. Here's a little read.
BOO! It is October now, and along with the cooler weather, colorful fall foliage, and pumpkin spice, there does seem to be a lot of fear in the air. Many of my friends know that not much really bothers me, and I'm fairly laid back — but dang. It is unsettling to see so many affected by so much in such a small span of our time here on this rock.
When we perceive an obstacle standing between us and our goals, we often fear that our overall plan is in jeopardy. That is usually not the case with most of the glitches to which we twitch. What may be the issue is that the way we choose to tackle a wrinkle in our plan can end up being a different and often bigger problem than the initial goal we set out to accomplish. More than likely, we should try to focus on the end game rather than the obstacle.
Relax. You’re doing just fine. Pursuing perfection in almost anything is, for the most part, an exhaustive waste of time and effort. There’s little sense in beating ourselves up every day, trying to make a perfect score on all of life’s tests — both great and small. Ironically, our pursuit of perfection often becomes a stumbling block to progress. Of course, I’m not suggesting we settle for being content with mediocrity. There’s always room for improvement. However, perfection, in most any circumstance, is subjective.
Last month, I was fortunate enough to take a brief break from the home zone. The little cabin where I stayed was down in a valley, and the only rush to be had was the soothing, rumbling water of a wide mountain creek. The only chatter was the rustling of leaves. There was no cellular service, so no fussing over devices, and no television, so no drama over the airwaves.
On Sunday, feathered friends welcomed me with bird songs on the cool early morning breezes. The first church I came to was off a little gravel road near the cabin. It looked like a child’s drawing, simple and to the point. Greeted by a couple dozen folks, I quickly felt comfortable in the genuinely welcoming environment. The service began, and after the first person stood and spoke, I knew there were going to be some strong opinions. There was plenty to be said about the confusion of being “politically correct” when it comes to taking a stance.
Many of us now look at our life differently than we did several months ago. Our place in the social soup, our position in our career, or how we maintain friendships and other relationships may have been restructured, rearranged, or reevaluated. When our ideal slips away, when we make it to the boat, get settled in, set sail, and the ship returns to port — that’ll catch anyone off guard. Ready yourself for your new normal.
So, the plans you had did not work out like you thought they might? Yes, plans fail, happens all the time. Let us not forget that failure has benefits. When we fail, we learn what didn’t work, which gives us a chance to try something new.
Several weeks ago, while enjoying a nighttime walk in the yard amongst the scurry of rabbits and the night frogs singing, I looked skyward. Eventually, my motion-sensing floodlight went back to sleep, and as my eyes adjusted to the darkness, the stars seemed to change. The bright ones got brighter and seemingly larger while others that had been barely visible before became more prominent. What had once been a large, black space became a rich, deep blue arena of twinkling celestial bodies.
Of course, being a product of decades of nerdiness (to which many of my childhood friends may attest), I understood that those stars did not suddenly grow or emerge in the blankness of space, beckoned into existence by my renewed sense of wonder. Those luminous objects were there long before the beginning of man’s time on Earth.
As I write this, my prayer is that COVID-19 is under control by the time you read these words. The outbreak of the coronavirus stopped each of us in our tracks. It changed everyone’s perspective on what is truly important to us — as individuals, as families, and as members of our community. We survived. This past month, on several occasions, I was reminded of what makes our community my home.
Recently, a dear friend laid his father to rest, and a few short weeks later, that same friend, Butch Brown, also died. Unfortunately, Butch’s work was not done, as he was working to prepare a home for his 91-year-old grandfather. In the shadow of a pandemic, his friends and others in the Hickory Flat community rallied. This team of volunteers completed weeks of work in a matter of days, in honor of the Browns and the love of a family, to make certain that “Papa” Brown had a safe place to call home.
As the first spring of the decade approaches, there’s much to do to prepare for a new season of growth. One way to make it happen is simply to have enough faith in ourselves to do what we need to do to get it done. Getting started is a happy feeling, and getting it done makes one successful. Happiness is a state of mind, success a point of view; bliss is what happens when they coexist.
I was always told, “Choose your words wisely.” I think the reason my parents instilled this in me is that, well, too many words confuse most people. It’s easy to hear people, but it’s entirely different to listen to them.
We need to remember that words may require more than just our hearing — listen. Listen for the reason behind the words. Besides, everyone has different communication needs and styles. We have come to a point where we take simple communication for granted, and as a result, people skills are suffering. When in a friendship, companionship, or any relationship, we should find a way of communicating that works for both parties.
Welcome to 2020, a year I’m sure we will be looking back on for some time to come. As we enter this new decade fresh and ready to move forward, it’s time to consider what we can do for ourselves to make it a better year for everyone. It’s time for a little bit of self-investment. If we each make a better “me,” then we see vast improvement and healthier growth together, as “we” evolve. After all, we are a group of individuals who strive each day to become better people for our families, our communities, and our planet.
Of course, it takes a special kind of discipline to make this happen. And yes, I know “discipline” is a scary word to many of us. It may make you think of a crabby teacher who just never understood your sense of humor or level of energy, or perhaps it brings back memories of when you and a buddy got a bit too curious about something to do with physics and then had the misfortune of becoming the unlucky landing zones of the broad side of a paddle. Oh, the fond memories we share of an adventurous youth well spent in the pursuit of learning.
The breaks in our busy lives that allow us to spend valuable time with our families, friends, and neighbors are truly something to be thankful for. In the earliest years of our United States, after enduring trials and persecution, settlers journeyed from afar for a chance at a new life in an unknown land. They then gathered within their homes and villages, joining with their families and new friends to show their appreciation by giving pause, thanks, and praise, as many still do to this day.During this holiday season, many of us will travel to visit loved ones, some commuting farther distances than others. We will enjoy precious moments with friends and family. We may bring food, gifts, or simply enjoy each other’s company while sharing stories and catching up. There might be seasonal music or perhaps the delightful aroma of spices and delicacies from the kitchen.
Consider your earliest days as an infant, and those looking down upon your tiny presence didn’t see very much going on in that fat little head of yours. Yet, to you, every single minute was amazing, full of awe-inspiring wonder.You’ve learned much since then: mastered processes of thought and logic, developed perceptions, formed ideologies, and built relationships that have come and gone.
Those who’ve taught you life lessons are numerous: the ones who helped you learn about love, the ones who provided light in your time of darkness, and those who lent a listening ear or a shoulder on which to cry. Often, we take for granted some of the people and situations that got us to where we are. You’ve come a long way, and you weren’t alone.
One of the things I treasure most in our community is the wonderful array of diverse individuals who are willing to help each other. People are truly blessed when they go out of their way to be a blessing to others, and I’ve seen it happen more and more over the past few years. Having lived here all my life, I’ve noticed that the kindness movement has grown at a faster pace than our population. Our neighbors from various backgrounds, cultures, and lifestyles are increasingly eager to lend a hand.Alone, we cannot do all the good the world needs, but the world needs all the good we can do. Each of us can do something to help change someone’s situation from tearful to cheerful. Some may suggest we save ourselves before attempting to save others; that egregious attitude is one that doesn’t sit well with me. Nietzsche once asked, “Supposing I have the key to your chains, why should your lock and my lock be the same?” Each of us has our own strengths and weaknesses. It’s a good feeling when you find a use for the other half of your glue by loaning it to someone who has been broken by a situation you’ve already overcome.