What’s Your Coin Worth?

Aleck, Emma Grace, and I were shooting hoops at Underdog on Black Friday while Ella and Amy went shopping for…whatever makes people shop on that day.  We were shooting and dribbling on that warm beautiful Friday.  I was trying to be Kobe Bryant….wait he doesn’t pass the ball…I was trying to be Magic Johnson with some smooth dribbling and mind-blowing passes.  I drove in, jumped, and acted as if I was going to throw down a thundering dunk.  In mid-air with my head above the rim(ok…the goal was set at 7ft), I lowered the ball to waist level and made a pro-contract worthy behind the back pass to Aleck.  The problem was…Aleck was waiting on the dunk and not the pass.  “Sweeeet pass!” I yelled as the ball left my hands.  Then I watched the ball bounce off Aleck’s cheek and roll across the parking lot to the guard rail just past the dumpster.  I couldn’t tell if he was crying as his little legs scurried in a rush to retrieve the ball.  I was relieved when he picked up the ball, turned, and pointed to his right.  He said, “Hey Dad and Emma Grace, let’s go put coins on the railroad tracks!”  He remembered.  I had taken them to the tracks behind the gym when they were two or three years old to put coins on the tracks.  We ran inside the gym and I grabbed some change from the water payment container.  I divvied up three-quarters, three dimes, three nickels, and three pennies…a total of $1.23.  We slid down the dirt bank and climbed the rocks.  We put our change down and marked the spot with a piece of a broken plastic sign we found on the tracks.  I explained on the walk back to the gym that we may have to come back later and find the coins because it could take a long time for a train to come.  Just then, we heard a whistle from an oncoming train.  “How perfect.  No waiting”, I thought to myself.  Not only that, the train slowly rolled to the spot we put our money and stopped.  I knew this would mean the coins would still be on the tracks instead of all over the rocks after getting flipped up by the heavy wheels.  The train finally passed and we retrieved our coins.  After cracking up about the squished faces and buildings on the flattened coins, Emma Grace said, “Great…Now let’s take our money and go to TCBY!”  I explained that we couldn’t use the coins anymore.  “Awwww…They aren’t worth anything?!  Now we can’t go to TCBY?” she asked.  I smiled because I knew what she said wasn’t true.  As a matter of fact, I knew the “worthless” flat coins the twins held in their hands were now worth MORE than anyone could imagine.

 

A few months ago I was in our basement looking for a book when I stumbled upon an old green tackle box I’ve had since I was a kid.  I opened the box and found some old army patches, two Hot Wheels, and a cache of flat and smooth coins.  My Dad used to take my sisters and me to the railroad tracks across the road from my Grandfather’s house when we visited every Sunday.  I couldn’t wait to pull in the driveway, hop out, climb the rocks to the tracks and put my change down.  Then came the hard part…waiting for the train to come.  The reward was always worth the wait.  I felt like a treasure hunter as I searched the area until I found all my coins.  More importantly, I felt special because my Dad had shown me something special.  He had taken the time to share with me a “trick” I thought no one else knew.  And that is the lesson my friends…

Why put money…something with concrete worth and buying power on train tracks?  Why put “the answer to everything” on train tracks to be destroyed in a flash.  Why do anything with our children that doesn’t make sense?  Why choose not to work at night…on your laptop or phone… on things that “must” get done when a little girl or boy is asking you to read to them?  Why choose to skip a day of golf you “deserve” after a hard week to go to a birthday party with your child?  Why skip a “business dinner and drinks” meeting to go home and help your wife with homework, baths, and packing lunches?  Why skip a workout to watch your child in a school play?  Why skip a “girls trip” to go on a field trip with your child?  The answer is:  Because it’s not about the money.  It’s not about work.  It’s not about you.  It’s not about me.  It’s about TIME.  For example, in the case of coins on a train track, money ends up being an awesome and cool souvenir, but the value is in the time spent with our children.  I could literally smell the train tracks and my Grandfather’s house as I rubbed the old coins I found in my tackle box…33 years later.  I could hear my Dad’s voice and feel his hand on my shoulder as I remembered the time spent placing coins on the track…33 years later.  It is said children spell Love…T-I-M-E.  TIME… and we don’t have a lot of it.  Just ask any parent with a quiet empty house.  Ask any Mother whose children are in college this year.  Ask any Father who is about to give or has recently given his daughter away in marriage.  Ask any parent of a high school senior.  Ask any parent of an eighth grader.  Ask any parent of a soon to be kindergartener.  Ask any Mother or Father who has lost a child.  Ask any parent who has almost lost a child.  Ask any parent who has almost lost his/her own life.  Ask any Father who has worked so much he has lost the connection with his wife and failed in teaching his own children important lessons.  They will all say…Time is so so short.  A man I once trained told me, “Anthony…You work a lot.  Do not do this for very long.  Before you know it 25 years will pass and you won’t know where that time has gone.  You will regret it.”  It is all about TIME when it comes to our children.  When we truly spend our time sharing, teaching, and listening to our children with a complete mind and heart, we show them THEY have worth.  Giving time shows we value them.  Believe me this is tough for me to write about.  It is an area in which I must improve.  It is an area in which America must improve.  It will take reflection, planning, and sacrifice, but isn’t it worth it?  What could be more important?  This quote says it perfectly : “Children are living messages we send to a time we will not see.” – Neil Postman.   You can’t buy much with $1.23 these days, but for me…on this Black Friday….my $1.23 bought me something no “Super Sale” in any store could ever give me…a special day…and a special TIME with my son and daughter 🙂

“Time is the coin of your life.  It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent.  Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.” – Carl Sandburg

 

Pilgrims and Cafeterias

Last Friday I grabbed my bag, locked my office door, and said goodbye to a studio full of clients working out.  I got in my car and headed to Aleck and Emma Grace’s school.  On my way to eat Thanksgiving meal with them in the cafeteria, I turned on the news.  The interstate seemed busy and I prayed I wouldn’t be late to the feast.  There never seems to be enough time…to be on time…ever.  I turned the radio on and scanned to a news channel.  As I approached the school, a story came on about the “controversial” Black Friday.  The story summed up Wal Mart and Target employees’ unhappiness and frustration with store policy of starting Black Friday on Thanksgiving Day.  I turned my car off, hopped out, and headed into the school.  The entrance was becoming crowded as parents signed in, paid for the meal, and received a meal ticket.  We made our way to the entrance of the cafeteria and waited for our children to come down the hall from their classroom.  The scene reminded me of a mob of paparazzi waiting for celebrities to strut down the red carpet.  I was alone because Amy was teaching.  I stood silently like you’re supposed to do in an elementary school hallway(I remember the rules), waited, and listened to the conversations going on around me.  I mostly heard about kids being sick, breaking limbs(even saw a cellphone pic of a boys s-shaped broken arm), and stress about family coming together for Thanksgiving.  Then to my left I heard a group talking sarcastically about how they couldn’t wait to eat the school food.  “Cardboard turkey, mashed notebook paper, and motor oil gravy…mmm mmmm good…Can’t wait!”, said one Father.  As the parents laughed at the food joke, the first single filed line of waving children made its way through the cafeteria door.  The parents followed, spilling into the room like ants heading to a picnic.  I searched the edges of the room where the children lined up.  I saw Emma Grace first and she broke out of line, sprinted to me, and jumped up into my arms.  I saw Aleck next as he slowly walked over giving me a “What’s up?” head nod.  We made our way through the lunch line and back out into the busy sitting area.  I picked an open table near the trash cans and the tray drop-off.  It was a round table allowing us to sit comfortably next to each other.  As we started eating, I began to ask questions and received head nods for answers. “Why are you guys not talking to me?”, I asked.  Just then a little girl and her parents approached our table.  As the Father started to pull a chair out the girl  said, ” Nooooo Daddy.  This is a silent lunch table!  It’s for kids in trouble.”  I looked at Aleck and asked him if it was true and he just shrugged his shoulders, looked around the room, and said, “I don’t know.  I think so.  It’s ok Dad.”  So we ate…discussing very little and then it was time to go.  I was able to catch Emma Grace’s class poem then dart across to Aleck’s classroom just in time to hear his poem before I left.  On the drive back to the gym I turned my radio back on and immediately heard the reloop of the news story about Target, Wal Mart, and Black Friday.  This time I didn’t get frustrated listening to it.  Instead, I started to think about the lunch I ate and the poems I heard which led to this week’s Blog message :

                                                                              

We all know the Thanksgiving story.  We learned the story of 50 surviving Pilgrims gathering with 90 or so Native Americans celebrating a bountiful harvest.  The story has been taught to us in school and has been a defining piece of America.  Thanksgiving became a day to gather, eat, drink, and give thanks for the blessings bestowed upon us.  Our Country should be very grateful for who we are and what we have.  The first Thanksgiving is important because it was about truly being thankful.  I saw this quote which says it best :

 “The Pilgrims made seven times more graves than huts.  No Americans have been more impoverished than these who, nevertheless, set aside a day of Thanksgiving.” – H. U. Westermayer

This quote should change our perspective.  If it doesn’t, let me help with a few examples.  How have we become a nation of people who can make fun of a meal we didn’t have to grow, kill, prepare, or cook… a meal we’re about to eat with our children…in a safe and loving school?  I know it was just a joke, but having read what Thanksgiving meant to the Pilgrims who suffered such hardship, doesn’t it seem absurd?  We have more food in one convenience store than some countries have in an entire town or village.  Doesn’t it seem we have forgotten the meaning of Thanksgiving when a store can announce it “must” open on Thanksgiving Day to provide sales and deals on things Americans “must have”(and will go out and stand in line to get)….on Thanksgiving Day!?  Thanksgiving has been turned into a day of “getting more”.  It has become a day of over-eating, over-drinking, and shopping.  It seems to me, we over do everything in America instead of having and giving thanks any of it exists at all.  Here’s the thing : If we aren’t thankful… we own nothing.  If you’re sitting in a warm house right now…if you have a job…if you can come and go as you please because you have a car…if your children are safe…if you have food…if you aren’t being bombed or shot at…if you are breathing…and you aren’t thankful…you have nothing.  Without awareness, gratitude, and thankfulness you really have nothing.  Do you want to know how to have everything in your life?  Be thankful…for every thing…every day…every moment…every breath.  There are so many things I’m thankful for in my life, but let me tell you about just one day.  I am thankful for God and His Grace.  I am thankful for my clients who let me sneak out to eat with my children.  I am thankful I can trust they will take care of our gym and each other in my absence.  I am so thankful for the Thanksgiving meal I ate with my Twins.  I am thankful for the cafeteria workers who prepared and served our food.  I am thankful that a little girl who weighed 1 pound when she was born can now run and jump up into my arms.  I am thankful that a little boy who fit in my hand and couldn’t breathe on his own when he was born is willing and happy to sit at a silent lunch table with his Dad.  Even though he thought we couldn’t talk, he was happy to be with me.  I am thankful for Amy and Ella who couldn’t sit at the silent lunch table with us that day(although Ella would have quickly redefined “silent” I’m sure).  I am thankful for  teachers and the love they have for my children.  I am thankful for their Principal.  I am thankful for you.  I am thankful you read my words and share them.  It is truly a blessing.  And I only have one more thing to say about Black Friday(Yes…I have a wife who loves Black Friday and thinks it’s a good idea to wake up at 4am…go stand in the cold…and save 25 cents on a musical toaster…or $1 on a furry glove/ice scraper…or $2 on a label maker)….If you’re thinking of going shopping on Thanksgiving Day…don’t do it.  It’s one day.  Give one day.  Be Thankful!  On Thanksgiving Day think about the words in the following quote 🙂

“For, after all, put it as we may to ourselves, we are all of us from birth to death guests at a table which we did not spread.  The sun, the earth, love, friends, our very breath are parts of the banquet…shall we think of the day as a chance to come nearer to our Host, and to find out something of Him who has fed us so long?” – Rebecca Harding Davis                      

Stacking Towels

OUR DEBT TO THE HEROIC MEN AND VALIANT WOMEN IN THE SERVICE OF OUR COUNTRY CAN NEVER BE REPAID.  THEY HAVE EARNED OUR UNDYING GRATITUDE.  AMERICA WILL NEVER FORGET THEIR SACRIFICES. – PRESIDENT HARRY TRUMAN

While eating lunch today my son Aleck told me about a WWII veteran who visited his classroom this past week.  As he rattled off facts about the war, soldiers, freedom, medals, shrapnel, guns, tanks, airplanes, and the Hero he was blessed to meet, I found myself becoming teary.  All the history I knew about war flooded my mind and I became overwhelmed by the courage possessed by men and women who fought and still fight for our Country…for my freedom…for my family’s freedom.  And then I realized President Truman’s quote is true, except for one sentence…the last one – AMERICA WILL NEVER FORGET THEIR SACRIFICES.  I think we have forgotten.  Sure we say thanks on Veteran’s Day, Fourth of July, Armed Forces Day, and Memorial Day, but do we really remember the price brave people paid to get our country through some of the darkest days imaginable?  I’m not saying it’s an intentional or an arrogant forgetfulness.  I think it is a product of who and what we have become as Americans….busy, busy, busy, spoiled, spoiled, spoiled, and sometimes(most of the time) wrongly focused people.  We forget how truly blessed our Country is and we forget those who made it all possible.  So it is with the passion I saw in my son’s eyes as he retold WWII stories that I say, ” Thank you to all the courageous men and women who serve/have served our great Country.”

Aleck made me start thinking about gratitude on a bigger level.  A lesson Aleck taught me when he was 2 years old came to mind today.  This is the lesson I’d like to share with you in this Blog post :

I sat on the bathroom floor, my elbows on my knees, my chin in my hands, my back against the wall(in more ways than one).  I was exhausted.  Amy was in the hospital and I was giving the Twins their nightly bath.  As I watched them play, the steam coming off the bath water seemed to surround me, covering me in hopelessness.  My nostrils sucked in and filled my lungs and soul with defeat each and every breath.  Aleck and Emma Grace had their favorite animals lined up on the edge of the bathtub.  I smiled at them if and only if I caught their eyes meeting my own and even that seemed to exhaust my body.  My thoughts drifted off…oh how we missed Amy…and a normal life.

“Kerplunk!”…and crying began.  Aleck’s favorite elephant had fallen off the side of the tub and came to rest at my feet.  He started crying.  I didn’t say a word. He reached for it.  His feet were splashing the top of the water making a sound like a fish on a hook about to be brought into a boat.  He struggled…reaching….grunting….and crying.  He was so small the edge of the tub met his underarm so he couldn’t reach the floor.  It wasn’t even close.  I didn’t say a word.  I picked up the elephant and held it out.  Aleck slapped it away yelling  “Nooooooooo.  I can do it!”  It fell back to the floor.  “I can do it!  I can get it!”, he cried.  The struggle continued.  He reached and reached.  He cried and cried.  Finally, I couldn’t take watching him fight for the fallen elephant anymore.

What I did next was surely what any wise father would do.  Was it a talk about not giving up?  Fighting hard?  Learning to know when enough is enough?  A “you’ll be big enough one day” motivational talk?….No.  I just sat…and watched.  I noticed every third kick and reach, Aleck would put his head down and close his eyes while he strained and willed his arm to be 7 inches longer.  So every third kick I reached to a stack of towels beside me, grabbed one and put it under the elephant.  When his eyes closed, I stacked another towel…then another…and another.  Before long that special little elephant had been elevated just enough to be within reach of my son’s tired wrinkly little hand.  I was sure he knew what I was doing and waited for a “Thanks Daddy”.  Just then Aleck held the elephant up and said  “Daddy!  You see that?  Did you see what I can do?  See what I did all by myself?”  I silently stood up, walked out, and returned with my journal.  I immediately wrote the lesson I had learned while Aleck and Emma Grace played happily with their animals.

So many times in our lives we fight and fight and fight…we put our heads down…close our eyes…and thrash around.  We think we can handle our struggles and we don’t want any help.  We exhaust ourselves because of stubbornness, pride, or arrogance.  We reach and reach…when we aren’t even close.  Then when we do get through our fight…struggle…dark days….Who do we credit?  How often do we say to the world ” LOOK WHAT I CAN DO!  LOOK WHAT I DID!”   We’re so excited, surprised, and proud….we haven’t even noticed one important thing.  GOD was stacking towels.  GOD was helping us even though we put our heads down…close our eyes…not to pray…but instead to thrash about unnecessarily, relying on ourselves over and over and over again.  We don’t even realize HE is constantly stacking towels.  Even though I received no credit for helping Aleck reunite with his elephant, I would do it all over again…the exact same way…towel after towel after towel…because I love him.  And though we so often forget to give GOD credit, appreciation, and gratitude….He loves us.  He will always love us my friend.  I don’t know what you may be going through in your own life…what hardship you face…what your family faces…what you can’t seem to get over….what pain you feel day in and day out…I do know my own struggles…my own pain.  But it will be ok.  We will be ok.  And today, I’m just reminding myself…and you to take a deep breath and simply say  “Thank you GOD…Thank you for stacking towels for me.” 🙂

“With arms outstretched I thank.  With heart beating gratefully I love.  With body in health I jump for joy.  With spirit full I live.”

– Terri Guillemets

 

How is Your Sunset Coming Along?

       

Sunsets are beautiful.  There is no denying it.  It’s a fact.  A sunset can stop us in our tracks.  It’s beauty mesmerizes us no matter where we are or what we’re doing.  Not long ago, I saw cars pulling over on the busy interstate so drivers could take in one amazing mountain sunset.  I have clients who text me, telling me to stop and look up at the sky some evenings.  Sunsets cause us to gather on beaches, bridges, decks, front yards, office windows, and overlooks in an attempt to let out a deep breath and absorb a daily miracle.  Sunsets can make you happier if you’re already happy.  Sunsets can take a few pounds off your shoulders when you’re carrying weight of the world you never thought you could carry.  Many people describe a sunset as God’s way of getting us to pause and reflect on our day.  Many people say a sunset is the death of the day, giving us the ability to forget failures and mistakes.  Some people say a sunset is a promise of Hope we should grab with the next sunrise.  A sunset may mean something similar or completely different to you.  Can you remember the last sunset you watched for more than one or two minutes?

“Never waste any amount of time doing anything important when there is a sunset outside that you should be sitting under!” – C. Joybell

               

 

When my family goes to Edisto Island in the summer for a week, we designate one day of that week to be “Sunset Day”.  It is a day we set aside, knowing when evening comes we will take sandwiches to Sunset Point on the island.  We throw out a blanket and eat as the sun falls slowly.  As the sun drops, it changes the whole scene.  It seems with every minute that goes by…with every inch the sun dips, a new and different beauty gets added to the scene.  We have seen many perfect sunsets over the years.  But here’s the thing : Even though we designate the day, and know ahead of time we’ll be going to the sunset, it stresses me out until I’m actually sitting in place watching the sunset.  The whole process of timing out when we need to get the sandwiches and the kids loaded in the car in an effort to – 1. Get a parking place 2. Not be too early 3.Not be too late …just stresses me out.  It’s such a special day, I don’t want to mess up.  If you’re too early, you’ll wait a long time for the sun to set and sacrifice precious moments in the vacation that could be spent doing something else.  If you’re too late…it goes by so fast and to put it simply, you’ll be eating your sandwich in the dark.

                          

 

When I started writing this Blog post, I had a different message than the one I’m about to share.  Reading my own words and reliving the stress I feel when trying to catch the perfect sunset for my family, made me start thinking about the sunset in a different way.  It makes me laugh that I think it’s up to me to “catch” the perfect sunset for my family.  I can’t control the sunset.  Sunsets go on regardless of what we think, do, say, or plan.  As a matter of fact, there is one going on right now as I write this.  There is always a sunset.  And it is always perfect.  So this is my new message :

         

 

The first point is: Let’s APPRECIATE life the way we APPRECIATE a sunset.  I have never heard anyone say a sunset is ugly.  I have never heard anyone leaving Sunset Point say, “Awww maaaan…that sunset was such a let down.”  We don’t look at a sunset and talk about how the sun should have been a brighter red or a cloud should have moved down and to the left.  We don’t try to redesign the water so there were more waves or wish for more birds to be in the sky…just to the upper right of the sun.  Appreciate the beauty in your life…even if it’s just for as long as it takes the sun to set…every day.

The second point is: Let’s SEE others the way we SEE a sunset.  We don’t want to change a sunset.  Let’s not worry about changing other people.  It isn’t our job anyway.  It isn’t our job to change our children, husbands, wives, friends, or family.  It’s our job to love them, to help them, to guide them…but not to change them.  SEE them like a sunset…beautiful and unique.

The third point is: Let’s LIVE the way we LIVE a sunset.  Instead of going through life in a flash…hustling so we hurry through and miss daily miracles…bustling so we’re blind to so much beauty in the day… We should strive to LIVE like we LIVE a sunset…alert and calm…absorbing the blessings of life with our eyes focused on the unexplainable beauty and goodness in the world.

The last point is: REALIZE what we REALIZE when watching a sunset.  IT GOES BY FAST.  We can stress out about getting a parking spot…being too early…being too late…or a zillion other things in life…but it’s NOT going to stop the sun from setting.  If we put our life in the terms of one day, it would mean we’re born in the sunrise….and die at dusk(the moment the sun is gone and darkness sets in).  Do you ever notice that we usually think people die too soon….or too late?  And we look at and examine the exact moment or moments surrounding their death?  We hang on to the moment dusk came.  It’s so hard and takes time but we are much better off REALIZING and focusing on their sunset.  We should celebrate their beautiful sunset they shared with the world.  REALIZE your time here in this world…IS your life…it IS you…WHO you are…It is YOUR day…from sunrise to dusk, it’s YOUR life.  Do great things!  Do kind things!  Add value to others!  Be significant to others!  Follow your dream!  Work for good!  Serve your purpose!….REALIZE… YOU have the ability to stop people in their tracks…on interstates, decks, beaches, offices, hospitals, schools, churches, stores, bridges, and mountain tops…YOUR life can provide others a unique, beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, perfect sunset… 🙂