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