Nation on Verge of Needing an Overhaul?

Generally you will not find this space occupied by political commentary. For me, the more important world exists outside the realm and reach of politicians. Family, faith and the opportunity to live in a peaceful, loving world are things I hold dearly.

Recently, however, I’m finding it more and more difficult to focus as the national political arena continues to either implode – or explode (you pick) – around us. To me, the government should operate much like the gas gauge on the dashboard of my car – needing attention only occasionally. Well, as of late, the warning light is incessantly lighting up and the noises from the engine compartment are getting on my nerves.

Like probably anyone else reading this column, my days are pretty much spoken for: going to work, taking care of my family and looking for opportunities to help others. And much like my car, I don’t really have time or need the gas gauge demanding attention every half-mile I drive down the road.

But as of late, I can’t help but notice the darn warning light keeps blinking and there is an awful racket coming from the engine compartment.

Today’s national political landscape is simply ugly and noisy. If it wants my attention, well, here we go.

I’m a simple man and harbor no illusions to fully understanding the intimate and complex nature of operating a national government. That said, how about we take a radical approach to rebuilding our government? If as broken as politicians would lead us to believe, I’d say an engine rebuild is in order.

Let’s begin by not disagreeing. Really. I honestly believe there is a long list of objectives we can all agree upon. Why not start there? Why not simply sit down – in a room with the cell phones all tossed in a pile in the center of the table – and hammer out what needs to be done. No lobbyist. No laptops. No advisors. No party affiliations.

What we need is for each and every participant to make decisions based on what is best for the all of us. And for this to work, we need each to have the courage and conviction to understand there are over 311 million people counting on them to do the right thing.

As for the candidates running for the office of President of the United States, I would imagine if we sat down at a local coffee shop, we’d probably find enough common ground to hold a thoughtful and meaningful discussion. Neither of you rose to the levels you currently sit without being talented and intelligent. Let’s put these assets to work for the greater good.

Think you can hammer our a few points of agreement on health care? How about defense? And what about taxes? Look, with the economy as it is, everyone is paying attention like never before. Let’s not waste this opportunity.

I have great faith in this country and the people behind who make up this nation. But today, with the irritation and distraction of the blinking light on my dashboard of life,  I’m considering a complete overhaul is in order.

– 30 –

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Men: Some Assembly Required

The other day my wife made a rather bold statement – one that rocked me right down to my life insurance policy.

“If you check out early,” she said, “I sure as heck not am going to take the time to train another husband.”

According to her, after 30-years, she is just getting me to where she thinks I might be worth the trouble. And yes, she used the word ‘might’.

Not sure if this was a compliment or not, I found myself pushing for a bit more information.

“So,” I said, “If you knew how much work I’d be when we met, would you still do it?”

Her silence, although for probably only a brief moment, settled in my gut like a rock on the bottom of a swimming pool.

I now recognize that for many wives, a husband is a long-term project that never seems to get finished. And for some, if they really knew what they were getting into the first place, they’d sure as heck give the matter a moment of serious pause.

Yes, much like our dog, I can be taught to perform useful tricks: take out the garbage on Sunday night, don’t turn on the bedroom light when I’m first up in the morning, and don’t put stinky, sweaty clothes in the clothes hamper. My wife will tell you, hands down, it was much easier to house train our dog.

But our dog, best I remember, learned how to live in our house in a few short weeks. A few newspapers here, a couple races to the door when he looked ready for business, and presto – housebroken in no time. Me, well, I still occasionally find myself halfway up the stairs before I remember I was to take off my dirty shoes from mowing the grass.

With our two kids, my wife knew what to expect. Although no two are ever alike, they generally fall into place once you come to the realization that if you feed and water them – – and occasionally fertilize with a bit of discipline and encouragement – they generally turn out fine.

Men, on the other hand, never really seem to grow up.

You can tell us to do something a hundred times and we’ll do it, yet just when you think we’ve got it — and don’t say anything — we immediately revert to our former selves an act like we never knew any better.

Yes, we are just that numb.

Men are a deeply flawed species. We mean well, but for some reason, we just can’t seem to keep it together too long with out outside help.

Which brings me back to our dog. We both like to eat, take naps all around the house and are easily distracted. But for some reason, he is better at following instructions.

Maybe in my next life, I’ll make it easy on someone and just come back as a dog.

– 30 –

Acorn Illustrates Opportunities In Life

Newton had his apple; I have my acorn.

The other day a speaker shared with me advice he’d picked up as a child while growing up in south Florida.

As a young man, his father introduced him to a couple older landholders who were now in the business of selling their property. Recently farmers, the men decided it was time to get into the business of selling off their land.

“In life,” the old man said to him, “there are two ways to get to the top of an acorn tree. One is to sit on an acorn and be patient. The other is to get climbing.”

His words brought a smile to my face as I recognized that for generations, people continue to appreciate the fact not much gets accomplished when sitting on the sidelines of life.

For the most part, we all know the act of doing something is generally preferred to the act of doing nothing. Inaction begets more inaction – and in the end, nothing generally gets accomplished  with the exception of breeding frustration and resentment.

I don’t need to look too far to see this first-hand. Years ago I let my shyness get in the way of countless opportunities in life. God might put doors in front of us but he leaves the walking through them up to us. All told, I probably rationalized myself out of a more opportunities than I can count or even remember. Should I join a club in school? What about applying to a help-wanted sign at a local business? How about going into a room of people I don’t know and start a conversation For me – and other who might suffer through this period, we rationalized away these as ‘just not the right opportunity’ when really it was just plain old fear of the unknown holding us back.

But then I began to notice something – people around me were starting to do some really great things out in the world. One started a company in a field I knew a great deal about. Another moved away to a city I’d always dreamed of living in. Meanwhile, there I stood on the outside looking in – waiting for ‘just the right opportunity’.

I was, in essence, sitting on an acorn waiting for it to grow.

What I needed to learn was how to fail, pick myself up, dust off, and keep going. This is, surprisingly, not an easy lesson to learn for shy people. Sometimes it comes with cuts to your confidence, bruises to your ego and more than a few moments of embarrassment. But at the time, I’d rather drank a bucket of broken glass and razor blades.

Learning to overcome this misconception – the belief by sitting on an acorn I’d somehow eventually ascend to the top of the oak tree in life – was one of the most difficult challenges I ever faced in life. In fact, I (and others) still fight these instincts on a regular basis. For us, learning to overcome our shyness is something you ever fully put behind you. It is always with us.

Everyone who makes the transition from the sidelines to the playing field takes a different pathway. Me, I found myself in a retail commission-based sales job where I was consistently learning how to deal with a multitude of people, personalities and situations. In this place, far from my comfort zone, I made mistakes. I screwed up. But I never let myself lose sight of where I could go (and ultimately wanted to go) if I’d keep learning.

To this day, literally decades beyond when I put my fears behind me and start climbing the limbs of the oak tree, I can still hear a voice in my head calling from down below. And, for those of us who left our acorn behind, we always will.

– 30 –

Fairy Tales Can Come True

 

I truly believe in the phrase and spirit of ‘living happily ever after’.

This weekend I am finding myself at a wedding of a niece and her future husband. Both are young, energetic and with the world before them. By the end of the day, each will be committed to each other in ways a piece of paper will never fully define.

For one reason or another, children’s fairy tales seem to draw to a close with the familiar phrase “and they lived happily ever after.” So ingrained in our psyche, many of us use this string of words throughout our lives. Sometimes in affection, other times in jest.

But to some of us, these are not a happenstance alignment of six words but rather an understanding of what life is all about.

We all know couples who not only understood the spirit of these words, but also recognized the words represented not a destination, but rather a journey.

Growing up I had a front row seat to some wonderful, loving, relationships. Not to say they were perfect, but they understood and managed their relationships for the long run. Committed to the true spirit of living ‘happily ever after’, each appreciated how they were individuals and there would always be a sense of ‘give and take’ along the way.

“I remember,” said a friend the other day, “how my dad was always quiet and stern. He did, however, pick his moments. And when he did, he generally won them.”

Her words brought back memories of how I’d watch this couple define to me what a loving a relationship could be. Together for over 50 years, the appreciation of how each was different was an attraction – not a reason for confrontation. But when it really mattered to the other, they practiced a respect for accepting that ‘living happily ever after’ meant not always getting your way. As a matter of fact, they realized a healthy balance of give and take contributed to a healthier, long-term relationship.

I think about this as I prepare to watch two young people begin the walk down the aisle of marriage and life. No relationship is – or will be – perfect. But the pursuit of ‘living happily ever after’ will require a maturity and selflessness many of us will need grow into.

When my wife and I got married, I had a lot to learn. In retrospect, I was a mess requiring a lot of work. Fortunately, the woman I married, helped me through an emotional rehab journey. I honestly believe if God had not put us together, I’d be jus another self-inflicted road kill along relationship highway.

For me, each passing day, week, month and year reveal to me, with increasing clarity, how beautiful a journey marriage and life can be with the right person.

The achievement of the fairy tale phrase “and they lived happily ever after” is built upon the bedrocks of love, honesty and respect for each other. And with these pieces protected and nurtured, fairy tale endings can come true.

– 30 –