We Can All Use An Occassional Tune-up

If I were an automobile, I might be getting maintenance notices from the factory reminding me to have my timing belt replaced or check the belts up front. And with all that accumulated ‘mileage’ inside of me comes a bit of learned wisdom.

The other day my wife and I were debating a rather difficult decision – one neither of us were not sure which way to go. Being a human being can sometimes cloud your judgment with petty emotions and hurt feelings.

But in the end, she summed it up perfectly.

“In life you’ll never regret doing the right thing.”

With her words, suddenly it was as if all the distractions of the decision washed away – injecting a moment of clarity that pushed out all the human weaknesses, thus allowing us to make a decision based solely on what our heart was telling us all along.

Once in a while you hear a collection of words that cut to the wick – words that so succinctly express a thought and apply to countless situations in life. My wife’s words hit me like a giant burst of sunlight breaking though late afternoon thunderstorm. Suddenly I had a new tool – or guiding phrase – to pull out of my quiver whenever faced with a decision distracted by emotion.

Like most of us, I tend to think I try to do make the best decisions in life. But occasionally, having the weakness of being a human being, I’m sure I’ve come up short at times in my life. And most times, it is only afterwards when my conscious continues to beat the drum of ‘I told you so’ that I recognize the error of my ways.

I fortunate to have both God and my wife in my life – both are patient and understanding of what they have to work with in me. Each provides me with a compass and comfort that makes my life complete.

So here I go forward with a new tool of clarity – one to help me make the right (and difficult) decisions. So much for making a list of ‘pros and cons’ as all can now be easily be trumped by listening to simple phrase my wife spoke to me this week.

Charity and generosity are active decisions and something I’ve eagerly participated in for decades. But each of these two require the balancing of needs and wants against a whirlwind of personal distractions and other varied commitments. And to a certain extent, the latter elements can influence our decisions.

But if I am able to put each of those decisions in my future against the simple test of my wife’s words, I’m sure I’ll arrive at the right decisions more quickly and feel much less angst in my heart.

Maybe this is my personal experience of having my timing belt replaced – the key ingredient from which everything else in the engine depends on for running smoothly. I’m just glad God is still sending me reminders that we all need to go in for maintenance once in a while.

 

– 30 – 

 

 

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Weather Forecasts Can Be Revealing

Words are a funny thing. Move them around like letters on a Scrabble board and you come up with a completely different meaning.

I was recently reminded of this the other night while watching the late night television weather forecast.

“Tomorrow,” said the announcer, “will be mostly cloudy.”

Thinking about his words, I asked myself, what is the difference between ‘mostly cloudy’ and ‘partly sunny’? Aren’t they really the same thing? How about ‘mostly sunny’ or ‘partly cloudy’? If I go stand out in the yard, can I tell a difference? I seriously doubt I – or anyone else – could differentiate between the two.

But it is important to recognize that each is essentially the same outcome — but one skews to a positive, while the other not so much.

We all know people who walk around with a cloud of negativity surrounding them. As a matter of fact, many times we can almost see their dark clouds as they walk across a room. Slumped shoulders, eyes down, and a their face in a frown even when in park. Why should be surprised when the open their mouth and their words support our suspicions?

On the other hand, some people are referred to as having a ‘sunny disposition’ or generally in a positive place. Not to say they are mindlessly bliss or walking around ignoring the reality of the world around them, but rather they choose to look and address the world with a positive or constructive point of view. And this is a good thing, research shows.

According to a report published by the Huffington Post / UK, people who view life with a ‘sunny disposition’ tend to live longer, healthier lives.

“When I started working with centenarians, I thought we’d find that they survived so long in part because they were mean and ornery. But when we assessed the personalities of these 243 centenarians, we found qualities that clearly reflect a positive attitude towards life,” said lead scientist Nir Barzilai, director of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine’s Institute for Aging Research in New York.

“Most were outgoing, optimistic and easygoing. They considered laughter an important part of life and had a large social network. They expressed emotions openly rather than bottling them up.”

I guess the good news about a positive attitude is that research tells us that it is a learned behavior. Yes, some people are naturally ‘sunny’, but scientists say we can will (or teach) ourselves to move from a ‘mostly cloudy’ to ‘partly sunny’ attitude if we’ll just make a conscious effort to do so.

We can make changes to the people we hang around with or choose to do work with on projects. Or we can think carefully before we speak rather than simply react with a gut reaction. Changing our behavior only happens over time – and we should use that to the best of our ability.

That said, I guess I’ll just need to step outside tomorrow and make my own assessment of the weather. I’m pretty sure the sun will be out there for me somewhere.

– 30 –

Man and Dogs Share Unique Relationship

 

There is a growling at my feet – and it means business.

Scientists have long wondered why man and dogs developed such an intertwined relationship. Each is perfectly capable of living without the other, but for some reason of nature, each is drawn to the other like no others in the animal kingdom.

From a purely logical sense, there is no good reason for humans to invest in relationships with an animal whose original relationship – be it for hunting or protection from other wild animals – long expired. Our food source is rarely further than the nearest shopping center or protection is provided by a deadbolt or security system. We are both capable of surviving on our own. 

But nevertheless, we still inexorably need each other.

Somewhere, buried deep in the DNA of each, is a kinship of love, respect, and codependency. Talk to a dog owner and you’ll discover they share an emotional connection with their dog on a level not too far removed for their human family. To most, there are pets and then there are there dogs – the latter viewed emotionally more like family.

We’ve had a four-legged family member running around our home since the before our kids were born. And if you were to ask them, each of our children never had a better friend than of the four-legged variety. Always there for them, whether for the kids to grab onto their coats and learn to walk alongside them or for the dog to lick the tears from their faces after they’d fallen. The love and comfort our children experienced with this special someone at their side could never be measured in dollars and cents.

But we’re not alone. More than once I’ve visited cities only to notice it is not unusual to find a homeless person – someone without a roof over their head or knowing where their next meal is coming from – paired with a dog. Yes, I realize the relationship is based partly on the needs of security or food, but there is still an emotional dependency for each.

Once in Florida I watched as one man, after gather the remains from a red and white chicken box in a nearby trash can, bent over and made sure his dog had a cup of water and food before the man ever took his first bite. To this day, that singular moment still stirs emotions inside of me – the selflessness of one to another.

Which brings me to the growling at my feet. Our dog, a sheepdog, is of the herding family and fiercely protective of his family. Never more than a few steps away or perched in a position so he can keep an eye on us, just the sound of a truck driving by our home for a growl to instinctively originate deep inside of him and eventually burst into the room. Thousands of years after man and dog first came together, the DNA of our special relationship continues to be rooted in a special arrangement of taking care of each other.

So when you hear of someone referring to their dog as a member of their family, understand this statement not supposed to withstand the bright light of scientific logic. But to those of us who’ve lived with such a special arrangement, we’re just following the instincts of our DNA. 

 

– 30 

 

 

 

Community Finds Way To Bring Smiles Alive

 

Sometimes you need to go the ends of the earth to fully appreciate the generosity of the human spirit.

Recently I found myself in a small fishing community off the Pacific Coast of Mexico. While there might be occasional signs of American culture around, you never forget you are never more than a few steps from a level of poverty most of us would struggle to accurately imagine. While you might find set of golden arches alongside a busy road, a mere block away scores of people struggle to gather the basics to get through the day.

Which is what brings the journey of a handful of American doctors, nurses, and anesthesiologists to this tiny costal community so remarkable.

Each year thousands of children are born in communities throughout Mexico with a medical condition termed cleft lip – a deformity of the skin and muscles between the upper lip and nose. So severe is the condition, if left unattended, it can lead to lifetime of deep physiological and psychological scars.

One morning I spotted the sign of a local Rotary club meeting. With over a million members worldwide, Rotary clubs are found in communities both large and small around the globe. And in each community, these clubs are dedicated to both local and international projects for improving the lives of others.

Asking if I could visit, they welcomed me with open arms.

“Welcome amigo,” said the dark haired man at the door. “You’ve come on a very special day for us. Please join us.”

Sitting down in the rectangular room filled several dozen local members, I noticed a small group of young medical staff across the room speaking quietly among themselves – each somewhat nervous of the attention they were receiving from those in the room.

As the presentation began, I began to better understand and appreciate the level of commitment and coordination going on behind the scenes to make this amazing local project come to life. With the contributions from local businesses, the local club funded an effort to help provide free surgeries for local children afflicted with this genetic disorder. The small group of American doctors and staff donated their time to fly to the small community and spend the week. Additionally, each team member was provided with free lodging at a local hotel along with transportation being provided by a local car dealership. In another generous contribution, the local hospital opened up both of its surgery rooms for the team to use at no charge. During the past week, the surgical team operated and touched the lives of 31 local children.

And the commitment goes beyond the single event as the surgeries require follow up procedures as the child matures in order to ensure proper hearing, chewing, and speaking patterns. In this particular community a new set of doctors arrive each 6-months to donate their very special skills and services. The community, in turn, comes together to make their visit as pleasant as possible and to thank them in ways money could never do.

As the presentation came to a close, three photos were shown of a young boy several surgeries into his journey. Today with a giant, beautiful smile, his eyes are alive with the energy and joy absent from his earlier photos. His life is now one he and his family could never imagine if not for a community coming together to find a way to change lives – one smile at a time.

 

– 30 –