Made Doing The Right Thing Look Cool

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shirley temple memorial statement copy


Shirley Temple Black died Monday and finding out today touched me more deeply than I would have imagined. She was grown and her child-star movies were old by the time I was born, but I came to know them well as TV movies. Every Shirley Temple movie was “G rated” and more wholesome than a typical Disney family movie.

She was called “American’s Little Darling” for a good reason; she deserved it and was adored by kids and adults alike. President Franklin Roosevelt one said “as long as our country has Shirley Temple, we will be all right”.

Except for some cause based television work, Shirley Temple Black left acting by adulthood and went on to distinguished life including many years as a U.S. Ambassador.

The world has lost a sweet soul and caring human being who made a difference. I will always be grateful for the positive contributions Shirley Temple made to my childhood. In her movies and how she lived she made doing the right thing look cool.

Watching a peaceful death of a human being
reminds us of a falling star; one of a million lights
in a vast sky that flares up for a brief moment
only to disappear into the endless night forever.
Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

Two Thoughts About People

IN LIFE 2 people-waiting-out-of-focus

Why complicate life

I honor and thank all my teachers: those who showed me kindness and those who hurt me; the ones who love/loved me and the ones who never will/never did; the people who were an example of what to do and the people who were example of what not to do; and all the rest that helped shape me. I am grateful for you all those who stayed a short while or a very long time and left their track on me.

When we love,
we always strive to become better than we are.
When we strive to become better than we are,
everything around us becomes better too.
From “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho,

Just Feed One


Play it forward is an expression for describing the beneficiary of a good deed repaying it to others instead of to the original benefactor. The concept “pay it forward” is old, but the phrase is believed to have been coined by Lily Hardy Hammond in her 1916 book In the Garden of Delight. Here’s a slightly different twist on ‘play/pay it forward’:

We enter a little coffeehouse with a friend of mine and give our order. While we’re approaching our table two people come in and they go to the counter: ‘Five coffees, please. Two of them for us and three suspended’ They pay for their order, take the two and leave. I ask my friend: “What are those ‘suspended’ coffees?” My friend: “Wait for it and you will see.” Some more people enter. Two girls ask for one coffee each, pay and go. The next order was for seven coffees and it was made by three lawyers – three for them and four ‘suspended’.

While I still wonder what’s the deal with those ‘suspended’ coffees I enjoy the sunny weather and the beautiful view towards the square in front of the café. Suddenly a man dressed in shabby clothes who looks like a beggar comes in through the door and kindly asks ‘Do you have any suspended coffee?’ It’s simple – people pay in advance for a coffee meant for someone who can not afford a warm beverage. The tradition with the suspended coffees started in Naples, but it has spread all over the world and in some places you can order not only a suspended coffee, but also a sandwich or a whole meal.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have such cafés or even grocery stores in every town where the less fortunate will find hope and support? If you own a business why don’t you offer it to your clients… I am sure many of them will like it.” very respectfully, Scott Sonnon

Here and there I ‘pay/play it forward’ but not nearly as much as my heart and soul wishes I would. So here at the start of a sparkling new year, I commit to myself to share my fortunate life more with the world, without expectation. Yet, I know whatever I give will come back to me multiplied. I am grateful.

If you can’t feed
a hundred people,
then just feed one.
Mother Teresa

12 Steps To Third World Living


It generally is very difficult for Americans… to comprehend the realities of daily life for the billion-plus people who constitute “the poorest of the poor.” For these people, the question “What Is Enough?” has a very different meaning.

This little exercise – adapted from the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization’s magazine Freedom from Hunger, and based on excerpts from The Great Ascent by Robert L. Heilbroner (New York Harper & Row, 1963) – may help to get you in touch with the reality of life in the shadows cast by our relative wealth.

* First, take out the furniture: leave a few old blankets, a kitchen table, maybe a wooden chair. You’ve never had a bed, remember?

* Second, throw out your clothes. Each person in the family may keep the oldest suit or dress, a shirt or blouse. The head of the family has the only pair of shoes.

* Third, all kitchen appliances have vanished. Keep a box of matches, a small bag of flour, some sugar and salt, a handful of onions, a dish of dried beans. Rescue those moldy potatoes from the garbage can: those are tonight’s meal.

* Fourth, dismantle the bathroom, shut off the running water, take out the wiring and the lights and everything that runs by electricity.

* Fifth, take away me house and move the family into the tool shed.

* Sixth, by now all the other houses in the neighborhood have disappeared; instead there are shanties – for the fortunate ones.

* Seventh, cancel all the newspapers and magazines. Throw out the books. You won’t miss them – you are now illiterate. One radio is now left for the whole shantytown.

* Eighth, no more postman, fireman, government services. The two-classroom school is 3 miles away, but only 2 of your 7 children attend anyway, and they walk.

* Ninth, no hospital, no doctor. The nearest clinic is now 10 miles away with a midwife in charge. You get there by bus or bicycle, if you’re lucky enough to have one.

* Tenth, throw out your bank books, stock certificates, pension plans, insurance policies. You now have a cash hoard of $5.

* Eleventh, get out and start cultivating your three acres. Try hard to raise $300 in cash crops because your landlord wants one-third and your moneylender 10 percent.

* Twelfth, find some way for your children to bring in a little extra money so you have something to eat most days. But it won’t be enough to keep bodies healthy – so lop off 25 to 30 years of life.

Generally I consider myself a grateful and positive person. However, regularly something like the article above crosses my path and serves as a wake up call to how very fortunate I am. The more grateful I become the more I find to be thankful for. In this holiday season of plenty I am humbled by the ‘wealth’ life has afforded me.

We can only be said to be alive
in those moments when our hearts
are conscious of our treasures.
Thornton Wilder

With Open Eyes

butt collector

One day last week the streets around the Super Wal-Mart were clogged with cars much like ants swarming from a ‘stomped-on-anthill’. Inwardly lost in my own thoughts about what I needed to buy and yet had to do, my view of things was narrow and self oriented.

As I walked toward the entrance of the store, out of the corner of my eye I saw a man kneeling down picking something up. From the back his clothes were kind of dirty and there we sores on his head. Fairly quickly I  surmised he was somewhere between down on his luck and homeless. As I moved into present moment awareness, it hit me what he was doing.

The cover was off a large cigarette disposal and the man was selectively gathering partially smoked butts. He’d pick up each used cigarette, glance to see how much was left and then put the ones with a few puffs left into a ‘baggie’. I quickly took a single phone photo (just above) just after he stood up and began to place the top back on the container.

Being a smoker is in my past. I remember the cravings that once in a while caused me scour my ashtrays for a cigarette butt with a few puffs remaining. Only once in a while did that happen and only until I could get to the store to buy a fresh pack. The guy collecting from the Wal-Mart ashtray was gathering the only smokes he could afford: free butts. Smoking is a bad habit; no doubt. I feel sorry for anyone who still smokes, but even more so for someone who has to collect what has been in other’s mouths to satisfy his habit.

In this season of giving, the wish I send out to the ‘butt collector’ is one of love and good wishes that life improves for him. But then, maybe he was an angel sent to make me more present, aware and rooted in ‘now’. Or possibly he was both destitute and angelic. I’ll never know for certain, but will long remember what he left me with.

All that’s needed to elevate my level of gratitude is pay attention. With open eyes there is always something to behold that reminds me how good my life is. In recollecting my most difficult times and bearing witness to those of others, I find reflections that make me better grasp the richness I am blessed with today.

And hard times are good in their own way, too.
Because the only way you can achieve true happiness
is if you experience true sadness as well.
It’s all about light and shade.
Gabrielle Willams

So We Don’t Forget

Like Thread Through a Needle
(First posted one year ago on December 16, 2012)Father-Shadow

Even just the thought of what I am about to write makes my eyes well up. Last evening watching a performance of “The “Nutcracker” there was a point I was unexpectedly moved and that feeling has grown since.

Tulsa is blessed to have had a wonderful ballet and symphony and last night’s presentation filled me with the spirit of Christmas. Seeing the young children who played the parts of the mice and clowns especially warmed me with a sense of the season.

My feelings became deeply melancholy (here come the tears) at curtain call when the kids who played the mice were lined up in front due to their small size. For some reason I counted how many in the line and came up with twenty. Instantly I was hit with the realization that was the number of children who were killed in Connecticut two days ago at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

It is not within my grasp to imagine how painful it is to lose a young child and in the circumstances of a few days ago is unfathomable to my heart and mind. The sorrow has to be unspeakable and indescribable. For strangers I will never meet my heart is laden with grief for your pain. I can do nothing but pray for you and let you know here that I care; that millions care. In no way will it make it any easier to bear the anguish and woe, but maybe someday realizing an entire country cries with you will bring some comfort.

My Mom, she tells a lot of lies,
She never did before.
But from now until she dies,
She’ll tell a whole lot more.
Ask my Mom how she is
And because she can’t explain,
She will tell a little lie
Because she can’t describe the pain.
Ask my Mom how she is,
She’ll say “I’m alright.”
If that’s the truth, then tell me,
why does she cry each night?
Ask my Mom how she is,
She seems to cope so well.
She didn’t have a choice you see,
Nor the strength to yell.
Ask my Mom how she is,
“I’m fine, I’m well, I’m coping.”
For God’s sake Mom, just tell the truth,
Just say your heart is broken.
She’ll love me all her life,
I loved her all of mine.
But if you ask her how she is,
She’ll lie and say she’s fine.
I am Here in Heaven.
I cannot hug from here.
If she lies to you don’t listen,
Hug her and hold her near.
Taken from ” Ask My Mom How She Is” – Author Unknown

I am grateful to be touched and able to shoulder a tiny, tiny bit of the pain and grief of the mothers, fathers, grandmothers, grandfathers and families who will not see a child open presents on Christmas morning. I cry for you.

Your absence has gone through me
like thread through a needle.
Everything I do is stitched with its color.
W.S. Merwin

All That Really Matters


My “2013 Fall Farewell Tour” is finally over. Much of the last few months has been spent traveling for business before my retirement at year’s end. Whew! Being in and out of airports the better part of the last five weeks wore me to being almost numb. Time for rest, holidays and loved ones! However, there was an incident last week that bored straight through my fatigue.

The Chicago airport was crowded especially downstairs where the United commuter gates are. Sitting to my right a few seats away a man in his seventies was doing business. From what was spoken on several calls he apparently worked for a grocery supply company.

The last call the gentleman made started with “Hi this is ______ and I am calling to get the results of my tests from last week. Yes, sure I can hold.” He sat quietly and until he spoke I did not know someone else had picked up on the other end.

“Oh, that bad, huh. That’s not the news I had hoped for” was what I heard in a much more deadpan voice than the up-tempo salesman I had been listening to previously. In an even softer voice came, “Yes, I can come see the doctor next week. How soon does he want me to begin chemo again? I’m hoping I won’t have to start until after Christmas.” There was a pause as he listened followed by “I understand you’re just the nurse and can’t tell me. It’s just not the news I was hoping for.” Then came another pause before he said, “Wednesday at 2pm? Yes, I will be there. Thank you.”

He hung up the phone and just sat there staring down at the floor for what seemed like five minutes. As he raised his head up, he made eye contact with me and his moist eyes met mine. Without a single word, I smiled and he smiled a half-smile back. There was nothing else I could do for this perfect stranger who I imagine had just been told his cancer was back.

I won’t forget this experience. I will remember how good my life is and how blessed I am to have good health. My momentary airport friend will go through the weeks to come facing the specter of ill-health and the possibility of impending death. I hope for the very best for him and owe a debt of gratitude for being accidentally included in his life for a few minutes. I have so much to be thankful for!

You know,
all that really matters
is that the people you love
are happy and healthy.
Everything else is
just sprinkles on the sundae.
Paul Walker

Those Who Are Friends


Twenty-three days and I will officially be retired. Friends say “you’re too young”, but I’m hanging it up while healthy with a lot of years left to enjoy being the full owner of each day.

The company I am leaving has provided me with meaningful employment for close to a decade. There have been lots of good times and some not so wonderful ones, but the overall experience will always be positively remembered; cherished actually. Not sure I will miss the work a great deal, but I will miss some of the people a lot.

The last two days were spent in Milwaukee doing some consulting work for one of the company properties and visiting my counterpart here. We became friends quickly eight years ago. Our count tonight was we have hung out together at 32 company meetings. Knowing each other well as we do I am confident contact will be maintained, but I will miss seeing him every three months.

As many American men, we have talked in the past about being good friends but never expressed emotions much deeper, but we long known our bond was that of “brothers”. Tonight after a wonderful dinner and great conversation, Bill took me back to my hotel. As he was pulling in he said.” Now here is how this is going to work. When we stop I’m going to get out of the car shake hands with you, hug you and tell you I love you. Nothing else. Okay?” And we did just that. We were two late-middle-aged men noticeably holding back tears, not saying goodbye, but uncertain when we’d see each other again. I waved as he pulled away. He waved back and was gone.

I love you Bill. You are a talented professional, a dear man and a perfect gentleman. I will miss you and am so very grateful that a thoughtful, caring and gentle soul as you came into my life. I’ll see you again before too long.

Don’t be dismayed at goodbyes.
A farewell is necessary
before you can meet again.
And meeting again,
after moments or lifetime,
is certain for those who are friends.
Richard Bach

Know When to Hold ‘Em


St. Thomas is a pretty island, but a busy one. Business took me there last week and while I enjoyed the visit after a few days I was ready to leave. The cruise ships spill people upon the island like a stomped on anthill creating a contrary experience to what I prefer. I’m more into laid back, casual, out-of-the-way destinations. However, there was one Virgin Island sexperience I will remember for the rest of my life.

Lester was my driver of the van that was summoned to take me to the airport. I was the only passenger and the morning was foggy and misty. My driver was probably somewhere in his late 60’s or early 70’s. While quiet for the most part he did have a smile that appeared genuine and eyes that still had a sparkle for life in them.

About half way to the airport Lester started singing a song at a very low volume that was almost imperceptible. However, here and there were familiar words that I could not place.

So I asked Lester what song he was singing and he replied “Kenny Rogers song called “The Gambler”. He made note that a movie had been made based on the song staring Kenny back when he still looked like Kenny. Then my driver picked up where he left off.

…Every gambler knows
That the secret to survivin’
Is knowin’ what to throw away
And knowin’ what to keep
‘Cause every hand’s a winner
And every hand’s a loser
And the best that you can hope for
Is to die in your sleep”

And when he finished speakin’
He turned back toward the window
Crushed out his cigarette
And faded off to sleep
And somewhere in the darkness
The gambler he broke even
And in his final words
I found an ace that I could keep

When the chorus came around, I joined Lester for a duet as we softly sang together the words I knew from memory.

You’ve got to know when to hold ’em
Know when to fold ’em
Know when to walk away
And know when to run
You never count your money
When you’re sittin’ at the table
There’ll be time enough for countin’
When the dealin’s done

Lester went on to do a rendition of “Coward of the County” that was soft and slow. He finished as we turned into the airport. Never will I forget the gentle soul who drove me to the airport on St. Thomas. I told him so and tipped big. An authentic smile came on his face  and our eyes locked for a moment. He said “take good care” and I responded “you too”. Now close to a week later the gratitude for the simple pleasure a stranger gave me is very much alive within. Thanks Lester. I hope you find “an ace you can keep”.

Maybe gratitude has nothing to do with joy.
Maybe being grateful means recognizing
what you have for what it is.
Appreciating small victories.
Admiring the struggle it takes simply to be human.
Maybe we’re thankful for the familiar things we know.
And maybe we’re thankful for the things we’ll never know.
At the end of the day, the fact that we have the courage
to still be standing is reason enough to celebrate.
Meredith Grey

A Little Positive Trail Behind Me

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The innocence of a child can be especially touching. For me that’s true partly because some of my innocence was stolen as a kid and partially because living has softened me over time. While the story below is just that, a “story”, it illustrates how naively wise children can be.

A little boy wanted to meet God. He knew it was a long trip to where God lived. So he packed a backpack with Twinkies and six-pack of pop, then started his journey. When he had gone about three blocks, he met an old man with a flowing beard, sitting on a bench in the park just staring at some pigeons.

The boy sat down next to him and opened his bag. He noticed that the old man looked hungry. So he offered him a Twinkie. The old man gratefully accepted it and smiled at the boy.

His smile was so pleasant that the boy wanted to see it again. So he offered him a can of pop. The old man smiled again. The boy was delighted! They sat there all afternoon eating and smiling but never said a word.

As it started growing dark, the boy realized how tired he was and got up to leave. But before he had gone few steps, he turned around and gave the old man a hug. The old fellow gave the boy a big bright smile.

A short while later when the boy opened the door of his house his mother was surprised by the look of joy on his face. She asked him, “What did you do today that make you so happy?” He replied, “I had lunch with God”. But before his mother could respond, he added, “You know, He’s got the most beautiful smile I have ever seen”.

Meanwhile, the old man, radiant with joy, returned home. His son was stunned by the look of peace on his face and asked, “Dad, what did you do today that makes you so happy?”

He replied, “I ate Twinkies in the park with God”. And before his son could respond, he added, “He is so much younger than I expected”.

As the holidays approach I am grateful for a polishing of the sensitivity of my heart that parable gives me. I hope the refreshed shine makes me a bit more open to the humanity of others and helps me to show mine to them. To leave something of a positive trail behind me is my highest aspiration.

I am only one, but still I am one.
I cannot do everything,
but still I can do something;
and because I cannot do everything,
I will not refuse to do something that I can do.
Edward Everett Hale

First posted on November 16, 2012