Every Sunrise, Every Sunset

All around the world, regardless of who we are, we all experience the same day. No matter our name, skin color, gender, culture, circumstances, we all share a common existence. Every 24 hours, we experience the same mile-markers as everyone else on this earth, including a sunrise and sunset.

If you let them, sunrises and sunsets almost always get your attention. They are the most beautiful, vibrant and colorful things you will see on a given day. They present a time for reflection and meditation. They can help you to stop and think. Sunrises present renewal and a fresh start. Sunsets represent completion and fulfilled goals.

Each minute of the rising or setting sun is different than the other. It’s a masterpiece painting, but a painting that slowly changes every time you look up and study it.

If I forget, my dear son, take the time to get strength from each sunrise and bask in every sunset.

I try to do this every day now. In fact, the picture that accompanies this post includes a project where I tried to take as many photos of sunrises and sunsets for one year. It’s something I don’t think I will ever stop doing.

We only have some 27,740 number of days to live on this earth (plus or minus a few thousand). For the first 15 to 20 years of our life, we probably aren’t focused on things like sunrises or sunsets. So you can quite quickly subtract 7,000 from that number. Then, in a place like Ohio, it is sunny or partly sunny about 50 percent of the time. Before long, you come to about 10,000 sunrises and 10,000 sunsets. That’s not very many… And every day, you have one less.

There have been times in my life where I have not appreciated sunrises and sunsets. I was too busy, too distracted. Running on a wheel.

My child, get up early. Drink in every sunrise, and bask in every sunset. You will be thankful you did.

Give Away the Empty Water Bottle

In February of 2005, I found myself on trip that forever changed my life. It was my first visit to Africa, and, in this case, I was travelling to Kenya. If a single trip could change a person, I think this was it. It helped me understand the vastness of our world, the diversity of the human experience and the day-to-day struggle that many millions face every morning they wake up.

Numerous memories and lessons came from this visit to the red soil of east Africa. They say once you visit this continent, a piece of it is forever in your heart. And I believe that, because it is in mine. One experience stands out above the others.

We were in western Kenya, just a few miles from the shores of Lake Victoria. The trip from Nairobi was a long one, passing through the great rift valley, the verdant green British tea fields of central Kenya and then finally arriving in the rural farming land of the Luo people.

As a typical westerner, we bought and drank bottled water throughout our trip. At any given time, we had half a dozen 2-litre bottles, and stopped to get more whenever we needed them. At this point in our trip, I was preparing to drive back to our hotel in Kisii. I wanted to clean out the all-terrain vehicle before we started our journey.

I gathered up several empty water bottles and started looking for a way to dispose of the trash. I was having difficulty finding a garbage can. Suddenly, an older lady walked over to me and started gesturing at me. At first, I didn’t understand what she was trying to convey. She couldn’t speak English. I finally figured out that she wanted the water bottles. As I handed them over, she showed tremendous gratitude.

As I wrote at the time, I was stunned. This dear lady wanted these empty bottles because they were a means for providing water for her family. She didn’t have running water in her home. No faucets, no pipes, nothing. She had to walk some miles to the local water source to get water. The more containers she had, the more she could bring back this basic need of life to her loved ones.

She had a simple need. And I didn’t see it. Instead, I was trying to discard my trash. This was a humbling moment for me.

How many times do we miss such obvious opportunities to help others? How often do we not see the opportunity to fully understand the needs of those around us? What do we have that could make a difference? Our time? Our attention? Even our smiles?

Many say that we should strive to walk in another’s shoes. I think I’ve discovered that’s not enough. I believe that we should try to live in their shoes. The more we think about exactly what the other person is thinking, the more we can serve. We will be more effective fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, husbands, wives, coworkers, etc., if we live in their shoes.

It’s a two-step process. First, we should take the time to think and figure out what the other person needs. That takes effort, and deep thought. And, second, we should provide the need, whatever it may be.

The more you do this, the more it can become a way of life. A part of who you are. You can live with an awesome understanding of others. And people will love you for it.

Dear daughter, son, if I forget to tell you, find a way to give away the empty water bottle.


Why “If I Forget to Tell You…”

A couple of years ago, on a transatlantic flight back home, this project began. It was often in the silence and distraction-free environment of a longer plane ride that I found myself doing my best thinking. Only then, it seemed, did my world slow down enough for me to think some of the deeper thoughts of my life. That day was no exception.

They say that distance makes the heart grow fonder, and that couldn’t be more true. On my oversees trips I thought a lot about my family. And I mean a lot. How was I doing as a father and husband? What am I missing as a parent? Where can I improve? Am I taking for granted any of the milestones of parenthood? Am I teaching my kids all that I should? Am I loving them enough?

The questions went deeper… What if life suddenly got cut short? What if tragedy struck? Are there things I am forgetting to tell them? Am I equipping them with everything I have learned in my life? It struck me at that moment.  I would not let that happen. I determined to write down every lesson I would ever want my children to know. I would build a library, a place where they could come and learn all the lessons of life.

It dawned on me that if I pushed myself to write it, I would better be able to teach it. I would see the lesson with a greater passion and clarity.  By thinking about the lessons I was possibly forgetting to tell my children, I would ensure that I wouldn’t. It was a way to look into the future and prevent any possible regrets.

In time, others may contribute to this website. What if we could collect all the greatest lessons we would want to teach our children? What if we, ourselves, could go to a place and learn all the lessons from the loved ones we have lost? What a place that would be.

Son, daughter, there are so many lessons in life.  I will strive to teach them all to you. If I forget to tell you a lesson, you can find it here.