Wear Out the Treads

1,308 miles. Over the last year and a half, I have run 1,308 miles or almost 7 million feet. This is according to a tracking app on my phone. It hasn’t always been on, so I am probably closer to 1,500 miles.

I could write so much about running, and the impact it has had on me. In time, I am sure I will. But in summary, it brought clarity. It has given me a determined focus. When I run, treasures of the mind come to the forefront (that’s a subject for a different time). I find untapped strength deep inside me that I had never discovered before.

Perhaps, just perhaps, running saved my life.

I’ve been through two sets of shoes, wearing the treads out. Rain or shine, snow or sleet, I ran.

Running may not be your thing. And that’s okay. Find your thing. Find the exercise (or exercises) that works for you, and stick to it. Come up with a disciplined routine.

If you are fortunate to learn this early, the following may not apply. But often in our youth (teens, twenties, etc.) we think we are going to live forever. Frankly, we live like we are going to live forever. We are invincible. That leads to us not taking care of our bodies as well as we should. I was one of those people. Don’t get me wrong, I have always been active. But only recently I found my thing.

The benefits of a disciplined exercise routine help on so many levels. Physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. The dividends to be reaped can be found on so many levels. You will become a more effective person, and positively impact more people in your life.

If I forget to tell you, wear out the treads.

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.

Talk to the Stranger Sitting Next to You

We are always on the go. Passing people daily as we drive to wherever we are going. In almost every case, we don’t know the passerby “from Adam,” and yet they are living in our town, or even in our neighborhood. Life is very much like our intersections or roundabouts. We generally stop only long enough so others can keep moving. And a few seconds later, we too, are moving on to our destination.

Sometimes life presents opportunities where you are sitting right next to somebody you have never met. Restaurants, public transit, etc. Flights too are often one of these occasions.

If I forget to tell you, talk to the stranger sitting next to you.

In February 2015, I was returning from a flight overseas and had a layover in Toronto, Canada. However, due to a snowstorm, my final flight to Cleveland was cancelled, so I had to stay over in a hotel. The next morning, the weather was still quite bad, but I got booked on a fight to Cleveland.

It was a small airplane. Three, maybe four, seats wide. I was on the window seat, and got there when the seat next to me was empty. Maybe it’s just me, but there is always a little nervous expectation of who will sit beside me. Within a few minutes a gentleman sat down next to me. I had learned many years prior to always engage people sitting next to me. I have discovered fascinating lives and learned much about humanity. For instance, I vividly remember speaking at length to a lady who was a nurse who had just come from Eastern Congo (we were flying from Nairobi to Europe) and the stories of suffering and rape that she expressed were incredibly saddening. That one flight made it more real for me than any 20 news stories.

But back to my flight in Toronto. The man who sat next to me was incredibly kind and engaging. He had very broad experiences and we shared both a love of horticulture and had both traveled to Africa. We talked for what ended up being hours. Since the weather was still bad, we sat on the tarmac for a very long time. It was supposed to be a quick flight, but it took many hours. This would have been one of those flights where frustration built, and impatience reigned. But the time passed quickly with the engrossing discussion. I learned much. He talked about how at one point he worked for Windsor Castle and that he was interviewed by the Queen as the last part of the interview process. A very interesting man that, at that time, expanded my horizons to the many good people who live in this world.

A year and a half later, I wrote a brief note to him, expressing some of my gratitude for our discussion. He, likewise, was appreciative of my comments.

In truth, I believe, there is a connection and a bond there that will last a lifetime. I believe we will meet again one day. All this from just one discussion.

Every time you sit next to a stranger, you have an awesome opportunity to learn about a new world. A world other than your own. Engage and ask thoughtful questions. You will be thankful you did. You will wish you were in bad weather and were delayed for hours stuck on the tarmac.

If I forget to tell you, talk to the stranger sitting next to you.

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.


Enjoy Every Day…Every Single Day

There are going to be good days, and bad ones. You will wake up and the sun will be shinning and you will be in a great mood, and sometimes there will be dark clouds you cannot shake. During some stages in life, a lot will be going your way, and at other times you will feel like the whole world is against you. There is no doubt that life is a roller coaster.

Regardless of what is happening in your life, remind yourself to enjoy every day. This really is a simple concept, but it is hard to put into practice. In fact, I try most days to do this, some days better than others. But it’s a basic truth, in which I strongly believe.

Here is what we do, especially as adults. We spend our days trying to get to the next thing, the next event, weekend, vacation, etc. We push through and ignore the present to try and get to some future expectation of fun. As we do this, life passes us by. We aren’t enjoying the moment. We aren’t stopping and thinking about all the good things that are in our life right now.

It gets worse. We spend a lot of time thinking about the past. We question what we or others did, we wonder what would have happened if things went differently. While, at the same time, we allocate much focus on worrying about the future. What if this doesn’t go right? Fears of the unknowable future, can consume and paralyze our present thinking.

So, son, daughter, enjoy every day.

Look at the word en-joy. En means “to cause a person to be in.” Also, if you look at the history of the word it comes from the Old French enjoir “to give joy, rejoice, take delight in.” Look at the day that you are IN. What around you should be making you happy right now? Also, who are you interacting with daily? Are you GIVING them joy?

Enjoyment is something that is active. It’s a matter of living and a state of being. We can enjoy a meal, a drink or a movie, but why can’t we enjoy every moment of our lives? Why can’t we enjoy every second we spend together? To properly enjoy something, it includes action to others. By talking about it, by showing it, we end up doing it.

So, my dear son, push yourself to be in joy, be sure to give joy.

Enjoy every day…

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.