Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Day 50: Swallowing

I spent some time today with my brother-in-law who had a liver transplant two and a half weeks ago. He is still in intensive care but progressing. I've visited him several times but today was the first time that he was alert enough to really have a conversation. I asked him what he might most like to be blessed with so that I'd know how to better focus our faith and prayers. He said that first he wants the ability to deal with the intense pain and nausea that he feels constantly. Second, that he would be able to eat some ice chips. Third that he would not be disoriented so often.

His response to the question of what he would like to be blessed with is amazing to me. He did not ask that the pain and nausea be removed, only that he could bear it. He did not ask to be able to eat a large meal, simply to be able to eat ice chips - the first step in testing to see if the digestive system is ready to start reintroducing food. He didn't ask for all of his struggles to be gone, but to have a grasp on reality through it all.

We spoke briefly of his family and I assured him that they were all well cared for. We spoke about the peace he and I both felt and our belief that, even though he has literally been fighting for his life these past weeks, we had both felt impressed that God intended to spare his life. I told him of my love and admiration for him. Then I left feeling grateful for so many little things like being able to swallow.

Day 49: Sitting with My Sweetie

I've just been sitting on the couch talking to my wife. It is one of my favorite things to do. I believe our relationship is rather unique. I don't know of two people that are happier together. We're not old-timers nor are we newly-weds. We're coming up on a respectable 14 years in another month. The thing that amazes me is that the more we're together the more we want to be together. We never feel the need to take a break from each other. We always wish we were at each others side in everything that we do. I'm profoundly grateful just to sit on the couch and talk to her.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Day 48: Barbeques

It's that time of year again. We love having barbeques. Sometimes we'll have over lots of friends and family, other times just us. There is something about hotdogs, hamburger, bratwurst (my personal favorite), steak or salmon cooked out on the grill that makes it taste so much better. Of course you have to have baked beans, chips and fresh fruit to go along with it.

It takes more than just the food to have a great barbeque. Location is critical. We actually designed our back yard with great anticipation of barbeque season. The back patio has a special nook for the grill. The trees and beds that surround the patio make a little shaded oasis. The play yard just off the patio and the play house across the lawn can keep an amazing number of kids occupied while their parents socialize.

Then there is of course the company. I love having friends and family come over. It is great to relax in the shade on a summer afternoon eating great food and watching the kids play.

The food, location, and guests make up the key elements to a successful barbeque. The thing I enjoy most about barbeques is the relaxation that comes from the perfect combination of these elements. I think if I'm ever President of the United States (which I won't be) and there is some big international confrontation that needs to be settled, I'll just invite all of the key parties over for a barbeque. No lawn darts though - I'll only go so far down the red-neck trail.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Day 47: Sunrise

One of the most magical things to me is to see the first ray of the sun come over the eastern horizon. It is spectacular. You think it is light outside and then when that first ray breaks through you realize how dark it really is compared to the full strength of the sun.

I've seen the sun rise on several different continents. It doesn't matter where you are, city, mountains, plains it is always magical. It doesn't matter whether the sun breaks through the morning fog, glistens off the top of snow-capped peaks or simply appears without clouds or scenery around it. It is always magical. I love to see the pure light of the sun fill the world. I love to feel its warmth, to watch it melt the frost or evaporate the morning dew. I love the way the flowers turn their heads and follow it through the day. I'm grateful for the sunrise.

Day 46: Shaving Grandpa

One of the most memorable experiences in my life is the time I spent caring for my Grandpa in the last few years of his life. He had been paralyzed in half of his body for about 45 years prior to that time (the result of a car accident). When my Dad, my brothers and I first started taking turns helping with his care, we would go over in the morning, help him get out of bed, take a shower, change his bedding, shave his face, make sure he got his teeth in right and help him get dressed. Needless to say, it was a very tender thing to care for him in such a personal way. I particularly enjoyed shaving his face and putting after shave on him afterwards. I would often tease him about trying to impress Grandma with the after shave. When he was ready for the day you'd help him into his wheel chair and out to the kitchen for breakfast.

I remember one day going up to help Grandpa and he couldn't get out of bed anymore. The ritual changed. We learned to give him a sponge bath, change his clothes and change his bedding with him in the bed. At this point Grandpa's feet had become extremely sensitive and ticklish because of the lack of use and long-term paralysis. Putting his socks on was always an interesting experience.

It never ceased to amaze me how happy Grandpa was, how much love he felt for those around him and how grateful he was for the smallest thing. He couldn't speak much because of the paralysis. You were lucky to get more than a couple of words at a time from him. He would always say, "Thank you. Oh boy, thank you." His thank you meant so much. You could feel how deeply he meant it. It came often but always had that same impact.

Today as I think about those times when someone does for us what we don't have the power to do for ourselves. I remember many other times when I've received or given this type of assistance. No matter which side of the situation I'm on these experiences tend to be very personal, touching the tender parts of my soul. It is often a spiritual experience. I believe the spiritual nature of this special kind of service stems from the way it emulates the supreme service that Jesus Christ performed for all of God's children. He did for each of us what we could not do for ourselves. When we in turn do for others what they cannot do for themselves, we are emulating his miraculous gift to us. It is very tender, very personal and very individual.

I'm grateful for those tender moments spent doing for Grandpa what he could not do for himself. I'm thankful for all around me who do for others what they cannot do for themselves. I'm especially grateful for He who did for each of us what none of us can do for ourselves.

Day 45: Simple Service

I've been thinking about that wonderful feeling you get when you do some simple act of service for someone else. Somehow you always come away with more than what you gave. If you're unhappy with life, simply stepping outside of yourself and serving someone else does a world of good. If you love someone, service is a great way to show it. If you're grateful for your blessings, blessing someone else's life is the natural course.

As a boy my Dad was always signing me and my brothers up for some type of service in the neighborhood or church congregation. In fact, one time we were camping several hundred miles from home at a reservoir where we'd never been before and where we've never been since and the next thing we new he had made arrangements with the local ranger's station for us to get a bunch of trash bags and clean up the stretch of picnic areas along the beach where we were camping.

I know I've referenced this type of upbringing before but it has had such an impact on my life it tends to be a recurring theme. I hope in some small way I can pass this on this on to my children.

This past mother's day the kids were extremely excited when we made breakfast for Grandma and Grandpa (my wife's parents). They took over two plates of breakfast, like the ones below, and some flowers freshly cut from our yard. It was obvious when they came home that they had felt that amazing feeling that comes with simple acts of service. I'm grateful for simple acts of service.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Day 44: Gratitude

Today I'm thankful for gratitude. It is a powerful force in my life. It centers me. As I look around and reflect on life, searching for those things for which I'm most grateful, I see many new things each day that I could write about. Each one is a reflection of the truths of life and the reality of God.

As I think on these things, my heart begins to quicken and then it seems to swell within my chest. This sensation rushes through me coursing outward. It swirls through my head providing a daily cleansing as anything that is dingy or quagmired is flushed out my eyes. My mind and soul are renewed. My vision is cleared. My love for God and those around me is deepened. I find it that much easier to be a little more patient and a little more kind. I find so much that makes me happy.

I am grateful for gratitude.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Day 43: Refrigerator Magnets

If you want an insight into my family, just come take a look at our refrigerator. It seems to reflect the shared consciousness of our home. The dozens upon dozens of magnets fasten the symbolic fabric of our family life to the fridge. May we always have magnets to hold us together.

Day 42: Paper, Crayons, Scissors and Tape

As I sit at my kitchen table contemplating what it is that I feel gratitude for, my eyes are drawn to the many works of art plastered on the kitchen wall. It amazes me what kids can do with some paper, crayons, scissors amd tape. I count 17 works of art currently on display. These are just the latest of perhaps thousands of masterpieces turned out at the kitchen table over the years. Each one is a reminder of the unbounded imaginations of my children. Each piece of art is truly unique and beautiful in its own way. I'm grateful for paper, crayons, scissors and tape.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Day 41: A Nurturing Mother

Most mothers have a nurturing quality about them. It comes to them naturally. My own mother sacrificed much to be home where she could nurture my brothers and sisters and me. As I was thinking about what it was that my mother did to nurture me it became hard to describe succinctly. I can however offer several quick examples of her nurturing capacity in action.

Someone to play catch with
First, I recall a time when I was in Jr. High School. Jr. High School is a hard time of life in general. On this particular occassion it seemed especially challenging to me. My best friend moved out of state. He was the only friend my age that lived within a reasonable distance of my home. There were other boys my age that lived close by but I really didn't get along with them. There were younger boys close by that I got along with but the age gap made things uncomfortable. It seemed to me that everyone had a friend but me. After moping around the house for days on end my mother finally confronted me with the situation.

I was in my room crying on my bed. She came in and talked with me, rubbed my back, and did all those things that moms know how to do to really make you feel loved. When she discovered the source of my sorrow she offered some profound advice. Rather than try to convince me of the friends I might find in the neighborhood or at church, she taught me of another friend. She told me, the Lord can be your friend. He can take away your loneliness. Well I already knew what she was teaching me, but I didn't understand it. My response to her was, "I know, but He can't came and through a football around with me." What she taught me that day didn't bring me immediate relief but over the years that have passed I've come to know the Lord as my most true friend. Anyone can find someone to play catch with but it is a true blessing to have the Son of God as your friend.

What would Jesus do?
Another experience that comes to mind is a lesson she taught one family night. I was pretty young, probably nine or ten years old. The point of Mom's lesson was to try to do what Jesus would do. She told us that whenever we had to make a choice in life we should simply ask ourselves, "What would Jesus do?" and then do it. Well, I'm by know means perfect at this but I can recall many situations where I've been much better because I remembered these simple advice. It is really amazing how well it works and how quickly seemingly difficult decisions become simple.

One final experience. It was Christmas time. From a young boy’s perspective, things looked bleak. There were 8 children in our family. I was the fifth. I was sure that this year’s Christmas would consist of hand-me-down clothes from my brothers.

We had a family tradition of helping others during Christmas by doing the 12-days of Christmas for families more needy than us. That year I remember thinking there couldn’t be many families more needy than us. Mom and Dad were convinced there were. As we took the presents and left them anonymously on the doorsteps every night I remember feeling at first that with every gift given, my chances of presents for myself were diminished even further. Of course the spirit of giving began to win me over. That and Mom’s reassurance that she had been able to set aside $600 for our family. I did the math, 10 family members, $60 a piece. There would be presents after all.

The Sunday before Christmas the Bishop (church leader) had a special meeting after Sacrament Meeting. He spoke about the building fund. Our Ward was short. We needed more funds. Surely he couldn’t think to ask us. We only had $60 per person as it was.

After Church I was heading to the car when I bumped into my Mother coming out of the Bishop’s office. She had tears in her eyes. She had given the Bishop our $600 dollars. The Spirit had told her to give it. She went straight to the Bishop and gave it before she could shrink from the task. I recall few times when I have felt more love and gratitude for my Mother. Lead by my Mother, our family shared in consecration that Christmas. My greed and pride were gone. I was filled with love and gratitude for my family and my Savior.

And so it always is with consecration. It is hard up front but we are filled with that sweet peace and love in the end. And perhaps more importantly, our spirits are refined – we are brought closer to God.

After writing this it has become clear to me what it is that my mother did through her nurturing. She taught me to know God. Thanks Mom!

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Day 40: My Mother-in-law

Many people seem to struggle to get along with their mother in-law. Not so with me. I love and respect her greatly. I am often amazed by her energy, enthusiasm, zest for life and all around gusto. It seems that the rest of us were born with impaired vision - she always sees so much more in life.

Here are some of my favorite Mother-in-law quotes:
  • An inch of milk
  • A square of toilet paper
  • A dab of whipped cream
  • Spores in the swamp cooler
  • Jiggers
  • Thank you!
  • I'll go where you want me to go dear Lord

Here are some words that come to mind when I think of her:
  • Generosity
  • Gusto
  • Faith
  • Comfort
  • Celebration
  • Can do
  • Make do
  • Energy
  • Enthusiasm
  • Love for life
  • Love for others

There are many reasons why I'm grateful for my mother-in-law but the one I feel most grateful for today is that she has taught me there are so many more reasons to celebrate life than I had ever imagine. Life is much happier, much richer and enjoyed at a whole new level because of her.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Day 39: Grandma P.

Grandma P. was one fiesty lady. It never ceased to amaze me how much energy came out of her small form. In her later years osteoperosis had so consumed her that she was barely 5 feet tall. That is probably 8 inches shorter than she was before her back started to collapse.

She was an extremely hard working and generous person. She was a single mother most of her life, raising three boys on her own. She survived her 3rd husband (Grandpa P.) by more than 20 years.

It is hard to imagine that she was ever a little girl. I have many pictures of her at about this age, playing at the lake, running around with cousins, having a good time.

Grandma P. made great lunches. We always looked forward to anything she prepared even if sometimes it was a little strange to us (pear halves with mayonnaise in them??).

I've been thinking about her lately. I miss her. I love her. My life is better for having known her. I'm amazed at what she suffered and overcame in her life. I remember her quilting and painting the most amazing things long after her hands were so arthritic that she couldn't open them. I look forward to seeing her again after this life. She is one of my happiest memories.

Day 38: Thrift Stores

My wife took the kids to a local second hand thrift store the other day looking for good deals on clothes, etc. They grow so fast that it doesn't seem worth it to by new stuff, especially for summer play clothes. The girls were rather pleased to come home with some new dress-up gowns and a pair of Chuck Taylor Converse shoes for each of them. Our youngest daughter was so excited about the shoes that when I found her in the kitchen during the middle of the night getting a drink of water, she had taken the time to put on her new shoes before coming out of her room. Actually, I wonder if she slept with them on??? It wouldn't surprise me. Anyway, I'm grateful for thrift stores and anything that can bring so much happiness to one of my girls.

Day 37: Diapers

This may seem strange but I'm grateful for diapers. When I'm home I'm on diaper duty. Changing diapers is a wonderful chance for one on one play. There is nothing better than pulling baby out of the crib in the middle of the night and changing his diaper before passing him off to mom to nurse. He gives big smiles and giggles and looks at me as if there were nothing on Earth that he adores more. That is an amazing feeling to have someone look at you so lovingly, with so much adoration. It pushes all of the concerns of the day aside, wipes the tired crabbiness from my eyes and makes me feel truly grateful. I'm grateful to be able to change diapers.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Day 36: 1 Year, 1 Month, and 15 Days

1 Year, 1 Month, and 15 Days - that's how much time separates me from my next older sibling in age. It was his birthday this past Sunday and he's been on my mind a lot lately.

As you can imagine we were close growing up. We experienced a lot together. Much more so than I did with my other brothers and sisters. Sure we had our typical sibling rivalry but I don't think we ever tried to kill each other or anything (except maybe that time when he sped out of control down the street with me hanging onto the luggage rack).

We understand each other perfectly (or so it seems). I know him almost as well as I know myself and visa versa. We've been accused of having our own language. We don't, but often others can't follow our soft, mumbled, rapid paced conversations that are full of so much inside knowledge and reading of each others minds that it would seem we must have developed a new tongue. A mere grunt accompanied by a slight inclination of the head speaks volumes.

There are few people in the world that you can trust completely. I don't mean that I could trust completely, but that can be trusted completely regardless of who you are. He is one. There are also few people in the world that have so many idiosyncrasies. He is truly unique.

Inside the rough idiosyncrasies seen on the outside is a generous and compassionate soul. He feels deeply, especially for others - even complete strangers. Most people don't know that about him.

He is the one that, when a boy got beat up by our friend in elementary school, stayed behind after the crowd dispersed, put his arm around the crying boy, helped him into the school and took care of him.

When we got lost on a boy scout outing and I got cold he gave me his jacket and took care of me (and the rest of us).

When we were boys (our wives think we still are) we discovered everything together. Our adventures are too numerous to name but would make a great epic tale of boyhood.

Because he was a year older, he showed me the ropes in most things. It wasn't until later that I realized he had a different and far superior set of ropes than most people.

I ended up taller than him. It was during this passing him up phase of my life that I first discovered he was 1 year, 1 month, and 15 days older than me. He informed me of this on a regular basis and was always ready to demonstrate what this meant.

Now that we're both grown with families of our own, I look back and realize what a part of me he is. He will always be my big brother. He will always be an example to me. We will always share a closeness that can't be replicated. We would gladly offer any sacrifice for each other and it would never cross our minds that we were sacrificing. He will always be 1 year, 1 month, and 15 days older than me. For this I am grateful.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Day 35: Vickie

As I mentioned in Day 34's post, my mother was unable to be there with my sister during her husbands liver transplant. Vickie, my mother's dearest friend spent perhaps eight or ten hours at the hospital with my sister.

What I didn't mention yesterday was how much this act of loving kindness meant to me. While I didn't talk to Vickie about it, it seemed that because of Vickie's love for my mother and our family she was determined to do for my mother what she could not do herself. This was true friendship, unselfish love and sacrifice. She offered that same comforting and calming influence that my mother would have if she were there. She leant that same rock solid faith to all around. Several times it seemed that my mother was really there with us. We were all uplifted and strengthened by her presence.

What an amazing friend she is. I don't believe many are as blessed as my mother to have such a dear friend. I doubt that Vickie fully understands what she did for our family yesterday. I suspect it seemed like the most natural thing in the world to her to be there when her dear friend could not.

I have a deep love for Vickie. I thank her for her support to my family and for the friend that she is and has been to my mother. I thank her for exemplifying to me the following passage.

Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life— (Mosiah 18:9)

I'm grateful for Vickie.

Day 34: Miracles

I was about two blocks from the hospital last night when I got a phone call from my Dad. He quickly mentioned that my brother-in-law, who was at that moment about 8 hours into a liver transplant surgery, was not looking like he would survive the surgery. I was going to visit my sister who had been at the hospital since the night before. I nearly had to beg her to get some small task that I might do to help her. The assignment - bring dessert, a pillow and a blanket. Somehow the two cupcakes and two brownies I had to offer didn't seem to fit the current reality.

Because my parents are away serving a mission for the LDS Church, they weren't able to be there. Other siblings had not been able to make it to the hospital yet either although we had all been more or less in constant contact with her throughout the day.

Dad's update on the situation was sobering. He was calling the rest of the family to inform them of the seriousness of the situation and asking them to pray and exercise their faith in behalf of my brother-in-law and those who were caring for him. I quickly said a silent prayer and called my wife and asked her to gather the family that was with her together to pray as well. At that same time my sister, a close family friend, and the member of the transplant team (who had been sent with the news that he might not make it) were also praying together. I don't know how many were praying at that time. I suspect it was close to 100 or more friends and family.

When I arrived in the waiting room with pillow, blanket, and dessert in hand I quickly took in the scene. My sister, my mother's best friend (filling in for my absent mother) and the member of the transplant team were the only people in the waiting room. It was strange to see this kind woman from the transplant team and realize that just like in the movies, she was the one that comes into the waiting room to tell everyone that the patient is not expected to live.

I was surprised at my sister's state of mind. She was resolute in her faith. Determined to trust in God and accept His will. There she was, staring death in the eye and saying "Thy will be done." Then her attitude changed slightly and she simply said, "Now is the time for renewed faith."

Several hours later the main surgeon came out to inform us that they had finally made it past the critical juncture. The turning point in their progress had coincided with the flurry of prayers in behalf of the medical team and the patient. My brother-in-law was in surgery for 16 hours. Twice as long as the transplant team had expected. After the surgery was complete the head surgeon again came out to update my sister. He explained all that had happened. He said it had been a long, hard, grueling surgery. For the first 8 hours of the surgery he did not believe my brother-in-law would live through the surgery. Then the renewed faith and prayers and the mercy of the Lord helped the surgical team to see away to make it work. The doctor told my sister that of the 250 or so transplants he has performed, this was by far the most difficult.

There is no question in my mind that I witnessed a miracle last night. Not just one miracle, but many small miracles.

And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up... (James 5:15)

I'm grateful for miracles. Somehow those simple words don't seem to adequately express the depth of my gratitude to God for what he did last night. They seem trite. Their simplicity almost seems to mock the true nature of what I feel inside. What can you do when words are not sufficient to express what you feel? All I know to do is ask again for another tender mercy from that God to whom I am so indebted. If it is the Lord's will, in His tender mercy perhaps he will communicate to you what I feel in my soul for Him.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Day 33: Veterans

I know it is not Veteran's Day but as I looked through my photos I saw this one and it reminded me of the profound gratitude I feel for all those men and women who have sacrificed in anyway to protect our country.

This is the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C.

As I think of those that have offered so much to protect our nation I can't help but think not just of the sacrifices of those who've served but also of those they have left behind. I feel tremendous respect for anyone that has taken their turn, risked their life, postponed dreams, laid anything upon the alter of sacrifice to make our country what it is today.

A few years ago I was at a school play. It was a patriotic program. Before the play began they played the armed forces medley and asked as the song for each branch of service was played for those that had served or the family of those that had served to stand and be recognized. Tears streamed down my cheeks as I saw men and women, young and old, stand and be recognized.

A couple of summers ago I was at a week long boy scout camp. At one of the campfire ceremonies they asked for all of the veterans present to come forward. A group of well-seasoned and gnarled men stepped forward and stood at attention saluting a flag that was being retired and smoldering in the fire. I was not the only one wiping tears from my cheeks.

Perhaps I should have waited for a patriotic holiday to write these thoughts but the truth of the matter is that nearly everyday is a patriotic day for me. I cannot see a flag without being choked up. I love this country and what it stands for. I feel profound respect and gratitude for all those that have made it so.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Day 32: Eyes

I'm not talking about vision, I'm just talking about eyes. In particular I am amazed at the beauty and depth of eyes. Just among my children we have a range of amazing eyes.

Our first child has blue eyes. Not a deep blue, but more of a sky blue. They are amazingly clear. They are amazingly blue. They squint up some at the corners when he smiles. These eyes were made to smile and laugh. On the rare chance that these eyes are sad they pierce you with remorse. How could something that was meant to smile take on such sadness?

Our second child has green eyes. These aren't just ordinary green eyes, they are magic green eyes. At the center if you look close enough you can see little splashes of brown. She gets this from her mother. These eyes are magical for many different reasons. The most amazing thing to me about these eyes is their ability to communicate so completely and precisely. I really believe that if she had no other way to communicate, other than through her eyes, child number 2 would get by just fine.

The third set of eyes are a deep chocolate brown. Not a dark chocolate but a rich milk chocolate. I've spent a lot of time staring into the layers of brown looking for an end. I can't find it. There is so much depth. It is like looking at the reflection of one mirror in another, it just goes on and on and on. Everything about these eyes including the skin, the eyebrows, and lashes around them have a warmth, depth, and richness to them. Like the warmest, most welcoming place you could possibly imagine.

The fourth and newest set of eyes are grey. They too have small touches of brown within them if you look closely. The brown isn't clustered toward the center but can be seen at certain angles depending on the light reflecting off of them. These eyes are so pure and clean. It reminds me of the experience you have when you think you're looking at something really white until something truly brilliantly white comes along and redefines the spectrum. I thought I knew purity and innocence until I looked into these grey eyes. The spectrum has been redefined.

I'm grateful for eyes.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Day 31: Hard Questions from Children

As a dad I get hard questions from my children all the time. I try as much as possible to answer their questions with the truth rather than copping out with answers like: "Because" or "God made it that way."

A few years ago one of my girls asked me a question that surprised me at how difficult it was to answer. She asked, "Who is Heavenly Father?"

We are a very religious family. We've taught our children about God and read scriptures with them since they were new-borns. In fact it was while we were reading a passage of scripture that referred to Heavenly Father that she asked her question.

I explained to her what I know about God. He is the father of our spirits. We are His children. He is your father. This last concept startled me. Not that I question whether God is my father, but the realization that by teaching my daughter that God was the father of her spirit like I was her father here on Earth, I had become the glass through which she would view her relationship with God. I felt ( and still feel) a tremendous burden not to distort her view of God by fogging the window.

If she is afraid of me, will she be afraid of God? If she thinks she is not important to me, will she think she is not important to Him? How will my relationship with her help or hinder her relationship with Him?

I'm not a perfect father by any means. I am constantly aware of how my actions influence my childrens' view of their Heavenly Father. I am grateful for the hard and often profound questions that come so freely and innocently from my children.

Day 30: 7 X 70

Years ago when my wife was still in college she performed with an improvisational dance group. As you can imagine, improvisational dance is well - improvised. Sometimes it is great and sometimes not. One particular dance they performed stands out in my mind still today.

I don't remember if there was music. Perhaps just a big barrell drum pounding a steady and increasing beat. About 15 dancers moved through a large space in increasing chaotic patterns. As the beat quickened the movement of the dancers increased in speed and intensity. There was a tremendous feeling of tension within the room. Dancers were cutting each other off and bumping into each other. As the tension increased toward an inevitable catastrophe, one dancer suddenly stopped and said softly, "forgive me." Another dancer immediately responded,"I forgive you." Several dancers embraced, others exchanged those same words. Instantly all was at peace, all was healed, all was forgiven.

When everything around us seems out of control and in chaos, I'm thankful for the calming, healing power of those simple words, "Forgive me. I forgive you."

A friend told a story of a dream he'd had after being 'stabbed-in the back' by a co-worker. His heart had turned bitter. He was wallowing in his spite. He could not find the power to forgive. Then he had a dream. In the dream he was in the emergency room. He had several knife wounds in his back and the knives were still there. Because of the pain he felt he did not want the doctor to remove the knives. The doctor told him that he must remove the knives or he would die. In refusing to forgive, even when those who have offended are not seeking forgiveness, we only hurt ourselves.

Another friend of mine taught that we are required to forgive all men. How many times are we required to forgive 7 X 70 (maybe that means we shouldn't keep track). He also taught that as many times as we sought His forgiveness he would forgive us.

There is healing in forgiveness.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

day 29: Kindness

Since I've started this blog I've spent a lot of time looking for things for which I am grateful. It has been a wonderful experience. One of the things I've noticed is the tremendous amount of kindness I see around me everyday.

People who have never met each other and may never meet each other again offer gentle acts of kindness to each other. They hold the door open at the convenience store. They let someone go first in line. They offer a smile or let someone merge into their lane. Someone drops something and another picks it up and returns it. Each of these acts seems small and simplistic yet I believe the cumulative effects are far reaching.

I'm not naive enough to believe that all people are kind to each other all of the time. I'd be happy if that were true just in my home, let alone in the world at large. I have however come to believe that kindness outweighs meanness.

So to everyone out there practicing kindness - Thank you! Thank you for your kindness to me and those that I love. Thank you for your kindness to each other. Thank you for your daily contribution toward brightening the world. I know that only the rare passer-by will read this post but don't let that diminish the sincerity of my gratitude to all kind people everywhere.

Imagine a world where everyone was kind to each other. What a wonderful world that would be.

Day 28: A Whole Team of Robbies

A couple of weeks ago (April 13) I wrote about the kind boy, Robbie, on my son's baseball team. Well, it seems that my son's team is a team of boys like Robbie. Its not just the team either, but all of the parents and families seem to be out of the same mold as Robbie.

This is a picture of my son striking out. This is the first game he's ever played in his life, the first time he's ever been up to bat, and the first time he's ever struck out. The thing that this picture doesn't capture is the cheers and shouts of encouragement that errupted from the audience as he struck out. You would have thought he had just hit a home run. It was by far the loudest and most enthusiastic cheering of the game. All of them meant to support my son and in a very real way they all supported me.

What these wonderful Robbie-like people don't understand is that my son can't hear well enough to realize that they are cheering him on, encouraging him, pulling for him. He can only hear out of one ear. He uses a very strong hearing aid on that ear. Even with the hearing aid when he is clear over at home plate with a batting helmet covering his hearing aid, he has almost no ability to hear anything going on around him. The really strange thing is my son doesn't need the encouragement and support being offered. He is perfectly excited to have gotten up to bat regardless of how he faired. I, on the other hand, am quite touched and strengthened by their support.

Day 27: My Left Foot

I won't disturb the world with a picture of my foot. My feet aren't particularly attractive. My wife says they remind her of grasshopper feet. You never realize how good you've got it until something gets messed up. Well, my right foot is kind of messed up. In fact, it is rather awkward to walk around. No matter how I try I can't seem to relieve the pain in my right foot. I suspect it is a stress fracture. I really don't want to go to a doctor. It seems whenever I go to the doctor because of some strange ache or pain they look at me like I'm a total whimp, tell me there is nothing wrong with me other than the pain in my knee, foot, hip, etc. After I leave I'm sure the doctor and his staff all have a good laugh at the expense of that guy who just needs to suck it up and stop whining about little aches and pains.

I'm not so happy with my right foot tonight. It is keeping me from running (which I really enjoy). I am particularly grateful for my stalwart, pain-free left foot.

Day 26: Pedicures

The other night my wife called me from her cell phone. It was her night out. Once a week I try to let her have an evening off without kids, that she can do whatever she wants. She called to tell me that the pedicure place was open and she had just finished getting a pedicure.

She was clearly ecstatic and rejuvinated by the pedicure. I thought to myself, you know, I'm truly grateful for anything that can bring her the joy she deserves. Oddly enough, today I feel profound gratitude for pedicures.