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Monday, February 24, 2014

The Simple Truth

I was brought up by parents who taught me to “always tell the truth”. Problem is they never told me how hard that was going to be! Why is it so hard to be completely honest at all times?

It starts when we’re small children. I remember being 6 years old and early one Saturday morning, when no one else was up, I found some matches on the kitchen table. Even though my parents told me not to play with matches I took them outside and started lighting them. The smoke smelled good and it was fun to make fire, but then my Dad came around the corner and I dropped the matchbook. He immediately asked, “Were you playing with matches?” Of course my response was, “No, Daddy I wasn’t doing anything.” He looked at the smoke billowing around me, the matchbook on the ground and the goofy look on my face and fortunately took pity on me. He sat me down and gave me a strict lecture on two subjects, 1) don’t ever play with matches and 2) don’t ever lie again. He concluded with the promise of a severe spanking if either one ever happened again. Since my Dad was the most honest man I knew, I knew he would keep his promise.
The plain truth is…we don’t like the truth because the truth makes us squirm. Honesty is just not going to work for us in a lot of situations. We want our bosses to like us, so we flatter them. We want people to admire us, so we exaggerate and call it stretching the truth. We want people to respect us so we live in houses we can’t afford and buy furniture with credit cards that we can’t pay off. However, truth is never gray…it only comes in black or white. It’s either the truth or it’s not.
I appreciate what my parents taught me and I won’t ever forget the lessons (and the spanking) my Dad promised me. In fact, last Saturday I had a funny reminder. I was playing golf and enjoying a cigar when I had trouble on a tough par five. I was trying to reach the green in two when I landed in a sand trap. Unfortunately a previous golfer failed to rake the sand and my ball was half buried in a deep footprint. My sand shot sailed way over the green and I ended up with a double bogey. As I went to write down a 7 on my card, I thought about putting down a 6 instead (due to the bogus footprint), but as that thought crossed my mind I accidentally dropped my cigar on my leg and burned myself. Instantly I was reminded of my Dad, matches, promises and honesty! I wrote down a 7.  
Here’s an interesting and potentially defining challenge for you. What if the next time you are tempted to tell a lie you make the effort to stop for a moment and think about three things 1) Is it really necessary to lie 2) How will it affect the person I lie to 3) How much better will I feel about myself if I tell the truth! Remember the only thing that will probably happen if you lie is that you’ll get burned!

The pure and simple truth is rarely pure and never simple.
~ Oscar Wilde

Monday, February 17, 2014

Handcuffs & Headaches

Once a week I visit an elderly lady friend of mine and we go for a walk around Woodbridge Lake. Pao Chi Chen might be 89 years old but she still loves to walk and be outdoors observing nature. She also loves to observe people as well, but not in a judgmental way. She is a truly caring person with intense insight and exponential wisdom wrought from years of hardship and struggle (not to mention living in seven countries and learning to speak five languages). She loves people and they must love her because half the people we pass by know her and wave and say hi to her. Maybe that is why she is always smiling.
Sometimes when we go for a walk (okay every time we go for a walk) my cell phone rings. I try not to take calls because I want to focus on my friend, but recently I asked Pao Chi if she ever thought about getting a cell phone. She laughed and smiled and said, “I do not like headaches.” Pao Chi does not own a cell phone, a computer or even a fax machine. She has never been on the internet, never texted, tweeted or emailed. She has never “friended” or “liked” or seen a Facebook page and has absolutely no idea what I mean when I refer to social media, yet she is supremely happy and at peace with the world… and you can see it in her beautiful smile.
That got me thinking about how much life has changed over the last 50 years. My happiest moments as a child and even as a teenager did not involve an electronic device. One particularly fond memory I have is waking up real early on a Saturday morning and hiking to a nearby lake with my dog. We came over a hill in a heavily wooded area and the wild green grass was so tall that my dog disappeared into it. He started barking at me and we both started running through the wet grass, down the hill, with him jumping up into the air so he could find me as we ran and me laughing at how silly he looked. It was fun and it was funny and yet nobody captured it with a cell phone video. Darn!
It seems like young people today are absolutely handcuffed to electronic devices 24/7. I guess they have to be because that’s the way the world operates now, but are they better off? I’m not sure, but most of the time when I see them….they don’t seem to be smiling. Maybe they have headaches!

I keep the telephone of my mind open to peace, harmony, health and love. 
Then, whenever doubt, anxiety or fear try to call me, they keep getting a busy signal -
and soon they'll forget my number.
~ Edith Armstrong

Monday, February 10, 2014

Powers of Observation

I like to think I’m a fairly “observant” person. By that I mean I try to watch, listen and notice what’s going on around me including paying attention to the people I’m with. But sometimes I fail because I get distracted by worries or the myriad of technology that we all have to interact with daily. My wife struggles with the same issue because she works two jobs and between our four children and six grandchildren, there is always something or someone needing her attention. In fact I kid her about it a lot, like when I gave her roses recently…and she walked right by without noticing them! But then….all that changed on Saturday!
Saturday was a very stressful day for both of us. My wife had to host a six hour Annual Meeting for the South County Outreach and I had to give a motivational speech in the morning and then shoot 3 hours of video for a new website our company is developing. So by 3:00pm Saturday we were both exhausted. When we arrived home, all we wanted to do was go outside, sit on the patio and enjoy the ocean view. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t cooperating. It was cold and windy with extremely rough water.
After sitting down for only a few minutes my wife said she saw something way out in the ocean. She said it looked like a seal or maybe a person and she asked me to get our binoculars. I took a look and saw what appeared to be a man about a quarter mile out in the ocean, bobbing in the water. He wasn’t swimming and he wasn’t waving his arms for help, but something didn’t look right. My wife was already dialing 911 before I even finished telling her what I saw. She had them immediately patch her through to the Dana Point Harbor Patrol.
In the meantime, I grabbed my Paddleboard and started running towards the water. When I reached the shoreline I hesitated. I still had street clothes on and the water was extremely rough and cold, but I didn’t know how long it would take for the Rescue Boat to get there, so I knew I had to try to do something. It felt like it took forever to get through the waves and paddle out to the man but it was probably only 15 minutes. By the time I got there the Sheriff’s Rescue Boat was also arriving. I called out to the man but he was unresponsive and not moving. Fortunately he had on a Life Vest so his head was above water. When the two Sheriffs grabbed him by the vest and pulled him onto their boat he looked ashen and was obviously suffering from hypothermia. The Rescue Boat took off and I spent the next hour fighting the wind and waves to get back to the shore.
When I finally did get back home my wife asked me if the man was okay and I had to give her the bad news, that it didn’t look good. But we got great news an hour later when the phone rang and a Sheriff told me to thank my wife for calling in because her quick response saved the man’s life. He had been in the water for over three hours and was extremely hypothermic. Any longer and he probably would have died. I will never call my wife “unobservant” again!

February 8, 2014 - Dana Point Sheriffs rescue man after 3 hours in the water
It is only when we silence the blaring sounds of our daily existence that we can finally hear the
whispers of truth that life reveals to us, as it stands knocking on the doorsteps of our hearts.
  ~ K.T. Jong

Monday, February 3, 2014

A Question of Compassion

With the Super Bowl yesterday and it being February already, the “Holiday Season” is officially over. Personally I love the holidays, giving thanks at Thanksgiving, sharing gifts at Christmas, and celebrating New Years in January gives us a chance to spend time with friends and family and show our love for each other. Giving thanks, sharing gifts and celebrating a new year feels good, as it should. But should it ever…..really….be over? A friend of mine recently reminded me otherwise.

Joe, you always take time to write and share, so I thought I would reciprocate. I sent this message to my Wife and Son as an FYI. Hope you get something out of it. Mike

While filling up my gas tank last week I was approached by a disheveled man asking for spare change. Although I gave my standard "No" reply, (I'll get to the reason why in a bit), there was something about this man that made me stop and think. He was about the same age as me, same height, and in good physical condition (although desperately needing a bath and a shave). I looked past the rough exterior and thought to myself, “This guy should be producing in society. Cleaned up with decent clothes, he could easily get a good job.”  He was also well spoken, polite and thanked me in spite of my negative look and negative answer.

The reason I always say “No!” is because I know what happens….these individuals buy Booze or drugs! However, this time I seconded guessed my gut and went back to the man with a small amount of money. “Be honest with me. If I give you money are you going to buy booze?” Without hesitation he said, “Yes sir, I am going to buy booze.” He was shaking as he answered me and said he needed to satisfy the craving in his body. I looked him square in the eye and said, “That’s why I usually say no, but this one time, I’m going to give you this money and hope you use it for something good. He said, “God Bless you sir, I will.” and we parted.

I know there are thousands of people out there who have potential… but yet are really struggling.  I wish I could have offered that man a job instead of a meager Del Taco meal but at least I didn’t turn my back on him.

I learned two very important lessons from this gas station encounter. 1) Always go with my gut. 2) There has to be a better way to help people like this get their lives turned around. Maybe there is… but I fear too many of them have sunk so low they’ve lost all faith and spirit and no longer desire to function in society. Most of them, I fear, are just anxiously waiting until it’s all over. A man without faith and spirit is truly a lost soul.  

Mike’s letter reminded me that compassion for our fellow man shouldn’t end when the holiday season ends. We’ll never know what that man did with the money Mike gave him, but we do know what Mike did with his!

Whoever has this world’s goods and see his brother
in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does
the love of God abide in him? My little children let
us not love in word or tongue, but in deed and in truth.
~ 1 John 3:17, 18