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Sunday, June 28, 2015

One On One

Dear Joe,
I've loved your messages and have often been inspired. So today, I would like to send you a "message". 

Today before baseball practice I stopped at a Subway to get a sandwich to eat while driving to the Sports Park. There was a man that appeared to be homeless or transient, asking passers by for spare change, with little apparent success. I took a long route around him, to avoid a pointless encounter, because after all, I only had $20 bills on me. As I'm walking into the Subway, I'm thinking that's such a “convenient excuse”. Then it occurred to me that he's not panhandling anywhere near a liquor store. It's an outdoor food court with a bunch of fast food restaurants, so I'm thinking he's hungry. Right away, I decide to order two of the same sandwiches. If it's good enough for me, it better be good enough for him.

When the order's ready, I pay and proceed outside to the food court. He's still kind of slowly strolling through the food court and as I approach him I ask him if he's hungry and hand him the sandwich.  Of course weakness from hunger keeps him from jumping up and down, but he is quite obviously grateful. It made me feel really good because for the first time in a long time, I was able to directly help someone that needed help. But on top of that, there was maybe a larger positive effect. It seemed like everyone in the food court looked up from their meals and with a guilty look on their face thinking, I (or we) should have done that.

I walked away with hopes that some of the people in the food court would remember what they saw and how they felt. And that maybe the next time they're in a similar scenario, they'll show some kindness too. I haven't done enough of that lately, at least not on a personal level. Sure, I make quite a few donations to charitable organizations, but it feels so much more rewarding to be able to help somebody “one on one”. And I can see myself playing out this scenario on regular basis. Little things like this won't change the world, but hopefully they can be contagious…in a one on one kind of way!

Dear Bill,
Yesterday I dropped my wife off at the Laguna Hills Mall and as I was exiting the parking lot to head to my office, I saw a homeless man begging on the corner. I took out my wallet but saw that I only had large bills, so I put it back. But then I remembered the letter you sent me…and I immediately honked my horn, rolled down my window and handed the man some money. He spoke only for a brief moment, said he lost  his job recently and that he could no long afford his apartment and was embarrassed to be asking for help. Oh yeah, and he said, “God bless you” in a way that I will never forget. So thank you for inspiring me to do the right thing and you are right…one on one feels really good!

Remember, people will judge you by your actions, not your intentions.
You may have a heart of gold - but so does a hard-boiled egg.
~ Anonymous

Monday, June 22, 2015

Humble Heart

I am a 60 year old father of four so Father’s Day is pretty special and yesterday was no exception. As I looked around our house at all the people who had gathered there to help celebrate Father’s Day with me, I felt very blessed. I don’t know if I deserved all their attention but I do know that being the Dad of a loving family is a real blessing…and that having a loving Dad in your family is a real blessing. So I can’t imagine what it would be like to grow up without Dad. Unfortunately I do know what it’s like to have an awesome Dad - and then lose him.

My Dad passed away more than 14 years ago and yet I still miss him every single day. He was truly special for many reasons, strong and brave, intelligent and funny, the kind of guy who would give you the shirt off his back, and yet if I had to name one trait that stands out more than any other…it would be his humble heart. I’ll give you two examples.

 - In 1967 my Dad was a Marine Corps Lieutenant at Camp Pendleton. He drove a beat up 55 Chevy to work every day and since this was the era of Hippies and Flower Children, my sister and I thought it would be cool to decorate his car to make it look better. So we put flower decals and “Peace and Love” stickers all over it. Needless to say, when my Dad saw his car he wasn’t happy. No tough Marine wanted sissy stickers all over his car, but my Dad was different. He told us he appreciated the thought but that maybe just one sticker would be enough. We took off all the stickers except one big flower decal with the word “Peace” in the middle and off to work he went. We kind of figured he would remove that sticker before he got to the base, but he didn’t. That sticker stayed in place for years, an obvious example of his humility.

 - In 1969 my Dad was stationed at the Tustin Air Base and was in charge of a Helicopter Squadron that was preparing to go to Vietnam. One of the men under his command overdosed on LSD and tried to commit suicide by climbing to the top of one of the Blimp Hangers and jumping off. My Dad climbed up after him, 300’ in the air, and wrestled with him for hours before paramedics were able to subdue him. They gave my Dad the Marine Corp Medal of Valor, but he never talked about it. Not only that, after he passed away I found the Medal and a letter signed by the President of the United States, buried in the bottom of his desk drawer. He never talked about the Medal or the letter, just another example of his amazing humility.

During the last few weeks of his life, I visited my Dad every day at the hospital. Here again he was brave and humble, never once complaining about his situation or talking about himself. Instead he would always ask me how I was doing and what was going on in my life. As I sit here writing this Monday Message I can see now that he was teaching me the absolute best example of humility…that we should always care more about other people, than ourselves.
Dad...I love you and miss you.
Thank you for teaching me to have a humble heart!

Humility does not mean thinking less of yourself than of other people, nor does it mean having a low opinion of your own gifts. It means freedom from thinking about yourself at all.
~ William Temple


Monday, June 15, 2015

Turn Up The Music

I enjoy meeting new people and making new friends and on Friday night I met someone really special. His name is Frank Orrall and I consider him special for two reasons; he truly enjoys his job and he truly brings joy to his job.

My next door neighbor invited my wife and I to join him and a small group of friends for dinner and entertainment on Friday night. It was a really special evening because he hired a gourmet chef, but this wasn’t just any chef; this was a man of many talents, a true renaissance man. Besides being a gourmet chef, Frank also sings and plays multiple instruments in two different bands. In fact, the very next night he was set to perform with a band called “Thievery Corporation” as the headliner at a concert in San Diego.

The appetizers that Frank prepared on Friday evening were unique and outstanding and the entrée was even more fantastic. But after consuming an awesome meal, we were further entertained as Frank played guitar and sang some of the hits songs off of one of his albums. It has been several years since I touched my guitar, but towards the end of the evening several of us broke out our own guitars and played along with Frank, singing and laughing and having the best time. There is something about really good food and really good music that just guarantees a great time for all.

The next morning as I thought about the fun we had the night before, I realized that Frank’s job is basically all about serving others and bringing joy into their lives. That seems like an awesome job because if I remember correctly, the Bible stresses over and over again how we are supposed to “serve others”. So if you can serve others and get paid for it…how great would that be! But then again, I don’t think Frank is doing it for the money, I think he is doing it because he enjoys it just as much as his audience does.

So how awesome would it be to have a job you love, that also brings joy into people’s lives. But wait…why can’t every job be like that? Does it really matter what your job is? I sell light bulbs for a living but does that mean that I can’t bring a little smile and a little joy to my work each day. It dawned on me that no matter what we do for a living, if we look for ways to bring a little joy to those we work with and to those we work for, the world would be a better place. In fact, I think I’ll stop on the way to work and buy a few “gourmet donuts” for my friends at the office and maybe I’ll even break out into a song at lunch time. Okay maybe that’s not gonna happen, but I could “turn up the music” in my life by remembering to serve a song of love to everyone I meet.  
Frank on Drums with Thievery Corporation

Frank Orrall in New York City - 2008

Music is love in search of a word.
~ Sidney Lanier

Monday, June 8, 2015

Face It and Embrace It

On Friday I attended an important meeting to present our company’s services to a group of potential new customers. It was stressful…public speaking always is…so I was nervous and sweating. At one point I even thought to myself, why am I putting myself through all this pain and stress? But fortunately, the presentation went well and afterwards I felt great. One of the customers actually placed a nice order with us before we left the building, so I would say the pain was worth it!
As I headed back to my office I found myself on a busy side street in Irvine only able to go about 15 miles per hour All of a sudden I noticed a young girl on the other side of the street, running along the sidewalk. What caught my attention was that her long pony tail was flying and so was she! She went by me like I was standing still. How was that possible? That’s when I noticed she had long spring-like metal blades attached to her legs. She was basically a blade runner except with normal legs, running super fast. Her steps were 2-3 times longer than a normal runner and with each step she flew 2’-3’ feet in the air. It was crazy to watch and the first thing I thought of was Forrest Gump.
I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the movie Forrest Gump, but if you haven’t you should. It’s an exceptional movie and in the beginning Forrest is a small boy who has to wear metal braces to straighten out his legs. He can barely walk and because he is a bit “different” in other ways as well, the kids make fun of him. One day bullies attack him and his little girl friend yells, “Run, Forrest, run!” As he runs his braces magically break away and Forrest is able to run faster than any human alive. There are a lot of poignant messages in the movie but I think the message in that scene is, “Even though we may encounter obstacles in life, if we challenge ourselves, we can often come out stronger…and better!”
I don’t like public speaking and I don’t like jogging but I do them both. I think it’s because I realize that when I’m faced with a difficult challenge in my life, if I face it and embrace it…the pain is usually worth it.
Forrest Gump - Runnin'
The Irvine Blade Runner - Runnin' 
You can't run away from trouble. There ain't no place that far.
~ Uncle Remus


Monday, June 1, 2015

Sands of Time

All my grandchildren love to visit our house because although our home is tiny, we live right on the sand at the beach. When one of my young grandsons visited me recently, I wanted to teach him how to build a sand castle. As I watched his tiny hands form patterns in the sand, I was reminded of a story (by Max Lucado) that I read many years ago…with a lesson that none of us should never forget.

The sun is bright, the water is blue and a little boy is on the beach. He bends down to scoop sand into a bucket and packs it down firmly. He turns the bucket over and to his delight…a sand castle is starting to form. All afternoon he works on his castle, packing the walls, forming a moat, finding the right size rocks. Bottle caps can help and so can a perfect piece of driftwood, treasures that wash up from the sea.

Meanwhile, the freeways are jammed, the city is busy and a man is at his desk. He pours through paperwork and pounds the keys on his laptop. His phone rings, sales presentations are made and contracts are signed. And if everything goes right, a profit might be made. All his life he will work hard, because that is what he knows. Perhaps over time a business will be built.

These are two builders of two castles who have a lot of common. They see something where there is nothing and yet they are both diligent and determined. For both builders the tide will rise and the end will come, yet that is where the similarities end, for the boy sees the end…while the man ignores it.

Watch the little boy as dusk approaches and the waves come ever nearer. His youthful wisdom leads to excitement as the waves approach. In him there is no sorrow, no fear, no regret. He knows this will happen and is not surprised. When the biggest wave finally crashes into his castle, he smiles, picks up his tools, takes his father’s hand and goes home, feeling the love of his father and satisfied with the ways of the world.

The man, however, has forgotten the lessons of his childhood. As the wave of years collapse on his castle, he is terrified. He hovers over his business and tries to protect it from the waves of trouble that he knows will eventually come and he becomes angry that his hard work is saltwater soaked by the sands of time. “This is my castle”, he screams but the ocean doesn’t answer. The ocean doesn’t need to respond because we all know to whom the sand belongs.

I may no longer be very good at building sand castles, but my grandchildren sure are. If I watch them, I can learn from them. I can learn that if I am going to build my own castle, I need to build it with a child’s heart such that when the sun sets and the tides take it away, I don’t worry about it…Instead I smile! Then I take my Father’s hand and go home.

A day of worry is more exhausting than a day of work.
~ John Lubbock