June 12, 2011
All of us have a “story”, or at least those of my generation, the baby-boomers. But it doesn’t stop there. ALL of humanity, every individual, from every state, from every country throughout this world, has a story. Some are magnificent, full of all of life’s pleasures; happy childhoods, close-knit families, successful careers, happy marriages. And then there are those of us who weren’t as blessed, we might have been born into poverty, came from broken homes, resulting in broken dreams, disillusionment, and despair. The list may be endless. Everyone has a story. This latest chapter is for them. But it is also for those who were more fortunate, to remind them that it could have been them, to remind them not to look down upon those less fortunate, but rather to lift them UP. Why? Because. WE are ONE. No one person is created to walk through life alone. We NEED each other. It is our ABSOLUTE duty to care for one another, in spite of differences in race, color, wealth, education, or whatever term you wish to choose.
There’s a song by Michael Bolton. A song that resonates MY story. But I’m guessing it resonates for MANY of you reading this latest chapter. Here are the lyrics, in part:
“Gonna break from these chains around me…Gonna learn to fly again…May be hard, may be hard…But I'll do it…When I'm back on my feet again…Soon these tears will all be dryin'…Soon these eyes will see the sun…Might take time, might take time...But I'll see it…When I'm back on my feet again…I'll walk proud down that street again…And they'll all look at me again…And they'll see that I’m strong…Gonna hear the children laughing…Gonna hear the voices sing…Won't be long, won't be long…Till I hear them…When I'm back on my feet again…Gonna feel the sweet light of heaven…Shining down its light on me…One sweet day, one sweet day…I will feel it…When I'm back on my feet again…And I'm not gonna crawl again…I will learn to stand tall again…No I'm not gonna fall again…Cos I'll learn to be strong…When I'm back on my feet again...”
For those of you reading this, who know “my story”, those of you who may have known me for many years going back to my childhood, those of you who have come to know me through my Facebook page, or those of you who have come to know me through this website and blog called “Ramblings”, then you know WHY these lyrics resonate so loudly for me. For those of you who don’t, I won’t bore you with all the detail. But I will give you a glimpse before moving on to the real intent of this latest chapter, to illustrate to those of you who may still be crawling, who can’t see the sun, who are deep in despair from whatever life has tossed your way, that you WILL be back on your feet again. I won’t tell you HOW. That is up to you. But basically, it comes down to one thing and one thing only. God gave man free will, to choose right or wrong, up or down, good or evil. It’s really that simple.
For many years after reaching adulthood, I was lost spiritually and emotionally. I made bad choices. I took wrong paths. And I’ve paid the price in ways that would shock you. I nearly died, not once, but THREE times, from an insidious, powerful, and baffling disease. A disease sorely misunderstood by society, but a disease nonetheless. What some might view as simply a matter of will power, for those of us crippled with the disease, willpower meant….nothing. It consumed my life, literally and figuratively. And yet I reached the pinnacle of success in spite of wrong turns. I was once the envy of my banking peers, gifted with the knowledge of financial analysis and in loan narratives, all the while raising a family, and managing a large dry land farm operation in Western Kansas, encompassing over 4,000 acres. A bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, numerous graduate schools, including the University of Oklahoma, University of Colorado, and the University of California. I had it all. And I nearly lost it all. I fell hard and fast. And yes, I crawled, nearly begging to see the light of day, just as it says in Michael Bolton’s lyrics.
That moment, that crawling moment, occurred over three years ago. That was the day life began as if it were new, June 5th, 2008, a date that will be forever etched in my memory. During these past three years, things have “happened” and people have come into my life that simply astounds me. Colors seem more vibrant. The sounds of children’s laughter and birds singing have clarity and meaning about them that I continue to revel in and explore on a daily basis. Most of all, the people who once knew me when I was crawling, even those that saw me with their own eyes at the very depths and pit of despair, see me now in an entirely new light. I’m walking proud down that street again and they see that I’m strong.
What am I left with? This. The written word. The one thing that I can hold onto tightly with all my heart and soul and pay it forward to you in kindness. God looked down upon me with favor and left me with this gift, the gift of knowledge, the gift of awareness, a gift I WANT to share with the world. To tell YOU, that if you’re crawling, for WHATEVER reason, that if you’re in despair, if you’ve lost hope, that you think there’s no way out, DON’T GIVE UP! You may be suffering from a disease, you may be experiencing grief over the death of someone you love, you may have financial or employment problems, personal issues like divorce, the loss of your job, etc. The point is, YOU have the power! YOU have a CHOICE. And the only choice you have in life is the only one God gave ANY of us, and that’s free will. Right or wrong. Up or down. You have the choice to get back on your feet again, to walk with pride, dignity, and honor.
Everyone has a story.
June 2, 2011
This is a story that may seem a little odd to you to fit the “pay it forward” concept, and while it can certainly be thought of as good karma, upon reading it, perhaps your perception will be different. That being kind to someone, by thinking of anyone but yourself, by doing something seemingly small and insignificant, it will come back to you many times over!
Earlier this week, Tuesday the 31st of May, my sister remarked that the air purifier I bought for her at Target a few months back simply quit working. No explanation why. It just quit. She found the box in her garage that it came in when I bought it, had placed the purifier in it, and set it outside on her patio. So, I asked, “What do you think we should do?” She said, “Well, you could probably just take it back to Target, maybe they’ll give you store credit for it.” I hadn’t the first clue what “store credit” meant, all I knew was the sales receipt was long gone, tossed away in the trash months before. I figured the $99.99 I spent to help my sister out was pretty much a decomposing receipt buried in some landfill in northern San Diego County. Me being me, that is the NEW me, the one who says “never say never”, the same guy who used to look at his life’s cup as half-empty, said “Well, it’s worth a try anyway.” So off I went. Here’s where the funny part starts and it didn’t end until I left Target, leaving 4 or 5 employees laughing hysterically, including yours truly, all the way back to my sister’s house with a new air purifier in tow, extra filters, and two bags of pistachios!
Upon arrival at the local Target store in Encinitas, CA., which by the way is going under some major remodeling, with scores of workers scurrying around both in and OUTSIDE the store, finding a parking spot looked to be a tall task. I decided, unlike everybody else who was trying to get the closest spot they could get, to simply take the first one I saw, in spite of the long walk ahead. As I walk in, lugging this big box in my arms and finding the customer service counter, I reach for my wallet and….ooops, left it in my vehicle. Not a good sign. So, I tell the clerk, actually I said, “Lucia? I have this air purifier I bought for my sister in your store a few months back but don’t have the receipt. It just quit working. Can I get store credit?” She says, “We need your I.D. to process your request.” I said, “Okay, I’ll just leave the box here and be right back.” Think again! She says, “Nope, can’t allow you to leave it here. You’ll have to take it with you.” So, I go back outside to retrieve my wallet. By this time I’m sorry I didn’t take the time to find a closer parking spot because that box was getting awfully heavy.
Now I’m back. There’s Lucia again. I hand her my I.D. “Did you buy this over 90 days ago”, she asks? I didn’t hesitate. “Why, yes. In fact it’s been several MONTHS.” “Oh, well our policy is for anything over 90 days old without a receipt, all we can do is allow you to exchange it for ANY OTHER items in the same department you bought it in, but they HAVE to total AT LEAST $99.99. We can only give you 80% credit for what you paid for it, which was $124.99.” Turns out that “department” was sporting goods.
At this point of the story, let me share with you what I think MOST people would have done in my position. FIRST, they would have said the item was bought within the past 90 days, thinking they could get a better “deal” with the store. But, more importantly, I think most people who, after finding out they could buy ANYTHING in sporting goods that totaled $99.99, would have opted for anything other than ANOTHER air purifier. After all, my sister wasn’t all that thrilled with it to begin with, since it WAS taking up a lot of space on her dresser. In fact, when I came back with the new one later, she said, “You didn’t HAVE to do that. You could have bought something else.” Maybe she meant for my-self, which is what I think most people would have done. Not me.
So, now I go off searching for sporting goods, which just SO happened to be CLEAR on the other side of the store! Fortunately, I’ve got the useless one in a cart now instead of lugging it around by hand. The clerk told me I STILL couldn’t leave it with her, to bring it back with whatever I bought, and someone would tend to my needs. As I’m strolling along, the thought DID occur, “You know, I could use some new shoes, maybe even a basketball, or some beach towels.” I banished it quickly. And there I stood in front of a shelf of air purifiers, one of which is the same EXACT one I’d already bought. No way, I thought. She didn’t like it to begin with. Instead, I see a smaller one for $74.99, just the right size. Still 25 bucks to go I thought. Right above it, I see a set of replacement filters for $44.99. Bingo! All I have to come up with is the difference, about $30 before tax, all because I was trying to be KIND to my sister. I thought nothing of what I could have gotten for my-self.
As I march proudly up to the service desk, there’s Lucia again. She forms a cross with her fingers, she knows I’m already out of breath from running out to get my wallet, running all over Target, and just ready to get this ordeal over with, though by no means was I upset. In fact, I looked at it as just another adventure. Smiling, she rings it up. “Problem”, she says. “What” I exclaimed!? “You still have to spend another $5.98”, she says. Turns out the air purifier I had bought in place of the useless one just “happened” to be on sale that day for $49.50!! By now, she’s feeling sympathetic to my plight, knowing I’ve just trudged all over their store, dodging worker-bees, all so I can find a silly air purifier. So, she points over to the food section, not 50 feet away, and says, “If you go over there and get something that costs AT LEAST $5.98, even though it’s not “sporting goods”, I’ll have my manager give me an over-ride code so you can go on your way. “Deal!” I said with a smile on my face while we both started laughing.
Now I’m in the food section. Nuts. I love nuts. “Ooooh, there’s some Planter’s pistachios! AND they’re priced at $5.99, ONE PENNY more than I need. Now I’m feeling REALLY good about my-self! I proudly present my pistachios, saying OUT LOUD, “Pistachios are my favorite!” She rings them up and…..starts laughing hysterically. Not only did I pick out an air purifier that day that just “happened” to be on sale, I also just “happened” to pick out pistachios that were ALSO on sale for $4.00!! I look at Lucia, and by now I’m laughing so hard I can barely get the words out, “So, still have $1.99 to go, huh?”
Of course, you can probably surmise what happened next. I come back with a SECOND bag of Planter’s pistachios knowing that this entire ordeal was over and there stands not only Lucia, with tears rolling down her cheeks in laughter, but also FOUR other Target employees, INCLUDING the store manager, all laughing hysterically. As she FINALLY rings me up, in which I STILL owed $2.02, she looked at me as if I had just made her day, maybe her entire week of tending a thankless job as a customer service clerk at Target.
Honestly, it was ME who was thankful. By being kind, by thinking of anyone else but myself, by replacing the air purifier I had bought for my sister months before, someone upstairs paid that kindness forward. The lesson is clear: You reap what you sow, so plant your seeds carefully. You never know what kind of harvest you’ll get in return. Two bags of Planter’s pistachios....:)