Tag Archives: Gratitude

One Word Can Make All The Difference!

Rich and his son Cole

Have you ever said something that didn’t quite come out right?  Boy I have, more than once!

The other day a friend, who was not afraid to be blunt and honest, sent me the following message:

“You mentioned in your video (A Very Real Matter: Same-Sex Attraction) that ‘LIFE IS TO BE ENJOYED, NOT ENDURED’. While I like the concept and wish it were true all the time, I disagree with that, at least in part.”

FINALLY someone called me out on the one line that had bothered me from the very first time I viewed the video of my son Sean and me.  We started filming at 10:30pm without a script – we spoke from our heart.  It was late, we were tired, and it was our last night to get it done. My daughter Kelsey, who filmed the 35-minute interview, was visiting for Christmas and heading back to her home the following morning.  After hours of editing to condense the message, Kelsey sent us the now 6-minute video.   As I watched it, I felt good about the message; the only line that I was hesitant with was;

“Life is to be enjoyed, not endured”

What I thought I had said and what had actually come out, were two different things.  The option for a “do-over” was gone. I KNOW everyone has challenges both big and small and YES we are often asked to endure HARD things.  It’s what builds our character and makes us who we are.  Our option was to take the whole line out or leave it in. Obviously we opted to leave it in.  The blog article which accompanied the video got it right:

“Life is to be enJOYed, not JUST endured!”  

One word makes all the difference!

The friend who called me out on the line in the video, is my friend Rich, he’s someone who KNOWS the meaning of enduring hard things, he also know the sweet JOYS of life.

I replied to Rich’s email thanking him for his honesty and asked him to read my blog where I had adding the word “just” to my plea.  He immediately replied:

“OK, I definitely can get behind the “Life should be enjoyed not JUST endured.  That makes sense to me.  In fact, it’s been my experience that the traumas and challenges in life, are what give the enjoy part of life a much sweeter taste!  Besides, I don’t think I’ve ever experienced personal growth sitting on a white sandy beach, sipping on a drink.  Instead, it’s been life’s traumas that have been the catalyst to growth and what has molded my character.  There are parts of life that we all must endure.”

You see, Rich survived a solo plane crash; this is the account in his own words:

“On September 14, 1987, I was piloting a Piper Supercub (a bush plane), looking for stray cows for my brother Pete.  Pete is a cattle rancher and had cows turned out in the Strawberry Mountain Wilderness area in Eastern Oregon.  Shortly after take off during my last flight of the day, the airplane developed engine problems and I crashed at the base of the mountain.  When the plane hit, the wing tanks burst (I had just fueled the airplane) and aviation fuel flooded the cockpit, soaking me and then exploded.  I was trapped in the airplane.  My father and brother were on horseback, saw the airplane go down, rode to the crash site and saw how bad it was.  To this day I do not know how I got out of the airplane, but I honestly suspect some kind of divine intervention.  My dad rode down the hill to a road, was able to flag down a car who took him to a house, and the people happened to be home.  He called the emergency number and an ambulance happened to be a few minutes away from me servicing a logging accident.  They got to me in record time, and took me to the a little hospital about 45 minutes away.  The last thing I remember is one of the doctors cutting off my wedding ring with a little saw of some kind. I remained in a coma for 10 days.  I was 30 years old.  My son was 9 months old.”

The results of the accident were as follows:

  • 3rd degree burns to 75% of my body

  • 47 days in critical condition

  • Major infection – cheated death twice

  • 90 days in intensive care

  • 18 months in a pressure suit

  • 2 years at the hospital

  • 33 major surgeries over 6 1/2 years

  • My wife left after 3 months (leaving my son with me)

The blessings of the accident have been many, and I almost do not have room to write about all of them.  Some of the highlights are:

  • I got to experience what it’s like to totally depend on God.

  • My priorities were instantly correct, I care deeply about people and not so much about things anymore.

  • I got to experience the deepest love, sacrifice and dedication of my family.

  • I got to spend 24/7/365 with my son for many years.  What father get’s to do that?  And because of this, my son and I are closer than any other father and son I know.  We have a tight bond between us.

  • I tend to enjoy life, including the simplest of things much more than people who have not endured a life threatening trauma.

  • I got to experience more pain than most people have.

  • I enjoyed additional depth of typical life challenges, including financial, physical, spiritual social (like how to get a date).

  • My faith in God increased, as did my confidence that even life’s biggest obstacles can be overcome.

  • I know I can get through almost anything.

  • I became very passionate about health.

  • I now have the opportunity to help others going through similar trauma’s.

Rich goes on to say:

“Today, 27 years later, my life is not without problems.  They continue to come, and I have even more great stories about the difficulties in life. However, My son, is healthy, my family is healthy, I am healthy, and I’m still very confident God is in control.  I don’t know if I would want to go through another life experience like my airplane crash again, but having already been through it, I know the benefits that came from it, it made the whole ordeal beyond worthwhile and I feel very fortunate I got to experience it.”

THANK YOU Rich for being real! Being you! And for being a living testament that “Life is to be enJOYed, not JUST endured.”

Cole_and_dadRich and his son Cole

What I Learned From A Four Year Old: True GRATITUDE

I’d like to share a story that took place in 2011 that will live in my heart forever – it’s a story of gratitude from a four year old.

My heart grew larger as I walked the streets that Mother Teresa walked in Kolkata, India. I went to India with the intention of changing the lives of others, only to discover it was my own life that was forever changed.

Never before had I seen such poverty – heart wrenching poverty. But what surprised me the most were the big smiles and the genuine love that oozed from their faces spite their obvious hardships.

It is estimated that over 100,000 children live on the streets of Kolkata. There is an organization in Kolkata that is trying to make a difference – The Towards Life Foundation. This charitable organization has built 8 one-roomed schools called “centers” throughout the slums of Kolkata to provide the street children the opportunity to go to school. Some were lucky enough to have desks, other were not – all were happy just to be in school whatever the conditions.

India School -blog

India dum dum school blog 3

I was part of the Global LifeVision-Inda team; consisting of 8 women and 1 man. We were eager to volunteer at these centers to help in anyway possible.  We arrived prior to the country’s biggest holiday – Diwali. The children at the centers are given new clothes in celebration of the Diwali festival, much like our Christmas – they exchange “sweets”, decorate the streets and dwellings with lights, and parade around in their new clothes.

On this occasion the teachers thought it would be more memorable if the visiting Americans distributed the new clothes to the students. The boys would get a new shirt and new pair of underwear, and the girls a new dress and new pair of underwear.

An unexpected surprise. 

On our last day helping at the centers, a big box was delivered with the new clothes. Each item was wrapped in a clear cellophane package with a child’s name printed on it. The clothes were placed on a table in front of the classroom in two piles. The teacher would call out the name written on the package and hand it to one of us to give to the child. Without hesitation the child would say “Namasté ma’am”, and some would bow down to kiss our feet – the ultimate sign of respect and gratitude.

As I was watching this take place and the excitement of each child as they received their new clothes. I noticed a little boy in the middle of the room inching his way to the front and jabbering in his native language, getting louder and louder while tears filled his eyes – he stayed fixated on the table displaying the clothes. I looked at the table to see what could possibly be troubling him and saw there were only a few shirts left, I thought; “He is worried they are not going to call his name.” When the second to last name was called – he lunged forward grabbing his shirt and hugging it tight, then quickly he put it into his backpack and skipped around the room one happy boy.

As I was observing this priceless moment of gratitude for a new shirt, my colleague was observing the youngest girl of the class, over in the far corner of the room. This adorable little 4 year old had removed her new dress from the cellophane wrap and very gently unfolding it, once opened she slowly slid her hands from the top of the dress to the bottom. Then she folded it back up, slid it back into the cellophane and held it to her chest rocking back and forth in delight. As my friend shared what she had just observed my eyes filled with tears. We had witnessed gratitude in it’s purest form.

My perspective changed, leaving me never to be the same. I returned home with a deeper appreciation for the things I often take for granted; my family, my health, and all our basic needs: clothes, shelter, food, and most of all the simple beauty of  …everything.