There are two common events in life I usually drag my feet to: funerals and weddings. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s the parking, or maybe I think by now I’ve heard it all.
Last week on my way to my nephew’s wedding, I admit, that was my attitude. But I always prove myself wrong. That day I had two moments where I realized I had learned something.
The gentleman performing the ceremony looked almost twice my age and proved to be twice as wise. Just about every word from his mouth was profound and beautiful. I found myself smiling and nodding. Not nodding off; the kind of nodding you do when your mind slows down, you look down to the side, and you realize that life really is pretty simple.
After the ring exchange, kisses, and family hugs, we all headed outside for the other reason I drag my feet: pictures. Both sides of both families. Mothers, fathers, grandpas, grandmas, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends filed over to the ideal location, the steps. Not because it faced directly into the sun, but for the stadium effect. Every person, short and tall, can be captured in time.
Can you imagine? I felt bad for me, but I felt worse for the photographer. All those people texting, turning, and talking. She had her agenda, and we had ours.
But our photographer was in charge. She knew that first group pic was critical and that time was of the essence. Folks would soon be peeling off for whatever reason. If she was going to get the big group shot, right now was her chance.
After motioning with her hands for both ends to scoot in, she calmly raised her voice and said, “If you can’t see me, I can’t see you!” And just as if we had all rehearsed the night before, everyone self-adjusted. Heads tilted, backs straightened, and knees bent. I even saw one guy finally remove his sunglasses. The photographer instructed, “Smile, everyone! Three, two, one!” Then click, click, click, and it was over.
What started out in chaos was instantly organized with a simple statement. Up to that point, everyone assumed they were ready and in position, when in reality, many were out of place.
Think about your own life and the things you are going after. Things you’ve planned for, maybe even worked on, like family or business relationships you hope to improve or develop.
Can they see you? I bet right now there’s at least one person you’re trying to reach. When was the last time they had your undivided attention? If you’re nodding your head right now, pick up the phone or get in your car and make that adjustment. Oh, and one more thing. Don’t forget to smile.
This week Jackie and I celebrate 24 years of marriage. That also means 24 years of trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t. Isn’t that what marriage really is? A continuous miniseries of “Let’s keep doing this,” or “Let’s never do that again.”
I admit, I’m the one with the short-term memory, so I usually cause the re-runs. I don’t know why I do it. For some reason when things get hard or stressful I tend to forget where we’re trying to go and point the finger in the wrong direction.
Know anyone else with that skill? I kind of hope I’m not the only one who’s got it mastered. I’m thinking of holding seminars. I mean, why spend time trying to work on myself when it’s so much easier to point out the faults in someone else?
Breaking the habit of finding fault, especially with the ones you love most, can be hard. So I’ve been working on a new approach. I call it It’s OK to Look for Faults. But it has just one rule, and that is to find only good faults. I haven’t mastered it yet, but here’s an example of the technique. (Sorry, Jackie. You weren’t in the room to ask permission.)
The next time tensions rise or you feel like turning on the fault factory, start looking for the good. So if I get upset because Jackie threw something away that I really wanted to keep around, I’m not allowed to leapfrog from missing my shirt to my car seat not being put back in the same spot to whatever else might bug me. Instead, I bust out a different list of faults until the urge to spiral out of control goes away. In my case, it might go something like this:
It’s your fault our family is always sending birthday cards and dropping off thank you notes.
It’s your fault I haven’t missed a belt loop in years.
It’s your fault I don’t walk out the door with smelly breath and contaminate the earth’s atmosphere. Gum freak.
It’s your fault I have a comfortable, peaceful home that smells nice.
It’s your fault we’ve got family pictures and photo books all over our house so we never forget what really matters.
It’s your fault our children’s school lunches are made and homework assignments get checked off. Wake up, honey!
It’s your fault I know the first name of the sweet mother trying to make ends meet that works at Chevron. And that she worked on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Talk about clueless.
It’s your fault our DVDs are in alphabetical order. Lazy.
It’s your fault I’ve gained nearly 40 pounds since 1989. You’re the one always making Sunday roast beef dinners, Café Rio burritos, french toast delight with kneaders syrup, dirty Diet Cokes, and burnt butter brownies. Not me.
Get the idea? Pointing out and focusing on the weakness in others is easy. It’s like hiking downhill. No resistance, and you can practically do it all day and tell yourself you’ve accomplished something.
Looking for and finding the good in others is a whole different kind of show. Up for the challenge? If not, well, it’s your fault.
Recently I was in line at the airport waiting to go through security when two gentlemen stepped out of line behind me and moved over into the express lane. The guy in front of me turned his head and said, “Hey, where are they going?” I said, “They must be in first class on their flight so they get the shorter line.” He then turned back around and said, “Well, I don’t need a line to define me.”
I smiled and didn’t say anything. But for the rest of that flight I kept asking myself, What defines me? I thought about what someone could discover about me if they were to find my wallet. Would its contents provide enough evidence to define who I am?
My wallet contains my driver’s license, some pictures, my brief goal list, various credit and membership cards, some cash, and a few business cards. Hmm. OK, what if you got a hold of my iPhone? Would that do it?
On my phone, you would see lots more pictures even a few videos, my journal notes, various apps that interest me, books I’m reading, and some recent texts and e-mail conversations. Would that be enough to define me? Probably more than my beat-up brown wallet.
How do you define a person? If we’re not careful, we could fall into the trap of thinking monetary accomplishment defines who we are. We tend to focus on the clothes we wear, the car we drive, or the home we live in. Is that all there is to it?
What about our past? A lot of people would think we are the sum total of all our experiences. Does our past really define us? Should it?
I remember hearing someone once say, “All that I am is everything I’m going after.” I love that answer. To me, that means the past does not equal the future. We’re never stuck. This very moment is full of wonderful opportunities to become whatever we want to be.
What are you going after? Think about what really, really, deep-down matters to you. Go after that. Let that define you.
We sometimes use the term miracle loosely, but the fact that it always seems to come up when something amazing happens speaks to the fact that most people believe in them. Even if America’s broader culture doesn’t recognize a higher power—even if it’s not politically correct to talk about religion—79 percent of Americans do believe in miracles, according to ABC News. (more…)
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