Blessing the Darkness

Pilgrims with a bounteous spread. That’s what we think of and imitate at Thanksgiving when we gather people around us and feast and give thanks. It’s delightful, and gratitude comes easy on that day.

But how do we really put that into practice every day? Think about this: The pilgrims were ill and malnourished. They’d had a harsh first winter. Only about half of the Mayflower’s original passengers lived to see that first spring. But they had learned to plant corn, and after a successful harvest in 1621, they celebrated and gave thanks for what they did have.

Even when life is hard—and it often is—true happiness comes when we are grateful for the good parts.

The late Cavett Robert, a popular motivational speaker and the founder of the National Speakers Association, used to tell of a poignant experience that taught him this very thing.

He was running late after a speaking engagement in New Orleans. The meeting had run overtime, jeopardizing Cavett’s chances of catching his flight home. He completed his speech in the grand ballroom of the Fairmont Hotel, then rushed through the convention center and ran to catch the next elevator going down to the ground level.

Once on the elevator, he tapped the “G” button repeatedly, hoping it would hurry the process of closing the doors. As soon as it began its descent, he checked his watch. He could still make his flight if there were no delays with the elevator or the taxi. Just when he thought his luck was going to hold, he felt the elevator slowing for the third floor.

The doors opened, and no one was there. Hurry up! he thought to himself. Hearing someone coming, he impatiently called out, “Hurry—elevator going down!” Then he saw the red tip of a white cane tap-tap into the doorway.

“I’m sorry; I’ll be right there,” came a humble response. Cavett was crushed with humiliation. As the doors closed, not knowing how to handle the hollow silence, he asked, “Well, how are you today, sir?” His voice was now shaky and embarrassed. The reply came like a heavy blow to his soul: “Grateful, my friend. Grateful.”

Cavett Robert, the great teacher and motivator, was humbled to the dust. Suddenly missing an elevator, a taxi, or even a flight seemed trivial. He would later state, “While in my rude haste I was so caught up in my self-gratification and not an attitude of gratitude that I found myself cursing the light as this gentle man was blessing the darkness.”

He said he was never the same after that experience. In his prayers he asked for help to always realize how important a grateful attitude is in life.

Happy Thanksgiving. May this week be a time for true reflection. Count your blessings. Even if you already know what you’re grateful for, try to find just one more thing. We all have room for more happiness.



Can You See Me?

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.



What Defines You?

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.