October 2006 Newsletter

Hello, my dear friends!  I apologize for the long delay in posting a newsletter article.  I’ve undergone a period of great change and growth recently, my days and nights filled to the brim, leaving precious little time for you.  But I didn’t forget you!  So this month I’m giving you an extra-full dose of inspiration to make up for my tardiness.  I pray that you will read with an open mind and receptive heart.  Peace and blessings to you all!


Leaving a Legacy:

Ten Simple Choices

I have a confession to make.  I’m obsessed with reading obituaries.  Some people look at me like I’m crazy when I tell them my little secret.  I suppose they must think I’m obsessed with death.  But nothing could be farther from the truth.  My obsession is not with how people die.  If I have an obsession, it is with how people live.

There’s a line in the movie, Braveheart, claiming the sad truth, “Every man dies.  Not every man really lives.”

I scan the obituaries daily…not to see who died…but to see who really lived.  And there’s always at least one that catches my eye and grabs my heart.

Fifty-two-year-old Larry’s smiling face exploded from the obituary page, as the words printed underneath chronicled his special life.  Larry, it said, “was born a deaf mute.  He lived his life with a real zeal for happiness.  He touched so many lives with his caring, loving ways.  He never met a stranger, and he made friends wherever he went.  He loved competing in the Special Olympics, and he loved staying busy.”  Larry, it read, was proud that for a time before his illness with brain cancer, he was able to own his own home.  “He loved his independence,” wrote his tribute, “and he fought a good fight during his illness.  He stayed strong through all the turmoil he endured.  He was very good at signing his way through life…”  Larry was survived by his parents.

Wow.  If I could just inject one ounce of what Larry possessed into my daily life…

Ninety-three-year-old Eleanor’s photo depicted a beautiful African-American lady full of grace and charm.  The widow of a pastor, Eleanor was eulogized as a “unique blend of musical talent, teaching ability, humanitarian service, spirituality, morality, and domestic acumen.”  Her life, it read, touched thousands during her seventy years of service.

If only I could hope to leave such a legacy…

That, of course, is the point.  When I read of these marvelous lives, I wonder what legacy I will leave.  What will my obituary say?  What would I want it to say?  What impact do I hope to make?  And am I actually doing it now?  Am I writing my desired eulogy now with my day-to-day life?

Covey, world-renowned speaker, teacher, and bestselling author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People among other great works, refers to it as “beginning with the end in mind.”  If we began our lives, or at least the part of it during which we’re making our own decisions, with the final desired destination in mind, and if we renewed our commitment to that goal each and every day, how different might our lives be?

It isn’t a topic we like to spend much time on.  Just as my obituary fascination seems morbid, we somehow think it’s wrong to consider our legacy.  Yet if we don’t think about it, we’re leaving our one precious life to mere chance.

William Jennings Bryan, famous 20th century attorney, orator, and politician said, “Destiny is not a matter of chance.  It is a matter of choice.  It is not a thing to be waited for; it is a thing to be achieved.”

He was right.  We have to pursue our destiny…our legacy…with a zeal equal to or greater than what was described in Larry’s obituary.

I recently read an interview of Katie Couric in Parade magazine heralding her ascension to anchor of CBS Nightly News.  It has been well-publicized that Katie, at tragically young ages, lost both her sister Emily and husband Jay, leaving her to raise her two young daughters alone.  “If I learned one thing from the deaths of Jay and my sister, Emily,” Couric said, “it’s this.  We’re terminal.  Our time is finite.”

Her comments remind me of a popular country song, “Live like you were dying.”  The song describes all the seemingly significant things that would be put aside and all the seemingly insignificant actions we would take, if we truly did live like we were dying.  This challenge can be at once depressing and inspirational.

Arnold Bennett, a British novelist, wrote, “The supply of time is truly a daily miracle, an affair genuinely astonishing when one examines it…it is yours.  It is the most precious of possessions…no one can take it from you…you have to live on these 24 hours of daily life.  Out of it you have to spin health, pleasure, money, contentment, respect and the evolution of your immortal soul…”

What are you doing with your 24 hours each day?

I often pose that question in one way or another through my newsletters, and I’ve come to realize some of you are making way too much out of that challenge.  Somehow it’s being misconstrued as an indictment of the life you’re currently leading.  It isn’t an indictment (unless, of course, you actually need one.)  I think of it as caution…to simply remind you to examine and confirm that what you are doing with your time, the legacy you are building, the destiny you are choosing is the one you want…no matter how bold or how simple.

There’s a poem I like about success, which is often misattributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson but hits the mark regardless of who penned it:

Success…to laugh often and much;

to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;

to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;

to appreciate beauty…to find the best in others;

to leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child,

a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition;

to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.

This is to have SUCCEEDED!

I see nothing in that description of success regarding your profession or how much money you make, how many material possessions you amass, how large a house you live in, or how many degrees you acquire.  What I do see in that poem is the power we all possess to choose the impact we make while we’re here and the legacy we leave behind as a result.

Sometimes people have read my newsletters or heard me speak and contacted me afterwards so inspired and wanting me to tell them “how” to move forward…how to acquire the life they desire…the success they dream of.  This email is the answer to that question.  Destiny is a matter of choice.  Not one big choice, but the million little seemingly insignificant choices we make from the moment our eyes are first opened until they are closed for the last time.  Our legacies, our lives, are controlled by the choices we make during each of our daily 24 hours.

I talk about the power of choice in my training.  The choices we make—believe it or not, like it or not—create a constant stream of either positive or negative natural consequences in our lives and in our relationships.  In other words, we make choices, and then we are inescapably accountable for the outcome of our choices.

Mary Crowley writes, “There exists in each of us the power to make choices; but we cannot escape responsibility for our choices.  We own the outcomes.  Sometimes we choose what happens to us—the path we follow.  Sometimes all we can do is choose our response to the events around us and the choices of others which impact us.  We might choose to try and change things.  We might choose to change ourselves and how we feel.  We might choose to do nothing at all.  But there is a choice in it all… We are free up to the point of choice; then the choice controls the chooser.”

What choices are you making today the effects of which will impact you in the future?  Are they the choices that could lead to the end you have in mind?  Are you writing the legacy you want to leave?  If not, then keep reading, because I hope to inspire you to begin taking steps to do that and even show you some of the steps to take.  If, on the other hand, you are reading this and you believe you do have your desired end in mind, regardless of how it compares to the world’s definition of success, keep reading too.  But read with the understanding that this is not an admonishment to challenge you on where you are now.  It’s okay to be happy where you are.  I wish that contentment for everyone.  Nevertheless, we all know nothing stays the same.  The only constant is change.  Even when we feel we’re in the perfect place and wouldn’t choose to do anything differently, change still happens to us, and we must then reluctantly choose our response.

It sort of reminds me of the instrument panel in an aircraft.  I’ve learned that new pilots must fight the tendency to stare at just one instrument, neglecting all others.  There are a number of dials and gauges indicating the degree of success of the pilot’s flight.  All these indicators require attention.  The pilot can’t just zero in on one indicator, nor can he or she expect the situation to remain constant.  It’s constantly changing.  The readings of all the instruments on the panel show the pilot how conditions are changing, and they all require him or her to make appropriate choices as to how he or she will respond.  Unless pilots train their eyes to rapidly and repeatedly scan the many instruments before them and make choices accordingly, they will eventually get into serious trouble.  Even after novice pilots become experienced pilots with thousands of successful flight hours under their belts, this requirement never goes away.

This example shows us that success is an ongoing process…a process of reading all the signs and making good choices.  And there are certain types of choices I’ve found over and over again—through my life experiences and the stories of others, some of which I’ll share with you in this newsletter—which seem to be some of the most critical choices we will ever make.

1.      Choose simplicity.

Anyone who knows me has probably heard me say, “I just want life to be simple.”  That sentiment doesn’t mean I’m unrealistic.  I know we will all face some tough times in our lives…times during which nothing is simple.  My point is we can be our own worst enemy.  We can create the most complicated situations.  Choosing simplicity involves learning how to throw water on the fires of life rather than gasoline.

One holiday my sister and her family were home, and we were all gathering for a few days at our parent’s house.  Before making the four-hour drive home, my sister had gone shopping for some new clothes to wear while participating in holiday activities with family and friends.  By the time I arrived at my parents, about a half day behind her, my sister was already worked into a frenzy.  She’d discovered that one of the sweaters she’d purchased—the one new garment she was most excited about wearing on this trip—still had the store security device attached.  You know the ones I’m talking about…those heavy flying-saucer looking contraptions that it would take a nuclear bomb to break apart!  The sales clerk had failed to remove it, and my sister had failed to notice it, and now she was in a strange town.  Although she had purchased from a chain with a store in our hometown, she didn’t have the receipt with her.

“Just take it in and explain the situation to them,” I offered helplessly.

“I can’t do that!” She excitedly chastised me for my naiveté. “If I just walk up to the counter and say ‘remove this for me’ how will they know I didn’t just take it off the rack five seconds ago?  I can’t prove I’ve paid for it!”

She ranted about this situation for several minutes, during which all I could do was helplessly utter an occasional sympathetic, “Well…” and “I don’t know what you’re going to do.”  In the back of my mind, I knew anything we did in an attempt to remove the device ourselves would damage the garment.  The more she carried on, the more hopeless the situation seemed.

All the while her son, my youngest nephew who was four-years-old at the time, had been playing nearby.  He seemed to be in his own little world, when he looked up at us with the most innocent face and said, “Why can’t you just go in to the store and get the lady and ask her to come outside, so she will know you already had it, and ask her to take the thing off out there?”

A moment of stunned silence between my sister and I followed the simple yet profound observations of my young nephew.  You know what they say…out of the mouths of babes…  All we could do eventually was laugh.  He was right.  It was so simple.  Yet in a matter of minutes we’d blown it into a major crisis.

Since then I’ve tried to discern how I might apply that lesson to every aspect of my life.  I think we all have it in us to respond to situations in a very dramatic fashion.  Shall I say overly-dramatic?  Dare I say melodramatic?  Choosing simplicity involves choosing to not over-respond to the situation.  It means not making assumptions about the motives of others who may have said something or done something to hurt us (our assumptions are almost always wrong!)  It means not taking one issue and blowing it up unnecessarily into a crisis tantamount to world peace! (not that my sister was doing that…she will kill me if I leave you with that impression…but you get my point.)  Choosing simplicity means looking for that bucket of water instead of buckets of gasoline.

That’s not all.  Choosing simplicity isn’t only related to how we respond.  It’s also related to how we create.  Remember I started this explanation by saying we have a tendency to create the most complicated situations.  If we’re not careful, we can, through our choices and through our haste—even with the best of intentions—build extremely complex lives.  We can build lives so complex that the very weight of them—physically, emotionally, and/or psychologically—eventually becomes more than we can bear.

My personal realization of this has guided me to simplify, simplify, simplify in my own life over the past four years.  It’s what has guided me to turn away from the corporate world’s definition of success, opting instead for the view of success described in the poem I shared with you early in this article.  Choosing simplicity is not only about how we respond to life’s situations; it also involves a proactive approach to life.  The choices we are making now will determine whether life for us in the future has a chance of being simple, or if it will grow increasingly complex.  In order to have that simple life in the future, we need to make wise choices now.  Or to say it another way, we need to make choices wisely now.

Yes, I want life to be simple.  I want it to be easy.  Knowing that, I have to be able to articulate exactly what that means to me.  Then I need to lay a firm foundation for that now.  A house built upon sand cannot stand the test of life’s storms.  The foundation of my future home is made up of all the choices I’m making now.  I must make—now—the choices that give me the greatest opportunity for that simple life I crave.

I’m one of those people who have a wide variety of interests and can do a lot of things.  You probably are too.  The world truly is our oyster.  We “could” do a lot.  We “could” go in a lot of different directions and acquire a lot of material possessions.  We “could.”  But we don’t have to.  Truth be known, we don’t need to.  Choose simplicity.  Add self-discipline to your life.  Know when, for you, it is enough.

We’re coming into the cold time of the year here, and the analogy that comes to mind is one of adding blankets to the bed.  I recently spent the night with my parents.  After my mom had worked for what seemed an awful long time preparing my bed, I crawled under, I believe, about 50 blankets!  I don’t know what she was thinking.  It was a little chilly but, for heaven’s sake, I could have slept outside at the South Pole with all those layers.  It was too much!  I immediately grew over-heated.  I felt weighed down by it all.  I even felt a little claustrophobic.  I felt imprisoned and paralyzed by the layer upon layer of unnecessary weight.

We have to stop creating the same over-loaded burdens in our lives.  We have to cast off the unnecessary layers.  We have to know when it is enough, and stop adding on more.  And, when we do choose to add something, we must also identify something else we can let go to make room for it.  We must choose simplicity.

2.      Choose to dare.

One of the ways we can be sure to choose simplicity is to choose to dare.  Does that sound incompatible to you?  It might, if you have the misguided notion that simplicity is somehow associated with passivity and compromise.  That is not my intended message, and so I follow the first principle of choosing simplicity with this principle of choosing to be daring.

Choosing to dare is about taking care of and protecting yourself and your legacy with healthy, assertive behavior.

The philosopher Seneca wrote, “It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare; it is because we do not dare that they are difficult.”

This principle really hits home with me, because, personally, I really prefer to avoid any and all forms of confrontation.  In the corporate setting, where I spent almost 24 years, my ability to engage in effective confrontations—perhaps with employees who weren’t performing to standards, or employees who had violated policy, or colleagues who’d offended or failed me in some way, or well-meaning colleagues who were doing more harm than good—my ability to tolerate these necessary confrontations was years in the making.  And while I finally reached a level of mastery in the corporate setting, I still struggle with it on occasion in my personal life.  It just goes against the grain of who I am.  Sometimes it just seems so much easier to keep my mouth shut…to say nothing…to just take it, or pay it, or do it, or walk away from it, or ignore it…to do whatever it takes to avoid confrontation or conflict of any kind.

The message I want to deliver here is that we must not allow our desire to avoid confrontation prevent us from making the daring, assertive choices!  Remember what Seneca wrote: life is difficult because we do not dare.  We do not dare to assert ourselves.  But the price paid is the legacy we desire to leave.  We mustn’t be tempted to deny the existence or the seriousness of a real problem or to minimize the feelings we have about the problem or situation.

Let’s refer back to my example of the excess blankets on the bed.  In that situation, I could have said, “I don’t want to hurt my mom’s feelings,” or “It doesn’t matter,” or “I don’t care,” or “It’s really okay with me,” and I could have just laid there miserable and unable to get a good night’s sleep.  You would rightly observe that to choose not to assert myself in that situation would be absurd.  And yet we let others pile stuff on us day after day—layer after layer—until it becomes too much, but we say nothing.  We don’t dare.

Remaining passive first harms us, then eventually the ill effects we’re suffering spill over and harm those around us.  Choosing to dare is choosing to be assertive.

When we live assertively, it doesn’t mean we become aggressive or obnoxious.  It means we believe and recognize we have options.  We have choices.  And it’s okay to dare to choose according to our wants and needs.  When we dare to behave assertively, we are being proactive.  We are moving forward…moving ahead of events.  If we are behaving assertively, we stand up for ourselves without excessive anxiety.  Assertive behavior choices include: speaking respectfully about ourselves and others; making choices about our stewardship of our time; making choices about authentic friendships and sound relationships; and making choices about servanthood, i.e., loving and helping others.  We don’t have to wait for a situation to develop before making choices on any of those topics.  We can proactively choose our behavior in those areas of our lives.  When we choose to dare, we are able to fully engage and contribute all we have toward building the legacy we want to leave behind.

3.      Choose to love.

Too many of us equate assertiveness with a selfish or even callous disregard for others.  That, however, is a misperception.  It’s the reason I snuck in the example above of making choices about loving and helping others.  It’s also why I follow the choose to dare principle with this one of choosing to love.

Unconditional love and acceptance is one of the seven success principles I describe in my book, Teaching Common Sense.  I’ve also observed that, while the word ‘love’ doesn’t appear in the success poem I shared earlier, love is definitely the unspoken motivation behind the spoken words.

Love is not a feeling.  It’s an act of will.  Love is not an emotion.  It’s a decision.  Love is a choice.  I may not like the behavior or the appearance or the personality of others, but I can still choose to love…to reconcile with…to help them.

In 1998, Lawrence Lemieux of Canada was representing his country in the Olympic sailing competition in Seoul, Korea.  Shortly into the 5th of 7 races, the weather worsened and the marginally acceptable 15 knot winds were gusting to a dangerous level of 35 knots.  Halfway into the race, the boat of two Singaporean sailors capsized.  Both were pitched into the treacherous waters.  Lemieux had a choice to make.  He was already holding second place in the overall standings.  All he had to do was finish the race and he would likely win a medal for his country—a goal that he had no doubt dreamed of and worked toward for countless hours, days and years…perhaps even decades of his life.  What do you think he did?

Lemieux chose to love.  He immediately abandoned the race and began a rescue attempt.  Then while dragging the first Singaporean sailor aboard, Lemieux’s boat began filling with water.  Nevertheless, after saving the first man, he still headed toward the second sailor who was clinging desperately to his overturned boat.  Lemieux rescued him, waited for a patrol boat to transfer the two men, and then finished the race in his waterlogged boat.  He finished 21st out of the 33 who started the race.  Lemieux didn’t receive a gold, silver or bronze medal in that Olympics, but he received something far greater.  He received the true athletic glory on which the entire concept of the Olympic Games is based.  Lemieux chose loving over winning.  He chose the good of others over his own good.  He chose servanthood.  I don’t even know who won medals in that Olympic sailing competition.  It’s Lemieux’s story we tell all these many years later, simply because he chose to love.

A little over a year ago I ran across another intriguing obituary.  A striking and accomplished woman had been cut down in her prime by a tragic illness.  She was one of the fortunate among us who know their end is approaching (as if we all don’t actually know that), and she’d apparently used that time to think about not only the legacy she left in life but also the impact she could make in death.  Her obituary contained this one request: that everyone reading it would perform one random act of kindness for a total stranger.  There were no instructions regarding ‘send your donations here’ or ‘deliver your flowers there.’  Just ‘do something loving for someone else.’  That woman was a stranger to me, but I’ve honored her memory several times since reading her request, remembering her each time.  And every time I do it, I can’t help thinking how much more wonderful our workplaces and our world would be if we all would choose to love.  That is the legacy I hope to leave.

4. Choose to help yourself.

Perhaps part of the reason we don’t choose to love and help others (and they don’t choose to love and help us) is because we’ve deprived ourselves so long that our tank is now empty.  We’ve nothing to give.  We’ve failed to choose simplicity.  We’ve failed to dare to be assertive.  We’ve taken on too much, worn ourselves out, and failed to replenish—almost as if that would somehow be such a selfish thing to do.  We act as though we’re afraid we’ll be branded with a big, scarlet ‘S’ for ‘selfish’ is we ever put ourselves first.

The truth is ‘self’ is not ‘selfish.’  What we have to realize is, when we’re trying to juggle career, relationships, children, and self, if a “ball” gets dropped in that juggling act, it’s usually “self.”  Allowing that to happen repeatedly is a sure recipe for failure.  Taking time to recharge our batteries is where we draw strength to keep the other parts of our lives going.

Stephanie Marston, family therapist and author of 30 Days to Sanity: Create a Life You Love, says, “When we’re wrung out, frazzled and over-extended—when you’re running on empty, you have nothing to give.”  Marston continues, “Instead it’s about setting priorities each morning…thinking about what’s most important for that day.  If we pay attention and make conscious choices, (there’s that ‘c’ word again) it all balances out in the end.”

Choosing to help yourself when necessary is about mastering selectivity and not being afraid to sometimes select self.  If you can’t do that, regardless of how committed you are to loving and helping others, the day will come when you will hit the proverbial wall.

Think of it as putting on your oxygen mask before trying to help someone else.  We’ve all had those emergency instructions when flying.  “Please put on your own oxygen mask and ensure the unobstructed flow of oxygen to your mask before attempting to help any small children or other passengers traveling with you.”  The reason they tell us that is, if we pass out from lack of oxygen, we’re no help to anyone, and everyone gets hurt.  The same is true in every day of our lives.  So heed this advice.  Choose to help yourself.

And if you’re one of those people who are saying, “Someday…when things change…I’m going to take time off…I’m going on a vacation…I’ll get a massage…etc., etc.,” please heed the advice of Henry David Thoreau who said, “Things do not change.  We change.”  We need to make whatever changes are necessary to provide time to recharge physically, emotionally, relationally, and spiritually.

Here are some ways you might begin to choose to help yourself recharge: take a short walk with a friend (and if you don’t have a friend to walk with, take a walk alone, and maybe you'll make a friend); spend ten minutes meditating (you can even do this in the car); spend a few minutes before bed relaxing in a hot bath with a good piece of music playing; and probably one of the most important things you can do is form a network with family and friends to make everyone’s load easier.  In short, choosing to help yourself involves redeeming your free time—whenever and wherever it is—in such a way that it refills your own tank.  If we want to remain strong and committed to leaving our desired legacy, we must become sensitive to the things and situations that distract us from helping ourselves along that journey.

5.      Choose to play.

Maybe one of the best things we can do for ourselves is to choose to play.  Gordon Burghardt, professor of psychology at The University of Tennessee and author of the book, The Genesis of Animal Play: Testing the Limits, writes, “In the animal world as in ours, play isn’t only for children.  Play brings us together, allows us to put the rest of the world on pause, and encourages us to laugh.”

Richard Tait, founder of Cranium, Inc., the games and toy company, points to research that shows a kindergartner laughs 300 times a day compared to adults who laugh on average 17 times per day (I’ve known some who didn’t even come close to that.)  Tait says, “Play is a fundamental need, just like air, water and food, yet our current lifestyle makes play a luxury few of us can afford.  We work nine more hours per week than our parents did two decades ago, and when we’re not ‘working,’ we’re still ‘plugged in’ and ‘tuned out.’

Burghardt says, “Play (with others) teaches us trust, cooperation, respect for others, sharing, mastery and many of life’s other lessons.”  Tait emphasizes we need to find ways to inject playful moments into our day.  “Know the power of the ‘off’ button; return to your childhood; and take it outside,” are some of the approaches he suggests.

Play recharges our emotional batteries and lifts our spirits, which is essential to our well-being and our ability to have the impact we want to have in the world.  We know this to be true, because medical research shows a link between our emotions and our health.

University of Texas researchers decided to test this theory on mice.  After being infected with ovarian cancer, some were placed alone in small, confined spaces for up to six hours each day.  Animals confined in these stressful situations for that long had almost four times the number of tumors than those who were not.  And in half of them cancerous tumors had also spread to their livers and spleens.  Additionally, proteins and compounds were activated in these mice which stimulated and sustained the tumor’s growth.  Happier mice, in this case, were definitely healthier mice.

Similarly, an 8-year study that culminated in 2006 of 670 men ranging in age from 45 to 86 found that males who had higher levels of long-standing anger at the beginning of the study had significantly poorer lung function at the end of the study.  Dr. Rosalind Wright of Harvard School of Public Health in Boston points out, “This study is one of the first to show that hostility is associated with poorer pulmonary function and more rapid rates of decline among older men.”

Anger, hostility, and stress have also been associated with heart disease, asthma, and other ailments.  Wright and her team suggest that negative emotions could change the biological process and may disturb the immune system and cause chronic inflammation.

Clearly there is a link between anger, hostility, stress, and poor health.  Well, I don’t know about you, but I don’t think about anger, hostility and stress when I contemplate play.  Play is fun.  It evokes joy and elation.  When we play we literally experience a sensation of ‘lightness’ as the burdens of life weighing us down are temporarily lifted.  When we choose to play, we are not being childish, lazy or wasting time.  We are making a choice for good health.  And we’re going to need our health if we’re to remain strong in making the impact in the world we desire to make.  Choose to play.

6.      Choose your thoughts.

Thirteen-year-old Bethany Hamilton was the top female surfer in her state for her age group.  Then, while she was surfing on Halloween morning, a 14-foot tiger shark bit off her left arm as she dangled it in the water from her surfboard.  Bethany’s life as she had known it had abruptly ended.

Or so it seemed.  Less than a month later, on Thanksgiving morning, Bethany surfed again.  After struggling a little with balance, she caught the third wave and ripped it just like normal.  After a couple hours of surfing that day, here’s what Bethany had to say.  She always had a problem flopping her arms about when she surfed, and the shark attack had cured her of that!

What an amazing story of personal triumph.  Moreover, what a shining example of choosing your thoughts!

The most natural thoughts for Bethany would have been, “Why did this happen to me?” “It’s not fair.” “I’ll never be able to surf again.” Or "I’ll never be a champion surfer now.” and “It’s not my fault.” "I’m a victim.”

Oh, but no!  Bethany chose to think of the attack as a cure…a blessing.  Like Bethany we, too, must choose our thoughts…and we must choose to make them positive.  Here’s why.

In the explanation of the principle, choosing to help yourself, we examined the link between our emotions and our health.  Medical researchers have found that the emotional state most damaging to physical health and most likely to lead to heart disease and other serious ailments is chronic anger.  Our emotions, or in other words our feelings, play a strong role in determining our health.  Herein lies the link back to our thoughts.  Our thoughts lead to our feelings, which ultimately impact our health.

As you know, our feelings can be positive or negative.  We all can have different feelings about the same situation, due to our past experiences.  Three different people could look at a box of Kleenex and have different emotional reactions running the gamut from positive to negative.  One might recall a recent bad bout of hay fever and be reminded of their physical discomfort.  Another could be reminded of their daughter’s recent wedding and the tears of joy shed by the family.  Still another individual may recall a recent funeral and the extreme feelings of sadness could come flooding back, seemingly uncontrollably.

The point is this is not an uncontrollable situation.  We can choose our thoughts.  Even when a bad memory creeps in, we can choose to not dwell on the negative…to turn that negative into a positive.  We can look for the positive…the silver lining.  That’s what Bethany did.  That’s what I’ve had to work to do.  Just like many of you, I’ve experienced disappointments in my life.  It has not turned out the way I imagined.  Nevertheless, many of you have expressed admiration for how I live my life.  The only reason that has happened is because I have refused to dwell on negative thoughts.  I have persevered to focus on the positive aspects of the situation and the possibilities versus the disappointments.  It hasn’t always been easy.  I remember one time, shortly after my divorce when I truly felt lost, one my dearest friends who’s happily married with two wonderful children, pleaded with me, “I know you feel lost right now and you’re struggling, but I have to be honest with you, I look at you and I’m so envious!  You can do anything!  You can go anywhere!  You can take everything you’ve learned up to this point, and you can totally start your life over!  You are so lucky!”  That’s how you find the silver lining.  I’ve learned how to do that.  I have chosen my thoughts.  You can too.

I love the quote from John Osborne, a British playwright, “Oh heavens, how I long for a little ordinary enthusiasm.  Just enthusiasm—that’s all.  I want to hear a warm, thrilling voice cry out, Hallelujah!  Hallelujah!  I’m alive!”

Choosing our thoughts begins as simply as doing what Osborne describes.  I remember seeing my mother do this and, perhaps, it was at her knee that I first learned it.  Right in the middle of chaos, when the pots on the stove were boiling over, and my little sister was crying, and I was swearing that I didn’t touch her, and the phone was ringing…momma would just stop, take a deep breath (during which I imagine she was saying Hallelujah and giving thanks for her chaotic life,) then she would begin to sing…and sing loudly, “Heavenly sunshine, heavenly sunshine, flooding my soul with glory divine.  I am rejoicing!"  My mom chose enthusiasm.  She chose positive thoughts.  That’s the key to happiness and contentment.

Happiness and contentment is the goal.  As I said earlier, if you’ve already made the choices which have led to a contented life, that’s great.  Just don’t forget that it doesn’t end.  You need to continue to make the wise choices every day necessary to maintain your contentment.  And if you’re reading this now and you haven’t reached the state of happiness and contentment, listen up.  Happiness and contentment is relative.  It’s different from one individual to another.

We’ve all heard the cliché, “One man’s junk is another man’s treasure.”  Similarly, what makes one individual happy and content may not satisfy another.  So we can’t look next door at the neighbor to discover what will make us happy.  We won’t find it by watching how the rich and famous live their lives.  Our friends and families can’t give us the answer…not even our spouse.  No matter how much they love us, they are not us, and their definition of happiness and contentment is different from ours.  Not even our most respected role models can give us a map to follow.  Regardless of how many admirable traits and tendencies they possess, they are not us and their life is not our life.  Everyone is different from you.  You are unique.  Only you can write your definition of what will make you happy and content.  And, realize there’s a good chance that it will change for you several times during your life.  So you must choose your thoughts—uniquely, diligently, and often—throughout your earthly existence, in order to be truly happy and content.  Only you can do that for yourself.  It’s entirely up to you.

One of the biggest barriers I see over and over again to choosing the thoughts that will lead to happiness and contentment is our failure to forgive.  I’ve written in previous newsletters about the impact of our unwillingness to forgive.  In the July 2006 edition (if you haven’t read it, please do so) I explained we can’t contribute to our own happiness nor the happiness of those around us if we’re not ‘free.’  We create our own bondage with the thoughts we choose.  Rather than forgiving and moving on, if we are choosing to focus our thoughts on some wrong or hurt inflicted upon us in the past—if our thoughts are allowed to dwell on the pain and disappointment—we are actually withholding precious energy from the possibilities of the future.  We can’t let the legacy we’re building with our one precious life come to a screeching halt, for instance, at age 40 when we get divorced, or, as in Bethany’s case, at age 13 when she lost her arm.  We must choose to forgive.  And if we need professional help with that, so be it.  That’s what those mental health resources are there for.  Avail yourself of them!  Get whatever help necessary to regain your ability to choose your thoughts positively…to take control of your future…and to get back into the driver’s seat of your legacy.

I like this Chinese proverb: “A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer.  It sings because it has a song.”

You do have a song.  Be like my mom and choose to sing it.  Choose your thoughts.

7.      Choose to look forward.

One of the ways we can begin to effectively choose our thoughts, including thoughts of forgiveness, is to choose to look forward.  We don’t drive an automobile by staring into the rearview mirror—looking back at where we’ve already been.  Likewise, in order to successfully navigate the journey of our lives, we can’t keep looking back at the past.  We can’t change the past.  It is what it is.  And even if it evokes thoughts of pain or shame or unforgiveness or guilt, we must choose to change those thoughts (with professional help, if necessary) and choose not to continually look back at the past, but forward to the future.

Pope John XXIII (1881-1963) wrote, “Consult not your fears, but your hopes and dreams.  Think not of your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential.  Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what is still possible for you to do.”

That’s the key…focus on possibilities.

At the beginning of this article I mentioned news anchor Katie Couric’s comments.  In that same interview she continued to say, after referring to the untimely death of her sister and husband, “To spend most of it (your life) feeling bad, it’s more than a waste.  I’m not going to spend all my time yearning.  If you do that…you miss the here and now.  Even the word ‘yearning’ is sad.”

What Katie is describing is the futility of yearning for what might have been.  When she lost her husband, she could have retreated with her two young daughters and spent the rest of her life yearning for the life she might have had with her husband had he not died.  But if she had made that choice—to look backward at what was but can never be again versus forward to what could be—she would never have risen to the CBS News anchor position.  If she hadn’t chosen to look forward, we might not even know her name today.

Here’s the lesson.  Yearning is not a bad thing, as long as you are choosing to yearn for the future!  A good analogy here is that of the airplane pilot again.  The pilot has begun the flight with a destination in mind.  He has begun his journey with the end in mind.  He can’t look back at where he’s been, even if he wanted to, because he has no rearview mirror.  So he’s totally focused not on where he’s been but where he’s going.  Nevertheless, just like in our lives, he doesn’t have a really good view of the future.  I’ve always found those tiny little windshields kind of comical.  If you’ve ever seen inside the cockpit during a flight, especially at high altitudes, all you see through the little window is a small dot of blue sky.  Yet, despite the fact that any obstacles or challenges ahead are not entirely visible, the pilot knows the coordinates of his desired location; he knows where he is now and what his current conditions are on a multitude of fronts; he has defined the gap between where he is and where he wants to be; he is taking steps to continue to overcome obstacles and progress forward; and he is diligently monitoring all the key indicators for how he’s doing.

That’s how we continue to progress toward leaving our legacy.  We define our own unique desired destination—our own definition of success.  Then we begin taking steps, overcoming challenges, monitoring progress, and making appropriate choices.  We choose to look forward.

That can be difficult, especially when we find ourselves in the depths of a bad situation.  It certainly requires great faith and determination.  But I think it may be even more challenging not when we’re “sad” but more so when we’re “okay.”  Most people, when they hit bottom, they’re so miserable they don’t want to stay there for long, and they get busy rectifying the situation.  It’s those who have settled into complacency who face the greatest challenge.

Someone said, “The good often becomes the enemy of the best in life.”  How many people do we know who got out of high school or college, got a job, and just stayed there?  If you talk to most of them long enough, and if they are honest with themselves and with you, they will eventually tell you what they “really wanted to do.”  “What I really wanted to do,” they will say, “was to be a veterinarian or work with animals somehow.”  (That’s not made up.  I’ve actually heard this one.)  Your question of “why didn’t you?” will almost always be met with the reply, “Well, I had bills to pay and a family to support.”  Or sometimes the response will be, “My parents just didn’t support me.  I didn’t have any help, so there was no way I could do it.”  My friends, there is always a way.  History is full of stories of ordinary people just like you and me (are there really any other kind of people?) who overcame seemingly insurmountable odds and persevered to achieve great heights and do great things with their lives.  They chose to look forward and leave a great legacy.

I, too, have chosen to look forward to an envisioned future full of possibilities.  And by remaining mindful of where I want to go and where I am now, I can continually measure the distance and identify the steps I need to choose each day.  So can you.

8. Choose to see the world in vivid color.

One key to choosing to look forward involves seeing the colorful spectrum of possibilities.

I recently read that bird’s eyes have at least four types of color receptors allowing them to see the world in much more vivid color than humans, and greater still than dogs and cats, for instance, who see virtually no color in the world at all.  While dog’s and cat’s eyes can detect more shades of gray than humans, especially in lower light conditions, they don’t enjoy the colors humans see.  But what I would give to see the world as a bird sees it!

Scott Lanyon, professor of ecology, evolution, and behavior at The University of Minnesota, writes, “We can’t possibly imagine how incredibly colorful the world is to the bird’s eyes.  For every color that we perceive, birds can see multiple, distinct colors.

When we are choosing to look forward to the future, I like to think we are choosing to do so with a “bird’s eye view” —seeing the world of possibilities in vivid color!

It reminds me of a segment of 60 Minutes describing an experimental treatment for clinically and chronically depressed individuals, none of whom had responded to conventional treatments of medication and counseling.  In this experimental treatment a particular area of the brain had been isolated by research and a form of electrical stimulation was administered directly to that area of the patient’s brain while they were yet awake.  The fact that this procedure could take place, I assume, with the patient only under local anesthesia, provided a unique opportunity for the doctors and researchers to talk with the patient throughout the process.  The tests recorded in the news segments had varying degrees of success in improving patient’s mood—in some case little or no change and in others great change including moving the patient to laughter.  But there was one patient’s experience in particular that struck me.  At a certain point well into the procedure, she began to comment on the color of the doctor’s scrubs and mask.  She hadn’t noticed, until that moment, the elaborate patterns and bright colors of the scrubs nor the vivid hue of the mask.  Suddenly, rising from her depression, she was beginning to see the world in vivid color.

When I read that cats and dogs—our beloved pets and companions—can’t see the colors we see, it saddened me.  I felt sorry for them.  You probably had a similar reaction.  But now I realize we humans create that same colorless situation for ourselves!  By failing to look, seek, see, and appreciate the vivid color of our world, we are creating worlds made up only of shades of gray…dull, boring, depressing worlds in which we simply exist.  We must break that pattern.  We must stop mindlessly going through the motions of our daily lives and choose to see our world in vivid color.

Create a world of vivid color for yourself.  And if you’re someone who is experiencing the medically debilitating conditions preventing you from seeing those colorful possibilities, please choose to dare…choose to seek out the help you need.  The world within which we’ve been gifted with the opportunity to make an impact and leave a legacy is filled with vivid color.  Choose to see it.

9.      Choose to open your gifts.

Well, choosing to see the vivid colors in the world sounds good.  But how can we do that?  Sometimes it can seem like an extremely uphill battle, especially if your reading this while you're going through a tough time in your life.  Trust me.  We can accomplish this in two steps.

First, I refer you back to what I said about choosing to look forward and choosing our thoughts.  If we can choose to look forward with positive, hopeful thoughts, we can begin to find the silver lining in even the darkest cloud.  What we do when we find that silver lining is what I refer to as “opening our gifts.”

I’ve learned through my own experience and the stories of others that gifts can come to us in all kinds of strange wrappings.  Bethany, the young surfer mentioned earlier, spoke of the ‘cure’ she received via the shark attack.  I’ve written before in these newsletters about how some of the painful disappointments in my life have led me to seek answers and then share them with you, i.e., the silver lining.  We hear stories of how illness brings distant families closer together.  The death of a loved one ends up leading to reconciliation between estranged friends or family members.  A lost job leads to finally taking the steps to do what we’ve always wanted to do.  Enduring and surviving a struggle can teach us much about not only others but also ourselves, and it can lead to the discovery of new resources and capabilities we never realized we had. 

It’s just like the old cliché, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”  There is a negative and positive side to everything.  There is pain, but hidden—perhaps deeply—there is also a gift.  But listen to this because this is important.  You have to unwrap the gift!

You could choose to not even look for the gift presented to you in the situation.  Or you could see it—maybe have it called to your attention by someone else who says something like, “You know the good thing about this is…”—and you could still choose to ignore it.  But how foolish would that be?  Who among us would receive a birthday present or Christmas gift from someone, and simply ignore it and refuse to open it?  I daresay not one of us.  And yet in our lives and our relationships and our own experiences we do the equivalent every day.  Opportunities are presented to us to learn and grow, and we discard them without ever taking a close look.

When we choose our thoughts, and choose to look forward, and choose to see the world in vivid color, we choose to open those gifts.  For they truly are gifts, no matter how strange the wrapping in which they come, and they are intended to help grow us and develop us into the person we’re intended to be.

Once we’ve accomplished that first step of opening our gifts, the next step is easy.  To explain, I refer back to the example of the birds.  They not only see more vivid colors, they also see ultraviolet light.  When a starling parent, explains professor Lanyon, brings food to its young, nested in a dark tree, those hungry babies reflect UV light back to the adult from their skin and gaping mouths.  The healthiest and largest baby reflects the most light and, generally, that one gets fed first and the most.  This, of course, greatly enhances that baby’s chances of survival.

I think this is the lesson we can learn from this.  We attract more of what we reflect and project into the world.  By projecting more vitality and life, the young bird is rewarded with a greater share of life-giving resources.  Likewise, when we truly live life, we attract more life-enhancing gifts.  So it’s a reciprocal dynamic.  By opening our gifts, we become stronger and more alive, which we project into the world, which then attracts more of these special gifts!

Choose to open your gifts, and keep looking for and opening more—even in the darkest days of your life—and you will greatly enhance your journey.  When we can allow that process to occur in our lives, we can truly become the person we want our eulogy to describe.

10.   Choose to dance.

Hopefully you can see by now that if you can choose simplicity, choose to dare, choose to love, choose to help yourself, choose to play, choose your thoughts, choose to look forward, choose to see the world in vivid color, and choose to open your gifts, then life can be one big fantastic dance!  It “can be.”  And yet this is still another choice we have to make.

I read in the newsletter of a local Methodist church about an unexpected drama that unfolded one Sunday morning.  One of the associate pastors described how three liturgical dancers were performing an interpretive dance as the congregation’s call to worship.  The three dancers were gracefully moving independently and in unison, linked by a long length of diaphanous white fabric.  With their arms lifted and the silken fabric stretched over their heads, they each ran down one of the three aisles of the church—left, right, and center—the flowing fabric symbolizing the floating spirit of God hovering over each member of the congregation.

It was a moving scene.  But it was something unexpected, which caused the experience to become breathtaking for the associate pastor.  About halfway back in the church, as the fabric floated overhead, a small boy rose to his knees in the pew…and reached up…stretching as high as he could to touch the flying fabric…and he did.

This boy didn’t just watch the dance.  He chose to join the dance!  Because of his curiosity, his eagerness, and his desire to be part of the moment, he responded as a partner in the dance.

I have a good friend, Jan, who loves to dance more than anyone I know.  If there’s a dance anywhere in the southeast, she will try to be part of it, after which she always returns beaming.  She signs her emails with this salutation, “Keep on dancin’ in love and light!”  Life to Jan is truly a dance.  When I say, choose to dance, it isn’t just the literal dances I'm talking about.  We need to recognize that life is a dance.  Like the country song says, “Life’s a dance you learn as you go.”

It’s true; life is a beautiful dance.  But we have to choose to join in.  Like the little boy in church, we need to stretch up, reach out, stop being a wallflower and become a partner in the dance.  We often hear a sports analogy used to describe this: Get off the sidelines and get in the game.  Stop being a spectator and become a player.  Stop being a critic and be a supporter.  Stop being part of the problem (by only pointing out faults) and roll up your sleeves and go to work…become part of the solution.  Let’s stop feeling sorry for ourselves because we’re alone and go out and make friends.  Let’s stop lamenting what we don’t have and start appreciating what we do.  Let’s please stop complaining about where we are and start working toward where we want to be.  Life is a dance.  And that dance will pass us right by, just like the floating fabric at the church service, unless we stretch up, reach out, and join in.

I’ve seen this profound quote attributed to more than one person: “Life is a dash between two dates.”  It refers to the dash between the two dates on our tombstone—the date we’re born and the date we die.  That dash represents the sum total of our lives.  Every accomplishment, every disappointment, every joy, every sorrow, all the love shared, all the lives touched, every day, every hour, every minute, every moment…all captured in that one little dash.

What are you doing on your dash?  Why not choose to join the dance?

Well, there you have it.  Ten simple choices crucial to writing your life story in such a way that it will be your eulogy that jumps from the pages of the paper one day and grabs someone’s heart the way Larry’s and Eleanor’s and many others have grabbed mine.  More importantly, those ten choices are the choices that will lead to a successful life.

You notice none of the ten advised you about your image, or career, or mate, or neighborhood, or clubs.  Those are only outward manifestations of your inner focus and choices.  If we only focus on superficial things such as those, we will not achieve the kind of happiness and contentment of which I speak.

Early in this article I shared this poem with you:

Success…to laugh often and much;

to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;

to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;

to appreciate beauty…to find the best in others;

to leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child,

a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition;

to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.

This is to have SUCCEEDED!

For the most part, that poem describes results.  It describes “the end” we would aspire to reach.  It’s the end we have in mind when we begin…the desired destination.  What we must remember is that getting there is a process.  And that process involves these ten key choices:

1.      Choose simplicity.

2.      Choose to dare.

3.      Choose to love.

4.      Choose to help yourself.

5.      Choose to play.

6.      Choose your thoughts.

7.      Choose to look forward.

8.      Choose to see the world in vivid color.

9.      Choose to open your gifts.

10.   Choose to dance.

Now that you understand the ten crucial choices, please understand this.  These are not choices we’re called upon to make once.  We must make these choices every day.  No matter how happy we are.  No matter how unhappy we are.  We must focus on how we make these choices day in and day out.  If we lose that focus, that too is still a choice.  Echoing Mary Crowley’s quote I shared earlier, William James said, “When you have to make a choice and don’t make it, that is in itself a choice.”

So think of it this way.  It’s like taking a bath.  You can’t just take one bath in your life and never take another one.  Well, I guess you could, but then no one could stand to be around you!  The point is that one bath doesn’t stick.  We get dirty again.  So we have to repeat it daily, sometimes more than once a day.  Making these choices works the same way.

Motivational speaker Jim Rohn said, “Eating seven apples on Saturday night, instead of one a day, just isn’t going to get the job done.”  Similarly, I hope I’ve impressed upon you the need to make these crucial choices daily.

Someone once said, “Impression without expression can lead to depression.”  I can make an impression on you.  But you have to do it.  In this case, ignorance may truly have been bliss, for knowing what you need to do—the choices you need to make—and still not doing it can lead to you becoming overly self-critical.  Choose instead to begin with the end in mind…and follow this process…do it...and truly LIVE.

The same Methodist pastor, who wrote the newsletter article I shared earlier about the young boy, shared one of her personal experiences in another newsletter which touched me deeply.  She shared that when she was growing up there was in her house a book of poems entitled A Shropshire Lad by A. E. Housman (1896).  Each poem in the book was simply titled by a Roman numeral.  So at the top of poem number 54 was the Roman numeral ‘LIV.’  Reading this poem as a young girl, she had always thought of it as ‘LIVE’:

With rue my heart is laden for golden friends I had,

For many a rose-lipt maiden, for many a lightfoot lad.

By brooks too broad for leaping, the lightfoot boys are laid;

The rose-lipt girls are sleeping in fields where roses fade.

Someday all we lightfoot lads and rose-lipt girls will sleep in fields of babbling brook and fading roses.  But, in the meantime, savor every day, aware of how precious life is…how fragile…and LIVE!

 “When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced.

Live life so that when you die, the world cries and you rejoice.”

                                                                     - White Elk, Native American Philosopher

If you would like to read about a father and son team who are truly living the kind of life of which I speak, please read on.  (PLEASE be sure to check back in a couple days to watch the actual video footage...as soon as I get the link working!  Thanks for your patience!)

From Sports Illustrated, By Rick Reilly

Eighty-five times Dick Hoyt has pushed his disabled son, Rick, 26.2 miles in marathons. Eight times he's not only pushed him 26.2 miles in a wheelchair but also towed him 2.4 miles in a dinghy while swimming and pedaled him 112 miles in a seat on the handlebars--all in the same day.  Dick's also pulled him cross-country skiing, taken him on his back mountain climbing and once hauled him across the U.S. on a bike. Makes taking your son bowling look a little lame, right?

This love story began in Winchester, Mass., 43 years ago, when Rick was strangled by the umbilical cord during birth, leaving him brain-damaged and unable to control his limbs.  "He'll be a vegetable the rest of his life,” Dick says doctors told him and his wife, Judy, when Rick was nine months old. “Put him in an institution.”

But the Hoyts weren't buying it. They noticed the way Rick's eyes followed them around the room. When Rick was 11 they took him to the Engineering department at Tufts University and asked if there was anything to help the boy communicate. “No way,” Dick says he was told. “There's nothing going on in his brain.”

"Tell him a joke,” Dick countered. They did. Rick laughed. Turns out a lot was going on in his brain. Rigged up with a computer that allowed Him to control the cursor by touching a switch with the side of his head, Rick was finally able to communicate.  First words? “Go Bruins!” And after a high school classmate was paralyzed in an accident and the school organized a charity run for him, Rick pecked out, “Dad, I want to do that.”

Yeah, right. How was Dick, a self-described “porker” who never ran more than a mile at a time, going to push his son five miles? Still, he tried. “Then it was me who was handicapped,” Dick says. “I was sore for two weeks.”

That day changed Rick's life. “Dad,” he typed, “when we were running, It felt like I wasn't disabled anymore!”

And that sentence changed Dick's life. He became obsessed with giving Rick that feeling as often as he could. He got into such hard-belly shape that he and Rick were ready to try the 1979 Boston Marathon.

“No way,” Dick was told by a race official. The Hoyts weren't quite a single runner, and they weren't quite a wheelchair competitor. For a few years Dick and Rick just joined the massive field and ran anyway.  Then after running another 1983 marathon so fast that it was a qualifying time for the Boston marathon, somebody said, “Hey, Dick, why not a triathlon?”

How's a guy who never learned to swim and hadn't ridden a bike since he was six going to haul his 110-pound kid through a triathlon? Still, Dick tried.

Now they've done 212 triathlons, including four grueling 15-hour Ironman competitions in Hawaii.  People ask Dick why he doesn’t see how he'd do in these competitions on his own. “No way,” he says. Dick does it purely for “the awesome feeling” he gets seeing Rick with “a cantaloupe smile as they run, swim and ride together.”

This year, at ages 65 and 43, Dick and Rick finished their 24th Boston Marathon, in 5,083rd place out of more than 20,000 starters. Their best time? Two hours, 40 minutes in 1992--only 35 minutes off the World Record, which, in case you don't keep track of these things, happens to be held by a guy who was not pushing another man in a wheelchair at the time.

“No question about it,” Rick types. “My dad is the Father of the Century.”

And Dick got something else out of all this too. Two years ago he had a mild heart attack during a race. Doctors found that one of his arteries was 95% clogged. “If you hadn't been in such great shape,” one doctor told him, “you probably would've died 15 years ago.” So, in a way, Dick and Rick saved each other's life.

Rick, who has his own apartment (he gets home care) and works in Boston, and Dick, retired from the military and living in Holland, Mass., always find ways to be together. They give speeches around the country and compete in some backbreaking race every weekend, including this Father's Day.

That night, Rick will buy his dad dinner, but the thing he really wants to give him is a gift he can never buy.

“The thing I'd most like,” Rick types, “is that my dad sit in the chair and I push him once.”