ON BEING TRUE

“Lying through your teeth does not count as flossing.”

Anonymous

I just received a reminder from my dentist that I’m due for an exam and cleaning. This job gets easier for him as the years roll by because I have fewer teeth for him to look at now than when I was in my twenties. I must not have been listening when the comedian Soupy Sales gave this advice, “Be true to your teeth and they won’t be false to you.” And it turns out I’m also a long time member of the liar’s club when the dentist asks if I’ve been flossing everyday.

What could possibly be more important than being true to your teeth? Here to answer that question is a man we all know and love, William Shakespeare. He said in his play Hamlet, “This above all: to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as night and day, thou canst not then be false to any man.”

And to add some flavor to what Shakespeare is telling us here is a poem that has been making it’s way around the world since 1934. It was written by Dale Wimbrow, a composer and musician.  

     The Man in the Glass

When you get what you want in your struggle for self

And the world makes you king for a day

Just go to the mirror and look at yourself

and see what that man has to say

For it isn’t your Father, or Mother, or Wife

Whose judgment upon you must pass

The fellow whose verdict counts most in life

is the one staring back from the glass

He’s the fellow to please—never mind the rest

For he’s with you clear to the end

And you’ve passed your most difficult, dangerous test

If the man in the glass is your friend

You may fool the whole world down the pathway of years

And get pats on the back as you pass

But your final reward will be heartache and tears

If you cheated the man in the glass

     

I believe in a God of second chances. And more than once that has helped me face the man in the mirror. We are going to make mistakes. We are going to have some setbacks. We are going to lose our way. But if your heart is in the right place there is no disgrace in failure. You’re being true to yourself when you learn from it and get back in the game.

One of my favorite authors is Leo Buscaglia. He said, “Your talent is God’s gift to you. What you do with it is your gift to God. Being true to yourself is finding that gift and sharing it with the world.

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     “If you’re true to yourself, you may not have all the friends in the world, but you’ll be more at peace with yourself – and that’s a very strong and secure place to be.”

Annie Fox, author

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THE DIFFERENCE IS YOU

“Too often we underestimate the power of touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”

Leo Buscaglia, author

Not long ago my wife and I were treasure hunting in one of our favorite thrift stores. A few minutes into the adventure I discovered a tiny chalkboard. It only measured 5 by 7 inches but it carried a big message for all of us. Someone, with excellent cursive skills, had written on it, “The difference is you.”

I’m not sure how long we stayed in the store that day. And I can’t tell you what bargains we came home with except for that tiny chalkboard. It now sits on my desk where I see it everyday. If the kind soul who took the time to write on it happens to be reading this, I want to thank you and let you know your message is still there.

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I heard about a man who was on vacation in the Bahamas. He sent a postcard to his psychiatrist, “Having a great time. Wish you were here to tell me why.”

Taking to heart the message on that tiny chalkboard, we can all make it our mission to be someone’s “Why” today.

And that brings us to this week’s quiz. What is something you can keep and give away at the same time?

The answer is a smile. And what a bargain. It’s absolutely free. As an added bonus someone pointed out, “Everywhere you go you can take one with you.”

Who is going to argue with Mother Teresa who offered her opinion on the subject, “Let us always meet each other with a smile, for a smile is the beginning of love.”

And I can guarantee you will wear out several pairs of shoes long before you wear out the words “please” and “thank you.”

One of the most beautiful love songs I’ve ever heard is, The Moon Is Still Over Her Shoulder. The writer, Michael Johnson, said his inspiration for the tune came from seeing older folks still holding hands and helping each other with the door.  

You may have noticed you have two ears and one mouth. Someone pointed out to me many years ago that means we’re suppose to listen more than we speak. I’m not talking about gossip but an honest empathy for someones troubles.

Before I end this essay let me tell you how special you look today. There, I bet you felt as good hearing that as I did saying it.

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When my daughter asked my grandson, “What makes you happy?”

Without a moments hesitation he said, “Love.”

And then she asked, “What was the best part of your day?”

His answer was, “Dancing.”

And there you have it folks, a prescription for a happy life – love and dancing.

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Be the difference today.

USE TO BEES

“He who is of a calm and happy nature will hardly feel the pressure of age,

but to him who is of an opposite disposition, youth and age are equally a burden.

Plato, philosopher

On more than one occasion I’ve heard the motivational speaker Les Brown say, “Used to bees don’t make honey.”

What’s he talking about? Here’s the way I see it.

I don’t mind swapping stories about the good old days. You may have been a star athlete in high school or a beauty queen. Congratulations. I applaud you. But what I really want to know is what you’re up to now, especially since I’m what folks like to call a senior citizen. For example, last summer I met a lady who was running in her first 5k road race. What made her unique on that day was that she was in her early seventies. And after putting in a lot of years as a smoker, threw away the cigarettes and bought a pair of running shoes. Huffing and puffing on the running trail instead of coughing in a haze of smoke was her new passion.

And that brings us to an interesting question.

Why did the chicken cross the road?

No, it was not as most folks believe, to get to the other side.

It was to get away from Colonel Sanders.

Let me tell you about him. He was an American businessman who started the restaurant chain, Kentucky Fried Chicken. But before that he did several other things including work as a steam engine stoker, insurance salesman, and filling station operator. At the age of 65, he decided to start catching chickens. And what he did next was develop a secret recipe recipe for cooking them in a pressure fryer.

Next he started to market his recipe to restaurants. When all was said and done, the Colonel left this life for the next at age 90. At that time there were over 6,000 Kentucky Fried Chicken Restaurants in 48 countries. And they were earning over two billion dollars a year.

Do you have any ideas for a recipe? Hurry. We’re all getting hungry.

Have you ever been bitten by the acting bug?

Robert DeNiro, Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman, Julie Andrews, Barbra Streisand, Judi Dench and a whole bunch of other folks who have counted more than seventy candles on their birthday cake still enjoy making movies. Maybe you should seek out some acting lessons and locate a local theatre troop.

Here’s another idea for your next career, stand up comedy. Funnyman George Burns said, “You can’t help getting older but you don’t have to get old.”  

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Trying to hang on to youth, trying to hang on to what was really great twenty years ago, throws you totally off.

You’ve got to go with it and seek the abundance that’s in the new thing.

If you hang on to the old thing, you will not experience the new.”

Joseph Campbell. scholar

THERE’S A LOT OF THIS GOING AROUND

A man ninety years old was asked to what he attributed his longevity.

“I reckon,” he said, with a twinkle in his eye,

“It’s because most nights I went to bed and slept when I should have stayed up and worried.”

Dorothea Kent, writer

Like a lot folks I know, I own a rocking chair. Here’s how it works. Two pieces of curved wood attached to the bottom of a chair. Give yourself a gentle push and you’re in business. I use my rocking chair to sit and read, gaze out the window, and sometimes meditate. Along with a whole bunch of other things; swim fins, bifocal glasses, the lightning rod, political cartoons, the first library in America, the concept of a volunteer fire department, Benjamin Franklin is sometimes given credit for inventing the rocking chair. But no one seems to know for sure who came up with this idea.

Humor writer Erma Bombeck made this discovery, “Worry is like a rocking chair, it keeps you busy but you don’t get anywhere.”

Worry – “allowing one’s mind to dwell on difficulty or trouble.” It seems to me there’s a lot of this going around. Why? I’m not sure. The words “Fear Not” appear 365 times in the Bible. That’s a bit of advice for every day of the year.

October 11, 1984 – the world was celebrating the 100th birthday of humanitarian and former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt. On that same day I was celebrating my 33th birthday. And I enjoyed seeing a traveling exhibit displaying some of Eleanor’s awards, letters, and personal items that was making its way across the country. My last birthday cake had 70 candles on it. And this is what Mrs. Roosevelt had to say when she turned 70, “At seventy, I would say the advantage is that you take life more calmly. You have that ‘this, too, shall pass!’

Humorist Mark Twain made this observation, “I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened. And here’s some advice from Mother Goose.

“For every evil under the sun,

There is a remedy or there is none.

If there is one, try to find it,

If there is none, never mind it.”

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Worry doesn’t change a thing. In fact, it’s a waste of time. As a wise man said, “Worry is a misuse of the imagination.” I’m a marathon runner. I have good shoes, practice yoga, lift weights, and put in the roadwork. Now on race day it’s time to enjoy the sites and sounds of the course and crowd. Worry won’t help my finish time. I’ll focus on the fun.

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“I don’t know whether my life has been a success or a failure.

 But not having any anxiety about becoming one instead of the other,

 and just taking things as they came along, I’ve had a lot of extra time to enjoy life.”

Harpo Marx, comedian

YOUR ATTITUDE HAS THE WHEEL

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet.

 Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened,

 vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved.”

Helen Keller, author and disability advocate

Visit any pharmacy and you’ll find hundreds of bottles of medication all created to ease your pain and suffering. But there is one prescription missing from that shelf that you should be taking. You’ll find instructions for it in the Bible. “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine; but a broken spirit drieth the bones.” Proverbs 17:22

The world famous silent film comic Charlie Chaplin said, “A day without laughter is a day wasted. Yes, I know. Everything that happens is not funny. But sooner or later, if you’re going to survive, you have to get in touch with your funny bone. Let’s have another look at the Bible. Psalm 30:5 says “Weeping may endure for a night but joy cometh in the morning.”

Political journalist Norman Cousins explained in his best selling book, Anatomy of an Illness, how laughter helped save him from a painful tissue disease. He became unhappy with the hospital food and the way the doctors were treating him. Deciding to take matters into his own hands, he checked himself out of the hospital and into a hotel room. He began watching hour after hour of comedy films and television shows.

Doctors gave him a 1 in 500 chance of recovery. With his own prescription of laughter therapy he began to improve his condition. And in time outlived his doctors dismal predictions by 26 years.

When it comes to what direction your life’s journey takes remember, your attitude has the wheel.

With that in mind, listen to the wisdom of doctor and running champion George Sheehan who wrote “Disease, then, is one of those bad experiences that turns information into knowledge and knowledge into wisdom. The bad experiences that make you love yourself and your body and the world. And make you know that you are in a game that has to have a happy ending.”  

When I became a marathon runner in the mid eighties, one of the first books I read on the subject was, Running and Being, by Dr. Sheehan. He talked about the final miles of a race he was in. The streets were lined with spectators cheering and shouting words of encouragement. As he passed one young boy, he heard him say, “Smile and it won’t hurt as much.”

That, seems to me, is good advice no matter what your injury or struggle may be. In fact, the people whose job it is to study smiles report at the very least it takes 10 muscles to smile and only 6 to frown.

So for a better workout, start by smiling.

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“Common sense and a sense of humor are the same thing moving at different speeds.

A sense of humor is just common sense dancing.”

William James, psychologist and philosopher

The Chicken and The Frog

“You may be disappointed if you fail, but you are doomed if you don’t try.”

Beverly Sills, opera singer

Not long ago my wife decided she wanted to raise chickens in our back yard. She asked me to go to the library and get some books on the subject.

“That’s a waste of time,” I said. “Chickens can’t read.”

To make a long story short, my wife is now feeding the chickens and I spend my evenings reading to them.

If I asked you why did the chicken cross the road and you said to get to the other side you would be correct. But not many people know what the chicken did when he got there. I heard he was on his way to the library. Yes, I said the library. He walked in, approached the librarian and said, “BOOK, BOOK.”

To say the least the librarian thought it was a little strange for a chicken to be in a library in the first place. What was he up to? So when the chicken checked out a book and left, the librarian followed him.

The chicken crossed the road again and headed out of town. When he got to the park where there was a pond, he sat the book down in front of a frog. The frog looked at the book then turned to the chicken and said, “READ IT, READ IT.”

I heard from a reliable source that the book the chicken had checked out of the library was, Running in Faith (Devotions for Runners) published by Guideposts Books.

The moral of the story is, if a chicken and a frog can train for a marathon, you and I can too. And chances are if we follow the training plan, get inspired from the stories in the book, and trust in God, we won’t CROAK.

So tomorrow, when you hear the rooster sound off, HOP out of bed and get started. If you don’t have a rooster, set your alarm CLUCK one hour early. No excuses. Get EGG-SIDED! Don’t CHICKEN OUT.

Super successful businessman Arnold H. Glasow said, “The key to everything is patience. You get the chicken by hatching the egg, not by smashing it.

My best bet is the chicken and the frog will start out training for a 5k and once they have a CACKLING good time with that race, progress to a 10K, then a half marathon before HOPPING to the starting line of a marathon.

Helen Keller liked to say, “Life is either a daring adventure or it’s nothing.”

I’m more than certain the happiest frogs and chickens are those who every now and then leave the lily pad and fly the coup for a new adventure.  

So lace up your running shoes, have some fun, and cross the road. And if you happen to see a chicken and a frog running beside you in your next race be sure and say hello.

Jerry Snider

Lancaster, Ohio

My coach is an animal

“A good coach can change a game.

A great coach can change a life.”

John Wooden, legendary basketball coach

Once upon a time I had a dog who liked to chase cars. When he finally caught one, it took him two and a half weeks to bury it in the back yard.

Rim Shot!

But seriously, folks. Dogs have a lot of talent. They help hunters find their prey, offer special aid to folks with disabilities and when necessary bite the unwelcome intruder. The comic Groucho Marx made this observation, “Outside of a dog, man’s best friend is a book. Inside a dog it’s too dark to read.”

Believe it or not the study of dogs can offer a marathon runner like me some valuable training advice. For example, have you ever heard the expression, “Every dog has his day.” It means everyone will have good luck at some point in their lives. Well that’s good news but here’s the catch when it comes to running. You have to train. That’s the secret to having a lucky day. Golfer Gary Player said it best, “The harder you work the luckier you get.” So get a training plan, get a coach, get some shoes, and get busy.

And about those shoes I just mentioned. I found this proverb from across the sea in Portugal. “If you don’t have a dog, you hunt with a cat.” It means do the best you can with what you have. Abebe Bikila from Ethiopia won the Olympic Marathon in 1960 and again in 1964. And guess what. He ran barefoot. That’s right, no shoes. Bob Weiland, who lost both his legs while serving as a medic in Vietnam, has run marathons and triathlons using just his hands to swing himself across the finish line. So if the dog ate your running shoes, so what. You can still run.

One of the most important qualities for a runner is tenacity, the ability to just plain hang in there when the going gets tough. Dogs can help a runner understand how important this is. Mark Twain said, “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight that matters, it’s the size of the fight in the dog that does.” And there is a Japanese proverb that goes like this, “The dog that wags its tail won’t be beaten.”    

I heard a story about a blind man who walked into a store and picked up his seeing eye dog by the tail. He spun the dog around his head several times.

A store clerk said to him, “May I help you?”

The blind man said, “No thank you. I’m just looking around.”

Out there on the running trail, look around, smile, and say hello to everyone you meet. In dog language that means, “Bark Less, Wag More.” I’ve gotta go now.

I’m dog tired.

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“Lots of people talk to animals…not very many listen, though….that’s the problem.”

Benjamin Hoff, author

Inventory on Route 33

“I never went to bed in my life and I never ate a meal in my life without saying a prayer. I know my prayers have been answered thousands of times, and I know that I never said a prayer in my life without something good coming of it.”

Jack Dempsey, Heavyweight Boxing Champion 1919-1926

“Why is the car slowing down?” I asked myself. My foot is still on the gas pedal.

The car itself answered my question a moment later. It said,”Clink, clack, and clunk” before coasting to a stop.

Then the car quit speaking to me altogether. The battery was dead and wouldn’t even make a squeak when I turned the key.

I was thirty miles from home on a stretch of highway that had no lights. The AAA answered my call and said they could rescue me in about two hours. Now what? The sky was pitch black with a small sprinkling of stars. I started considering the possibilities I had for passing the time. If I got out of the car I could end up a meal for a wild coyote or worse yet the infamous Bogeyman that grown ups had been warning me about might seize this opportunity to take me prisoner. After a quick phone call to my wife, I decided the best use of my time would be to stay in the car and count my blessings.  

Four years ago I had accepted a job as an educational assistant in the city school system where I lived. It had been advertised as an ideal job for a senior citizen like me. Pick the days you wanted to work, pick the school you wanted to work at. It sounded like fun and I had a vision that I was going to sit in a corner with a young child and help him or her learn how to spell cat. Boy, did I get that one wrong.

From the get go I was working with special needs children. Thank God I had some great teachers supervising and feeding me encouragement. It was the most challenging adventure of my life. And you’re talking to someone who was in the marines and married to a redhead. The bottom line is it became very hard to complain about anything after spending the day with children who were blind, sitting in a wheel chair, autistic, emotionally damaged or abused.

So I passed some time gazing at the stars and saying the names of the kids I had worked with. Comparing the struggles these children and their parents face everyday made a broken down car seem like something to rejoice about. If that was the worse part of my day, so what. The car could be repaired and I was unhurt.

Beginning with food, clothes, shelter, alive, living in the USA with a great wife, family and friends – it doesn’t take me long to realize counting my blessings is the most important math I will ever do.  

A IS FOR APPLE

“Anyone can count the seeds in an apple, but only God can count the number of apples in a seed.”

Robert H. Schuller, minister

“Please peel me an apple, Grandma.”

More than the taste of a juicy apple, as a child I was fascinated with the way my Grandmother would peel an apple for me. Slowly and carefully twisting the paring knife, making a long spiraling rope out of the peel. Most of the time what followed this ritual was the adage, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” A quote, I later learned, that came from Benjamin Franklin.

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“The Big Apple” is a nick name for New York City. How it got that name goes back to the 1920s. A sports writer named John J. Fitzgerald started using the phrase to point out the prizes, or as he called them, “The Big Apples” won at the racetracks. But it wasn’t until 1971 that New York City officially made “The Big Apple” it’s nickname. “The Big Apple” is home to the largest marathon race in the world. It hosts over 50,000 runners, just a few more than the 127 that ran back in 1970 when the race started. Two million people line the streets to watch the race with runners from 140 countries. The best news is the athletes participating help raise 45 million dollars for charity.

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Lucy Larcom, a teacher and poet, had some interesting thoughts about apples. She said, “If an apple blossom or a ripe apple could tell it’s own story, it would be still be more than its own, the story of the sunshine that smiled upon it, of the winds that whispered to it, of the birds that sang around it, of the storms that visited it, and the motherly tree that held it and fed it until its petals were unfolded and its form developed.” 

What Lucy is saying here about apples reminds me of how many people it takes to get me and you across the finish line of a marathon race.

Let’s start with your feet. To run your best, you’re going to need a good pair of shoes. Someone had to make those shoes. Someone else had to supply that person with the materials they are made of. Next those shoes had to be shipped to the store so a friendly clerk could help you get a good fit. Don’t forget socks. And you’re going to need running shorts, a shirt, jacket and hat. Someone had to make and ship those to the store as well.

Most likely you have a coach with a running plan. It’s always fun to run with a buddy or two. 

How about all the friends, family, and spectators cheering you on. Someone had to organize the race.

Volunteers had to keep you supplied with water. Just like that apple Lucy is talking about, there are a lot of people to thank for your success. 

Think Like A Mosquito

“Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet.

Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes the universe exist.  Be curious.

And however difficult life may seem there is always something you can do and succeed.”

Stephen Hawking, theoretical physicist

Once upon a time I heard a motivational speaker ask his audience if anyone had ever been bitten by an elephant.

No hands went up.

Next he ask if anyone had ever been bitten by a mosquito.

Everyone raised their hand.

The point he was making is little things make a big difference.

For example, it only takes a few seconds to double knot the laces on your running shoes before a race. This could mean the difference between first place, second place or even an ugly stumble on the road.

And how about those magic words, please and thank you. These are little things that never go out of style. So be kind to the bank teller, the supermarket cashier, the clerk at the dry cleaner and all folks at all stops in between. This little gesture will make it a better day for you and them.

How about a smile? Long ago someone gave me this advice, “If you see someone without a smile, give them one of yours.” Once again, a little thing that can make a big difference in your life as well as the person you’re smiling at.

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Over the years I’ve enjoyed several classes in comedy writing. I think the most helpful advice I received was, “Be a little bit interested in everything.” And when exploring something for the first time ask. “What’s funny about this?”

I’m not a fan of major sports like football, basketball, or baseball but I do from time to time enjoy reading a biography of a star player and learning something from their climb to the top. And with a great sense of patriotism, I’ll watch the Army Navy Football game.

There is something special about a little thing called curiosity. And you just never know when this little thing can lead you to something big. Walt Disney, creator of Micky Mouse, said, “We keep moving forward, doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”

Here are a few suggestions for exercising your curiosity muscles this week.

Take a different route to work.

Listen to a different radio station.

Try a different topping on your pizza.

Seek out a new restaurant.

Wear your underwear on the outside of your pants. This is sure to be a conversation starter with strangers.

Shop at a different grocery store.

If you’ve never taken dance lessons, sign up for one.

Visit a music store, buy an instrument, and learn how to play it.

Have some fun.

Expand your horizons.

I agree with Albert Einstein who said, “The mind that opens to a new idea never returns to its original size.”