DID HE REALLY SAY THAT?

“Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions.

Small people always do that,

but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.”

 Mark Twain, writer

 

June 6, 1992

South Bend, Indiana

I’m grinding my way through a marathon race – 26.2 miles.

Slowing down for a water stop another runner accidentally bumps into me.

He apologizes and I give him a thumbs up.

“My coach doesn’t think I can finish this race, he offers.”

As we pick up the pace I ask, “Did he really say that?”

“Yes.”

“Then he has no business being your coach. Run with me,” I told him.

I have been an avid runner for six years. I feel qualified to offer some advice. I’m 40 years old, supposed to be growing wiser with each passing birthday. My new running partner is a high school athlete running in his first marathon. Our adventure together has begun at mile 18.

“Did your coach ever run a marathon?” I asked.

“No, he never did,” my new friend answered.

“Then forget about him and listen to me,” I said.

We kept running strong and steady.

“Have you ever been stung by a bee,” I asked.

“Yes,” he answered.

“Pay attention now,” I continued. “If a group of engineers were looking at a blue print of a bee, they would say it couldn’t fly. It’s body is too big and it’s wings are too small. But here’s the important news.

No one bothered to tell the bee it couldn’t fly so it flies anyway – because it BEE – LIEVES it can. It doesn’t matter what your coach or a hundred other people say. The only voice you need to listen to is your own.”

We completed another two miles before I decided to ask another question.

“Do you know what the fastest healing part of your body is?”

There was a long pause.

“The part of your body that heals the fastest is your tongue – and it’s also the part that can do the most damage in the first place. What you say to yourself or what you believe that others say to you.”

We slowed down to take in some water and an energy gel.

“Be sure your coach gets a good look at your finishers medal,” I said.

Only a mile to go.

“Now give it all you’ve got,” I said.

The young man must have heard me. He took off like a rocket. I didn’t think I would see him again. To my great surprise, he was waiting for me at the finish line. Wearing his medal and a big smile, he reached out to shake my hand.

Now, 25 years later, I’m still running marathons. I think about him now and then. Does he still have that medal?  Does he remember me?  Does he still follow my advice? I hope so.

“Left foot, right foot, a whole bunch of times, I think I can, I think I can…”

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STEWING IS WORSE THAN DOING

“If you have to eat a big ugly frog, you don’t want to look at it too long.”

Bubba Brown

 

A little boy spent most of the day walking around the block where he lived. Finally one of his neighbors asked him what he was doing.

“I’m running away from home,” the little boy said.

“How can you run away if you stay on the same block?” the neighbor asked.

The little boy answered, “I’m not allowed to cross the street.”

At times running away seems like a pretty good idea. I tried it a couple of times but I didn’t get very far. The truth is no matter where you go, there you are. Running away from a problem does not solve it.

Win, lose, or draw the best thing to do is stand up to whatever is in the way and take action.

On the subject of action, Winston Churchill had this to say, “I like things to happen; and if they don’t happen, I like to make them happen.”

Theodore Roosevelt said, “Get action. Do things; be sane; don’t fritter away your time; create, act, take a place wherever you are and be somebody; get action.”

Rocky Blier played football for the champion Pittsburgh Steelers. He was joyfully living his dream until he was drafted into the army and sent to Vietnam. An enemy grenade ripped off part of his foot.

Doctors told him he would never walk or run normally. They also told him his football career was over.

Rocky told the doctors they were wrong. He would walk and he would run. And if his football career was over, he preferred to find out on the playing field.

Rocky got back in shape. He learned to walk and run with what was left of his foot. He came back and once again played championship football for the Steelers. Rocky knew the difference between stewing and doing. He took action. Suppose it turned out that he couldn’t play football. In my opinion he would still be a winner because he had the courage to try.

It may not be a grenade blowing your foot off but sooner or later, life is going to clobber you. That’s for sure. So get clobbered chasing your dream. Every piece of you is going to be glad you tried.

Referring to matters of the heart Tennyson wrote, “It is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”

Theodore Roosevelt got it right. He said, “Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failures, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.”

 

STOP STEWING AND START DOING!

 

“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”

2 Timothy 1:7

 

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ONE STEP AT A TIME

“Some people walk in the rain, others just get wet.”

Roger Miller, singer and songwriter

 

I’ve been running since 1986.

No.

I’m not running from the law or a bill collector.

I began running as therapy for depression. I’m feeling better, thank you, but I’m still running.

I’ve run in so many kinds of weather that I’m more than qualified to work for the post office delivering mail. Today, I ran three miles in the rain. It felt great. A warm spring day, no chill in the air. I laughed and splashed my way down the road.

Funny thing about rain…

Sometimes it drizzles.

Sometimes it comes down in sheets.

Sometimes it comes down in buckets.

Sometimes it sprinkles.

Sometimes it rains cats and dogs.

Funny thing about trouble, it’s a lot like rain.

Sometimes it drizzles.

Sometimes it comes down in sheets.

Sometimes it comes down in buckets.

Sometimes it sprinkles.

Every now and then Snoopy, from the comic strip, Peanuts, can be found sitting on top of his doghouse, hammering away on a typewriter. His stories often begin with, “It was a dark and stormy night.” I think Snoopy had me in mind because 1986 was a dark and stormy time in my life. Sometimes it seemed the night and the rain would never end. I began treatment for depression. The doctor prescribed medication and suggested I begin running everyday.

At a track near my home, I began running quarter-mile laps. For a long time it was the best part of my day. I was getting pretty good at running in circles when I saw a notice in the paper for a 10K race.

I wasn’t sure how far 10K was but I signed up. It turned out to be 6.2 miles and I finished in good shape.

My confidence was building. I signed up for a 10-mile race and finished it too. Now, looming on the horizon was The Columbus Marathon, a 26.2 mile race. At the time I wasn’t even sure the car I had could be driven 26 miles. It seemed a long way to run. Still, I had nothing to lose. A few months later I became part of a 6,000 runner stampede thundering through the streets of Columbus.

How do you run 26.2 miles?

One step at a time…left foot, right foot, a whole bunch of times.

That’s what I did.

I was tired. I was cold. I was sore.

Did I want to quit?

Yes.

Did I quit?

No.

As the Japanese say, “The dog that wags it’s tail won’t be beaten.”

I finished that marathon race and so far 40 more just like it.

You have to run life the same way.

One step at a time, one day at a time, and no matter what keep wagging your tail. There will one day be a rainbow.

 

“In God have I put my trust: I will not be afraid…”

Psalm 56:11

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CARTWHEELS AND MUD PIES

“There are no seven wonders of the world in the eyes of a child. There are seven million.”

Walt Streightiff, author

 

Not long ago on my way home from work I stopped at the grocery store. I was hungry and I was in a hurry. I grabbed a shopping cart and began zooming up one aisle and down the next, tossing what I needed into the basket. As I rounded the corner, heading for the oatmeal, just a few feet ahead of me was a young girl and her mother. While the mother was flipping through some coupons, the little girl began doing cartwheels down the isle.

The mother looked up long enough to say, “Stop it. Act your age.”

It seemed to me the little girl was acting her age. Perhaps the grocery store is not the ideal place to be doing cartwheels, but then again, maybe it is. Maybe we would all be better adults if we learned to be better children. In the middle of our worry and hurry just suppose we stopped long enough to do a few cartwheels or something else just as silly.

When was the last time you made a mud pie? When was the last time you played with a Yo Yo?

When was the last time you flew a kite?

I agree with Robert Ingersoll who wrote, “The time to be happy is now, the place to be happy is here.”

Have you ever noticed that wherever children are they can find a way to have fun? What are we grown ups waiting for? True, there is plenty of trouble in the world, but there is also a million ways to have fun. Don’t postpone joy.

Once upon a time a little old lady was driving her car down the road. On the seat beside her was a pig. A Highway Patrolman stopped her for speeding. While the officer was writing out the ticket, the little old lady explained that she found the pig walking down the road and didn’t know what to do with it. The officer told her to take the pig to the zoo.

The very next day the very same little old lady was driving down the very same road with the very same pig still on the very same seat beside her. Once again the very same Highway Patrolman stopped her for speeding. When he saw the pig beside her he said, “I thought I told you to take that pig to the zoo.”

The little old lady smiled then said to the officer, “I did take the pig to the zoo and he had such a great time that today, after lunch, I’m going to take him to the circus.”

Today, be childlike and have some fun. Go to the zoo. Go to the circus. And if you don’t have someone to go with, take a pig.

 

“A merry heart doeth good like a medicine.”

Proverbs 17:22

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AND IN THIS CORNER…

“When life gets tough put on your boxing gloves.”

Anonymous

On a recent trip to the library, I checked out a book on the history of boxing. Loaded with pictures and stories about all the champions and top contenders since the sport began, I only found one flaw with it. For some unexplained reason, they left out the highlights of my short and painful career in the ring.

Summer, 1968

In a program called “Box-O-Rama” kids living in Central Ohio were invited to train several days a week all summer long in preparation for the first Ohio State Fair Boxing Tournament. Hoping to move up a rung on the ladder to manhood, I signed up.  In my dreams, I was already hearing serious boxing fans compare me with Ali, Louis, Dempsey, and Marciano.

That summer I learned how to skip rope. Using a jab, right cross, and left hook I beat up a punching bag. When I shadow boxed, the shadow lost every time. I was having fun until the coach decided I should fight a real person. The kid I was supposed to fight must have had a genetic disorder that made him grow faster than usual. He got bigger every time I looked at him. And in case you’re not good with basic math, let me help you. The first time in a boxing ring, three minutes is equal to eternity. He hit me hard. He hit me often. He hit me everywhere but the bottom of my feet. I hit him too. Just not as hard.

Just not as often.

When it was over I was seeing stars. In fact, I was seeing planets, space ships, and a cow jumping over the moon. The only thing keeping my head from crumbling into a million pieces was the headgear I had on. I was afraid to unbuckle it and wondered if anyone would notice it if I wore it home. I’m not sure what my face looked like. I only hoped my mother would recognize me.  In addition to my lumps and bumps something else was swelling, my pride.

I stayed with the program the rest of the summer and won my first fight in the tournament. My part in the competition ended when I lost the second fight by split decision.

*          *          *

Next Stop, Philadelphia.

Like most people I know, play the tune, Gonna Fly Now, from the movie “Rocky” and I’m ready to run a little faster and jump a little higher. People from all over the world make their way up the 72 steps in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art just like Rocky, the determined boxer, did in the movie.

When they get to the top, they raise their arms in triumph.

“I believe there’s an inner power that makes winners or losers.

And the winners are the ones who really listen to the truth of their hearts.”

Rocky Balboa

Are you listening?

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MOVIE STAR TALKING BRASS

“Smile, it gives your face something to do between catastrophes.”

Kermit the Frog

Summer, 1970

San Diego, California

I’m about to star in my first movie. The other stars are Darren McGavin, Earl Holliman, and Jan – Michael Vincent. The movie is called TRIBES and you can watch it on YouTube. It’s about a hippie who gets drafted into the Marines during the Vietnam War.

When you sit down to watch the film, look closely at the Marines marching in the background, running the obstacle course, and practicing hand to hand combat. That’s me, part of Platoon 1079. And we are being led by a grizzly bear?

The grizzly bear’s name was Gunnery Sergeant Newman.

He was in charge of my training at The Marine Corps Recruit Depot. That’s where I met him two weeks after I graduated from high school.  He had some other bears working with him, Sergeant Trala and Sergeant Richards. I was terrified of these people. They have hair trigger tempers. They enjoy creating hell on earth for new recruits.

The good news is the movie was a hit and I survived boot camp –  one of those, “I’m glad I went but I wouldn’t want to do it again experiences.”

Among the skills Sergeant Newman shared that summer was a concept called BRASS.

Breathe

Relax

Aim

Slack

Squeeze

Newman was talking about shooting a rifle. I’m talking about using BRASS when life takes a shot at  you. Suppose a problem, setback, or tragedy just scored a bull’s eye on the seat of your pants. Now what?

BREATHE

A friend told me new medication and anxiety had created chest pains and difficulty in breathing.

While lying on the floor, her cat climbed on her chest. Soon my friend’s breathing was in sync with the calm steady rhythm of the cat’s. Panic disappeared. Composure returned.

RELAX

Take a mini vacation in your imagination. Think about a good time you had a while back. Think about a day on a tropical beach. Think about someone special. Sit down. Lie down. Take a nap.

AIM

If you aim for nothing, you’re sure to get nothing. Trouble never leaves you where it finds you. Time for an attitude check. Where do you want to go from here? As a wise man said, “Shoot for the moon, even if you miss you’ll land among the stars.

SLACK

With a rifle, slack is the little bit of play you feel as you begin to squeeze the trigger. In life, slack is the little gap between what you are doing and what is still to be tried. Do what you can, now.

SQUEEZE

You are not supposed to pull the trigger. You are supposed to squeeze the trigger. Easy does it. Do your best and leave the rest to God. Squeeze out a smile. Move on.

Breathe

Relax

Aim

Slack

Squeeze

“Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”

Matthew 6:27

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HOPE ON THE LINE

“Did you ever get the feeling the whole world is a tuxedo and you’re a pair of brown shoes.” George Gobel, comedian

“Hardships often prepare people for an extraordinary destiny.” C. S. Lewis, author

Alexander the Great, Mozart, Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill are members of an association I belong to. If you wish, you can join too. The only requirement is to be depressed. I’m not talking about, “The toast got burned and the ball game was rained out.” I’m talking about an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness and sometimes suicidal tendencies.

“How do you feel?” the doctor asked.

I feel like a “Hollow Rabbit” was my response.

At Easter, along with jelly beans, marshmallow chickens and candy eggs, you can buy a mix of chocolate molded into the likeness of a rabbit. Bite into one of these bunnies and you’re likely to discover it’s hollow. That was me. I was empty. Why? I couldn’t tell you. I had a truckload of things to be thankful for. With food, clothes, shelter, living in the USA with a job, friends and opportunity, I was still unable to shake off the feeling of doom.

Rambling down the highway one night, the radio scanner in my truck landed on a talk radio call in how. I heard the host of the program announce that it was time to take some more calls from listeners.

“Let’s go to line one,” he said, “and talk to Hope.”

“Hello, Hope.”

“Are you there, Hope.”

You could hear him punching away at the controls, trying to find the caller named Hope.

“Where are you, Hope?”

Now you could hear the frustration in his voice.

“I need help finding hope,” he said to what I guess was a technician in the studio.

There were a few more clicks, a soft crackle, then the weary radio host announced, ‘Finally, we have Hope on the line.”

The first time I hit rock bottom with depression was 1986. Like that man on the radio, I needed help finding hope. The search took almost a year. With counseling, exercise, medication, and prayer I recovered. Hope for me, was on the line.

I would enjoy telling you that was my only battle with this malady. If I did tell you that, I would be lying. Depression has sunk its ugly fangs into my butt several more times. These bouts, thankfully were not as severe and did not last as long.

Take a look at the word “Depression” The late Dr. Norman Vincent Peale suggested knocking off the letters “D, E, and I” What remains are the words “Press On.” From my experience, let me tell you how to knock those letters out of the picture.

D – see a DOCTOR. You may need medication.

E – get some EXERCISE. You need to shake up the body’s natural antidepressants, endorphins.

I – Get some INSIGHT. See a counselor. Seek peace through prayer.

“By his light I walked through darkness.”

Job 29:33

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BE KIND

“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.”

C.S. Lewis, author

I like to eat.

Some times I like to eat a lot.

That’s why I look forward to grocery shopping.

And it was while waiting in the checkout line with my food in the basket that I met a man who would change my life.

He was a well dressed elderly gentleman, clean, and well-groomed. But his attitude was in need of an adjustment.

“I hate coming to the grocery store,” he told the cashier.

He was loud enough to get the attention of the other customers and staff several isles in each direction.

“I hate coming to the grocery store,” he repeated even louder.

The cashier stopped working for a moment to make eye contact with the man. Then, choosing not to respond, began ringing up his groceries.

The old man continued, “I go to the bank once a week and the grocery once a week and I hate it.”

I hoped his attitude wasn’t contagious because I certainly didn’t want to catch whatever disease he had. He paid for his groceries, shoving money at the cashier, then he took off with his basket like a bull charging the matador, leaving the rest of us shaking our heads in disbelief.

I was already in the habit of being nice to people, especially the folks working in checkout lines. But this guy made me want to try a little harder. At the end of the work day, I want the cashier at the store and the teller at the bank to be glad they waited on me.

True, I don’t know anything about that old man in the checkout line except the way I saw him act.

But as a wise man pointed out, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” Maybe the rest of his life was a mess but there are counselors and ministers standing by to help him sort out his issues. Cashiers are there to take your money, not your bad karma.

So the old man got me thinking. I had to set some new goals. Not far from the grocery store, people were lining up at a food pantry. They didn’t have the privilege of cruising up and down the isles, choosing what would be for breakfast and dinner.

GOAL NUMBER ONE: Already in the habit of counting my blessings, I would count them more often and with greater enthusiasm.

GOAL NUMBER TWO: I like it when people are kind to me. So I’m going to double my efforts to be kind, even to that old man in the checkout line.

“If you go to work on your goals, your goals will go to work on you.

If you go to work on your plan, your plan will go to work on you.

Whatever good things we build end up building us.”

Jim Rohn, author

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BEFORE THE TROUBLE STARTS

“The real man smiles in trouble, gathers strength from distress, and grows brave by reflection.”

Thomas Paine, political activist and philosopher

 

Once upon a time a man walked into a restaurant and sat down. He said to the waitress, “Let me have a cup of coffee before the trouble starts.”

The waitress brought the man a cup of coffee.

“Will there be anything else?” the waitress asked.

“Yes,” said the man. “Please bring me a cheeseburger before the trouble starts.”

The waitress brought the man a cheeseburger and like before asked, “Will there be anything else?”

The man answered, “Yes, I’d like you to bring me a piece of pumpkin pie before the trouble starts.”

The waitress brought the man a piece of pumpkin pie. Once again she asked, “Will there be anything else?”

The man answered, “No.”

The waitress said to the man, “Do you mind if I ask you something?”

The man said, “No, go right ahead.”

The waitress said, “Every time you order something you say, ‘Before the trouble starts.’ Now what trouble are you talking about? What trouble is going to start?”

The man finished eating his cheeseburger and pie, then slurped down his coffee and wiped his chin.

“The trouble starts,” he said, “when you find out I don’t have any money to pay for this.”

Webster’s Dictionary defines trouble as “…a state or condition of distress, annoyance, or difficulty.”

Here are a few facts about trouble.

First, trouble is a part of life. As long as you are alive on this earth you are going to experience trouble.

Second, trouble does not play fair. It does not care how much money you have in the bank, who you know or where you work. When trouble decides to come looking for you, it will find you.

Third, what you think and do about your trouble will always be more important than the trouble itself.

Mark Twain said, “Drag your thoughts away from your troubles by the ears, by the heels, or any other way you can manage it. It’s the healthiest thing a body can do.”

I heard a story about a snail who knocked on a man’s door. The man opened the door, saw the snail, picked it up and threw it across the yard. Two years later that same snail knocked on the door again.

When the man opened the door, the snail said, “Now what was that all about?”

When people hurt you or trouble kicks you in the pants, “What was that about?” may not be the right question.

Some other questions you may want to consider are:

“What can I learn from this?’

“What is funny about this?”

The Boy Scouts taught me to, “Be Prepared.”

So before the trouble starts, fill your heart and soul with plenty of faith, hope, and courage.

“In this world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”

John 16:33

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HER MIDDLE NAME

“Angels come to visit us and we only know them when they are gone.”

George Elliot, novelist and poet

 

It was the happiest – saddest day I had ever experienced.  A menagerie of stuffed animals stood among countless photographs and neatly arranged flowers.  We were there to mourn the loss of a little girl and to celebrate the gift of her friendship.

Sharleen Zader, age 11, was wearing a new dress with lots of lace and ribbons The first time I saw that dress was a month earlier. She had announced to everyone she was going to wear it to church the first Sunday after she got out of the hospital. Taking it out of the box that day, I found a clear plastic bag to hang it in so she could keep an eye on it from her bed.

My friendship with Sharleen and her family began at The Ronald McDonald House where I did volunteer work.  Sharleen was losing a three-year battle with cancer. Swollen cheeks and the loss of her hair did not take away her smile or conquer her spirit. She was always glad to see me and would often say she was praying for me. Everyone who knew Sharleen had their own special story about her.

One Sunday afternoon I took Sharleen and her mother on a picnic at a park near the hospital. There we met an actress who was rehearsing some lines for a play to be presented in the park theater. After we all said hello, I asked if she would perform something for Sharleen.

In response to my request, she sang a song from the play, West Side Story.

“There’s a place for us…somewhere a place for us…

There’s a time for us…hold my hand and we’re half way there…

Hold my hand and I’ll take you there…”

Until the day of Sharleen’s funeral, I never knew her middle name was Grace.

I had heard about the word  “Grace” many times. It means “Help given man by God.”

I am thankful for the “Grace” of hearing the sweet angelic voice of the actress who helped me understand Sharleen would soon find comfort in the arms of Jesus.

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