“The people with the best advice are usually the ones who have been through the most.”

Frances Theresa Densmore, anthropologist

October 11, 1951

Columbus, Ohio

Harold and Evelyn Snider are celebrating the birth of their third son, Jerry. That’s me.

That same year you could buy gasoline for 20 cents a gallon, a carton of milk for 92 cents and a loaf of bread for 16 cents. Superglue was invented, the United States was fighting in the Korean War, and Harry Truman was the 33rd president of the United States.

Mr. Truman was in charge when the second world war was coming to an end and made the decision to drop the Atomic Bomb on Japan. When running for office his campaign slogan was, “Give ’em Hell, Harry!” As a child, I would sometimes hear the adults around me talking about President Truman and what they liked or didn’t like about him. When I got a bit older, I decided to do some research on Harry Truman. Here are some of his observations and my slant on what they mean.

“The Buck Stops Here.”

The president had a sign on his desk with this quote. He would listen to the people around him and consider their viewpoints. But he fully accepted responsibility for his decisions. You and I may not have created the current situation we find ourselves in. Even so, we are still 100% in charge of our attitude about it and how we respond. Yes, I know life is sometimes unfair and there are plenty of bad guys out there. Your attitude will always be the one thing no one can take away from you. The buck stops with you.

“If You Can’t Stand The Heat Get Out Of The Kitchen.”

Anytime you take a step out of your comfort zone you’re going to have plenty of folks telling you your dream is impossible. They will laugh at your mistakes and be quick to point out the flaws in your plans. Most of the time these people, in a twisted way, are showing their timidity for not pursuing their dreams. Do your best to ignore the critics and go for the gold. Regardless of the outcome, you will always have the satisfaction you gave it your best shot. Stay in the kitchen.

“A pessimist is one who makes difficulties of his opportunities

and an optimist is one who makes opportunities of his difficulties.”

Life is full of detours. The bridge you need to cross suddenly gets washed away in a flood, it rains on your parade, and you miss the bus. Now what? Build a boat, put on a raincoat, hitchhike. You have options. One of them is giving up. And the other is to press on, find a way, believe in yourself. “Give ’em Hell (fill in your name here).

And finally,

“Being too good is apt to be uninteresting.”

Have some fun. Don’t be afraid to laugh. Be kind and enjoy the ride.


The Missing Duck

“Sometimes you just have to lick the stamp and send it.”

Danny Ricciardo, race car driver

Have you ever heard someone announce they have a big goal or dream? And then right after that announcement their next sentence is, “I’ll get started as soon as I get my ducks in a row.”

What are they talking about?

To have your ducks in a row means to be completely prepared. You are totally organized and fully capable of achieving whatever it is you want. Once upon a time I was a Boy Scout. And I fully believe in their motto, “Be Prepared.” But sometimes you’re just not going to be able to get your ducks in a row. And sometimes some of your ducks will be missing.

Then what?

At the New York Marathon last year there were nearly 50,000 runners. This included 50 athletes competing in wheelchairs and another 50 competing with hand cycles. In other words, they didn’t let the fact that some of their ducks were missing stop them from living their dream.

Now let’s turn on the radio. Hey, they’re playing a tune by Stevie Wonder. Stevie has been blind since birth and I like what he has to say about his missing duck. “Just because a man lacks the use of his eyes doesn’t mean he lacks vision.”

Tim Paul is a 64 year old runner who happens to be blind. And he hasn’t let this stop him from running a 26.2 mile marathon over 40 times including 4 trips to The Boston Marathon.

How about a great big shout out to the Special Olympics. Founded over 50 years ago by Eunice Shriver, sister of President Kennedy, the Special Olympics is the world’s largest sports organization for children and adults with intellectual and physical disabilities.  

At this point there is no need for you to check your map. We are in the land of no excuses.

A psychiatrist treating me for depression suggested I try running as part of my therapy. Six months into my new adventure I was one week away from running my first marathon when I read a newspaper story about a man who had just finished The New York Marathon.

November 1986, Bob Wieland set a record for running the slowest marathon race in history. Here is what you need to know about Bob. His legs were blown off by a land mine while serving as a medic in Vietnam. He finished the New York Marathon in 98 hours 48 minutes and 17 seconds. I’ll do the math for you, that’s over four days. He didn’t have a wheelchair or artificial legs. Bob ran the race using his fists to swing himself forward each step of the way.

Can’t find all your ducks? “Sometimes you just have to lick the stamp and send it.”

*            *            *

“I thank God for my handicaps, for through them I have found myself, my work and my God,”

Helen Keller, disability advocate.


“Words are the most powerful thing in the universe…words are containers.

They contain faith or fear, and produce after their kind.”

Charles Capp, author

Have you ever noticed that Alphabet Soup is the only meal you can enjoy while you eat your own words?

Come inside and let’s have a bowl.

No one is certain who came up with the idea of alphabet soup. The best guess seems to be Paris around 1877. Grocery stores there sold small bits of macaroni to put in your soup. And the letters of the alphabet were stamped on the macaroni. Somehow with the help of The Campbell Soup Company and a few other folks along the way alphabet soup made its way to our table.

Author Hubert Selby Jr. said, “There’s sorrow and pain in everyone’s life, but every now and then, there’s a ray of light that melts the loneliness in your heart and brings comfort like soup and a soft bed.”

Let’s see if our bowl of alphabet soup can help us find that ray of light Mr. Selby is talking about.

Well, what ya know. Here’s the letter A. It stands for Attitude. I’ve heard more than one successful person say, “Attitude is everything.” Yum for the letter A.

Now let’s have another spoonful.  

Here we have the letter H. One of my favorite words starts with H, Humor. Mark Twain said, Humor is mankind’s greatest blessing.”

Our next spoonful features the letter M. And that letter stands for Math. The most important math I’ve ever done or will do is counting my blessings.

Pretty good soup so far. What’s next?

It’s the letter B. And it stands for Believe. My birthday is October 11th and among others I share it with famous first lady Eleanor Roosevelt. She said, “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” I agree with her. But first you have to know what your dream is. The poet Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe said, “What ever you can do or dream you can, begin it; boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.”

We only have time for a few more spoonfuls, let’s see what we come up with.

Here is the letter C for Courage. You can’t have too much of that.

Our next letter is E for Enthusiasm. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.”

How about the letter G? That stands for God. A long time ago someone gave me this advice, “Put God in the center and everything will come together.”

This has been fun. Thanks again and come back soon. I have to hurry off now to the grocery store.

They’re having a sale on soup and I don’t want to miss it.

*            *            *

“Words are seeds that do more than blow around.

They land in our hearts and not the ground.

Be careful what you say.

You might have to eat what you planted one day.”



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


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.

*            *            *

     “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


“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.

*            *            *

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.

*            *            *

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.

*            *            *

Be the difference today.


“A bell’s not a bell ’til you ring it, a song’s not a song ’til you sing it, love in your heart wasn’t put there to stay, love isn’t love ’til you give it away!”

Oscar Hammerstein ll, lyricist and theatrical producer

There is a bench next to the parking lot at the public library where I’m a frequent visitor. The bench has been there as long as I can remember. From time to time someone will sit on it, no big deal.

That’s the job of a bench at least the way I understand it. But one day, not long ago, the bench I’m talking about turned into magic.

I left the library having accomplished my mission of reading the latest issue of Runner’s World.

As I was getting into my car, I noticed a tiny white box sitting on the bench. When I picked it up and took the lid off, I found a glass heart along with a note that read, “To the lucky person who finds this know that you are loved, appreciated, and important.”

At home I shared the new found treasure with my wife. After keeping it for a night, I decided to add a note of my own and return the gift to the bench where I found it. My hope is whoever found it next felt the same magic I did, added a note of their own, then returned it to the bench for another person to discover. And if this ritual catches on, very soon the tiny box with a heart and a stack of love notes will find it’s way around the world.

*            *            *

With a little imagination we can all become tiny boxes like the one I found.  As the old adage goes, “Everyone brightens up a room, some by coming in and others by leaving.” You and I clearly have a choice which of these two we want to be. And the good news is it’s not all that complicated to make folks glad they met you. You have a smile, why not use it. And the words please and thank you never go out of style.

Being just a little bit silly can sometimes brighten someone’s day.

Rather than complain to the cashier at the gas station about the price of fuel, I said, “Give me twenty five coconuts on pump number five.” A week later on my next visit I said, “Twenty-five snowballs on number seven, please.” The third time around it was, “Twenty-five Eskimo pies on number two.” And on my last visit I asked for twenty-five pounds of polar bear poop. Now the cashier starts laughing as soon as she sees me.  It’s always good to hear her say,  “Thank you for making my day.” This probably won’t land me in any hall of fame but I bet I’m her favorite customer.

*            *            *

“Love is the flower you’ve got to let grow.”

John Lennon


“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.”  

     *            *            *

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


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.”

*            *            *

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.

*            *            *

“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


“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.

*            *            *

“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