Category Archives: Convictions

I Think We Can All Eat and Drink at the Same Table

“All great change in America begins at the dinner table.”

Ronald Reagan

A good leader can engage in a debate frankly and thoroughly, knowing that at the end he and the other side must be closer, and thus emerge stronger. You don’t have that idea when you are arrogant, superficial, and uninformed. Nelson Mandela

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Recently, I noticed a raccoon wading in the water at our home on Lake Ola in Tangerine, Florida. I grabbed my camera and as I focused in on him, I noticed there was a green heron right next to him. Each of them went about their business in close proximity and seemed to not be bothered by the other’s presence.

Everybody knows that one of the first rules of keeping peace in the family is to not discuss politics and religion at the dinner table. If only two people at the table enjoy a good debate, then everyone else becomes uncomfortable. If only one person is a good debater, then the other will not enjoy the joust. Once a normal person is outflanked by someone who has prepared better or simply understands the topic more thoroughly, the other person has nowhere to go but to dip into his/her emotions. Once you begin to defend your point of view with your emotions, it becomes personal and the wonderful meal that was prepared for you loses it savor.

The best debates, the ones that benefit everyone in the room, are done by people who respect each other and genuinely desire the best for the other side even though they may be as different as a raccoon and a bird. That respect can be built around a dinner table where interests are shared and people begin to know each other better. Each of us has his own story of struggle…of failure and success…of quitting and persevering…of pain and joy…and we see everyone’s life through the lens of our own lives. Once we understand the life of everyone around the table more, we build respect and a desire for their well being. We also begin to feel that those around the table feel the same way about us.

In this environment, you can allow yourself to be vulnerable because you know that the other side wants the best for you. Once those at the table become vulnerable, your discussion about God or politics or any other controversial issue, can be done without any endgame in mind other than the desire to be unified, not in your opinions of the affairs of the world but in your respect for and understanding of each other…and that is the basis for peaceful progress.

So, add an extra chair and welcome those you love and don’t yet love to dinner. If you do it right, you may actually enjoy the meal!

HighFive your Life Principle

The more that we eat and drink at the same dinner table, the better off our families and our world will be…if we follow the golden rule to genuinely attempt to love and respect our neighbors as ourselves.

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Do Good… Feel Good?

“When I do good, I feel good. When I do bad, I feel bad. That’s my religion.”

Abraham Lincoln


I love Ole Abe’s wise quote. Certainly, we all recognize the good feeling that comes when we do good. I wonder how much good we leave on the table however, when it doesn’t feel so good to do good…when, in fact, it feels so bad that it makes us want to stop doing the good?

The other day, I was exercising and noted how good it felt doing it. It was a wonderful feeling. I quickly reflected back to the thought of exercising 40 pounds heavier ago and I remembered that it did not feel so good. It was hard to get started much less keep going even knowing that it was a good thing to do.

Sometimes doing good requires us to forecast or anticipate the good feeling that we will reap later…sometimes years later. Investing in a college fund for your children when you can hardly pay rent, stopping smoking, losing weight, giving a gift or a concession that will most likely never be noticed…these are good feeling wrapped in blisters that turn to callouses as you put in the work with the hope that one day you will see the fruits of your efforts.

But these are the mature and tough good feelings that change us and the world for the better. They are the kind that make men and women of character. The ability to visualize the outcome and hold fast to it despite the lack of immediate gratification will forever be at the core of sound judgement and wisdom.

I guess I do have to agree with Ole Abe…when I do good I feel good…eventually!

HighFive Your Life Principle

If you want to do good, do not expect to always immediately feel good doing it…but in the end, those good feeling that do come will be well worth the wait.

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What Do Bad Thoughts and Roach Legs Have In Common?

When the negative thoughts come – and they will; they come to all of us – it’s not enough to just not dwell on it… You’ve got to replace it with a positive thought.
Joel Osteen

I really enjoy a nice bowl of cereal for breakfast while reading a good book. Since cereal only requires the use of one hand, it is easy to shovel in luscious energy with your head positioned low and just over the bowl, while using the other hand to turn the pages and to keep anyone out who might have wandered inadvertently into the area where this intense and hallowed awesome morning ritual is taking place.

Recently, I prepared a nice bowl of a cereal with raisins. I added extra raisins and a good banana and settled down for a nice relaxing morning session of reading and eating.

About halfway through I noticed out of the corner of my eye, an unusually large clump of raisins in my spoon surrounded by white milk. It was staged close to my mouth hopper waiting for the previous spoonful to adequately clear which only took a moment. I didn’t stop reading or even stop to take a look at it and into my system it went. I noticed as I chewed on it that it did not have the same texture that I came to expect when eating those juicy raisins but that sensation was but a footnote to whatever had my attention in the book.

Sometime later while back at my desk computer, I noticed something lingering in my mouth. It was actually hard to get a hold of but once I pulled it out, I was shocked to find the leg of a roach….yes shocked and grossed out and yukked out and holy cowed out. Yep…my nice clump of juicy raisins was just a nice juicy cockroach. Below is a picture of it.

roachSince I try to discover the good life principles in the bad things that happen, I immediately started thinking about how this experience might have a life application. Besides the immediately clear wisdom of closing the cereal bag tight in between meals and looking at what I am eating, I looked deeper.

A friend of mine recently sent over a link to a church produced video helping parents approach the subject of pornography with their children. The message of how to help our children and grandchildren deal with these bad thoughts is so important. The link is below.

http://media2.ldscdn.org/assets/primary/preparing-children-against-pornography/2015-08-001-what-should-i-do-when-i-see-pornography-1080p-eng.mp4?download=true

Just like the roach in my cereal, we can, with hardly noticing, consume things mentally that are not healthy for us…and once they are in our brain, they seem to linger longer and are harder to remove. We need to be diligent about preventing them from getting in and then steady and strong about getting them out.

A HighFive Your Life principle is to pay attention to what we and our family members consume physically and mentally and to notice when we are chewing on raisins and when we are chewing  roaches.

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Five Reasons Why You Should Attend Your 40th High School Reunion

“The good old days are now.”
Tom Clancy

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There are a variety of reasons why most of us don’t attend high school reunions. Most of them are just excuses that wilt away after the first few minutes of arriving. You soon realize that nobody else remembers names well either and that looking at name tags is only socially awkward for a moment and can be minimized by wearing dark sunglasses. You also realize that the relentless process of aging is a common challenge that nobody avoids. Yes, there are excuses for not attending but there are more compelling (yet sometimes subtle) reasons that make attending your reunions every now and then a must.

After just attending my 40th High School reunion, allow me to suggest five reasons why you should attend yours.

Reason One
These Are Your True Friends

These are the friends that you grew up with…that you probably knew in grade school…that came over for dinner and spent the night at your home. These are friends whose parents you admired, respected and sometimes feared but who you knew really did love you. These are the friends with whom you discovered and did many things for the first time…your first time driving…your first date…your first kiss. You played sports with them and took tests with them. Though you may have not seen them for decades, the memories of your youth are a huge part of what makes you who you are and so your bond with these friends extends beyond the years. It is the basis for true friendship and true kinship. A great reason to go to your reunion is that a few hours of fellowship with each other is all that is needed to remind you that you were lucky to have grown up together. That is worth the effort to be there.

Reason Two
We Are Mortal

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One of the most sobering parts of the reunion was a poster that was painstakingly made with great love and care that showed our classmates who are deceased. On the poster among other classmates, was a beautiful girl who was one of my first heart-throbs, the funniest guy in the class, a fellow football player, a great grade school friend, a guy I had just spoken to recently…it is impossible that these classmates are no longer alive and yet they are gone. This poster will never shrink and will only grow over time. A great reason to go to your reunion is to renew friendships with awesome people there is no promise you will ever see again.

Reason Three
Your Friends Need You and You Need Them

I had a different feeling at the conclusion of the reunion than at the beginning. In the natural process of catching up on everyone’s life you haven’t seen in many years, what should be obvious to all of us began to sink in. Life is tough and each of us goes through trials that challenge us to the very core. There was not enough time at our reunion to share all of our burdens but I became more sensitive to the deeper emotions of our classmates as the hours went by. Underneath the laughter and smiles there was in many cases, sadness and despair. Health challenges..the death of a loved one…a child in trouble. A long drawn out discussion was not needed. Sometimes a longer than normal hug communicated compassion and shared burdens. A kind word…an understanding look…even shared silence lifted spirits. Sitting on a football bleacher a moment of faith was shared with me… sitting on folding chairs moments of empathy between old friends closed the decades of being apart. A great reason to go to your reunion is to make it not about you but about your friends and to be there for them and to share in life’s burdens with them. I was lifted by the strong shoulders of my classmates.

Reason Four
Laughter Is Just Plain Good for Your Soul

You cannot go to a reunion and not spend most of your time laughing. It is impossible. There are just too many sports blunders and school bloopers to keep one from slapping his knees and wrenching his gut. Even though our memories may have faded, there are just too many people with partial recollections to stop the stories from coming. They may not be accurate but they sure are funny….at least to us. I am convinced that there is something therapeutic to remember and laugh. It is good for the soul and is another great reason for going to your reunion.

Reason Five
We Are at the Age When Our Ability to Change the World Is Near It’s Peak

I was so impressed by my classmates that came. We had people from all different vocations and backgrounds. The one thing we had in common was almost 60 years of wisdom. We are at an age and stage in life where some of our best work still lies ahead of us and we are in a position to achieve it. Whether through helping with grand kids or working with charities or as volunteers, we now know the ropes…we know how to get things done. While at the reunion, I heard of dreams and aspirations regarding making this world a better place that reminded me of what is most important. Your 40th reunion will be full of people who care and who have the talent and resources to make the world better. Attending my 40th class reunion reminded me that people are good and that there is great cause for hope in our future.

I am sure there are many more excuses to skip your next reunion than there are reasons to attend….but the reasons  to go are more compelling. May I recommend that you let your hair down (if you have any), relax and unwind. You will have a good time and be a blessing to your friends and they to you if you just go. The good ol days can be now also.

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Old Letters…Forever Thoughts

Doc - Apr 4, 2015, 7-006
My father has been gone for almost ten years. As I was cleaning my desk this morning, I found an old letter he wrote to me when I was home from college, almost 40 years ago. The salutation, “Dear Gary Son”, struck an emotional chord. The first line, “It is nice to have you here”, further melted my emotions. It would be nice to have him here with me today.

This Easter season, I am reminded that the possibility exists that we may see each other again and that he may once again tell me that it is nice to have me with him. Mine is a hope and a faith that calms my soul and enriches my life with purpose. I do not have hope and faith because I seek to be calmed or to have my life enriched with purpose. Instead, those feelings are a direct consequence of the quiet testimony that is in my heart that Jesus did live and that his mission was divine.

I believe that one day I will be able to say, “It is nice to be with you too Dad.”

Old letters…forever thoughts…

Happy Easter!

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Some Messes Are Better Than Others (A Lesson that Washington D.C. Could Learn)

“No matter what message you are about to deliver somewhere, whether it is holding out a hand of friendship, or making clear that you disapprove of something, is the fact that the person sitting  across the table is a human being, so the goal is to always establish common ground.”
Madeleine Albright

 

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Recently my one year old grandson came to visit us in Florida. His mother made a cake for everyone with birthdays in March and, though the cake was delicious, the sweetest part of the evening was watching our grandson discover icing! Without concern for the mess he would leave behind, he just enjoyed his discovery almost as much as we enjoyed watching him discover it!

There is such a thing as a good mess and it is so much more tolerable than a bad mess. When I turn on the news at night it is so disturbing. Can the mass of egos and dogmatic fighting get any messier than what we see in Washington D. C.? Because I know that history has seen many a good man and woman go there to bring reason and common sense back to this country, I can only imagine how difficult it must be to operate in such an environment. Where are the diplomats, where are the servant leaders, where are the peacemakers, where are the grandfathers and grandmothers who know better?

I rode my bike this week listening to my ITunes. When I finished my workout at home and got off my bike there was a song playing that had a great beat. I found myself dancing in my yard. I felt so happy and almost carefree. I looked to see if my wife might be watching but she wasn’t. I would have loved it, if just for 60 seconds, she would have slow danced with me in the yard.

Maybe the good men and women in Washington need to take a breath, let down their hair or toupees and relax. There are pressing and important issues that are nearly impossible to solve, especially if everyone left their common sense and respect for people back in their hometown. If however, we could take the politics out of it and just remember how good it was to be around our friends back when we were young in our old neighborhood before life got so difficult and our opinions got so ingrained…if we could just stand still for a moment and have the grappling hooks of agendas and self righteousness removed from their deep entrenched place in our sagging pectoral muscles…if we could see our adversaries as our friends with just differing opinions…maybe we could have a reasonable discourse that actually solves some of the nearly “impossible to solve” issues facing our country.

I bet that many of our politicians have things in common that they never get to enjoy together because of the tension and partisanship that engulfs Washington. Wouldn’t it be nice if one day during a session of congress they just started playing “Sweet Home Alabama” or “Stairway to Heaven” or maybe had a “bring your grandbaby day”. My guess is if we could get these men and women to back up as far as they had to in order to find common ground, we might be able to access their brilliance in governing in a way that eventually moves us ahead as a country. We need to get them to a spot where they can laugh at themselves when they do a numbskull thing instead of trying to justify or rationalize it. For example, I, without shame, readily admit that it was folly for me to recommend, when I served on my high school student council, that we put cameras in the bathrooms to try and catch those students who were smoking. See…now the whole world can join me at laughing at myself and it didn’t feel so bad.

If we made a mess of things but it was with all of us trying together using common sense and working from common ground, I guarantee that it would be a much more tolerable mess than the one we see the country making now. Remember that whole “Love thine enemies” and “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” thing? That philosophy actually requires people to make significant personal sacrifices. It requires people to be peacemakers. My definition of a peacemaker is somebody who gives all that is required but more than what is fair and expects no compensation for the difference.

Come on grandpas and grandmas that serve in Washington…you know better. Be the first to reach out to your enemy and make them a friend. Save our grand kids. Save our Country. We can’t have our cake and eat it too but we can dip out of the same bowl of icing and have some fun together and make this country shine again.

bennieHighFive Your Life Principle: Grandpas and Grandmas in Washinton D.C. get together and show the world your wisdom and maturity. Dance a jig and share a salad or burger with your adversary and save the world.

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Just say Know!

“Ignorance is the curse of God; knowledge is the wing wherewith we fly to heaven.”
William Shakespeare

There has been a great debate among parents regarding the use of the word “No”. Some have said that it has such a negative connotation that the word should be avoided at all costs when dealing with small children. Others simply say that it is absurd that you shouldn’t use that word when your child is getting ready to touch a hot stove or shove another child to the ground.

As our children grow into their teenage years, their questions and actions become more significant (though granted, touching a hot stove is pretty significant). May I stay out late? May I have the car? May I go out with that guy that looks like a loser and is ten years older than me but really has a sweet personality?

Our first and often times correct response is “No” or the more thoughtful response, “When pigs grow wings”. We have learned through extensive media campaigns that when it comes to drugs, we should just say no. However, as they grow older, what worked when they were children, no longer seems to suffice. A much better choice is to just say “Know”.

Explaining the “why” of things gives you as a parent not only more credibility but also helps you (forces you) to ponder more deeply the “why” yourself. Why is it bad to do drugs or advisable to not have premarital sex? Why is it a bad idea to ask the thirty year old bar tender who tends bar at a local hotel to your senior prom? Why is a good idea to be home by midnight. Why does pornography take you down a lonely and desolate path? Why should you get good grades. Why should you learn how to work and earn your own money. Why should you be respectful? Why should you develop good grooming standards?

Our teenagers have so many good questions and are arriving at so many crossroads where a crucial decision must be made, that just saying no is a weak and debilitating answer. We certainly do not empower them to make the right decisions and may even push them towards the wrong choices.

Our choice is simple. Learn of the issues and prepare your answers. Live in the “Know” zone and not the “No” zone. I have always been amazed that my wife knew everything there was to know about my kid’s lives and even the lives of their friends. It was not uncommon for me to reintroduce myself to one of the their friends whom I had already met several times before but had forgotten. In contrast, my wife knew who was taking which subject in school and the name of that teacher and who was dating whom. She knew this not just for my kids but for their friends as well. She would cut up fruit and veggies and get them to hang out in the kitchen and chat with them like she was a coed.

Being in the “Know” zone makes all the difference in the world if we as parents want to help our teenagers maneuver their way through the hot stoves of adulthood. We empower ourselves to empower our children when we are current with a good working knowledge of the ills of society and the environment in which our kids live. Ignorance is not bliss…it is just a lazy way to say “yes…its okay… I don’t care”.

I am the only one that my wife says “no” to without any explanation required and I am old enough to “know” what that means…no pizza, no french toast, no nap…but I digress…our children need us to be in the “Know” zone so get there and get there before they have to learn all of the reasons why not to touch the hot stove by trial and error.

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