Saturday, September 26, 2015

Riding dirty!

My wheelchair wasn’t designed to be an all-terrain vehicle, but I’ve never let that stop me from traversing through snow, four-wheeling across rocky terrain or running over countless people’s toes/feet.  Basically, I do what I’ve got to do to be where I’ve got to be – even if it means riding dirty!

Over the past few weeks, I’ve driven across some pretty hairy places.  Indeed, in my travels to the areas impacted by the fires in Northern California, ash, mud and burnt grass have become a new norm for my tires.  But it isn’t what I’ve driven over that’s left a strong impression on me.  It’s what I’ve driven through and what I’ve seen. 

I’ve driven through scorched landscapes, passed downed trees and through ash that hung so thick in the air it blocked out the sun.  And then there were the people.  I’ve seen the look on someone’s face after they’ve been told they lost everything.  I’ve seen people who evacuated so quickly they left without their wheelchairs.  I’ve seen cot, after cot, after cot filled with people who woke up homeless.

I have seen and witnessed, the worst days of people’s lives.

And yet, despite the soot and ash and heartache, what I have seen more than anything else is something I did not expect; love.

I’ve seen strangers line up to volunteer at shelters; trucks and cars packed full of clothing, food, toys and supplies for victims they’ve never met; and neighbors helping neighbors. 

I have yet to visit a single shelter without being received with kindness and generosity.  These people, who have lost it all, take time out – every time – to offer me a warm cooked meal, show me around and ask me how I’m doing.

And they open up.  They tell me about themselves and share their stories, which are always lined with hope, never despair. 

Ironically, because of their examples of courage, positivity and service, I feel like, in many ways, they’re helping me more than I’m helping them. 

And so it is that every night, when I go home, my head hits the pillow and before I sleep, I think of the people I’ve met.  I see their faces, remember their tales and think of where they’re sleeping.  I think about where I’ve driven and what I’ve seen.  I remember the love I saw and felt that day. 

And then I fall asleep – determined to wake up and fight even harder for those individuals (and the many I have yet to meet) the following day.  Because as one man told me yesterday, “we’re all family.”

You got that right, Bro!

Sunday, September 6, 2015

It doesn’t happen overnight

I’m sitting here surrounded by moving boxes – all of which are in various stages of being unpacked – and I can’t help but think that somehow this process of getting moved in is a metaphor for life.  As much as I’d like to get everything setup overnight, it’s a process; a hard, seemingly impossible at times and definitely slower than we want it to be, process.

And yet, we keep at it.

And so it is with each of us.  We all have a responsibility to do good, to be good and to strive to improve.  But never fear, for the power to change is within us.  We need not, and dare I say we must not, allow ourselves to remain as we currently are (though some of you are, I’m sure, scarily close to being perfect).  For I strongly suspect that there will be no greater blight against us than if tomorrow should come and find us as we are today. 

Let us ask ourselves, “What can I do to be a better husband, wife, parent, loved one or friend?”  And then, let us have the courage to do it.

Improvement will not happen all at once.  Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day.  But, if we work towards it, brick by brick, we will build ourselves into monuments of goodness.

This is about the happiness that comes from the satisfaction of a job well done, the joy of serving others and the peace of a resting your weary body after a day spent working towards something of substance.

“I fail.  Every day I fail.”  You likely tell yourself that a million times over.  But tell yourself the following too: “At times I’m short with loved ones, impatient with strangers and slow to put others before myself.  But I’m trying.  And in recognizing my failures, taking out the chisel of humility and chipping away at my many imperfections, I am sculpting myself into something beautiful.”

Become your own masterpiece and the world really will be better because you’re in it.

And that, my friends, will be a life well spent.