How did I end up here?

While most of what I write is meant to be toward advancing some universal principles I hope will help others, this is a purely personal post. And so…

When I was small, my father would stop for beers every day on the way home from work. It’s a little difficult to describe the establishments where we spent so much time. There were not really called bars, but rather “beer joints”. They were generally frequented by hard-working, blue collar men who spoke in southern accents, with coarse language not recommended for the ears of children. These men, like my father, loved NASCAR, George Wallace, and dirty jokes. I’m quite certain that it wasn’t legal for children to hang out in such environments but my father didn’t really have much choice. My mother was gone most of the time and I’d tag along with him to the textile shops where he worked. I did experience many interesting things, like pickled pigs feet, shuffleboard machines, and songs on the jukebox.

Sometimes my mind drifts back to those days, which are remarkably fresh given that they were more than 45 years ago. It all seems like a dream: how did I wake up to find myself in the midst of this life? Things at that time seem to be on a far different trajectory than where they ended up. Instead of a fate such as befell the rest of my family, I am not far from heaven.

In the way end-of-life sequences are depicted in movies, there is a blur which includes significant events and people from your life. For me, that would include a childhood of extremely mixed messages, a Grandmother who taught me so much by example, loving and caring friends from high school and college, a wife and two daughters who have made all the difference, and, currently, a family of friends who make every day a blessing. I’m surrounded by amazing people. Make no mistake, in my waking dream, it all comes down to relationships.

These are the friends — athletes, scholars, parents, teachers, physicians, attorneys, and generally world-class human beings — who inspire me daily. These people bring their full presence to everything they do, changing the world one person at-a-time.

Together, we have slept under the night sky during a 200-mile relay. We have been bone-soaked and cold on long runs. We have traveled a couple hundred miles to workout five times in a day.

We have also mourned the death of a young friend, handled disappointments, and gracefully dealt with the inevitable comings and goings in a college town.

We’ve worn capes as well as any superhero.

We felt the pressure of a ticking clock as we tried to escape a locked room.

We’ve read and discussed books together.

We’ve made music videos.

Perhaps none of these things are remarkable in and of themselves. They have, however, created a tapestry more beautiful than any I might have imagined.

There are the times when I feel undeserving of all this, when I can hardly connect the dots from my upbringing to my current circumstance. In those times, I remind myself that it isn’t necessary to know and understand in order to be grateful. That’s when I resolve to always appreciate this to its fullest extent possible.

Perhaps you remember the fable of the elephant and the mouse. In return for having a mouse remove a painful thorn from the elephant’s foot, he pledges that he will tell all the other animals what an important action the mouse took. In some ways I feel the same: I have been given something very good and important, and my end of the bargain is to make sure others know of my gratitude.

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