Monthly Archives: November 2019

Christmas in July.

A Short Father’s Day Story.

They woke us at daybreak from what little warmth our lightweight nylon tent provided, promising what was about to occur would be worth the wake.

It was to be the thrill of a lifetime for little boys like us. In a few minutes, we would experience the climax event of our fifty mile summer backpacking trip through the high sierras at the hands of fathers who always made life fun if not memorable. What could possibly be so exciting at daybreak above the timber line, halfway into two weeks where we’d seen no one but each other on the trail the entire time?
But they promised. And all three dads were looking to the sky, grinning in anticipation.
We were their young men. They thought we were unaware of the flasks stowed in their backpacks for times like this and the fact they were already drinking at 6am underscored its importance. We had spent the last eight days in blistered boots and full packs across grueling snowy switchbacks on summer vacation to arrive here. Along the way, they’d taught us how to fall in creeks, fall in love with mountains and mornings, though we’d fallen asleep early the night before exhausted after a dinner of freeze dried somethings.
But now we were awake and it better be worth it. Out in the cold at 8,500 feet, Thousand Island Lake’s shimmering surface stretched out before us reflecting the morning sun and the majesty of Banner Peak glowed rising like a blazing orange God on the horizon. Even for 12 year olds, it was a breathtaking view. Behind us were the many miles during which time we’d been becoming men, having traveled together to this glorious elevation together seeing no other soul for miles or days.
Irritated at the surprise awakening, too young for coffee and too cold for Tang this early, still, we stood there with frosted breath in the morning air, gazing up as men, awed and beholden by the beauty.
And then…far behind us beyond the horizon and what seemed miles away on fast approach, we heard it. Three grinning dads glanced our way, sipped their scotch and coffee and returned gazes upward as if anticipating the second coming of Christ right there in our midst. We were increasingly awake, a huddled group of little boys, alarmed at what we were hearing but strangely comforted by the smiles of our dads. A loud rumble at first, it gained deafening high frequency and intensified our way. I feared a bomb or a meteor shot from space and we were all to be sacrificed at ground zero in the woods.
From behind, the lake surface shook violently, we vibrated, and with hardly enough time to turn to look, the F-15 fighter jet raced in front of our team across the surface of the lake and trajected perpendicular up the face of Banner Peak right before our eyes. And as quickly as the deafening noise broke the silence, it disappeared and faded into the rays of the blue sky. In unison, our breath gasped.
We weren’t quite sure what we’d just experienced but something had flown into our lake valley and disappeared as quickly over the mountain ahead. It was an incredible sense of awe as if God himself had paid us a very loud and spectacular morning welcome.
Our three dads had made prior arrangement with a family friend on a fighter pilot cruise for a surprise fly by that very morning in this most unlikely of places.
A rite of passage, that morning, we became men.
If we’re not careful, the frenzy of young life can steal from us the most lasting of all gifts. Memories of our childhood, recollections of times past when we were young, innocent and impressionable. Times when big things happened that made us marvel at the hands of fathers who wanted nothing more than to see our surprised faces and smiles.
For older men, nostalgia is a wonderful gift. It entertains, it brings stories of joy and takes us to simpler times and nearly forgotten experiences with people who now only exist in our ability to remember them as they once were.
We have all lost our dads since, but will never lose the memories they made for me as little boys. They are wonderful gifts that give forever and make me smile like a twelve year old even now.

Though it was like a Christmas morning in July. I’ve carried this memory all year long every year since.

Tragedy begins at home

Our republic is in flames, but Megan is on the bus home from her second job at 2am and hardly knows today’s world news. She’s thinking about what she can make for three school lunches that need to head out the door in a few hours, how she will pay her overdue rent and if she can get just three hour’s sleep before leaving to her other job.
Important things are happening in the world tonight.

I know John has been up most of the night not because he’s a night owl, but because he’s an 81 year old vet whose gas was shut off last week. He’s cold and can’t get a warm meal until next week sometime when his $700 check arrives to pay the bill, the rent and a ride to the food bank to pick up leftovers others have donated.
Important things are happening in the world tonight.

And here I sit in shiny black shoes and suit at 430am in my office, because I know they’re awake and they are the important things and because our daily task is crafting plans that might help their tragedies.
Important things are happening in the world tonight.

I’m always in the office at this time of the morning. It’s quiet and I’m alone to think about these important things. Not always wearing a suit and shiny shoes, but tonight I will be speaking to a group of people who need to hear about what’s important.

While I care about the possibilities tonight may bring to our little non-profit in old Henderson and how, if translated correctly, important people may take pause to hear about people like Megan and John and 10,000 more like them, I care mostly for things more important than if maybe they’ll offer a dollar to help as I tell my stories.

People don’t like sad stories, but sad stories can move the right people to do the right things that help make fewer sad stories. And I believe that’s important.

People need to know the important things that are happening in this world, right here at home. And tonight past my bedtime, taking off this suit and uncomfortable shoes, I can sleep well knowing I went to bat for the tragedies which begin at home and end with charity.
#mygivingstory #thankfulness

from someone on the inside

A couple days before the holiday is probably the worst time to ask what you can do to help. The best charitable efforts to assist and serve the least fortunate among us are usually conceived, funded, orchestrated and staffed months prior. You wouldn’t decide to throw a birthday party for your kid a couple days before the big day, would you? Nonetheless, everyone wants a piece of that good giving feeling this time of year. Still, nonprofits and soup kitchens, struggling ten months straight for consistent help and support, often have many last minute offers to place and fill during the holidays to help families and kids learn something more about how other families and kids live. Every parent strives to find a teaching moment this time of year but sometimes walk away disappointed when there’s no room for them at the inn because everyone else also wants to use this time as a teaching tool.
You know what would help?
Choosing another month during the year for your family. How about March? Or September? Maybe sign up to serve in the heat of mid-July when the kids are out of school and can see first hand what it’s like to be homeless and hungry in the desert heat or cold of winter? Bring money you and the kids have saved for this experience all year long. Every other month longs to be a November or December for those who need a roof, a meal, good cheer and some hope.
Just an idea from someone on the inside. And not a bad one, methinks. But hey, anytime you’re willing to spread the love is a good time, sooner or later.

Happy Birthday to me!

One more revolution ‘til I’m fresh out of fifties,

And enter the decade of Medicare sixties.

A little less hair, a little more fat

But by now I’m totally okay with all that.

No one to impress me, no one to undress me

I’m a solitary man with myself.

Not lonely, not desperate, nor ready for respite

Not ready to be put on a shelf.

Fifty nine? Who’d have thought?

The farm I’ve not bought

By now I should be six feet under.

So bring on this year

If God still wills me here

Or snatch me up into glory and wonder!