I grew up in a family that tidied up the table before leaving the restaurant, pushed the shopping cart back to its place at the grocery store, returned the change when overpaid, and washed the dish in the sink even when it wasn’t ours. We never knew there were other options and never considered them lessons. Lessons were for learning deliberate choices of conscience between right and wrong, not simple and obvious courtesies of humankindness. Family’s not an important thing, it’s everything. The things that made America great have never changed. The human constitution has.
When you die what will matter? How will the value of your days be measured? What will matter is not what you bought but what you built. Not what you got but what you gave. What will matter is not what you learned but what you taught others. What will matter is your integrity and compassion, your courage to sacrifice, enrich and empower others by your example. What will matter is not your confidence but your character. Not how many people you knew, but how many will feel the deep loss of your departure. What will matter is not your memories but those of you that live on in the ones who loved you. What will matter is how long you will be remembered, by whom, and for what. A life lived with significance is not by chance or circumstance but by the gift of choices you made while you were here.-adapted from Rick Mann.
Five years ago I wrote a letter to my dad who’d recently passed about the current state of this country he’d departed. I warned that a second civil war was brewing again about slavery but this time not due to the color of one’s skin but over beliefs and virtues dear to the human heart some now consider slavery to a nonexistent God whose tenets interfere with agendas and narratives that twist His words and deny the evidence of His very existence. With both camps feeling increasingly oppressed and furious at the mounting divide over which each claims truth on their side, the impasse is ramping up to war with only one to prevail at the death of the other. When my departed father read my letter, he assured me this has been the condition of man’s heart for all time and to not be afraid for the future. For to win is Christ, to die is great gain, and to endure this war reveals both whose you are and what is to follow.Let us hope history will continue to show that people are moved more by temperate letters and words than any act of war.
Give honest advice when it’s solicited. The asking of it places you among their most trusted friends, consideration of it among their most influential, and the taking of it among their most sincere. Honesty is friendship’s truest indicator.
[If there’s one thing addicts do well, it’s telling stories. But after 9 years clean, they’re usually not lies anymore.]
Someone asked me recently how I did it. How I got off drugs, meth of all things. Undoubtedly tonight at my meeting I’ll be asked once again as is the tradition for anyone getting another annual chip. My ninth.
I’ve given a lot of thought to the question. Less to the mechanics of my leap into sobriety, but more about which of my words might just trigger another addict in attendance to turn on that light upstairs, illuminating them to the possibility that they, too, despite their past, deserve a future.
You see, it’s not so much the quitting of drugs that’s important. Equally necessary is the installation of hope and belief that you are worth far more in this world than the lonely company of any drug or its cohorts. It’s about having been utterly blinded by the stupor of a drug and its false promise of contentment that blocks out hope or vision there’s really anything more to life. To that end, we are all addicts. We all have something we’ve allowed to remain which blocks our hope and blurs our vision. Something to which we remain bound.
“Clean and sober.” It’s almost cliché these days.
The distinction between the two, however, is perhaps the most important thing I learned in my years of recovery so far. I got clean once, but I get more sober with each passing day.
The truly recovered are not recovered at all. They are recovering. And the truly recovering can instinctively tell the difference. A recovering person hasn’t simply stopped using, they have started living. It’s evident that a clarity of mind, purpose and a place for God was birthed at some moment, and rarely is that moment a single epiphany, but the commencement of lifelong epiphanies which, strung together, create the continuity of recovering.
It’s the high I get from my ongoing little epiphanies of life these days. They continue to escort me down a much more beautiful path. And when you find yourself in a much prettier place, hope is much easier to find. In fact, it seems to find you.
And isn’t that really the definition of God?
So for the addicts in all of us, I say to you, we are here in this world for one reason only: Be that hope for someone today. Be clean. Be sober. And most of all, live like you deserve to.
That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.
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You never really stop worrying about your kids even when they’re adults. It’s like you wear for them a heart monitor that goes off at all times of the day and night alerting you to pray for them right now. I just woke from a nightmare about my kids and my fatherly superstition alerted me to take pause. At 1 am I can’t risk a text or a call but I can always risk a prayer. They’re unaware I spend these times tuning the dial into their private channels to see if they might be hurt, happy, worried, in harm’s way or just in secret want of something no one else may understand, save one who’s known them since before they were born. No need to teach them this parental peculiarity. They learn this phenomenon all by themselves as our own grandkids are away at school, asleep down their hall, or on a midnight road of crazy drivers protected only by the angels we’ve dispatched to their mercy on our knees from our 1am bedsides. They may be all grown up but they’ll never outgrow our rightful duties and responsibilities to worry psychically and to silently intervene as I am, and perhaps you are too right now at this very moment. #awakeinyourdreamscLifeMeansSoMuch.com
Our dinner conversation about happiness took an unexpected turn into serendipity.
After sharing what makes each of us happiest, I had an epiphany. All our happiest scenarios were circumstantial, based on fortunate events and experiences that either happened around us, to us, or were otherwise created by us to experience and briefly enjoy.
It occurred to me “that’s a lot of work for a moment of fleeting bliss which is ultimately dependent on the next one.”
Being continuously happy requires effort and exposure to things outside ourselves while being content is a still, taskless state of peace within our circumstances whatever they are. Happiness is the ! at the end while contentment is the sentence before it we need not work to write, because we just let it fall into place.
It was at that moment we all discovered that serendipity is both insightful, wondrous, beautiful, and exactly what our dinner conversation that evening had happily become.
in revving sheets
a bouncing frenzy
each drop competes
and a new river won.
I sat to watch
the cool summer rain
applaud the earth and
to it waved the checkered flag.
I don’t want to know it when I die. I just want to come home from a long day at work, open the door, drop my briefcase for the last time and suddenly everyone I ever loved jumps out from behind the sofa and yells “Surprise!” and all my old dogs run up and lick me like it’s been ME who’s been gone so long.
Of all human experiences, only one remains almost entirely unknown.
Despite relentless attempts at its description from every conceivable perspective, unhinged fantasy, limitless speculation and sordid detail, unchallenged since the beginning of time, we still know nothing more beyond its cause except for the promise that we never will for as long as we live. And then it will either be the nothing or the everything we ever dreamed of.