WHY THE WORLD SHOULD BE A SPRING SHOWCASE

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Tonight I went to an elementary school spring performance. In addition to singing contemporary favorites such as Uptown Funk, the children from k-4 to third grade also performed some of my favorite classics like Brown bear, Brown bear.

Two things jumped out at me during this show. First, I had all but forgotten that I had attended this very school. Although when I was there it was grades seven and eight, the look had remained virtually unchanged.

The second thing I noticed was the talent of the children. It was amazing. I found myself dancing in my seat. Well, at least as much as I am want to do. Another thing I noticed was that I was in a very good mood. That made me take a break from my legendary chair dancing to sit up and take notice. Every time that I find myself in an extreme of emotion, be it good or bad, positive or negative, I stop and notice what has lead me to that point.

In this case it was a very good mood I found myself in. Was it being back in a place I had been so long ago? Not quite. Days weren’t always rosy in middle school. As we approached the door I pointed out to my lovely lady, Margie, an area where I had indulged in a rather intense physical interaction with another fellow student. “You were in a fight?” she asked incredulously. Anyone who knows me will understand seeing me engage in a physical altercation is a stretch these days. Even though back then it may have not been.

Ruling out the power of nostalgia, I moved on. Being that I was rather sleep deprived, I decided just to relax and really be present for the show. Then somewhere between The hungry caterpillar and I Bought Me a cat, it occurred to me. It was the show itself that was inspiring me. Not just the positive and light-hearted lyrics, but the scene itself. Children were putting their hearts and souls into their performances. They were doing this out of nothing but personal pride and the desire to make their parents proud of them. The parents also made me proud. As children can so often do, when they are supposed to hold up a picture of a bowl of soup during a song, it winds up being in a position that would leave more soup in your lap than in your stomach. Despite this, the parents glowed with pride and cheered for not only their child, but each and every child. They did so knowing the reasons the children were doing it were pure and innocent.

There was a bonus item of joy I noticed it not only filled my heart with a personal sense of joy, but made me proud of the parents and even more so, the students. In each group there were several children who seemed to suffer from some form of challenge mentally. Not only were they allowed to join the other students in the production, which made me proud of the job the teachers did, but as they were often wandering all over the stage involved in what seemed to be their own little show, the students not only remained focused, but often encouraged and embraced these children so different from themselves.

I began to wonder why the world itself is not more like this ‘Spring Showcase’. Imagine if we all worked with a heart filled with joy and a desire to make those closest to us proud of the job we did? What if we encouraged everyone who worked hard, doing the best they could, even if it didn’t turn out perfect and they did hold up the picture of a cupcake instead of string beans. What if we accepted those around us that were different and even invited them to be a part of our world while living the way they were created to? This was an example of the way the world should be. The greater question is how do we carry this behavior into the adult world?

JOHNNY APPLE SEED AREN’T WE ALL?

Countless are the times that people have come up to me and said things such as, “I was thinking about what we talked about a while back….” I am sure we have all heard this in our lives. We have all been on the opposite side too, haven’t we? Something someone was telling us didn’t make sense to us at the time, but through some change in life circumstance, we can appreciate it now. Maybe it is a loving thing they told us, the reminder of which has helped us make it through a tough time we are currently facing. This can work in the opposite way too. How many times have we remembered something hurtful that was said or done to us? I am not sure why we choose to do that, but that can be how the human brain works.

What we must keep in mind is that everyday we go through life we are planting seeds. Much like a farmer, what we grow will depend on what seeds we plant. We can plant beautiful flowers, fruit, or even a poisonous plant. The seed may take root or it may not. It may grow in our garden or others may be left to benefit, or be poisoned by what grows. In this way we have an ability to affect not only our life, but the world at large. Allow me to explain what I mean by use of a historical figure.

Johnny Appleseed, better known as John Chapman was an American Pioneer nurseryman who planted apple trees in several states and in part of Canada during the late 18th and early 19th century. A lot of the trees he never saw grow, but in the places he visited people were eating apples long after he was gone. We do much the same things with our words and actions. They may not be apple trees, but we are planting seeds just the same.

If we think in terms of Johnny Appleseed’s story, what will grow from the seeds we plant? If we are planting seeds of kindness and encouragement every where we go, we will see kindness blossom and grow. We will see the confidence and joy continue to grow in the hearts of our friends and family. If we plant seeds of gossip and complaint, we will see melancholy, sadness and resentment blossom all around us. In this way we do a great deal to shape the world in which we live.

What about the world at large? Truly, the seeds we plant can’t make much of a difference on a global scale? Think about this. When you go to purchase a cup of coffee at your local Starbucks, treating the employee with extra kindness could ease a tough day they are having. There you affect one person. Due to that act of kindness, they may treat the next person in line with an extra amount of customer service. Then you have affected two people. Maybe that person is on the way to the airport to fly home to a different city or even country and now feels good thanks to the good service they received. They may go on to treat people they encounter on their journey with more kindness and compassion. Thus, your simple act of kindness could affect people halfway across the world. It may not reach such global proportions, then again with comments on social media and the internet we can spread a great deal of seeds without even leaving our homes.

Although this was a positive example, the same holds true in reverse. You may think comments and they way you treat people are harmless, but you are forever planting seeds. We may not see them grow and it may take years for them to blossom, but given time they will. Let us all do our part to plant seeds of kindness, compassion, encouragement and joy. We will grow a garden of positive results. Let us be equally vigilant against casting seeds of negativity, gossip and judgment to the wind. They too, will grow into a world of negative people, places and things.

Let us all remember we are Johnny Appleseed in our own way. Let us plant seeds to grow positive families, friends, communities and the world at large.

SEE THE SIGNS

When people find that I am an advocate for positive living, the same question seems to pop up, “Why bother?” They want to know why you should bother being nice to people. Why is it important to stop and greet strangers with a smile? Why is it important to check in with friends even if you really have nothing else to say? Why is it important to keep courting the love of your life, long after they have agreed to the ‘happily ever after’?

These are all very good questions. Some people who may fit into the pessimistic lifestyle even ask me questions such as “Why bother being nice to people when all they will do is end up taking advantage of you?” No doubt this question has arises from some past experience they have had. The funny thing about that is it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. When you treat people with the forgone conclusion that at some point they are going to take advantage of you or do something hurtful, you withhold certain things. You may not give them the full amount of trust. You may not be completely open and vulnerable with them. Perhaps you may even skip doing the little extra things that may inconvenience you but mean the world to them. After all why would you go out of your way when sooner or later you are going to end up with the short end of the stick?

The ironic thing here is by doing these actions you perpetuate those very circumstances. How? If someone makes you feel like they can’t trust you, how would that make you feel about them? If they never seem to share about themselves and seem guarded would you feel close to them? Trying to keep yourself from getting hurt ends up pushing people away.

Here is another reality – no matter how hard you try at some point you will get hurt. Your paths will cross with some malevolent people, and even good people on occasion do things that hurt us without meaning to. Especially if they don’t know you well enough to know what might upset you.

So why be nice? Why go out of your way to do the things mentioned in the first paragraph? Here’s why. In the picture you see both a sign and a card. The first my lovely Margie left the sign on the mirror while she was shopping with her daughter and I was at the gym. How do you think that sign made me feel as I left for work? Loved? Grateful? Happy? All warm and fuzzy inside? Yes to all the above! The reason she did it she told me was because of how I was making her feel.

The card is an even better story. I shared with Margie how hard it is for me when the Wisconsin State Fair ends. It is not only the end of that festival, which I have loved since a child, but the end of my vacation that year and summer coming to a close. Three things I enjoy coming to a conclusion all at the same time can leave me feeling a little blue. Knowing this the love of my life bought me a ‘get well’  card of sorts. Cheering me up and reminding me of good times to come.

Do you think that would’ve happened had I taken or relationship for granted? Assuming your relationship is ‘handled’ because it is going ok is one of the biggest mistakes a couple can make. Love is one thing you should never put on autopilot. Let me be clear, the reason I put in so much effort in making my lady understand how much she is loved and how beautiful she I find her is not so I can see what creative and wonderful surprises she can leave me. I do it because I am the man in her life and I believe that is what a real man should do. I work as hard as I can to give her a man she can be proud of. I also do my best to not only tell her, but show her how beautiful she is to me and how loved she is. As you can see, the rewards I receive are well worth it.

Here is a wonderful thing I have done with both the card and the sign. I put them inside my laptop and every time I write I open it up to find examples of the love she has shown me. This not only helps on the days when a reminder comes in handy, but each and every time that I see them. It has taken two single very thoughtful moments from my love and made them gifts that give me joy every time I open my computer to write. This not only has me feeling loved it puts me in a great mood to write. It also fills me with gratitude for the amazing woman I have.

How do you think having these reminders serves our relationship? When we are not seeing eye to eye on something, having an example of how great our love can be creates an urge to get back there. When I am away writing, looking over and seeing these reminders helps me stay focused and get my work done so I can come home to the wonderful lady who created them. They are gifts that continue to keep on giving.

Take the time to share with the one you love. The only way for them to love all of you is if all of you loves all of them. That might be tricky to read, but it certainly will make your relationship a glorious source of joy and growth like Margie and I are blessed to have. It also helps to carry reminders of your love with you when you go somewhere.

WHAT I LIVE BY

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This is, by far, my favorite quote. It is a lesson I find we should all live by. There are two ways I enjoy looking at this quote. The first one is about ‘walking the walk’. One of the worst things we can see is someone who professes one thing, but then does another. If you want your life to be filled with less drama, but you spend your afternoon writing on social media about how filled with drama everyone else is, you are only adding to that. If you want the world to have less drama, start with yourself. There is only one person that we can have complete control over in this world and that is ourselves.

That brings me to the second way in which I enjoy this quote, as sense of hope. This is why I am writing what I do today. For those of you unfamiliar with my story, it was at the depths of darkest despair that my journey of positivity started. I was facing many negative situations in my personal life and was desperately seeking a solution from outside of myself. Everywhere I looked it seemed as if I saw one negative thing after another. The newspaper was full of negative news meant to sell and shock. The evening news on television was more of the same. I saw posts on social media that were certainly less than inspiring.

All of this negativity everywhere was not only frustrating, but had me enraged at times. It may be how some of you feel. I felt angry at politicians and celebrities that seemed to have no regard for human decency. The media only reporting these stories caused more frustration. Seeing people treating each other with hate and prejudice made me so mad.

I wanted to change governments to be more responsible and caring towards the people they serve and less driven by profit. I wanted celebrities to use their fame and position for good. It would also be nice for more of them to respect the people that allowed them to achieve that status. I wanted more people to live in light and love and treat each other with respect and compassion.

Do I still want all of these things? Absolutely. The difference is I decided to be that change. I joined political causes I believe brought about unity and positive change. I made sure I did my best to be an example of treating people with respect and compassion. Daily I work to spread positive news and keep the negative things I hear to myself. I wished more men acted as gentleman, so I do my best to treat my lady as I want to see all men treat theirs. In every way I strive to lead by example. I realized the best thing I could do to reduce the amount of negative people in the world was not be one of them.

What change do you wish to see in the world? Ask yourself honestly, do you embody that change? It may seem like changing yourself is only a small change, but doing so has caused several big changes in my own life. First, by focusing on being positive and not adding to the negative, I have felt more positive myself. I have attracted into my life people who have the same goals and aspirations as I do. Changing yourself has a ripple effect that touches the lives of so many others. If every one of us focused solely on being the change we wished to see in the world, the world we see would change.

THIS CHANGED MY LIFE

The above quote changed my life! I had found myself at a point in life when it seemed every area of my life was in turmoil. My job had cut my hours to next to nothing, there was a lot of turmoil in my personal life and I had just been informed I had a problem with my heart. My life seemed to be in a very dark place. It was then that I was introduced to this quote. Ironically it was on an envelope asking for money from a charity I have forgotten.

Dealing with all of the darkness I was in at the time and doing my fair share of cursing, I found myself asking how on earth I could light a candle of positivity. A question you may have asked, or maybe are even currently asking. It was then I began my life-long journey to find the answer to that question. A lot of those answers can be found both on this website and in my book.

It is now that I would like to point out what should obvious. No amount of cursing the darkness will make it any lighter. If you don’t believe me lock yourself in a room, turn off the light and begin yelling, “I hate the darkness!!” Do this over and over. It should be apparent this is not going to make the room any lighter. This may sound silly, but this is often the same approach many of us take to like. Cursing our problems, complaining about this and that will do little if anything to make our lives better.

What can we do? It is really as simple as the dark room example. We need to shed some light on our life. Here is another thing I have learned, when you shine a light in a dark room, it does not matter how long that room has been dark. Whether it has been dark a day or several years, when you shine a light the room will brighten. The same holds true for life. It makes little difference how long someone’s life has been full of darkness, when you bring light to it you will brighten it. Whether that life belongs to a friend, a complete stranger or even yourself.

Today let us begin to stop cursing our darkness. Let us bring light to our life and the lives of others. If you need suggestions on how to do that feel free to read other posts on this website, or even ask yourself what would brighten your own life and do that for others.

THE JOY OF TECHNOLOGY

This is an interesting post for me. On days I view technology as a necessary evil. We are all aware of the problems technology causes. Distracted drivers, people losing the ability or desire for personal contact. The inability to remain present. I am as guilty as anyone. Checking my Facebook or LinkedIn instead of striking up conversations with people in the waiting room. The thought of a day at the beach or in the woods with no cell phone, just nature is one I relish.

Still, technology does a lot for us. This was brought to my attention with an awesome person in my neighborhood. A wonderful lady who lives just a few blocks from me was telling me how she wishes for a time like I described above, just nature, those we love and our thoughts. This neighbor, Linda, has some of the most insightful thoughts on my blogs, and gives me great encouragement and motivation to keep working. She shares stories from her life that often parallel what my blog is about, or sometimes even contradict it. This is a great blessing because it causes me to approach the subject from a different angle. We have lots in common. We both like nature, coffee and have amazing people in our lives that love to cook for us. Here is the funny thing about Linda and I, we have never met.

Linda and I began to interact on a neighborhood app called ‘Next Door’. For two people who are fairly keen on taking breaks from technology, I am sure grateful it brought us together. In fact, recently I have had the pleasure of actually meeting some neighbors in person that I may have never met if they did not see my lovely Margie and myself on Next Door first. Andrew, it was great running into you at the grocery store, and Laura I look forward to running into you again at the Peanut and Jelly Deli next time Margie and I are there.

You see as I was thinking of how many amazing people I have met through these apps, and how I look forward to meeting them in person. Not to mention, ‘meeting’ each other online first increases the likely hood of a conversation when we run into each other in person. Something that may never happen without technology. To that end, technology has actually increased personal interaction. When I factor that in with the fact that these apps, along with others have allowed me to share my thoughts and positivity with many more people than I could on my own, I am indeed grateful. Therefore sites like Google +, Facebook, Word Press, Twitter and others all have their place. It is realizing that balance between interacting online and in person.

This week let us appreciate technology and focus on how it can bring us closer. Let us do this while still focusing on fostering our personal interactions. Not to mention when you are having a tough day, there is nothing better than a cute silly picture from the one you love. Trust me on this one. Margie has mastered the art of sending pictures that both melt my heart and bring a smile to my face!

WHY IS THE RUM ALWAYS GONE?

Below you will find a great video Margie and I filmed recently. In it I explore my thoughts on the “is the glass half full/or half empty?” I would encourage you to watch it and let me know your thoughts

CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE VIDEO