2017, the best of times?

2017

I am writing this on the eve of another new year… 2018. But, before I go on to the next 12-month chapter, I pause to think back. How will I remember 2017? We all know that some years are more memorable than others. Some years are more vivid and clear than others because they brought exciting, challenging, or happy times, but there are some that, sadly, bring back too few memories.

In 2017, I walked beautiful, white beaches washed by clear, turquoise waters. I explored the charm and history of the US Southeast. I “hiked” (for me, hiking is walking slowly on flat, hard-packed level trails) three national parks with my grandchildren. I spent a month in a beautiful cabin on a cool, clear glacial lake. I watched college basketball games and a stock car race in person. My wife and I experienced our 42nd anniversary together. We had all seven of our grandchildren in one place for a holiday weekend. I made new friends and nurtured relationships with old friends. My wife and I spent many afternoons at a pool with grandchildren. I played golf several times and was even on a tournament-winning team. I experienced the challenge of a knee replacement and its recovery. I have witnessed my grandchildren playing baseball, swimming, basketball, soccer and football (via video). I made memories fishing with my 3-year old grandson. I fell more deeply in love with my wife than I ever thought possible. I laughed. I cried. I attended more funerals than I wanted or expected. I enjoyed my first year of retirement and all that comes with it (especially not missing that lousy commute). Yes, 2017 was a terrific and memorable year!

I don’t think I can forget 2017 and all that I was blessed to experience. However, this was also a year of learning for me. A day (or month or year) is never wasted if we learn and grow from the experience. So, let me share a few things, as I reminisce on the year that helped me learn and grow:

  1. Life is not a checklist… enjoy the journey — Throughout my early life and work career, I have been a list maker. I would frequently create a “to do” list for the day or week and took great pleasure in scratching the items off the list. I would even create a mental checklist for family events, such as vacations. Get to the airport gate on time… check. Get to our destination… check. Find the car rental desk… check. You get the idea. However, I have found during this year that life is not a series of checklists that you have to accomplish in the right order and on time. Life can be full of wonderful experiences that sometimes occur random. When I think back on 2017, many of my “best memories” were not necessarily planned events. Many of these great times were spontaneous. How often does someone say to you, “Let’s go do ______?”, but you find an excuse or suggest another time? Why not sometimes throw out your calendar planner and just go with the flow more. You might be surprised at what you’ll remember most of 2018, if you do this more.
  2. Surprise yourself… occasionally do the unexpected –— I mentioned above that my wife and I spent a month in a lake cabin this year. Well, we plan to spend at least three months in the cabin this year. We didn’t have that on our retirement planner a year ago. But, when the opportunity came up, we just decided to “go for it.” Now, we are spending this cold and long winter making plans for our upcoming summer on the lake. Sometimes, you need to color outside the lines. Had we thought, “No, we can’t even consider a lake cabin because we didn’t plan for it,”, we would have missed out on the joy and fun we expect to have for years to come. You need to take a chance once in awhile because we never know how much time we’ll have to enjoy the experiences of life.
  3. You are creating memories for others… are they good ones? — Many of the very best memories of my life involve other people. In my childhood, I recall coaches, teachers, and family members that, in the process of pouring their lives into others, made good memories for me. Whether we want it or not… whether we are trying or not… we are making memories for our children, grandchildren, coworkers, neighbors, and others in our lives. The question is, “What kind of memories am I making? Are they positive memories? Or, are they memories that make me shudder?” There are things we can do, intentionally, to make a difference for others. I hope and pray that some of the good memories I carry from 2017 are also good memories that others will recollect in the years to come.
  4. Don’t take today for granted… things could change tomorrow— As I look back on 2017, I recall attending three funerals of individuals that died much too young and much too unexpectedly. We are only promised today, so we need to always be mindful that tomorrow may never come. Those things you are waiting to do… those activities you plan to do someday… those things that don’t fit in to your plans today… the time to do those things may never come. For my first 60 years, I took walking for granted. I didn’t even think about it. But, since experiencing back and knee problems, walking has become more of a chore that I ever expected. I no longer take this simple act for granted because I realize that someday it may not be as easy as it is today. Enjoy what you have in front of you this moment!

I do realize that for many, the memories of 2017 are not positive ones. Experiencing loss changes us forever. Suffering through challenging financial, work, family, or health issues makes us want to kick 2017 into ancient history. For those that are feeling these hurts today, all I can say is that I’m sorry and hopeful that the new year will be one filled with joy, hope, and happiness.

Charles Dickens began his book The Tale of Two Cities like this, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us…” As we look back on the year 2017, we may find it similar to the times Dickens wrote about over 150 years ago… it may have been both our best and worst of times. For me, I choose to look back with fondness and to anticipate that, in another 365 days, I will say the same thing about the year 2018.

Happy New Year!

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I have seen the light!

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When I was a kid, I shared a bedroom with my two brothers. The bedroom wasn’t that large, but my father had built a very nice set of stacking bunks that gave each of us a place to sleep, a desk, some shelves, and drawers for our clothes. Actually, it was a pretty amazing bedroom and we didn’t really feel that cramped. Anyway, the three of us struggled to keep our room neat. In truth, there were times when there was no way to even walk across the room it was so cluttered. Despite the “urging” of our parents to clean the place up, it remained a constant challenge… at least until our Dad taught us a valuable lesson. One evening when we returned from after school activities, he had emptied our drawers, shelves, everything… and dumped it all in a pile in the middle of the floor. He told us he was tired of our mess and that we couldn’t leave the room until everything was back in its place. Well, so much for any other plans that evening… That event helped us to “see the light” and, though the room was never perfect, it was much neater after that.

What does it mean to “see the light”? The dictionary says it is to gain some new understanding, sometimes in a sudden and profound way. The origins of that phrase go back to the time of the birth of Jesus Christ.

You see, His coming was predicted several thousand years before that.

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.”          Isaiah 9:2

The world was experiencing a period of darkness when God decided it was time to send His only Son to earth in the form of a baby on that first Christmas morning. God even announced to the shepherds that this was the One when “the glory of the Lord shone around them.” He also helped the Magi (kings) find him by providing a star to light the way to his humble stable in Bethlehem.

Light is important for us. I remember the longest night I have ever experienced… the night my father died. It seemed as though the darkness of that night would last forever. But, when morning came, there was new hope. I still mourned, but the light of a new day gave new optimism that the sadness would eventually subside.

A small candle makes all the difference to a child when the electricity goes off in the midst of a storm. The light from fireflies on a warm summer night brings a smile. The headlights of an oncoming car brings excitement when you anticipate the arrival of family driving cross country. A flashlight is a reliable friend when you are trying to find your way in the dark. The lights shining brightly at Christmas time brings back fond memories of our childhood and the fun times we had then. The dawn of each new day brings fresh opportunities, new hope, and a sense of optimism.

Any amount of light can overcome any amount of darkness. Yet, many people continue to live in a state of darkness this Christmas season. Depression hits individuals and families especially hard at this time of year. Remembering those family members and friends of the past often brings a sense of sadness and despair.

Christmastime also tends to be a time of self-reflection. It is a time when many realize that they truly are living their lives in a state of darkness… a life without meaning, purpose, or hope. Jesus himself spoke of this:

“Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.John 3:19

But, Jesus also gives us hope. He gives us a reason for living and a purpose. He said:

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”  John 8:12

This is our answer to darkness! If we follow Him, we will never walk in darkness! What a great hope we have when we have Him in our lives!

I first saw and accepted the light of Jesus when I was 21 years old. Before that, I was walking in that darkness spoken about by Jesus. I was wandering through life with no real purpose or hope for eternity. But, when I accepted Him as my Savior and Lord of my life, everything changed. I now know my purpose in life and I have an optimism and hope for the future that can only come when you’ve experienced His light.

I enjoy a song about this light of Jesus at Christmas time. It is called “I have seen the light” and its lyrics are below:

I HAVE SEEN THE LIGHT

(by Robert Sterling and Chris Machen)
 
I was a seeker for light in a dark world,
I looked for truth but settled for lies.
I had been blinded, I couldn’t see
Till the Star in Bethlehem’s sky opened my eyes.
I have seen the Light shining in the darkness,
Bursting through the shadows, delivering the dawn.
I have seen the Light whose holy name is Jesus,
His kingdom is forever; He reigns on Heaven’s throne!
There in a manger, an innocent baby;
Who could believe He was the One;
I can believe it, I know it’s true;
He changed my life; He is the light; He is God’s Son!
I have seen the Light shining in the darkness,
Bursting through the shadows, delivering the dawn.
I have seen the Light whose holy name is Jesus,
His kingdom is forever; He reigns on Heaven’s throne!
We must tell the world what we’ve seen today in Bethlehem!
He’s the promised King; we bow down and worship Him!
Worship Christ The King!
I have seen the Light shining in the darkness,
Bursting through the shadows, delivering the dawn.
I have seen the Light whose holy name is Jesus,
His kingdom is forever; He reigns on Heaven’s throne!
The words of this song tell my story well… “I was a seeker for light in a dark world, I looked for truth but settled for lies. I had been blinded, I couldn’t see till the Star in Bethlehem’s sky opened my eyes.”
It is my hope that you have seen the light. It is my prayer, that if you have not, that somehow, someway, your eyes are opened this Christmas season to the Light that will change your life and give you hope*.
Merry Christmas! May God’s Light shine brightly on you and your family this Christmas.
A version of “I have seen the light” can be found at this location:
*To learn more about how you can find the Light of the world, see this link from a previous edition from The Porch…What is your hope?

The Value of ‘Right’ Relationships

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Do I even need to say it? Relationships are important! They make life fun, enjoyable, fulfilling, and worth living. They can lift us up or tear us down. They can turn a meaningless day into a meaningful one.

But, are all relationships created equal? No, of course, they are not. Today, I would like to discuss the value of a ‘right’ relationship… the kind that can make a positive difference in our lives… the kind that can help us be successful… the kind that can keep us on the right road.

Dr. Mike Atherton* has identified three key characteristics of ‘right’ relationships that can help us discern the difference between these positive relationships and those that can be destructive. These points can be meaningful as we consider the relationships we have in our own lives:

  • Right relationships engage us at the right times of life

Have you ever noticed how those individuals that really matter in your life seem to appear at just the right times? How many times have you had a call or email or visit from someone just when you needed it most? A right relationship seems to have impeccable timing. It won’t be too early or too late. It won’t delay until tomorrow what needs to happen today. A right relationship will always be there when you need it… even if you don’t realize it at the time.

  • Right relationships encourage us in the right ways of thinking

Why is it that a right relationship always makes you realize something new or something you had not considered? A right relationship helps mold us to what is right. It doesn’t demand it, but a right relationship slowly and steadily changes the way we think. And, when our way of thinking changes, we become a better person. A right relationship helps us adjust our thinking in the right direction.

  • Right relationships exemplify for us the right habits of living

When we want to know how to live, what do we do? In many cases, the answer lies in the people around us. Our model for living right and living well is often someone we might call a right relationship. Someone we know and care about shows us the way. They emulate what we want in life. Thus, we seek to modify how we live as a result.

So, what is a ‘right’ relationship? The best way I can describe one is to examine and consider how a right relationship can change us… how we are different as a result of a right relationship. Let’s look at a few examples that come to mind for me.

Characteristics of a ‘right’ relationship

  1. You become a better person… you become a better individual than you ever would have been otherwise
  2. You can be yourself… you don’t have to act like someone that you are not
  3. You are encouraged… you attain a more positive outlook on whatever circumstance you might face
  4. You know that you’ll get the truth… your relationship will never be false, deceptive, or dishonest
  5. You feel a deep sense of trust… you have a shared sense of faithfulness, honesty, and mutual respect
  6. You know you can laugh… you look forward to times happy times and experiences
  7. You know you will be held accountable… you will be continuously reminded of the right path
  8. You are challenged… you can’t always take the easy road because you are challenged to do better or more or do it faster
  9. You see the right way… by watching a positive role model, you see the right way to live
  10. You think better… your mind is clearer and you rely more on facts than emotions
  11. You know someone cares… you always have someone on your side and seeking the very best for you
  12. You can’t fool them… they know your heart and what really makes you tick
  13. You feel respected… you are always treated the way you should be treated

In short, a ‘right’ relationship makes you a better person, lifts you up, and challenges you to do more and do it better than you would have without the relationship. Your life is richer and more fulfilled when you have ‘right’ relationships. A ‘right’ relationship will never hurt you intentionally.

A wrong relationship can pull or push you off track. They can, at best, hinder your happiness and growth as a person. At worst, they can wreck your life.

We all need ‘right’ relationships, whether at home, at work, or in the community. We need people in our lives that are completely dedicated to our good. When you find that kind of relationship, cherish it. And, if you have wrong relationships in your life, you might consider what steps you need to take to remedy that as we approach a new year.

 

 

* Dr. Atherton’s three key characteristics of ‘right’ relationships are borrowed from his sermon of 12/10/17 at the First Baptist Church, O’Fallon, MO. in which he discussed the importance of “Developing Godly Relationships.” He spoke of the importance of the Apostle Paul in the lives of Onesimus and Philemon and the difference that godly relationships can make in our lives (see the book of Philemon 1:8-22 for more details). I have adapted Dr. Atherton’s points to apply them to any ‘right’ relationship, whether in our families, work environment, or in society.

The Christmas Kitten

Occasionally, I write a story for my seven grandchildren. This is one written recently that they said they especially enjoyed. It is my version of a Hallmark Christmas story. One of the granddaughters even said, “This needs to be published!” Given that strong review and endorsement, I thought some of you might enjoy it, as well. At the very least, the photos of kittens are cute. 

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The Christmas Kitten

older kitty

It was only about a week until Christmas! Charlie, the 5-year old “big brother” was playing with his baby sister. Charlie was good entertainment for Anna. He always made her laugh by making funny faces and bringing her toys.

But today, Charlie was starting to get a little worried. He only wanted one thing for Christmas… a kitty. Charlie loved cats! He loved pictures of cats, books about cats, funny videos about cats. He loved everything about cats. He thought they must be the best and smartest animals in the world. They could climb to get away from dogs. They could eat food from a bowl or go find their own. They could play games. They never got hurt. They were the best and he wanted one!

His Mommy and Daddy weren’t so sure. They said they thought he might be a little bit too young for a cat. But, he was 5 years old! That is big enough to do just about anything, so he was sure he could take care of a kitty. He told them, “I’ll play with my kitty, feed him, and clean out his litter box.” You see, he already knew a lot about cats and how to care for them. But, Mommy and Daddy just shrugged their shoulders and said, “We’ll think about it.”

Charlie went outside to play on his swing set. You see, Charlie’s yard had a nice fence around it, so he could play outside without his Mommy or Daddy coming out, too. Today, Charlie was pretending that his fence was a space ship and he had to protect it from the evil invaders flying into his yard. All of a sudden, Charlie heard a noise. It almost sounded like a Kitty, but maybe Charlie was just hearing one of those space invaders.

He heard it again! This time it sounded like it was coming from under the deck of his house. So, he decided to go investigate. Charlie was good at investigating things. He once helped his Grandma and Grandpa find a little bird stuck in the front vent of their car. As Charlie walked closer, he finally saw it… it was a Kitty. It looked cold and scared.

Charlie called out to the Kitty, “Here, Kitty, come here and I’ll help you.” The Kitty didn’t come to him yet. He tried again with no luck. But, he had an idea… he ran inside the house. A few minutes later, he came back out carrying a small bowl of milk. He sat the bowl down and tried again, “Here, Kitty, come get a drink of milk.” This time, it worked! The Kitty saw the milk and ran to the bowl. He drank milk until the whole bowl was empty. He was a very hungry Kitty.

After drinking the milk, the Kitty was a lot more friendly to Charlie. After all, Charlie might have just saved his life! The Kitty rubbed his back against Charlie’s leg and began purring. Charlie smiled. He then carefully and gently picked up the Kitty and began rubbing his back. The Kitty purred even more and louder.

Charlie and the Kitty were becoming good friends. But, Charlie started wondering if the Kitty belonged to someone else. He didn’t see anyone looking for a lost Kitty.

Charlie decided to take the Kitty into the house to show his Mommy. She was very surprised when she saw it. “Where did you find that Kitty, Charlie? Are you sure he is a nice Kitty?” Charlie told his Mommy the story of how he found him and rescued him from under the deck. Charlie said, “Mommy, I know he is a nice Kitty because he thanked me for the milk I gave him.” Charlie asked her, “Mommy, since he is a nice Kitty, can I keep him in the warm house with me today until Daddy gets home? I’m sure Daddy would like to see him, too.”

Before his Mommy could answer, the Kitty jumped down to the floor and started rubbing his back on Mommy’s leg. He also started purring loudly, as if to ask, “Yes, Mommy, can I stay in the house today with Charlie?” Mommy liked cats, too, so she finally said, “OK. You can play with the Kitty in the house just for today… just until your Daddy comes home.”

Charlie was excited! He had always wanted a Kitty and now he had one in his arms! Even though the Kitty wasn’t really his… at least yet…he was going to have fun with him today. He took Kitty to his room and they played the rest of the day. Kitty even took a nap on Charlie’s bed.

Daddy was very surprised that Charlie had a Kitty! By bedtime, though, Daddy was playing with the Kitty as much as Charlie was. Anna was even playing with him. She would throw a ball and the Kitty was chase it. It made her laugh! At bedtime, though, Mommy and Daddy both told Charlie, “You know that we probably won’t be able to keep Kitty. His real owners are probably trying very hard to find him. They might be very worried about him.” Charlie said, “Yes, I know. Maybe tomorrow, Mommy and I can walk around the neighborhood to try to find his real owner.” You see, Charlie was a very nice boy. Even though he was starting to love Kitty, he knew that Kitty needed to go back to his real home.

When Charlie woke up the next morning, the Kitty wasn’t sleeping on his bed with him. In fact, the Kitty wasn’t in Charlie’s room at all! “Where did he go?” Charlie asked. He jumped out of bed and ran downstairs. Kitty was standing next to the kitchen door. It looked like he wanted to go outside. “Maybe he wants to go back to his real home,” Mommy said. “Or, maybe, he just wants to go out to play,” said Charlie. Charlie opened the door and Kitty ran outside to the grass. Then, he ran back to the door. Charlie was watching from the window. “Oh,” said Mommy, “He just needed to go outside to the bathroom! What a well trained Kitty,” she said.

The Kitty then started to purr very loudly again. He started rubbing his back on Charlie’s leg, them Mommy’s leg. Charlie said, “Mommy, do you think the Kitty is telling us that he is hungry for milk?” “Yes,” said Mommy, “I’m sure that’s it. Let’s give him some.” Charlie got the bowl and carefully poured some milk in it. The Kitty WAS very hungry. He drank all the milk… all the way to the bottom of the bowl. Charlie said, “I wish we had some fresh fish to give Kitty. I’ll bet she would love some of that, too.”

Later that day, Charlie, Mommy, and Anna walked around the neighborhood with Kitty. They asked everyone they saw if they knew where Kitty really lived. No one could help. They even made some signs that said, “FOUND – little gray boy Kitty.” They put Mommy’s phone number on the sign, in case someone was looking for Kitty.

Charlie and Kitty were becoming very good friends. They played together every day. The also played with Anna. Charlie fed Kitty and they played outside. Kitty slept in Charlie’s bed with him and it started to look like Charlie might be able to keep Kitty forever!

In the evening two days before Christmas, Charlie, Kitty, and Anna were playing in the living room floor. Daddy was watching TV and Mommy was reading on the computer. All at once she said, “Oh, no! I think we’ve found the real owners that are looking for Kitty!” You see, even Mommy was starting to fall in love with Kitty. Everyone stopped what they were doing and ran to the computer. There it was… someone had put a note on Facebook saying, “LOST – little gray boy Kitty. His name is Smokey! We miss him! If you find him, please call us!” There was a picture… it was Kitty!

Charlie said, “That’s Kitty! I mean… that’s Smokey!” He turned around and said, “Smokey, come here. Is that you?” Kitty (I mean Smokey) immediately stopped playing with Anna and ran to Charlie. Yes, that meant it was true… they had found Smokey’s real owners.

Charlie’s first thought was, “Since Smokey is with us, maybe he would like living here better than with his real owners.” But, he remembered what his Mommy and Daddy always said, “We always have to do the right thing.” Charlie finally said, with some sadness in his voice, “Mommy, we need to call Smokey’s owners… right now.”

Smokey’s owners were very excited to find him! They laughed and screamed on the phone. They were so happy! But, Charlie was a little sad. He had always wanted a Kitty and he thought Smokey was finally the one. But, he knew that Smokey’s real home was not with him.

Smokey’s owners arranged to pick him up that next morning on Christmas Eve. At least Charlie and Smokey were able to spend one more night together! It was fun, but it was also sad.

Early that next morning, Smokey’s owners rang the doorbell. When Mommy opened the door, Charlie was very surprised to see his friend from pre-school, Marci, there with her mom. “Marci,” said Charlie, “Is Smokey your kitty?” She said, “Yes, and we were so worried that he was lost forever! I’m so glad that you rescued him and took care of him for me!” Smokey jumped into Marci’s arms and she hugged him close. Charlie could see that it was the right thing to get Smokey back to Marci. He could tell that she really loved him. As Marci and her mom were leaving, Marci said, “Maybe you could come to my house to play with me and Smokey sometime.” Charlie thought that would be nice.

It was Christmas Eve… tomorrow was Christmas! But, Charlie was still a little bit sad. He had always wanted a kitty and he missed Smokey. But, he also felt glad that Marci had her kitty back home.

That might, Christmas Eve night, Charlie had a dream. He dreamed that he had his own kitty. He loved playing with his own kitty, but this was only a dream. His “dream kitty” was even licking his face. Charlie even thought he could hear his little “dream kitty” purring. This dream seemed very real… but, it was only a dream.

Finally, the dream woke him up! It wasn’t a dream! There was a real kitty in his bed with him! Charlie couldn’t believe it! This kitty was very small… almost a baby. It was so cute… and it was in his bed! “Where did this kitty come from?” he wondered. It was just then that he looked up at his bedroom door. His Mommy and Daddy were there smiling. Maybe this was real and not a dream! The kitty in his hands certainly felt real.

Mommy then said, “Charlie, Merry Christmas!” Then he realized what was happening! His Mommy and Daddy got him a real kitty for Christmas! It was real! Charlie was so excited that he could barely speak. He ran to his Mommy and Daddy and gave them a big hug. “Is it real? Is this really my kitty?” asked Charlie. “Yes, he is your new kitty,” they said. Anna was even smiling as she tried to pet the new kitty.

Charlie barely thought of anything else the rest of the day. He couldn’t even open the rest of his presents because he was so busy playing with his new kitty. “This is the best Christmas ever!” he said, over and over. “What is your new kitty’s name?” Daddy asked him. Charlie thought… and thought. He wanted a good name for his kitty.

“Happy!” Charlie finally said. “Happy is his name! Because he has made me the happiest boy in the world, I’m giving him the name ‘Happy’.”

Later, when Mommy and Daddy were saying bedtime prayers with Charlie, he said, “I’m really glad we didn’t try to keep Smokey. Marci really loves him and needed him to come home. And, now, this is the best Christmas ever because I have my new friend, Happy.”

Mommy and Daddy, “Doing the right thing is always the right thing.” They smiled and agreed. It really was the best Christmas ever.

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The End

A leader’s response to: “Did you see that?”

Alberta minor hockey fans, parents

Not long ago, I had the fun honor of watching one of my granddaughters in a basketball game. She is early in her basketball career, so the skill level of all the kids was at the beginner stage. Nonetheless, it was striking to see how important it was for the kids to have someone in the stands to see them. After almost every good play, the kids paused to look for their parents, grandparents, or friends in the stands, in effect to say, “Did you see that? Are you watching me?” In a way, they are saying, “It’s good to have someone here to see me. Thanks for coming!” It gives a grandfather a great feeling to know that it made a difference for her to see me in the stands for her game.

When I was a kid, I played every sport available. My parents probably attended over 95% of my games. Personally, it made a difference knowing that they cared enough to make the effort… putting other things aside, leaving work early, or delaying their own interests. And, it was great at home after the game having someone to talk about key plays and situations. I think the one exception was the time my mother was almost ejected from a game for yelling too much at the referee… we didn’t talk about that one much at home.

Being a leader is an important calling. Sure, maybe it is a choice, but it is also a calling… something so important that it can be life-changing for those you lead. But, leaders often miss terrific opportunities to demonstrate that they care when they fail to see those things their teammates do. In a way, leaders are like those parents in the stands. When their teammates do something special, they want to know, “Did you see that?” They want to know that their efforts are recognized and appreciated.

Showing that you care doesn’t take a lot of time or effort. It can be something as simple as a quick email saying, “I appreciate the way you organized and handled that important meeting yesterday.” Or, “Maybe I don’t say it enough, but I appreciate what you do to make this a better place.” Showing you care is often not much more than being there.

I remember once early in my career when I was still trying to find my way in the corporate world. I was trying to make an impact and frequently volunteered to do more than might have been expected. One morning, I came into work feeling like I was in a bit of a rut… the weather was cold and dreary, I was tired, and it was an effort to just get the day going. When I arrived, there was a very short hand-written note on my desk that simply said, “Hey, I just appreciate all the things you’ve been doing lately. It’s great to have you on the team. Thanks.” Wow! What a difference that little note made for me! I kept that note for years.

We are all capable of making a difference, if we’ll just do it. Think back to those days when you paused to look for your parents in the stands. It spurs us to doing more and giving more than we would have otherwise, when we know someone cares. When one of your teammates asks, “Did you see that?” Make sure they know you care. Let them SEE your support, not just HEAR it.

Have a great day!