Every Day A Birthday

December 26, 2008

click image to download pdf of artwork

I know I said I was taking a break till the 29th but I couldn’t resist – today is my birthday. Yep, the day after Christmas. I don’t think I ever remember a time that someone asked me, “When is your birthday?” where my response didn’t bring a look of sorrow to their face. “What a bummer” or “That’s too bad” or some such comment always came in the form of an apology for the date my birthday landed on.

This has always seemed a little odd in that I love my birthday. In fact, I remember a time as a boy when my mom and dad gave me the opportunity to celebrate my birthday on my half birthday allowing me to have my birthday in the middle of the summer far away from Christmas. It never really was something I thought about. My birthday was 26th of  December and that was the day I want to celebrate.

I always wondered why everyone else thought I was getting the short end of the birthday stick and I didn’t. I always wondered why everyone thought I was getting ripped off and I felt like the luckiest kid in the world.

As I look back now I realize it’s because my parents and my family went to great lengths to make sure the my birthday was celebrated on its own. The presents I received were always birthday presents. I never received “Christmas-birthday” presents. We always had a special meal for me on the 26th where the family would get together and celebrate my life.

It was never a Christmas “add-on.” It was never an afterthought to the holiday. It was its own holiday–it was its own day–it was my day.

All of this work and all this effort was put forth to make my day a special day. It paid off. Every single year I look forward to the holidays with a little extra anticipation. For, not only did it mean Christmas but it met my birthday as well. A day I looked forward to as much as any other child look forward to their day.

I often think about what would happen if we put the same work in the same effort into making the days of our lives special and unique. If we took the time to celebrate every day we are given. If we made every day a birthday.

Consider how that would change your outlook on life. Consider how much more excited you would wake up each day. Consider how your willingness to make the most of every opportunity would increase if you could learn to separate each day and celebrate.

Birthdays are special days, celebrating makes them so.  Celebrating each day like a birthday makes each day special. It keeps us from living a life filled with days that simply run together and fill our memories with nothing but a blur. Celebrating allows us to look back with our minds eye on every day and see memories filled with vibrant colors and clear pictures.

So, celebrate today. Take some time to reflect on what makes you special, unique and wonderful. Notice something beautiful and relish it as your own birthday present.  Take a moment to show some love to another so they can be a part of the experience–no one likes to celebrate alone.  Then, do the same tomorrow and th dy after that.  Celebrate every day, and when you do at the end of your life you will look back on a glorious existence filled with thousands of beautiful “birthdays.”

Jh-

If you would like a copy of Kolette’s birthday wish for me, click on image to download it.


Just A Way To Travel Down The Road

December 16, 2008

freeway1

You pick anyone on any street anywhere in the world and you’ll find there are things that they want that they cannot yet acquire. Each of us has wants. Everyone of us has things we wish that we had that we don’t have now. It may be a bigger house, or a nicer car. It might be new clothes or the latest gadget. No matter how old we get each of us could put together a list for Santa. We usually don’t, but it’s not because there aren’t things that we don’t wish for. It’s because we know the total in Santa’s bank account.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting things that we don’t have as long as we don’t allow those wants to get in the way of our happiness today. So often I hear people talk about the things that they want and how they are connected to their ability to be happy. They’ll say things like, “If I just had a bigger house, then I could be happy,” or, “If I just had a nicer car, then I could be happy.” Whether it’s a house or car, a higher income or vacation people seem to qualify their wants with the fact that receiving them would make them happy.

It’s always amazing to me. “Then… I could be happy,” they say. As if the only thing standing in the way between them and a happy life is the acquisition of a want.

Unfortunately, almost without exception when people do finally acquire the bigger house, nicer car, higher income, or vacation the only thing that follows is not happiness but additional wants. If the bigger house becomes theirs then they began to talk about how something else on their list will “then make them happy.”

The reality is that happiness doesn’t come with things. It’s not something you achieve at all. There are people in the world who spend their whole lives chasing those things that they believe will make them happy and end their lives never acquiring the joy they pursued all their days.

I remember when I learned this lesson myself. I was 16 years old and barely home from the hospital after my diving accident. I was working hard to find a way to live my life in a wheelchair. There were so many days when all I thought about was walking. I was sure that if I could walk again, then I could be happy.

As each new morning would come I found myself still paralyzed and in a wheelchair. It was more difficult to be happy always concentrating on this want. One day I made the decision that with all my heart I would hope to walk tomorrow. But as for today I would be happy in a wheelchair.

Twenty-three years later I still hope to walk tomorrow but today, I am happy. Had I not adopted this frame of mind I would have spent the past two decades wishing every day that I could walk–waiting for that day to come to finally be happy.

So too it is with everyone. There’s nothing wrong with wishing. There’s nothing wrong with wanting. The problem comes when those wishes and wants dictate our daily happiness.

Happiness is not so much a place we will ever reach as much as it is a way that we travel through our lives–a highway of experiences and moments. If we think about joy as an interstate for life’s journey we have to watch for the on ramps. Just like trying to get on our local freeway on ramps are the key.

The on ramps in our lives are those things that bring us happiness in the moment. A child’s smile may be an on-ramp. Remembering the kind deed from a friend may be an on-ramp. A little service may be an on-ramp. Each of us has different things that allow us to merge into the traffic of contentment and joy.

But, if we don’t watch for our “on ramps” will never find our way. Each of us must look around our lives and find those things that bring simple happiness and remind us to travel meaningfully through each day.

Joy comes in the journey and happiness is not a destination, it’s just a way to travel down the road.

Jh-

Remember that the DVD contest closes Tuesday, December 16 at 9 PM PST. If you’re interested in winning one of my autograph DVDs follow this link and go to my previous post and leave a comment.

Also, if you’re a blogger check out alphainventions.com to increase your traffic.


Declare Your Independence From The Weather

November 13, 2008
If a tree falls on your cottage it definetly makes a sound

If a tree falls on your cottage it definetly makes a sound

I’ll never forget the time Kolette and I spent living in New Canaan, Connecticut. But there are seven special days that stand out above the rest. Kolette and I were living in a little cottage. It had one bedroom, one bath, a living room, a kitchen, and a loft. The bedroom at one time had been some sort of a stall to house animals, and the rest had been built on from there. The older part of the cottage didn’t have any insulation, and so, like the pioneers, we had to hang quilts on the walls to keep the cold air out. It was old and it was tiny and we loved it.

The place just oozed personality. I called it, “The Love Shack” (Kolette thought the title was a bit optimistic). One night, amidst a major storm the cottage was struck by lightning. This incredible surge of energy fried the computer, the expensive laser jet printer, the television, and worst of all my PlayStation. The week before we had spoken about the importance of getting renters insurance, and it was one of those things we’re going to do “tomorrow.” We weren’t making much money and without any coverage we were going to have to pay to replace everything on our own.  I had heard that people were able to live without television and now I was going to find out for myself.

Just a few days later, the youth group from my church was making a trip to Boston. I had some responsibilities with reference to that group, and so I was making the trip as well. But, before I could go I had to get a few things finished. In the middle of running around town checking tasks off my list my car died. Now, it didn’t just die anywhere, it died in the middle of the busiest intersection in town at the busiest time of day. There I sat inside my dead car getting honked at and called names I hadn’t heard since high school.

Finally, a tow truck arrived and hauled my van to local auto shop. The owner of the shop was a family friend and when I explained that I was trying to accompany this youth group to Boston, they put my van at the top of the list. For two straight hours they worked on my van and at the end of those hours the result was the same. The van was dead. With the youth group well on their way to Boston, the shop owner and I agreed that there was nothing left to do. They would start back up on the car on Monday and I would head home.

Heading home brought it’s own set of challenges. Because of my chair I couldn’t exactly hop in the courtesy vehicle, so I drove the two miles home in my wheelchair. By the time it was dark, I pulled up to the front door of the cottage

I spent Saturday puttering around my TV-less cottage hoping that fixing the van wouldn’t take too long or add too much to the already mounting bills. On Saturday night, Kolette and I discussed whether or not I should attempt going to church.

If I were to go to church it would mean getting up pretty early in the morning. Services began at nine, and for me to make the journey from our cottage to the chapel would take an hour or so at best. We figured that the way the past few days were going we could use all the blessings we could get. So, we decided church was in. I got up early that morning, dressed for church, and headed out on my own.  The journey was long enough that it was most likely going to take all the juice my batteries could carry.  Therefore, Kolette would follow later bringing the battery charger so I could charge up during services which would give me enough power to get home.

On my way to church one of the streets I took was fairly steep and had a sharp curve. As I began down the road for some reason the power in my chair gave out for just a second.  This break in the power forced my body hard against the back of the chair and then through my torso forward towards my legs. Being a quadriplegic I don’t have control over my trunk, and so when I fall I can’t just use the muscles in my midsection to sit back up.

As I lunged forward, I reached to grab something, anything to keep me from falling out of my chair. I grabbed the joystick. Unfortunately, when I did the power surge was over. With my chest laying on my lap and my hand pushing the joystick forward I began to fly down the road. Both the way that I was laying, and the lack of movement in my arms made it impossible for me to take my hand off of the joystick.

Faster and faster I flew down the street. I tilted my neck just enough to get an idea of where I was heading. To my dismay I saw that I was coming up on the sharp curve in the middle of the road. I had driven up that road in my car many times and knew how difficult it was to see cars coming the other way, let alone a runaway wheelchair. I could  see the whole thing in my mind. Some unsuspecting motorist would make the turn without seeing me and wheelchair parts and people parts would fly in every direction.

Just then, my foot fell off the foot rest. My foot skimmed along the road for a second until my front left tire ran it over. This provided enough force to throw my body from my chair onto the street. I remember knowing that hitting the street was inevitable, but I could choose whether my head or my shoulder took the brunt of the damage. In that split second I chose shoulder.

Laying in the middle of the road I began to yell for help. 8:00 AM is not a real busy time on Sunday morning. Luckily a woman from one of the neighboring houses heard my call. She carefully, pensively, walked up to where I was lying. She asked me if I needed any help. There are few times in a person’s life when they are absolutely positively sure about a thing. This was one of those times. I told her I did need help. She called Kolette who in turn called the ambulance. They took my broken shoulder and I to the emergency room.

The doctor took x-rays, gave me something for the pain, and told me to come back in a week and get my shoulder looked at again. Not quite sure how I was going to get back to the hospital we followed the doctor’s orders and went back to the cottage.

For the next three days all I could do was lay in my bed in pain. I could barely roll from side to side. On my third day home the clouds had turned dark and the wind began to blow. It was in the middle of this little storm that lying in bed I heard one of the loudest crashes of my life. Looking around trying to find what could cause such a noise, I noticed that every window in the cottage was covered with leaves. It looked like “The Love Shack” had been transported to the middle of the Amazon jungle.

Kolette rushed down to my room to see if I was alright. After confirming that I was no worse for wear, she told me that the nearly hundred foot tree that grew next to our cottage had fallen. The roots of the tree had become weak trying to grow too close to a nearby creek causing the tree to fall onto the cottage directly on top of where I laid in bed. I was so grateful that the beams making up our roof had actually held.

Within seven days we had some of the worst luck of our lives. A lightning strike  destroyed every valuable piece of electronics that we owned, my car died, I broke my shoulder, and a tree nearly crushed our cottage.

These things didn’t happen because we were bad. These things didn’t happen because we deserved them. They just happened. Bad things happen to good people. It’s just a fact of life. When they do we can start running around asking, “why me?”

Isn’t it interesting how we never ask, “why me?” when good things happen. We never wonder why we got that promotion, why we have good kids, or why we were blessed with good health.  What then gives us the right to start asking these questions when things don’t go our way.

We need to “Declare our independence from the weather.” We need to make a conscious decision to have a good attitude regardless of our circumstance. We need to live the way we want independent of the good or bad that comes into our lives. We need to be happy in the sun and in the rain, find joy whether it’s beautiful or bleak. We need to stop letting the forecast dictate our mood.  We need to smile and enjoy the adventure.

Jh-


My Best Day So Far

November 4, 2008
My Friend George Durrant

My Friend George Durrant

As a student at BYU I had the opportunity to take a few classes from George Durrant. I was always excited to take his classes. He was a popular professor on campus, mostly due to his ability to interlace strong academia with clever humor. He was poignant and funny and most days had some motivating sentiment to help you get through the day. So much so, that he also became a popular author.

His books like his classes, were filled with wisdom that anyone could use and humor that made every page a joy. During that time, I was beginning my journey to become a professional speaker. He always had good advice that he was willing to share on how to keep an audience while teaching principles that matter. I was lucky to have enough out of classroom interaction with him that I came to a point where was able to call him my friend.

In the years that I was at BYU he wrote what in my opinion was the best of all his books. It was titled, “My Best Day So Far.” The book was filled with ideas on how to make each day better than the one before. However, the “big idea” behind the book was that each day could become your “Best Day So Far” if you simply said that it was. It was a wonderful idea. Wonderful, because its implementation took hardly any effort at all, but the result was monumental.

It wasn’t a ground breaking idea, or one that made all the papers, but what was amazing about the concept was the way the man lived by it. More amazing still, was the way Professor Durrant used the concept in his life. From the time that he first told me about this idea for his book to the last time I saw him, every time I asked him how he was I received the same response. “It’s my best day so far,” he’d reply. It was incredible. The man never missed. Over and over I asked and over and over I received the same response, “My best day so far.”

The idea worked. I know every day I saw him didn’t start out as his best day, but hearing his own affirmation made it so. You could see it on his face. It always carried a smile, it was always filled with joy. What’s more, his example motivated me to give this idea a try. I never became a successful at it as he was, but on the days that I remembered to tell others that it was, “My best day so far,” something interesting happened. No matter how the day was going, it always improved when I used George Durrant’s affirmation.

I know that there were days when the reply wasn’t exactly true. There were days that weren’t necessarily my best so far, but by allowing myself to hear that it was always made the day better. The more I put the concept to use in my life the more “best days” I had.

Each of us has seen this principle work to some degree or another in our lives. If we wake up sure that the day is going to be a bad one, sure we are going to feel ill or down, we began to see those assurances come to pass. What then might happen if from the very beginning of each day we tell ourselves and others that it was going to be our, “Best day so far.”

Try it. I know that you’ll find out exactly what I did; that it works. That every day you decide can be your best so far has a chance to become exactly that.

Let’s resolve then to follow George Durrant’s example. Let’s find the good in every day that comes. For I know from personal experience, that every day could be your last. We have no idea what each new day holds in store for us. But with a “Best day so far” mindset we will more fully enjoy and relish the gift that every day is.

So, “How’s your day?”

Jh-


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