Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Who Gets To Go To Heaven?

Five classes, 15 units, all As. This is only the second time in my life that I have achieved a 4.0 grade point average for a single semester. Although my first “straight A” semester in the fall of 2003 was special, of course, this one is more so. This one includes one more class or three more units and all but one class is considered “upper division.” In 2003, it was while attending a community college where all courses, by definition, are lower division.

When I told my father he said that he is no longer surprised by my success in school - even when that success is, by every academic measure, defined as “perfect,” or at least very close to it. It still surprises me, however. I honestly can’t figure it out - I’m not that good a student. I’m certainly no smarter now than I was when I was dumb. So what gives? What is even more amazing is my “lifetime” GPA. At one point, it was 0.7. That’s right, an F+. I have worked it up to a 3.0 - a feat I once believed impossible. Fortunately, graduation honors only reflect my coursework taken at Sacramento State. My cumulative GPA at Sac State is currently 3.8. Magna cum laude.

Could it be that honest effort and doing the work (even when I didn’t want to) was the difference? Can it be that simple? The answer is obvious in retrospect. Yes! But I can’t help feeling that there is something more to it; I can’t quite place my finger on it. Oh, sure, those who are familiar with my story know of the trauma and apparent inequities life has served my way. Also well documented in these pages are my many revelations and insight regarding my acceptance of life’s little and not-so-little challenges.

But none of that makes me unique. As bad as my "luck" has been, a great many have seen worse. And many of them have overcome far greater obstacles while others have not. Part of me wants to dwell in the past, wondering “what if,” and “if only” or “I wish I would have…” I could languish there forever. I don’t necessarily believe in destiny or divine intervention per se´, but it is difficult to look back at a random, chaotic and often traumatic series of events without also knowing that it had to be that way.

There are many, many unanswered… strike that, unanswerable questions. While it is easy for me to cite the dysfunction that my life was and extrapolate my isolated incident to equal “something more than chance,” I can equally make the opposite argument citing the lives of far more virtuous individuals than myself who were not so blessed. Is there more to it? I say there is, but I sure don’t know. Furthermore, I don’t believe anyone else has the hard evidence to know either. Certainly not the evidence I would need to be convinced.

Belief does not need to be couched in evidence. Indeed, the evidence is quite clear that there is no evidence to support a great many beliefs. And some beliefs are fully proven. That does not, however, lessen the real benefit or deficit from holding certain beliefs. There is virtue as well as vice derived from faith and often which is which can be confusing. If what I believe drives me to be productive, compassionate, motivated, patient, empathetic, honest, and any number of other positive characteristics, is that not a good thing? Conversely, if my faith drives me in the opposite direction, would that belief not be considered bad? And what about the vast number of people who lead honest, hard-working lives without the need for any particular faith whatsoever? Who’s right? Who’s wrong?

Who gets to go to Heaven (or it’s equivalent)? If I don’t, then Heaven loses a “straight A” student. I'm ok with that.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Right Here, Right Now

As my dear friend Saur Kraut has taken a much-deserved vacation, she has asked seven bloggers to fill in for her each day she is gone. I have the distinct honor of (trying) to fill her shoes today (Monday). The other six bloggers chosen to write for the other six days can be found on her blog, “Saurly Yours.” Although I have no idea what I will write about, I am absolutely sure I will write about something. If you please, the rabbit hole is right over here…

I was interviewing a battalion chief from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (formerly known as CDF, now officially called CAL FIRE) yesterday for the annual pre-season fire prevention story to be published in next week’s Colfax Record. After the interview we talked informally about little things such as, oh - life in general. Not its origins or its creation or even its evolution or lack thereof, but more about its purpose - on an individual level.

The battalion chief and I are about the same age. Although we had vastly different experiences growing up, we have similar ideas on “what it’s all about.” Perhaps more accurately, we seem to have the same opinion on what it’s not all about. It’s not about power or prestige or money or influence. True, some of those things do come, but the purpose is not the acquisition of that stuff. Among the commonalities we share at this juncture in our lives is a desire to serve. The idea that we are contributing to our community is foremost in our overall view of the world.

It came as something of a surprise when he told me that in his younger years, he viewed the world much more materialistically than he does today. I had just assumed that fire fighters and others whose career it is to serve in a very physical way (we’re not talking about politicians here) were cut from a different cloth - that they were by nature much more selfless. Apparently selflessness and materialism are not mutually exclusive. Be that as it may, the question we informally pondered was what had changed in our lives to give each of us a more global perspective.

We discounted our age, but not entirely. The vast number of people in their mid-forties who care nothing about anything other than themselves shows that age alone is not the answer. I am pretty sure that my turning point was a near fatal automobile accident almost seven years ago. Combined with other profound, though decidedly less traumatic experiences, my outlook on life changed. Interestingly enough, the battalion chief arrived at similar conclusions through quite different, however, equally profound experiences.

And my career choice - my calling - reflects this paradigmatic shift in perception. The purpose is to be of service to my fellow man. Whether it comes in the form of fighting fires or reporting the news, it’s about what I can do, not what I can get. In the end the material results might be the same, but the intangibles - the satisfaction taken in the process - are priceless. There is no short cut, no way to get there except by making the journey. What will come will come, but the real reward is right here, right now.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Overnight Success

It seems just like yesterday at times, but it was really almost three years ago. I was at a crossroads in life. I needed to find a job and for the first time in my life I was having trouble finding one. I have an abundance of skills in a wide variety of areas and a history of finding not just employment, but usually interesting jobs that paid well. After “lowering” my standards to what I considered menial labor and still not having any luck, I was left with only one feasible option - go back to school.

My school career had actually re-started a year earlier, but for reasons I’ll not go into here, it was sidetracked and redirected such that I felt maybe it was just not in the cards for me. I stand corrected. But it didn’t happen overnight and I had to exercise the patience I didn’t think I had with the perseverance I knew I did. After three years of plugging away, each day bringing with it new but invisible progress, I am an overnight success.

Sometimes success culminates in a rapid succession of events, so rapid that it appears almost miraculous. Almost like luck had something to do with it. I know it has appeared so for me. Today, I know better. My life today is full but not overwhelming, exciting but not burning me out and filled with moments of celebrating success - mine and others'. It has been so for a while now and at times it feels as though it has been like this forever. However - and this is critically important - I must remember not only how hard it was for me to get here, but also have the empathy for others making a similar journey toward self-awareness.

It didn’t happen overnight. Come mid-December, I will be awarded a Bachelor of Arts degree from a major university. In that moment I will be transformed from an undergraduate to a graduate. However, I have been chipping away at this goal a little bit every day for a very long time, often not realizing that I was. It’s not like I would look back on a day… maybe a particularly hard day and say, “Wow! I’m one day closer to my degree!” Oh, no - there was no such celebration of progress in my life. Not until quite recently.

Today I am so very near the end of my undergraduate experience; I can see very clearly the progress each day brings, watching that metaphorical light at the end of the tunnel growing ever brighter. And I thought that light had been snuffed out long ago for me. Indeed, at times I believed there never was one. Today I am warmed by its glow and beckoned by its radiance. It is in these moments of gratitude that I acknowledge not only the effort I have put forward, but also the help I have received along the way. If not for the encouragement and help from family, friends and even some institutions, my life would have continued to languish is everlasting “could’ve been.”

I write in this space for a number of reasons. I have expressed many of them right here and they are, to some extent, the same reasons many other writers write. One factor that drives much of my blog writing is the desire to offer hope. If it were not for others who have escaped living a life of quiet desperation and lived to tell about it, I might not have had the motivation to continue. My writing here, therefore, is often uplifting and inspirational, if not actually inspired. I have a solemn obligation to freely give back what was so freely given to me. If I can fight back and succeed in discovering who I am - anyone can.

Epilogue: Work is now seeking me!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

This week in the Sierra Foothills...

Today is a good day. I have an article about Memorial Day on the front page (above the fold) of the Placer Herald, another front-page article in this week’s Colfax Record and another story inside the Record. It has been a while since I have had so much published in a single day and I must say that I forgot how that felt. It’s good to be back writing news. It’s going to be a fun and busy summer.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

It's An Honor

And a pleasure to have been selected as Michele Agnew's "Site of the Day." Welcome to all who have been directed here and thank you for visiting. Unfortunately, I'm on a deadline right now so I don't have time to weave anything profound or compelling... certainly nothing insightful. I need to do some writing to pay the bills (the kind I get paid for). For those who have asked about my term paper grade, it will be at least a week or two before I find out. I know - it's killing me too, but I'll be sure to report it here.

Until tomorrow -

Monday, May 21, 2007


It’s done. Finally. Good, bad or otherwise, the deadline has passed and a passable term paper has been turned in. I finished the last proof and made minor corrections at about 3:30 a.m. Is it good? I never know anymore. I used to be able to tell if I nailed it; I would know if I had everything the instructor was looking for. I think it’s ok - only ok. However, and recent experience tells me so, it stands a very good chance of receiving a high grade.

But it will surprise me - again. I don’t want to come across as self-deprecating, or worse, self-pitying for I know beyond any shadow of doubt that woe is not me. I’m not looking for reassurance or a boost of confidence. The fact is that in my own mind, this paper could have been better. Not better written perhaps, although the actual writing counts for a lot, but better researched. It might (or might not) have benefited from a few more days. They are days I had available - repeatedly - that I did not use.

But I couldn’t. It’s not because I was busy on other projects. I was, but they didn’t take anywhere near all of my time. It’s not because of a lack of resources. It’s because I’m not built that way. This is not news to me. I have been procrastinating all of my life. After years and years of practice, I’m pretty good at it. I’m not trying to be funny (much), I’m serious; I have become good at procrastination. I am making it work for me.

Because of the sheer number of words I have written, the different types of writing I have done and both meeting and missing deadlines, I can make a fairly accurate assessment of the time a given project will take. By allowing just enough time and identifying where time can be shaved if something unexpected were to come up, I can meet a deadline while still maintaining the pressure necessary to push the project through. However, it is a balancing act and it works better for some forms of writing than others.

I have written a number of term/research papers in the last three or four years. They have all been about the same length and, for the most part, are of restricted depth because of the length… about ten pages or 3,000 words. These papers can be written in just a few days - sometimes less - from start to finish. Much of that time is spent marshalling resources. For this last paper, I did these preliminaries weeks ago. I had the material. All that was left was the writing.

This paper, however, was a little bit different. It could have gone a number of directions and came to no clear-cut conclusion. It was an exercise in triage and even as of Saturday in the library, my direction had not yet crystallized in my mind. There was a lot of background sifting to do. I finally decided on the direction yesterday sometime and when I got down to writing the analytical part of the paper, I had a clear idea of the direction I would take. It changed a little bit as I wrote (this is not uncommon), but it was in the same general direction.

I had a wealth of resources for this project. I had to leave much more out than I put in. After deciding my path, much of it was irrelevant. Had I approached this project with a more logical framework, I would have been able to zero in on just what I needed. Again, that’s not how I do it. The point is that although I pushed the envelope a little farther than I should have on this paper, I still didn’t go over the edge - and now I can relax. The paper will receive a passing grade… and I shouldn’t be surprise if I get an “A.” But I still will be.

Saturday, May 19, 2007


Today is library day. I have a term paper due on Monday morning and it is still about 75 percent unfinished. I don’t need the library because of what is has (books, articles and other research materials), but because of what it doesn’t. There is no TV, phone or a million other distractions. There is quiet, solitude and an environment conducive to serious writing.

Until tomorrow…

Thursday, May 17, 2007


The night before last, in the wee hours of the morning, I half awoke from a sound sleep with a story idea. I don’t know if it came to me in a dream or if it was just waiting for conscious recognition, but I do know that it was a good idea. And when I say story, I don’t necessarily mean a narrative of some sort… it could have been commentary, or analysis, or introspection, or any number of other kinds of literary ventures. I don’t know which this one was because, like so many other times, I didn’t act on it.

I didn’t want to get up and jot the idea down; that’s all it would have taken. Ideas come to me, often out of the clear blue, frequently. Since during my waking hours I am usually around at least a writing utensil and paper (and usually a keyboard), I will make note of it. Usually just the act of jotting it down commits it to memory and I’ll write something within the next day or so. However and unfortunately, many ideas escape me because I persist in believing that I wouldn’t forget such a good idea.

I fully intended to write about whatever it was I came up with later on that same morning. Although I might have remembered it then, for whatever reason I didn’t get to the computer. When I finally did, the idea evaporated. Besides, I had other priorities to tend to. It might come back to me - they sometimes do and I’ll say to myself, “Oh, yes!” and I won’t let it slip away twice. But there are others that are so completely forgotten that even if it did come back to me, I wouldn’t recognize it as that long lost idea… I might not even recognize it as a good one.

I bring this up now not only because of yet another lost idea, but because of a found one. I am actually writing this because I don’t want to write my term paper right now. Don’t worry, I will and it will be fine - I just need to let the pressure build a little bit more. But I still felt compelled to write something and I was sitting here wishing I still had that idea. After writing three paragraphs only to delete them, I started combing through my MS Word files looking for some unfinished essay. I didn’t find one.

But I did find a story idea I had in the middle of the night some months ago that I had totally forgotten about. It’s just one sentence about a fictional piece that could go somewhere. I happened to put it in the computer so I wouldn’t lose it - and it worked. It’s not something I feel like taking on at the moment, but it did reawaken a story idea that would have been lost were it not for those 11 words written back in February and saved under the file name, “story idea.doc.” It could be nothing, it could be a novel, but it won’t be forgotten.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Hope II

This is the last week of school before finals week. I am all caught up. I’m not too sure how that happened. I have only two items left to accomplish - a term paper and a final exam. Although I will probably want to study for the final, I can’t take it any sooner than one week from tomorrow. The term paper, which is about 25% done, has to be turned in on the same day. Everything else is done. Amazing.

Although I have established a pattern of achieving high marks, the same cannot be said of organizing my time such that I am not scrambling at the semester’s end. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. In fact, upon closer examination, both my grades and my preparedness have steadily improved over the past three or four years. Still, it comes as a bit of a shock that my grades are so good and that I have nothing major breathing down my neck.

There are a number of factors for this uncharacteristically good academic performance. Strike that - it has been long enough now - this is characteristic. Still, my best academic performance historically has never been better than good enough. I was a “C” student in high school and that was good enough. I didn’t care all that much and for me at 18 years old, I figured I had more than enough time to figure it all out. I didn’t think, however, that it would take more than 20 years.

Wasted time? Perhaps in some respects, but there was plenty of experience to draw on from those years wandering around the outside looking in. I never wanted to be part of the “establishment.” I had these utopian ideals and expectations of entitlement. I didn’t understand how some could be so gifted and I was left with nothing more than want. I didn’t know how to nurture what I had and didn’t recognize my talents anyway. I was so obsessed with who I was not that I could not get to know who I was.

My performance in every area of life reflected my disassociation with the world. It was as if I was on autopilot - doing the things I was “supposed” to do only half-heatedly, never really knowing why. It was only in the role of fatherhood that I ever really felt any sense of purpose and when my marriage fell apart, I thought I had failed in that role as well. I tried really hard but I just was never able to muster the motivation to excel. I was beginning to accept the role of “also ran.” I was settling for mediocrity and I was fine with that.

But life has an odd way of rearranging itself. In my case it did a back flip. I had little choice but to change my perspective. Circumstances dictated a longer view combined with the forced patience necessary to focus on the present. A new journey was thrust upon me and I had nowhere to run. I could only meet the challenge, I could only succeed, I had no choice. For a long time, it was pure torture, the pain was almost unbearable, but I could only move forward. Failure truly was not an option.

October 17, 2000 was my day of reckoning. My life was nearly cut short that day and I can say that there were a number of times… many days in fact that I wished it was. I was involved in a violent head-on collision with a fully loaded logging truck. I was a mess. But I survived and the only choice for me was to get better. And that took a long time. There was no other choice. People would say how brave I was or how much strength it took. Nonsense! I had no choice. I didn’t have the option of dying; even if I were capable of suicide, I was too incapacitated to do it.

Slowly, doing the work became part of my life. Painfully at first, I made myself do what I really didn’t want to do. Eventually, I started to benefit from the willingness forced upon me. Finally, I enjoyed the journey. Ultimately, the rewards of excellence as the result of my own efforts tasted so sweet, I’ll never go back. Through my trauma I have received the greatest gift of all - a life.

The message? It didn’t have to be this hard. I hope someone is listening.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Happy Mother's Day

Mother’s Day 2007 is only minutes away. I have been thinking about what to write for a while now. How can I express in just a few words what my mother has meant to me all these years? I can only try, but I’ll say right now, I’m going to fall way short. Indeed, with the cultural paradigm shift where “stay at home moms” (a.k.a. “housewives”) are the exception rather than the rule, when daycare has become a necessity if young families are to earn enough to realize the “American Dream,” mothers like mine are fewer and farther between than ever before.

And that’s a shame. My mother was and still is the cement that holds the family together. She has been the all to everyone and never failed to perform her tasks exceptionally, not just well. Her cooking is out of this world - she is on par with the world’s best gourmet chefs; she is a top-notch seamstress or tailor - take your pick - she could easily out-sew anyone - and I am not prone to exaggeration; she can knit and crochet like nobody's business - a high art if there ever was one; our house was always clean, the laundry always done - and all for nothing more than an occasional “thank you,” and often not even that.

But that’s not all: When it comes to the family finances, she keeps all in order. When the family business was handling much larger sums of money and had far more complicated bookkeeping to manage, she was up to the task. Did I mention taxi driver, classroom mom, lunch packer… how about your worst enemy if you crossed her children? Ya, she can be mighty formidable when necessary - I pity the fool her gets her dander up. She could make a boo-boo go away and when I was the odd friend out, she made that all right too.

It seems almost inadequate to dedicate just one Sunday every year to moms like mine who have done it all and excelled. She has world-class talent in so many areas… vastly different areas, that I can only wonder where she found the time to gain such mastery. My mom inspires me. If I can achieve just a small portion of what she has I will consider myself a success. I couldn’t have wished for a better mom… or a better role model.

Happy Mother’s Day Mom -

I love you.


Thursday, May 10, 2007

A Life of Luxury

When I think of the term “leisure,” visions of the ubiquitous leisure suit fill my mind. Although that gaudy, horrendous fashion misstatement of the seventies had little to do with anything leisurely, the vision still haunts me to this day. Fortunately and after years of intensive therapy, I have overcome this manifested phobia of polyester apparel. Today I have a personal definition of leisure that is characterized as much by its breadth as it is by its depth. Individual perspective is the key. Anything can be identified as leisure so long as the individual accepts it as such.

Leisure is the motivation to keep moving forward, never standing still. It’s enjoying what I have and wanting what I’ve got. It is an attitude… an appreciation of everything life brings and bringing to life all that I have. If I can wake up in the morning happy to be alive, grateful for the sun, the rain, or the wind and look forward to what the day has in store, no matter what that might be, then it’s already a good day. Everything I do, from the mundane to the unique is a gift. Impossible? I used to think so, but no more. It’s not about what I feel, it’s that I feel.

I have discovered, through years of research, that I am a very complex being. I have always believed that I was smart enough and had the physical ability to do almost anything I wanted to. I also know that there have been a great number of honest intentions to do much… to be somebody. I can present numerous examples of brilliant and lofty goals as well as preliminary steps towards a desired end. Yet, with all this talent, motivation, ability and intention, I rarely ever got past the starting line.

Sometimes the reason was innocent enough - circumstances beyond my control and such. Other times I might have been tripped up by details I did not factor in. Still other attempts at personal fulfillment might have fallen victim to “something better came along,” and the chase would be abandoned. The common denominator was that a pattern of starts and failure was beginning to emerge. Ultimately, my expectations were always defined by the end result and never the journey. I only wanted the prize, never caring to experience the gratification of earning it.

It would be misleading to proclaim that my life was an utter train wreck all the time. There were some sustained however tenuous periods of accidental prosperity. There were times when the fastest means to an end was to do the traditional, logical and prescribed work involved to get there. Believe this, if there was a short cut, I would have taken it. In these moments of incidental virtue, life seemed to move along without too much disruption. I actually reaped the benefits of achievement via my own efforts. Unfortunately, I never made the connection.

Whenever the opportunity for rapid ascension presented itself, I was off and running. The rewards of performing the footwork fell by the wayside, as the prize was once again all that counted. It would only be a matter of time before that tenuous prosperity came crashing down. Sure, there were times when the light-bulb went off; times when I figured out that I just worked harder at getting there than it would have been to do the work in the first place. Since I was gifted with this wonderfully analytical mind, however, I ascertained that the problem was always isolated to this one incident; it was situational; next time it would be different.

For years and years I danced this dance. The details would change, but the story never did. Although my journey took me to the very edge of death, it didn’t have to. I didn’t have to learn the hard way, there were lessons to be learned along the way and if I didn’t already know it all - I might have learned them. Fortunately, neither my arrogance nor my ignorance or the combination thereof killed me. I finally hit my threshold for pain. It was time to drop back and punt.

The paradigm shifted for me. The model of my life underwent a drastic yet exceedingly simple change. Instead of racing to the end, I am living in the moment. The ramifications of such a shift in perspective are complex and far-reaching, touching every bit of my life. But the change was really as simple as a change in focus. I have removed the telephoto lens and opted for an ultra-wide angle lens to view my life. What is in the distant future is hard to see… only the general direction is clear today, however, what is right here, right now and all around me is crystal clear. This is where my attention belongs.

And there’s never a dull moment. With the focus on what is immediately around me, there is always something to do. I am busy but not overwhelmed. I am making a difference a little bit at a time… one day at a time. I can devote my undivided attention to anything because living in the moment allows me to concentrate on only that which is immediately at hand. I have found that my long-term, “telephoto” life needs only a minor nudge here and there - it does not need to be micro-managed. The time freed up by letting go of the distant has allowed me to tend to the present. The irony produced is nothing short of profound. Staying in the present gives the future a chance to arrive.

My life plans today are first and foremost to tackle the tasks of today. These very words constitute the last of my “to do” list for today. Tomorrow, my basic routine is set and the freedom and flexibility to alter those plans are part of the plan as well. Looking ahead, a semester is coming to a close and with it, a defined schedule for portions of certain days will end as well. The summer is beginning to take shape and freelance writing combined with some photography will keep me busy and help pay the bills. These are not the same plans that were on calendar as recently as one month ago, but that was a month ago, things changed.

Although my general direction seems to be set for the coming months, it certainly isn’t set in stone. Opportunity will come knocking and the unexpected can be counted on. When these and other undulations on the sea of life come my way, I can accept, adapt and go with the flow, or I can sink. The choice is and always has been mine. The point is that as long as I can stay in the now and focus the brunt of my attention on what is immediately at hand, I have the best shot of dealing with it - good, bad or otherwise. It affords me the time to have a strategy… to formulate the acceptance and the attitude I need to take anything that comes my way.

If I can stay with today, greet life’s moments with an attitude and perspective that leaves me grateful, then it is entirely possible to live a life of leisure… and a life of leisure is a life of luxury.

Monday, May 07, 2007


There have been times in my life when I’d wonder if it’s all worth it. Not like I would ever take myself out or anything like that, but in a more global sense. It’s a feeling best characterized by the phrase, “What’s the use?” It could be a profound sense of worthlessness, of under appreciation, of being taken for granted… of feeling like a doormat. Sometimes it seems that no matter how hard we work, no matter how sincere the intent and no matter what the sacrifice, in the end it makes no difference.

And then there’s the starfish parable. I first heard it in a lecture given about Mahatma Gandhi by his grandson at UC Davis sometime in 2004. I have heard a few different versions of it since, but the moral is still the same. It goes something like this:

An old man was walking along his favorite beach one morning, enjoying the sunlight caressing his face, deeply inhaling the freshness of the ocean and listening to the waves crashing upon the beach. As he rounded a point, he was met with a horrifying sight. Thousands and thousands of starfish were washed up on the beach and stranded there as the tide receded. If they did not get back to the water soon, they would surely die.

Moving with agility he thought had left him long ago, the old man frantically picked up as many starfish as he could and threw them back into the ocean. After throwing back hundreds of starfish, the beach was still littered with thousands of starfish, yet the old man never stopped throwing them back. Sitting on a rock nearby, a younger man watched the old man throw the starfish back. He had a bewildered look on his face, not understanding why this old man would care so much about a few starfish.

“Hey old man!” the younger man yelled.

The old man stopped for a moment to see what this younger man wanted.

“Why are you throwing all those starfish back into the sea?” the young man asked.

The old man looked at the younger man with a quizzical look. “Why, to save their lives,” he said matter-of-factly.

“But you can’t possibly save them all,” the young man said. “Look at how many there are. There must be thousands. What difference can you possibly make?”

“I might not be able to save them all,” the old man said. “But it makes on hell of a difference to this one.”

And the old man threw another starfish back into the sea.

When I heard this story for the first time, I got what is probably the primary lesson that Gandhi was trying to get across. The story shows how a simple act of kindness can have a profound effect not on the masses, not in monumental proportions and not in quantity, but in a single solitary instance to a single soul. The effect need not last years, months, days or even hours. It could be as fleeting as a heartbeat and not remembered much longer - but it’s real.

The other side of this story is one I only recently discovered. There have been times in my life when I was the starfish, times when my life was “saved” by a simple act of kindness. It could be as simple as being thanked when no thanks was expected or being told that I mean something, even though I know I do. Acknowledgment of being a positive influence in the lives of others is worth more than all the money in the world.

Take the time to appreciate those who have touched your life. Tell them what they mean to you. You might just be saving a starfish's life.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Choice Words

Amazing. Unbelievable. Mind-boggling. Incredible. Unimaginable. Marvelous. Wonderful.

To say anything more would be to diminish the indescribable experience of the last three days. I have a wonderful life filled with wonderful people. My heartfelt thanks goes out to everyone who has touched my life. Y'all know who I'm talking about. Yes, that means you too.


Thursday, May 03, 2007

Weekend Get-Away

I am going away for the weekend. I don’t know where except that it is somewhere in California. It is, as far as I can determine, some kind of retreat. Many of my friends have been in the past, but they aren’t talking. There is a list of things I need to bring and a list of things I am to leave behind. It doesn’t look like access to the Internet or any other communication with the rest of the world will be available, so please excuse me until Monday. Have a great weekend!


Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Almost There

It’s almost over. Three more weeks, one term paper and one final exam left to complete and it will be summer break. Last night I wrote the last paper required for Recreation and Leisure Studies (RLS) 122. It is a course that has received more attention than it deserves in my blog. I have waffled between detesting it and accepting it for what it is; ridiculing it and granting that it has some worth; agonizing through every second and having the sort of fun in which time flies. Although it has been an exceptionally easy upper-division class for me, it has also required a great deal of time to complete what can best be described as “busy” work.

This class fulfills my “writing intensive” requirement. To be so designated, a total of 5,000 words must be written throughout the semester. I’m not sure how much of the rest of the course curriculum is dictated by this requirement, but I’d say there are probably other mandates as well. For some students, it’s much more writing than they’re used to. However, I rarely write fewer than 1,000 words in a single sitting and I have been known to write more - much more. I am not unique in this respect… I’m certainly not bragging. I suspect most journalism majors, English majors, government majors, psychology majors… and many others are used to “intensive” writing.

The paper due today was assigned three weeks ago. Entitled “Prescription for Happiness,” it was yet another introspective essay. The required minimum length for this final assignment is an unprecedented 1,200 words. I didn’t want to write it, but in a little under two hours, I completed a pretty good essay. I am sure it is, like the others, worthy of an “A.” Moreover, it shed some light on how my vision of life has changed over the years. It’s the sort of writing that comes easily for me and I really don’t mind writing about it - unless, of course, it’s an assignment.

It is important to remember that whatever the quality or manner of motivation, the writing that emerges contains all that I have come to expect from my frequent and thorough glances inward. This most recent work is no exception. I have drawn from within an analogy revealing my perspective on life that makes a great deal of sense. It came as a surprise as the words trickled out and I am left with the realization that I was compelled not by some greater purpose, not some profound experience and not some brilliant flash of the obvious. It was a stupid assignment from this stupid class that I am compelled to complete for my degree. From all that stupidity emerged a vision that is anything but. Go figure.

I didn't mean to imply that I am "almost there" in terms of being done with my degree. I only meant that this semester is almost over. Although it is true in terms of my degree as well, I still have two courses yet to complete in the fall. I went into all the gory details here.