The biker dude scowled at me as I sat next to him. He seemed life-beaten and harsh. To be honest, I felt pretty intimidated by him. Yet, within ten minutes together, something triggered his gentle side. This trigger is available to all of us.
In his biker-dude outfit; leather jacket, tough-soled shoes and messy helmet-hair, he watched me play with my one-year-old grandson. I sat on the sofa keeping an eye on the baby as he practiced his newly found skill of walking – he would venture as far as his courage would take him then turn around and run back into my arms. All the while the biker-dude watched out of the corner of his eye. At one point he got up, fetched himself some coffee and went and stood a few feet away. My grandson followed and stared up at him as only young children can. Then, for no apparent reason, the little one cracked a huge smile. Biker-dude caved. “Darn cute kid,” he said, bent down and cooed, “Hello, buddy.”
There’s something about the tenderness of babies that we all understand and, no matter how tough we become, we intuitively respond with gentleness. We touch them softly, we speak in kind tones and we are protective toward them, eager to look out for their good. We see their immeasurable value and treat them carefully.
Why does this change?
When does this change? Why does it change?
Life is hard. I don’t think it was meant to be anything else. It is in the struggling that we find purpose. Answers to meaningful questions should not loll about at surface level but should be tucked away in obscure nooks, found only by careful thought, eager enquiry and plain old persistence. The search keeps us alive and vital and the answers, when found, are treasured and valued.
A little while ago, when I was feeling completely overwhelmed at work, I was challenged to discover six areas that are vital for me to accomplish in my leadership role and then to concentrate on only those. I wrote many items on my list only to be scratched off and replaced by others. It took a lot longer than I thought it would but in the end it was a fascinating and worthwhile exercise. It set me free from the myriad of burdens leaders sometimes find themselves carrying.
It got me thinking. What about my life outside of work? What are six areas in my personal life that, if I concentrated on only those for a set period, would change my world? It was a life altering exercise for me.
I have honed in on one that I would like to share with you. If adopted, I believe it could improve everything in your life.
Yesterday at gym, I watched as a middle-aged woman went through the paces with her personal trainer. I had earphones firmly plugged into my ears listening to some of my favorite songs in an attempt to distract me from the treadmill I was on, so I could not hear what they were saying to each other. I just watched their actions and I was impressed.
The trainer stood beside her through each set of exercises. He never left her side, moved along with her when she started on a new machine, nodded his head regularly and then patted her on the back when she finished. She left smiling. The next client was a man I estimate to be in his early twenties. The trainer changed his tactics somewhat. He again never left the man’s side, but his demeanor was different. He clapped his hands a lot, never scowled or shouted but seemed to push this client harder and demanded more. My workout finished before they were done but by all accounts, they were getting along famously.
I spend most of my daytime at work so when stuff goes on there, it affects me personally. I’m sure that’s true for you too – none of us can totally separate each part of our life. Sometimes, our work life flows into our home life and the other way around. We’re human.
So, back to the big fat changes in my life. We have completely overhauled Helping Hands In Africa. We have a new name, a new logo and a new brand. I love it. It’s taken a lot of prayer, creativity and hard work but in the end worth it.
Take a look and let me know what you think. Click to comment.
The other day I went to the movies. I told the teenage guy behind the window which movie I wanted and he asked, “Do you want an adult ticket?” The movie was not a kid’s movie so I was a little bewildered why he would ask me that question.
“What other ticket would I want?” was my reply. Only when I saw the stricken look on his face did I realize the predicament I had put the poor fella in. He had no idea how to ask me if I wanted a “senior” ticket. I guess, from his vantage point of all of 17 years, I look old. From my vantage point, I’m nowhere near “senior”. I let him stew a little, fully intending to help the poor guy out, but then he did an extraordinary thing.
I read. A lot. I read because I love it. I love words and how they transport me to different places and put me in the company of amazing people. I am in awe of the human capacity to formulate words that transcend time and communicate over centuries. I think it is one of God’s greatest gifts to us.
My standard daily reading is my bible. I keep two versions on my bedside table:
- The New King James Version – my bible college lecturers told me that it is the version that Jesus used and I had no reason to disbelieve them, so it has become my ‘old faithful’.
- I also keep a copy of The Message. I love this version because it is so different from the one I learnt from at college. I often find myself reading The Message and saying “I didn’t know that was in the bible.” I then go and check it out in ‘old faithful’ and, yes it is in the bible but I had become so familiar with the NKJV that it lost it’s meaning.
In any given week I am typically reading 3 books.
Last week I scheduled my annual medical checkup. On my list of favorite things to do, this one ranks in the same category as unblocking drains.
First up, I went for a simple blood test. I’ve had loads of these in my lifetime – no problem. But this one leaked. Into my arm. Within a few hours my arm was covered in deep red and purple bruises and by the next day it was painful every time I moved. My mood soured and turned as blue as my arm. And I was not yet done with the medical examinations.
The next day I sat filling out one of those forms that the medical profession’s receptionists dream up during their slow season. I filled out the reams of information, all the while my arm was throbbing. I had barely sat down after handing the completed tome back when I heard a loud sigh emanating from behind the counter. In her loudest voice, just short of shouting, the receptionist informed me and the entire waiting room that I had filled the form out incorrectly. To a chorus of suppressed sniggers I slunk back to the counter. “Here”, she jabbed at the offending information. I read it, re-read it and wondered what made her, a total stranger to me, decide my name and address was wrong. “That should be your husband’s information,” she said. I looked up just in time to see her rolling her eyes. And that is when I turned into a total jerk.
I love John Denver music. I know this admission (or is it a confession?) dates me and probably makes me dorky in some people’s eyes. That’s okay. I still like John Denver music. I love the tone of his voice, I love his guitar playing and I love his songs. What can I say? I’m a fan and this past Sunday I heard John Denver sing at church.
Now, I know he did not fake his death and I know he is not holing out here in Africa living a secret life. I am aware that he was tragically killed in an accident and I mourn his passing. However, as I stood in church listening to the worship leader sing, I heard John Denver. He had the same tone, the same way of carrying a melody, the same lilt to his voice. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to him sing and I was extremely grateful to this worship leader for volunteering his time and offering his gift to serve in an obscure church on the point of Africa. As I listened I thought about the many people all over the world who offer their talent and their abilities to their respective churches. In that moment last Sunday, I was truly grateful for this.
There are many talented people whose only audience is their church congregation. How sad that we have a tendency to think that only the famous are truly gifted or truly talented. Yet thousands of people faithfully serve in their church, giving of themselves, not realizing how immensely talented they are or how deeply they touch the lives of those around them.
When we simply serve, with no thought to fame or fortune, I believe amazing things take place.