What a difference a day can make. I was scheduled to have lunch with a friend – colleague, mentor, board member and confidant yesterday. He and I generally have lunch every month or two. He is an important and encouraging person in my world. At 11:19 yesterday morning he sent me a text: “I am headed your way now. Burger or salad?” Without having to think about it, I replied: “It is a burger unless you can talk me into a salad.” After all, only secure men eat salad and I was a feeling fragile in the shadows of the melancholy mood from the day before. The experience of tossing most of the files, notebooks, and manuals from my office into the dumpster highlighted for me the finality that I was moving on to the next chapter in my life.
I chronicled the experience this way: “So for what seemed like an inordinate length of time, I tossed manuals and notebooks into the dumpster. When I was done, I breathed a sigh of relief. It was short lived. It was then that the thought hit me like a ton of bricks: “I had just tossed a paper trail of decades of my work into the dumpster”. Worthless? Yeah – probably, but the visual impact of seeing it strewn in squalor was unsettling”.
The first words out of my friend’s mouth related to my morning’s blog. He asked: “Don, do you mind if I offer constructive criticism related to your blog?” Without waiting for me to respond, he continued. “You missed an opportunity this morning in posting your blog and I’m surprised you passed it up. It was so unlike you.” So I articulated the thought: “What didn’t I get right?” We were not yet out of the parking lot. He looked me in the eye and said: “It was the title. You called it ‘Hump Day’. ‘Dump Day’ would have been a more effective and accurate to have title.”
We talked of many things over lunch. The guy is always a step ahead and his ability to be affirming, encouraging, creative and kind are his signature characteristics. He even suggested a title for my next autobiographical book. He said: “The title has to be ‘Color Outside The Lines’. Of course, the implied theme of everything I’d write would related to the assertion that ‘Life’s adventures don’t happen inside the box.’
Let me be quick to say that I don’t have any immediate plans for writing another book. Of course, had it not been for this friend’s encouragement More Than Enough would never have been written. It was during a shared lunch that he responded to something I’d said by saying: “Don, you’ve got so many wonderful stories. You need to write them down.” I responded, “I have”. His next suggestion was that I needed to write a book. I responded: “I plan to write a book. That’s why I’ve been writing my stories down”. He asked what he could do to help? I affirmed that he just did.
Like the tenacity of a bulldog chomping on a bone, he didn’t back off until he came up with something he could do to assist. Like I said, the guy is a dear friend and friends always push you in the right direction. He wanted to know if it would help if he gave me a deadline? I said: “Probably because I am the ‘last minute’ guy. If I’ve got a deadline, I’ll meet it. Left to my own devices, I’ll probably never start. Thus began my writing journey.
Last night, a long-time friend who lives in Dallas and now works in the Governor’s Office came out for dinner. We, too, talked of many things. He was surprised to learn that I’d retired. He said, “You mentioned you were thinking about retirement when we last met for dinner, but I can’t believe you’ve already made that move.” Like I said, this guy has known me a long time. He knows I have the ability to procrastinate.
Like my friend from lunch, he too moved the conversation to what the “yet to be completely defined” next chapter of my journey would fully look like. He had some out-of-the-box suggestions that I’d never stopped to consider. He referred to them as skills. Actually, he was giving me way too much credit.
I’ve done a couple of workshops with families on grief and how to reframe the process to glean strength and new direction on the heels of loss. Is it a skill? I didn’t think so. It is simply a compassion for folks in the midst of hard times. All I’ve done is offer encouragement and shared life experience.
At any rate, he encouraged me to at least give myself permission to entertain the idea. He shared with me that his wife has a background in providing hospice care. Her specialty was working with families whose children were terminally ill.
In fact from that experience, he and his wife became close friends with a prominent SBC pastor and his extended family. As he shared the family’s story with me, he was surprised when I provided him the pastor’s name.
Though we were never friends, I held the pastor in highest regards. I have fond memories that go all the way back to church camp the summer between my junior and senior year in high school. This camp pastor whose son was also following in his father’s footsteps was that family.
I knew their story. Unbelievable and horrifying best describe how a church turned their back on a family in the worst of times. The family’s small son had to have a blood transfusion for a life-threatening condition. He subsequently developed AIDS from the transfusion. It was like having “LEPER” tattooed on your forehead. The church banned the family from attending. In fact, there wasn’t a church to be found who’d welcome this family because other parents didn’t want their children around the little boy. This little boy was one of the children on my friend’s wife caseload.
Last night the time went by way too quickly and the evening ended before our conversation was completed. It will be a good starting point when we next meet.
Getting back to my melancholy mood from the day before and the experience of tossing most of the files, notebooks, and manuals from my office into the dumpster, a sensitively thoughtful and compassionate colleague responded:
“That mountain of paper represents the sustained, productive journey up the path of leadership, guidance, vision and legacy. I’m grateful for the meaning that lies behind your discarded files and forms. The ink fades and the fibers fail, but the investment endures in all of us whom you’ve prepared along the way. Thank you for all of it!
‘Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain’.”
It is a new day and all is well!
All My Best!