Every Breath is a Second Chance

Hhttp://thelegacybuilder.files.wordpress.com/2010/04/a_god_of_second_chances_medium.jpgave you ever considered the possibility that with every breath you take is a second chance?  I would like to share a story of how this was made a reality in my life.  I have never talked about this before.  To be honest, I am struggling with telling this story because I do not want the “event” to overshadow the “point” I am trying to make.   But here goes…

Years ago, I was having lunch at Bob Evan’s with a few of my friends.  We were talking and laughing and just having a good time.  As we were getting ready to go, I looked up and noticed that a woman sitting at the table next to ours had a very strange look on her face.  Even the people sitting at her table did not seem to notice her appearance.  Suddenly she stood up.  No words.  No noise.  Just silence.  She then started to wave her arms to get the attention of those sitting at her table.  No one noticed.

I am not sure what it was that made me react.  I have never had formal training in performing the Heimlich maneuver,  just what I had read on a chart at work. The only thing I knew was that she was choking and no one was doing anything about it.  I got up from my table and ran over to the now frantic woman.  I spun her around and I threw my arms around her.  I squeezed.  Whatever was lodged in her throat shot out of her mouth and I heard her take a very loud gasp of fresh air.   Within seconds the color came back to her face and although shook up by the whole event, she sat down at her table.  The look of panic on her face was now replaced with a look of disbelief.  That was the same look that was on my face as I turned around to head back to my group of friends.  No words were spoken. Everyone around us was silent.  It was if we all were in denial that what had just happened was real. We all were in shock that the event took place that I just picked up my coat and bill and made my way to the cash register.

This happened so quickly that some of my friends who I had lunch with did not see it.  I do not know how long the woman had been choking but for me the whole event was a mere 15 to 20 seconds long.  It was so surreal that it was like I was just a robot and I was just doing what I had been programmed to do.  All I knew was that for some reason, I just wanted to get out of there.

As I got to the cash register,  the manager came over and  took my bill.   He wanted to get my name and I was telling him that was not necessary.  I did not want to make it into a big deal and I was just glad that she was okay.  I then felt a tap on my shoulder.  I spun around to see who it was and it was the woman who had just been choking a few minutes earlier.   Our eyes met and she was trying to come up with words to say.  As tears filled her eyes, the only words that she could mouth was, “thank you” and she started to sob.  I did not know what to do.  I looked at her and said, “It’s okay, we all need second chances”.

I don’t know why I said that.  It just came out of my mouth.  Much like the whole event.  No plan or preparation… just a reaction.  I hurriedly left the restaurant and I never gave my name nor did I know hers.

I have never talked about it with anyone.  I am no hero nor do I ever want to get recognition for the deal.  I just happened to be at the right place at the right time.

Who doesn’t like second chances? We all can think of times in our lives that we would like to have a chance to start over.  Don’t you wish there was a big red “DO OVER” button that we could push whenever we messed up?  If you are like me, the button would get worn out because of the number of times it would need to get pushed to cover all of my mistakes.  But truthfully, that would be nothing but selfish. It probably would be better if I had a “Do Over” button that I could push for the people in my life.  When they messed up I could push the button and they would be granted another chance.  We all like to have our faults overlooked, we’re not so good at overlooking (or forgiving) the faults of others.  Why is it that we think everyone else should get what they really deserve, but we should be given a break?  Why is it that it’s okay for us to take a Mulligan, but we get irritated with others who do?  I don’t know.

What I do know is that this random, chance meeting of two people in a Bob Evan’s restaurant in Toledo, Ohio has made me a better person. It has allowed me to consider the fact that God’s entire kingdom is built around Second Chances.  He gives us breaks, forgives our sins, moves us into a different future…and this to people who have blown it again and again.

So consider this,  for every breath you take…you get a second chance.  A chance to get it right.  Another chance to accept Jesus Christ as your Savior. A chance to forgive and be forgiven.  Another chance to say “I love you” to those that need to hear you say it.  A chance to “right a wrong”.  With each breath you take, you have a chance to change your life forever.

Sometimes I wonder what that woman did with her second chance.  Did she “right some wrongs” in her life?  Did she love her husband more?  Hug her kids a little tighter?  Did she have or start a better relationship with God?  Did she tell the people in her life that she loved them more often? Did she become a better person?  I do not dwell on these questions because I will never know the answers to them.

What I now realize in my life, is that when our paths crossed on that fateful day, I was a bitter person. I blamed everyone else for the problems in my life.  I was a hateful, angry person that took out his frustrations on people who did not deserve my wrath.  I had carried this angry, bitter, unforgiving attitude for years.  That day was the beginning of change in my life.

I am not sure if that woman made any life changing decisions as a result of this experience.  Maybe for her it is just a story to tell her children.  For me, I cannot help but think that maybe the second chance that was given by God that day wasn’t intended for her at all.

It was for me.

Love Your Dad? Ditch the Tie

IMG_0303Last night my son, Nathan, took me to a ballgame.  He bought my ticket and we enjoyed a victory by the Cleveland Indians.  We shared the moment just like we did when I took him to his first ballgame he was five. It was a great night… but not because of the Indian’s victory and it wasn’t great because it was “dollar dog night” or because there were fireworks after the game.

Father’s Day is tomorrow. If you haven’t already, you’ll be spending this afternoon running to the mall in search of the perfect present.

On behalf of all fathers, I’d like to deliver a message to anyone who has a Dad or is married to one. It might be the thought that counts, but you can’t wrap thought up in a box.

So let me give you some advice… if you are looking for the perfect gift and you find yourself in the tie department at Macy’s, hating yourself along with the rest of tie-giving children of  father’s like me. It’s time to realize it’s too late, futile and time to give up.

Your father doesn’t want another tie.

If he wants to read a book, he’ll buy it.  He doesn’t need another shirt, but if he did, he’d go get one. There’s not much he wants that he can’t get on his own.  But there’s one gift he longs for that you alone and only you can give – and you won’t find it at Brookstone.

Let me let you in on a little secret…

Inside the heart of your father and almost every man you know is a young boy who once wrapped a Super Hero Cape 2towel around his neck and pretended he was Superman.  He wears that cape proudly because it makes him believe he can fly. It makes him believe that all things are possible and it makes him believe that he can be a hero that can make a difference in this world.  Then one day this young boy grows older and abandons his dreams to fly, but he never quite loses the hope that he can save the day. He spends his whole life chasing his moment of glory, trying to build something bigger than himself, something that will leave a mark on the world that he couldn’t.

Then one day, hopefully sooner than later, if  you’re lucky, you will come to realize that the mark that he wanted to leave in this world …was you. You are his legacy. You are his reason why. You’re directly tied to his purpose…and therefore, his self-worth as a father.

So you won’t find what he wants at the mall.

Want to make this the best Father’s Day ever?

Tell your Dad you love him. Don’t write it down. Just tell him directly, with your own voice and not through a  Hallmark card.  Speak from the heart.  Make a moment of it. Thank him for the work he’s done and the sacrifices he’s made for your sake. Thank him for the best of what he’s planted in you however smSUPERMAN_LOGO_all or big that may be.  And maybe once again in his life he can feel the cape of Superman around his neck.

I am no different from these other fathers.   Along with my wife, I have raised four children and if the walls of our home could speak they would tell a story of the struggle of a blended family trying to make it work.  It wasn’t perfect and I made mistakes and there were times when life was hard on all of us.

But I have a special gift that I carry with me everyday and that gift is clearer in my memory on each and every Father’s Day.  That special gift is the memory of when my children have used their own words and looked me in the eye and told me they loved me.

So last night, after the game, when I dropped my son off at his apartment just o28 (2)utside of Cleveland.  He looked me in the eye and told me he loved me… I received the best gift I could ever receive for Father’s Day. He gave me a gift only he could give…one that did me a kind of good I can’t even fully explain. Words fall short but for the moment I could feel the cape around my neck once again.

Love your Dad?

Ditch the tie.

This year, give the Dad in your life something they can’t give themselves. Tell him you love him…with words you’ve never used before.

On behalf of all fathers, I can assure you, there’s no greater gift than to give him another opportunity to wear the cape once again.

 

As a Cleveland Sport’s Fan, I Hold These Truths to be Self-Evident

In keeping with the spirit of this blog site…I guess I should address why I tend to be a die-hard Cleveland sports fan.  I can’t really explain it without starting to question how I could be so foolish to be a Cleveland sports fan.  But I can’t help myself.  I could no longer deny my love for the Brown’s, the Indians and on rare occasion the Cavaliers than I could deny the love for my own children.

I wasn’t born in Cleveland and I definitely wasn’t born this way.

As a matter of fact, my earliest memories of following a sports team was watching the Baltimore Baltimore-OriolesOrioles.  I was in love with Orioles and Brooks Robinson.  The Hall of Fame third basemen for Baltimore was my favorite player in the Major Leagues. It was easy to love the Orioles during the late 60’s and early 70’s. Because they  were winning five Division Championships (1969–1971, 1973–1974), They played in the World Series in 1969, 1970 and 1971 and won it in 1970.

It was a natural transition to become a Baltimore Colt’s fan during that time as well.  The Colt’s played in the Super Bowl in 1968 and 1970 under the leadership of Johnny Unitas  in which they won the same year that the Orioles won tBertJonesColtshe World Series in baseball.  The center of the sports universe was located in Baltimore, Maryland.  The Colt’s continued their winning ways with the play of quarterback Bert Jones and they won division titles in 1975, 1976, and 1977.

This was during the time in my life that I was the most impressionable. If I was going to be a lifelong Orioles and Colt’s fan, I was primed for it to happen because all of the signals were there.  They were the only teams you consistently could watch on TV and it should have stuck.  I had all the team shirts and all of the posters of the players hanging in my bedroom.  If you would have asked my 12-year-old self I would have sworn allegiance until my dying breath.

It didn’t stick.

I cannot pinpoint the exact time or where I was when it happened.  But make no mistake it happened.  I couldn’t really identify with the success that was going on in Baltimore.  It was too easy. I could never shake the feeling that I was a fair weather fan and I never felt like they were “my team”.  I always felt I was a bandwagon fan that only loved the team because they won and they were on TV.  I am sure that there are many people who fall in love with their sports team because they were the team’s that were winning during their impressionable years.  How does someone from Ohio become a Raider or a Steeler fan?  It’s just too easy to love only the teams that win. It is the only logical explanation.

For me, I started to see that life is not like that.  Life is not that easy…  you don’t always win and you don’t always get to play for the championship year in and year out.  Life is hard and it’s a struggle to ever really “win” at things in life.  I saw that I was not born with a silver spoon in my mouth and life was going to give me bumps and bruises.

cleveland_brownsI signed on as a Cleveland sports fan. I found a team that I could honestly identify with. I found a place where I could put on their team jersey and feel like I wasn’t being fake or a bandwagon fan. I was down for the struggle and I was home… where I belonged.

Maybe it is the fact that they are the perennial under-dog or maybe because no matter how promising the plan or how high the draft pick, someone will screw it up. It is the perfect reflection of what I have come know of what life is all about.  It is about the struggle… the hope… the chance that this could be the year that it will happen for us. If not… there is always next year.  It isn’t a given satisfaction and the victories are so much sweeter when they don’t come easy.

It is too easy for others to make fun.

Currently, our new N.F.L. owner, a truck stop billionaire named Jimmy Haslam, is being investigated by federal agencies for a fuel rebate debacle.  The Cavaliers lost 58 games: they would have lost more, but the season ended. The Indians perform in a cloister.

The Indians took the World Series in 1948; in ’64 the Browns were crowned kings of professional Cleveland_Indiansfootball. Since then, nothing. It has been a particularly potent kind of futility. Not a cuddly incompetence like the Chicago Cubs’, each collapse covered in ivy, or the celebrated struggles of the Boston Red Sox.  No “Sweet Caroline” here.  Our ballpark sing-a-long could be the song “Eve of Destruction.”

Periodically, wizards and new owners have arrived to break the curse. They were an oddly bloodless bunch, for conjurers, but spoke well and seemed to understand salary caps. They lectured us on the constraints of a small market, failed, and left. Somehow, misfortune always found a roster spot.

 But these are not the worst of times, only the latest. We are all too familiar with “the Fumble”, “the Drive” and “the Shot” and the curse of Rocky Colavito. There are library shelves that groan with the agony of Cleveland fans.  A generation of futility.

I have caught my share of Indians games at the old Municipal Stadium and I was at Jacob’s Field (forever the name for me) watching the Tribe in the 1995 World Series.  I watched the Kardiac Kids of the ’80’s and I watched the Cav’s in the heyday of the Richfield Coliseum.

We are sports people. We are family. You will never know until become a member of this family we call Cleveland.

As a Cleveland sports fan, I hold these truths to be self-evident:

I will be a Cleveland fan until my dying breath.

I have tried to pass it on but only my son Nathan has a membership card to the Cleveland Sports family. It’s becoming harder to pass down that homegrown pain. Satellite dishes, streaming Internet — the young live vicariously in a world that technology creates. They can watch any game and watch a TV channel dedicated to their respective team 24 / 7.  They are spared of any indignity of disloyalty or shame or loss. They wear Indianapolis hats and Cowboys jerseys and that splayed-leg figure dunking on their hoodies isn’t Mark Price.

We Cleveland fans take victory, like work, wherever we find it.

This year, I know I will not be busy during the playoffs. Any playoffs.

I, for one, sleep well in the knowledge that my car will probably never be overturned in a championship celebration.

And yet…

The first pitch of spring slaps leather, the Indians hang around first place in June, and sports again becomes something beyond a balance sheet. A kickoff for the Brown’s sails high into the autumn air and I start to think anything’s possible.  Hope swells in my heart and I believe that this year will be different.

And for a moment, I hardly notice the years of  futility in my life piling up around my feet.