Significance or Success?

IMG_2120I have a bookshelf in my office where I keep the pictures taken with famous individuals and all the signed copies of books of authors, presidents and other notable individuals I have met through the years. I am not going to share their names, because quite honestly spending five minutes with a famous performer or flying across the country in a private jet with a platinum recording artist doesn’t give me any more clout than a greeter at Wal Mart. In truth he may have had a far more interesting and significant life than I have.

I am as guilty as the next guy when it comes to feeling giddy or excited at the prospect of meeting someone famous. I recall dining one night at Bonefish Grill when Paul Kariya came in to pick up his carry out order. My daughter was a huge fan so I did what I swore I wouldn’t – I went up and asked him if he would take a picture with Alyssa. Paul was incredibly gracious and fulfilled a young girl’s dream.

I wrote my first professionally published article in October of 1983. I was just a kid and had a lot of great coaching from a wonderful mentor. Since that time I have been blessed to write articles for magazines, chapters for compilation books and even published my own book a few years back. During all that time I have stayed under the radar of personal success. I consider myself an average Joe who has been given the ability to communicate the challenges, struggles, and emotions of other average people. If there is one word that has been used to describe my personality, it would be “relatable.” I consider that high praise.

As a teenager I wanted to be a professional baseball player. As a young adult I saw myself on the speaker’s circuit dazzling audiences in packed arena’s with my spellbinding rhetoric. Now that I have lived almost 20,000 days I just want my life to be significant. I want my actions to honor God and my family; I want my influence to bring goodness and joy into the lives of others; and I pray that somehow the world will be a little better place because I was part of it.

For those who take the time to read my ramblings, you understand that my words don’t have the style and flow of H.L. Mencken, or the beauty and grandeur of Elizabeth Barrett Browning. I come from the Thomas Wolfe school of writing, “It’s only when you open your veins and bleed on the page a little that you establish contact with your reader.” In striving for truth, and a genuine reflection of life, it is my desire to communicate not only my own struggle, but that of my fellow man.

For me, significance comes when I hear another say, “wow, that was me just last week,” or “I have always wanted to say that, did you get criticized for sharing those thoughts?” When feedback comes, even from a few, I feel like their advocate for the unspoken truths of life.

For over a decade my son asked me to read, “Ender’s Game,” by Orson Scott Card. I dodged his overtures for years till he gave me an inscribed copy for my 53rd birthday. His inscription was so cryptic and alluring I couldn’t escape the challenge any longer. I read the book on my way to Africa and immediately understood. My son Tristan and I share a common gift – we speak the words that others wish they could speak, or are afraid to speak. We are the voice of so many silenced by fear, doubt, or confusion.

I regret it has taken me half a century to find my gift, but on these pages I intend to be what God called me to be – a spokesperson for any and all who live out life without fame, fortune, riches or praise, but have contributed something of great value to society – their own uniqueness.

P.S. The photos used in this blog are pictures of me with some of the children I have come to love in Africa. They represent a far more significant place in my life than any of the celebrities or dignitaries I have had the privilege to meet through the years.

P.S.S.  Many have asked what the inscription to the book said? Here it is, “Ho Dad, I have always loved and respected you as my father, friend, opponent and leader. This book and the one that follows it, have summed up the way I have always felt and I hope, in the process of reading it, you will know me a bit better. I love you and always will. Thank you for being my toon leader and teaching me to bend the rules and remind me that the gate is always down.

Love, Tender

This note will make more sense as you read.”

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