Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Be Spontaneous

There is much to be said about pre-planning and minimizing risks, especially when one is preparing for retirement, a dream vacation, or building a house. These endeavors require superb attention to detail to decrease chances for failure. Keeping surprises to an absolute minimum when planning for retirement, dream vacations, or building a house is always a good thing.

But ... there's also something to be said for sheer spontaneity.

Think back to when you were a kid. What memories come to mind? How about as a teenager or a young adult? Is there anything you can recollect from those days that left an indelible impression on your mind, as a result of some spur of the moment decision?

I can think of a couple. One evening I asked my mother a question. It was a simple enough query: "What's for dinner?"

She responded, "Ice cream sundaes!" Now that meal is definitely in my top-ten list of memories. She caught me completely off-guard. As a result, her spontaneity -- along with her exquisite choice of cuisine -- is fondly recalled today.

On another occasion my brother came to visit me in Michigan. We were talking about Niagara Falls and how we went there as kids. One thing led to another, and we decided if we left immediately we could be there in ten hours. So we did. That's another entry in my top-ten list of never-to-be-forgotten days.

Spontaneous events aren't just supposed to happen to kids though; spouses also savor an out-of-the-blue suggestion once in a while. Here's three to get you thinking: a surprise dinner at a favorite restaurant of hers; a Saturday afternoon movie (again, with a flick she likes); the miraculous appearance of a babysitter 15 minutes before you whisk her off to hockey game. These are all wonderful experiences to be warmly recalled later.

Naturally, planning and routine have their place and function in our world, but the occasional spur- of-the-moment, unplanned event can create a memory lasting a lifetime. Sometimes, too, those really big, unplanned moments even become part of the family's lore and history -- like when my grandpa said "yes" to a blind date at the drop of a hat.

It was that event -- way back when -- that eventually kick started our family -- and all the kids, grandkids, marriages, and everything else that has gone along with it.

Spontaneity ... who knows what it will bring?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


In early medieval times, one's "honour" (honor) was defined as the group of manors or lands one held. Thus an honor was an estate that gave the owner a certain dignity and status. Hence if one would say, "on my honor" he was pledging his estate as surety that he would fulfill his pledge or forfeit the estate. To pledge one's honor was not something taken lightly.

Medieval knights lived their lives by a code of honor, commonly known as the Knight's Code of Chivalry. Among the various nuances of the Code of Chivalry, the concept of "honor" was at the core. Knights vowed to respect and protect the honor of women, guard the honor of fellow knights and live an honorable life in word and deed.

Today a man of honor is one worthy of respect, usually having earned it through honest actions, high morals, and fair dealings.

When a man of honor pledges "on my honor," he no longer pledges on his estate, but on his reputation and good name. A man of honor will keep his pledge or forfeit his position of honor.

As the United States honors fallen veterans, it is fitting we look beyond the sacrifice they made -- beyond their military record -- instead, we need to look at the person inside the uniform.

There we will discover a person of honor. We will find a person worthy of respect, which has been earned through honest dealings; a person of high morals who treats others fairly. And just like the medieval knights, we will see a person who is honest and upright, defending his country, preserving the dignity of others, living a life of integrity and worthy of emulation.

It is altogether fitting we honor our fallen comrades. However, thankfully, one does not have to fall in battle to be a person of honor.

Men, let us strive to live honorable lives. Let us be fair, just and respectful. Let us pledge to uphold the honor of those unable to defend themselves. Let us respect and defend the honor of all women. Let us be true leaders in our family, in our community, and in our workplace who daily display honor and respect.

Let us take seriously the promise, "on my honor," and by our actions and attitudes live lives worthy of honorable mention.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Man of Integrity

Dwight David "Ike" Eisenhower, 34th president of the United States, five-star general in the United States Army, and supreme commander of the Allied Forces in Europe during World War II has commented thusly: "The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office."
Integrity is defined as the quality of possessing -- and steadfastly adhering -- to high moral principles or professional standards. The mark of a man of integrity would be a man who consistently lives out high moral principles, even when no one is looking.

It has been my ongoing goal to be a man of integrity, but I have found it increasingly difficult, as I am pressured to retreat from some values in the name of conformity.

For example, I try to obey the laws of the land, even those that govern how I operate a motor vehicle. Doing this, however, can be a mixed bag. Thus, when I am driving 60 mph in a 60-mph speed zone, I often become the recipient of moans, groans and comic pleadings from the back seat to step on it and go faster. Most often I hear, "Dad, everyone else is passing you. I can't believe you let yourself get passed by a mini-van. I just hope no one sees me in here."

Internally, I wrestle with the integrity issue. Do I maintain my values as a law-abiding citizen? Do I capitulate in order to save face in front of my children?

I struggle with the whole honesty issue too. Frequently, I hear of sports legends, Hollywood celebs, politicians and business leaders who are seemingly rewarded for their less-than-honorable actions. And this goes on while others choose the high road, making the tough decision to forego dishonest gain. Too often those that abide by the rules are overtaken by those who have figured out how to fold, bend and even break them.

Still, when it comes down to it, I'll continue striving to live a life of integrity, as best I can. I will stop at stop signs, keep my eye on the speed limit, and even give myself a penalty stroke when I play golf.

Even when nobody is watching.

Now that's the kind of courage even a guy like Ike would like.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

You Do Matter

We've all been there. You run up to the store to grab a single item and get stuck behind some slowpoke engaging the cashier with idle chit-chat. It happened to me the other day as I found myself stalled behind an elderly lady. My usual impatience ran out even more quickly as this woman with the booming voice bore an uncanny resemblance to my grandmother. Locked in place with lines on both sides, I started paying attention to her conversation. Is it eavesdropping if she was speaking loud enough to be heard two aisles over?

The conversation started out with the usual discussion about the weather and how she hoped it would not rain over the weekend. I didn't see anything interesting there until she continued with why she didn't want rain: "The men in my church are going to change the oil for the widows and single ladies this weekend, and I sure want the oil in my car changed."

She continued. "Yes, there was one man in my church who started this service and now we have lots of kind men who are helping out us older gals. I'm on a fixed income, you know, and can't afford to take care of some things the way I should, let alone my car. It's good of these guys to help out, and there's no charge. Can you believe that? No charge! I am praying for good weather, and I sure thank God for these men."

She smiled at the cashier, paid for her few items, and left me standing there.

Men, what we do does matter; this woman is a testimony to how much it does.

I don't know what church she attends, but I'm encouraged by the fact that somebody had a good idea and others followed, giving their time, ability and finances to offer a simple service that is often taken for granted. This woman reminded me how something as basic as an oil change can mean so much. It meant so much she publicly thanked God for the guys who were doing it.

Wouldn't it be awesome if each of us found one simple way to provide a service to others?