Friday, November 14, 2014

An Old Man and Ice Cream

Everyone wants to change the world, right? Or am I the only one? The older I get the more I'm resigned to the fact that I'm not going to be in the NBA, (that ship has sailed) I won't be the next Warren Buffett, and I'm not going to invent some cool gadget like Steve Jobs.

The realization of all this, combined with an experience I had with an old man and ice cream, has changed my perspective of success.

My wife's grandfather lost his wife about twenty years ago, after fifty years of marriage. He's still kickin', having just had his 97th birthday in August. One of the things I like to do with my kids is visit him. My kids are so fun and cute and we all have a blast. We laugh, the kids sing for him, we clean his dishes, take out his trash, and even walk over to the store and buy him groceries.

Just as we were about to leave he would ask, "Who wants ice cream?" Of course, my kids would all cheer and follow their hobbling grandpa into the kitchen so he could scoop them out some. He would fumble in the sink to find a spoon and would always gripe about how hard it was to get the ice cream out.

After a few visits like this, a few things happened. One, my kids started to expect ice cream and would ask for it the minute we walked in the door, and two, I realized that the poor old spoon great grandpa used to scoop out the ice cream was not cutting it.

I had an idea! I was going to buy him a nice and sturdy ice cream scoop. The amazing part was I actually followed through! The next time we stopped to visit, we unveiled his brand new ice cream spatula. We're not talking some low quality scoop here - it was pretty much the Harley Davidson of ice cream spatulas!. And he was EXCITED.

How would you like to scoop out some ice cream with one of these puppies? That's right!

It was one of the times in life when you do something you feel like you should, and it makes you feel wonderful. But I never imagined the impact it would have on that old man. Every time after that, whenever we'd go over to his home and line up for ice cream, he'd pull out his sturdy ice cream spatula, look at me and say with a smirk, "You got this for me, huh."

This small event in my life helped me realize that I don't need to change the world. That's a pretty lofty goal and not within my reach. My new goal? Change the world for someone. As small and insignificant as my efforts were, it meant the world to great grandpa. The cool thing is, I'll never truly understand the full impact of what I did, but every time I think of him and this ice cream spatula, I'm reminded of Mother Theresa, who captured the essence of this story when she said:

"We can do no great things - only small things with great love."

What small act of kindness can you offer that will change someone's world? Believe me, someone's waiting! 

Labels: , ,

Thursday, November 13, 2014

I Promised to Never Be Like My Dad

We all have our struggles in this life. Sometimes it's easy to recognize the weaknesses of others and not see the good. That's how I was. Especially when I was young. Especially when it came to my dad. More than once I promised never to be like him.

I grew up with great friends who all had great dads. It seemed to me that the relationships they had with their fathers were a step above the one I had with mine. There were some things my dad did that made me upset - add to that the fact that he was always too tired to shoot hoops, and it made for a bad combination when trying to build a solid relationship with a teenage son.

My father, Howard Arkell, second from left.

I remember being very hard on my dad. I can still hear the words from my father ringing in my ears: "I know I'm a horrible father." He said it on more than one occasion, and it usually stemmed from me complaining about something he did.

Now that I'm a father I look back on his weaknesses a lot differently. In fact, it's a lot easier to be more understanding. What's hard to swallow is that the great things he did I'm just starting to notice, and now that he's gone, I can't properly give him the credit he's due.

One night my boys were asking me for a story. So I told them of the day my dad bought me a BRAND NEW pair of basketball sneakers. They were white high tops with black stripes on them and I swear they made me jump two feet higher. They cost $80, which in today's world would equate to $120. The first night I wore them I took great care to only have them on when I was in the gym. Once the pickup game ended, I changed into some other shoes and walked to the car, placed my new sneaks on the roof of the car, and fiddled with the keys to open the car door. I was basking in the joy of another great performance on the court, with these amazing new sneakers.

As I drove home, imagining the lucrative NBA deal that was sure to be part of my future, I realized I had never taken my sneakers off the roof of the car. I quickly pulled over, jumped out of the car, and my heart sunk as I realize that my new prized possession, the key to NBA glory, my beautiful, expensive sneakers - were GONE. I drove back to the gym, trying to find them, but in the darkness of the late hour there was no hope. I had lost my sneakers on the very day they were given to me.

As I was telling my boys this story, I realized something amazing. When I had gone home to tell my dad what happened, I don't remember his reaction. That's the fascinating part to me. I know that if he had flown off the handle and gotten angry, I would have remembered. But my only memory is this - the next day after searching for the sneakers on his way to work without any luck, he came home with a newly purchased pair of the same eighty dollar sneakers.

After I finished telling my boys this story, I thought of a moment earlier in the day when I lost my temper and raised my voice at my boy for spilling his milk. I remembered the way I overreacted earlier that week when one of their bikes scraped up against the side of our new van. I thought of all the small and insignificant things that my kids do and how I never seem to be able to let it go without belittling them. It was then I realized that my promise from years earlier was coming true in a much different fashion than I had expected - I realized that I never would be like my dad. The greatest attributes of my father were the ones that, as a child, I could not see.

Dad, wherever you are, and as shallow as this apology and statement is, please know that one day I hope to be the man you were. I'm sure you are looking down with empathy and a smile. Your wings are well deserved. I'm sorry it took me so long to realize it.

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, June 6, 2013

God Bless the Selfless Soldier

As you read this post, please follow the links to learn more.

God Bless the selfless soldiers who offer their life for me
But cursed be our country’s leaders who “spread democracy

Please comfort families back at home that worry every night
And judgment be upon evil men who pretend we need to fight

Keep safe our sons and daughters who patrol fields of poppy, oil, and grain
Believed to be protecting our freedom, they're guarding evil men’s gains

Support our troops and bring them home to their loved ones they adore
Stop saying we are bringing peace through useless, dirty wars

Restore the love of family, let the soldiers remove bloody stains
If citizens knew what true motives were, our leaders would cower in shame

The “land of the free, and the home of the brave”, phrases once held in esteem
America needs to awake to the fact we are now a new regime

If we truly loved our freedom we would defend it here at home
Not impose our will on others through killing at night with drones

God, restore to us your favor, remove our desires for power and gold
Turn the hearts of this nation to the principles the Constitution holds

Bring our soldiers back from war; let them feel our loving embrace
Or this fake “War on Terror” will never end, and we’ll never be truly safe

To view and share other liberty movement poems like this, please visit Work of Ark

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

My Last Days: Meet Zach Sobiech

He went down fighting.

At age 14, Sobiech was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a bone cancer which mostly strikes children. CBS reported that during his treatment he underwent 10 surgeries and 20 rounds of chemotherapy. He started writing music after his diagnosis.
In May 2012 his doctors informed him that he had up to a year to live. Sobiech recorded the song "Clouds" about his battle with cancer, and released it as a YouTube video in December 2012. It went viral, surpassing 3 million views at the time of his death. It currently has more than 10 million views and counting.
(Source: Wikipedia)

Zach Sobiech - J. Dunn Photography

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

A Reason To Be Thankful

It's been bitter cold these past few weeks. Bitter cold. The "this makes me not want to ever go outside" kind of cold. Temperatures in the low teens every day, sometimes dropping into the frigid single digits. It's all I can do to make it from the door to my car that is parked in the garage. I'm just glad there is never a significant windchill here in Utah.

The severity of the cold triggered a distant memory that I had all but forgotten. It was one of those moments in life when you sit back and think, "Thank God that I'm blessed with what I have."

In March of 2008 we were driving back from a family vacation and we made our way through scenic Wyoming. It was getting pretty late and after fighting with some severely tired eyes we decided that it would be a good time to stop at a motel for the night. We found some cheap, musty hotel just off the freeway and I ran inside to book the room. The freezing air whipped all around me as I jumped back in the car with room key in hand. We found our parking spot and I jumped out to unload the kids and the necessary bags for our quick night's stay.

I opened the back door of the car and lifted up my 4 year-old boy who was fast asleep. We had to climb some stairs to get to our room, and their were lots of bags to haul in, so I needed him to stand up and walk by himself. When I placed him on the ground he stumbled drowsily and the howling wind left him even stunned and confused. He began to cry because of the unbearable cold, and feared going up the tall staircase all by himself.

As I bent over to put his coat on, I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude that I had a coat for him to wear. In a way like never before, my heart literally filled with a powerful emotion of gratitude as God made an impression on me by communicating, "You are blessed". I caught a small glimpse of what it must have been like to take my poor children and travel with them across the plains in the severest and most dire conditions as did the early pioneers* and settlers. I had something they didn't, I had the luxury of putting a coat on my child, and a nice pair of shoes. Most importantly, I could tell my little boy with certainty that he would shortly be in a warm place.

Can you imagine the heartache and pain of having your children exposed to the harsh and frigid elements and not being able to do anything about it? Not being able to place a warm jacket on them, or bring them into a nice cozy home warmed by a nice modern heating system? Those dear pioneers who lost children due to exposure - my mind and heart can't even comprehend it.

God bless all those who are out in the cold. God bless all those children who need a blanket, a nice meal, and the assurance that they will soon be somewhere warm. I'm thankful that my children have all this and more.

*Interestingly enough, one of the earlier pioneer companies had set up camp very near to this spot in Wyoming where we were, and more than 200 people died from starvation and cold in the fall of 1856.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Monday, January 14, 2013

Welcoming Dad

This is the best part of my day, by far! Is there any wonder why? Not many people have this kind of reaction when I come into the room. This is just one reason why this angel baby has stolen my heart.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

My Child Is Worth More Than Yours

What price would you put on a child? What price would you put on YOUR children? How about those of Sandy Hook Elementary? What about children in other countries, are they worth less than us?

It appears they are, according to the viewpoint of some. How can we justify the killing of hundreds of thousands of children in war? Take a view of this 0:23 second clip and let me know your opinions of then US Secretary of State Madeline Albright. Look into her face and eyes, where is the love in them? If you read the description of the video, you will see General Richardson say the same thing. That the policy allowing 500,000 innocent children to die was the right thing. Why does the policy that allows 20 children at Sandy Hook to die need to be changed, while the policy that kills half a million doesn't?

I'm sad to say the answer is because our children our more valuable than other people's children around the world.

But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.

Labels: , , , ,