A Little Fixer-Upper

IMG00066My wife and I play a little game.  We look for houses that might be interesting to buy.  We’re never serious, we just point out homes that have “For Sale” signs in their front yard.  As we note their sign, we also determine whether or not we would be interested in moving into the home.  These decisions are based on several important factors, including location, style of home, the materials used in construction, and the effort needed to make them livable.

Some homes require a touch of paint or some concrete work to make them habitable.  Several are beyond repair.  Occasionally we view a home that might work as-is, but this is a rare occurrence.

Sometimes we drive through very nice neighborhoods; perfect neighborhoods, with beautiful tree-lined streets, boasting  million-dollar homes.  Its on these drives that my funny, funny wife will point out the window and say, “There’s a little fixer-upper.”  And we just Laaaaaugh!

Last night a friend of ours mentioned buying into one of the newest ideas in home ownership:  No or Low Maintenance Homes.  In case you’ve never heard of these, allow me to explain.  If you are smart enough to move your worldly belongings into one of these fashionable dwellings, you benefit from the fact that you will never have to mow the yard, weed the flowerbeds, shovel the walks or paint the walls.  You don’t have to repair the roof, replace the siding or point-tuck the bricks.  This is the kind of living every home owner dreams of, right?

But here’s the rub:  There is no such thing as a no maintenance home.  Every home, every single one, requires maintenance.  The marketing department for these abodes has done a great job in convincing you that it is the perfect home when, in reality, these residences are just like every other.  The difference is that someone else does the maintenance.  Someone else mows the yard, pulls the weeds, paints the walls.  The work is still required.  The difference is that the effort is someone else’s.

Maintenance is reality, whether you or someone else is doing the work.  It’s true of homes and its true of the reset of life.

Plants need watered, tended and trimmed.

Dogs need walked, groomed and loved.

Cars need gassed up, oil changed, and tuned.

Kids need food, clothes, shelter, money, more food and more clothes, more money…Actually, the kids’ list is endless.

There’s no way around it.  Everyone and everything needs maintenance.

If you wake up tomorrow (and I hope you do), you will need maintenance.  If you are like me, the first thing you do in the morning is to shuffle to the bathroom.  Maintenance.  Fix your morning coffee and eat a quick breakfast.  Maintenance.  Shower and shave.  Maintenance.  Everything we do is designed to maintain the bodies we inhabit, the homes in which we live, and the families we love.

Stop the maintenance and you won’t last long.  Ignore the maintenance and the domicile declines.  Increase the attention to the maintenance and the quality of the residence improves.

It’s true with your body, your family or that little fixer-upper you call home.

Living Life Large

Bath Time AdventureHere’s the deal:  Life is what you make it.  The Adventure is where you find it.

As a child, every bath is an under water adventure.  Every pine tree is a potential fort.  Every mud puddle a new discovery.  We find excitement in the every day.  We relish in the little things.  Why?

268I think part of the reason is that all things are new to us.  When you reach the age of 50, you’ve taken over 18,000 baths or showers (assuming you are fastidious about your hygiene).  At some point, there are no more grand discoveries below the bubbles.  But, is that really true?  Aren’t there always sea monsters lurking below the deep?  I propose there are just as many undiscovered treasures today as there were when we were three.  We simply stopped looking.

Our lives become regular acts of function.  Our activities, if they don’t serve a purpose are assigned to the column of “wasted time” or “foolish endeavors”.

Look at a 4-year-old as she walk down the sidewalk. Do they simply put one foot in front of the other?  Do they see this mode of transportation as nothing more than a means to take them from Point A to Point B?  NO!  They hop.  They skip.  They wander from one side of the pavement.  They intentionally splash the mud puddle.  They walk on the grass instead of the path laid out by grown ups.  It isn’t just a walk…It is a grand adventure.

When is the last time you watched your neighbor get their paper from the mailbox?  Did they hop to the curb, twirl around twice and reach into the box with a flourish?  Of course not.  They are too old for that kind of foolishness.

174Some of the happiest people I know are children because they see life as an adventure.  They go through each day with energy and pizazz.  And we could learn something from them.  Where we see yards that need mowed, they see a jungle that holds dangerous lions and exciting discoveries.  Where we see walks that need shoveled, they see a winter wonderland of fun and magic.  They look beyond the mundane and see the new and exciting.

I propose that we live this day to its fullest.  Today we strut with our heads held high, instead of walking with the weight of the world on our shoulders.  Today we sing our favorite song loudly and slightly off key when we are in the bath, instead of mindlessly performing our routine of wash, rinse, repeat.  Today we wear clothes that are garish and bright and do not match because we like them and for no other reason.

500If this is too much for you, start small.  Wear miss-matched socks.  Swing by GoodWill and find the ugliest tie you can buy for $1.99.  Wear your tennis shoes with your suit.  Sprint to the car and then hop up and down until your are out of breath.  Eat your toast…up-side-down!  (I know, whacky, right?)

Life is an Adventure.  Unfortunately, too many of us have stopped living it that way.  Instead of a great mountain climber, we’ve become an old retired Sherpa.  Instead of a deep see explorer, we’ve hung up our fins and snorkel.  It’s time to come out of retirement, if for no more than one day.  It’s time to get the gear down from the closet.  It’s time to make life grand again:  One hop, skip and jump at a time.

Can We Talk?

198709092168Did you hear?  Just between the two of us…  You won’t believe what I just heard…

These and many like them are phrases that kill:  They kill relationships.  They kill trust.  They kill integrity.  If you’ve said one of these before, or you’ve heard them coming from someone else, you know what I mean.

These words come from big mouths that have no filters.  They come from hearts that have no conscience.  They come from minds that have no intelligence.

These words are always about others and hardly ever about something good.  They burrow into the soul.  They leave a dark mark.  They have a foul odor.

These words represent gossip in its worst form.  They may be true or they may not.  They represent nothing more than slander.  They whisper shame.  They detail destruction.

These words are evil.  They come from bad intent.  They destroy careers.  They devastate families.

A person who begins a conversation with these words has a small mind and a cold heart.

The next time you hear those words, take action.

Did you hear?  – No, and I don’t want to.

Just between the two of us… – Just keep it to yourself.

You won’t believe what I just heard… – You are right.  I won’t so don’t even tell me.

 

 

 

 

Turning…Older

Close the box is a dice game in which you must roll the perfect combination to "close" all the numbers on your side.
Close the Box is a dice game in which you must roll the perfect combination to “close” all the numbers on your side.  It hardly ever happens.

I’m starting to come to a realization about life:  It’s one big Crap Shoot.

I don’t mean this in a negative way.  I mean that, in truth, life is nothing more than a roll of the dice.  You can be happy and healthy one minute and in the toss of the cubes, your life changes dramatically.  You can be working hard, paying your bills, involved in your community and then you get fired, laid off, injured, or sick.

You can plant seeds in the garden and the odds are that something will grow, but it isn’t a 100% guarantee.

You can teach your children to be responsible but their actions, ultimately are their own and you have no control.

You can keep your yard perfectly groomed but it doesn’t prevent the city from digging a ditch through your fescue.

Life is a Crap Shoot.  You roll the dice every morning that you wake up.  The outcome is out of your hands…But how you respond to the fall of the dice is another story entirely!

Four years ago, after standing in the sandwich line for 20 minutes, I blew up at the woman behind the counter when she informed me that they don’t sell half wrap sandwiches.  I ranted and raved.  I stormed away.  I made a scene.  In short, I was an ass.  Don’t ask why.  I have no idea why I acted that way.  I can venture a guess:  Stress, Frustration, Fatigue.  Any number of reasons come to mind:  Stupidity, Immaturity, Evil.

In what was the least important part of my day, I threw a temper tantrum.  I pouted like a four-year-old because they only sold WHOLE wraps and not HALF wraps.  The dice fell wrong.  Big deal.  But I reacted in a manner that was beyond inappropriate.  I hate to think how I would have acted if it had been something important!

But here’s the rub.  I knew I was wrong.  I knew that my actions were out of line.  And so the next day, I stood in line for another 20 minutes.  Not to order a sandwich, whole or otherwise, but to apologize.  It was an awkward moment for me but there was no way I would ever be able to face that woman, and all my co-workers, if I didn’t take responsibility for my actions and my reactions.

And here’s the best part of the story.  To this day, Caroline (the sandwich maker) and I greet one another with a smile and a hug whenever we see one another.  She calls me Darlin’ and Hon.  I just call her Caroline.  But occasionally will break out into my own version of Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” from across the lunch room.  We talk about her vacations and she asks about my day.  I am interested in her sore back and her love of NASCAR and she is happy to see me when I enter her line.  The other day I wandered through the cafeteria just to wish her a happy weekend.

My initial reaction on the horrible day four years ago?  Ridiculous.

My second-thought reaction four years ago and every day since?  Redemptive.

The dice are going to fall.  Someday, it’s going to be something that matters and the roll will not favor you.  A bad diagnosis, a pink slip, a burst water pipe, hurtful revelations, whispered secrets.  How you react is much more important that the final count on the dice.

Perhaps I’ve learned that much in 49 years.  Perhaps.

Art and More

I finally found them!  I’ve been looking for a series of pictures I took 18 months ago but it wasn’t until yesterday that I found them.

My daughter was asked to paint some wooden letters for a child’s room.  When she told me about the project, I thought she would paint on letter blue and another red.  She might add a stenciled daisy to a letter or two.

Several months later, I was shocked to see the end product.  For a small finder’s fee paid to her father, you too can have a brilliant and beautiful wall decoration.  The phone lines are open and operators are standing by to take your orders right now!

Deep Cleaning

Nothing feels better than a clean house and a room in perfect order.
Nothing feels better than a clean house and a room in perfect order.

My wife made it clear yesterday that we were going to clean.

“The place is filthy!” she announced with conviction.

I agreed.  That’s my job.  My job is to agree.  I learned this years ago and life has been better ever since.  And so, without questioning the course of our Saturday, we cleaned.  She tackled the living room and kitchen and hall.  I tackled the dining room and family room.  Together, we made a big dent in the dirt situation.  I emptied the china cabinet and dusted each piece.  I Windexed the top and bottom of the glass dining room table.  I swept the floor.  I dusted the woodwork.  I rearranged the side board.  I was very proud.

Anita did her thing and if I’m to be honest, was a LOT more detailed than my own cleaning effort.  She destroyed the room.  I mean carpets-rolled-up, furniture-shoved-into-corners, couches-over-turned destroyed.  And yet, somehow by the end of the day, it was all put back together and beautifully clean and sparkling.

In the end we made a huge dent in the dust bunnies that had started to bread under the furniture.  In the end we could say with confidence that we were not longer filthy.  Tired…but not filthy.

Words and Their Source

Calm MorningThree people expressed their view of my project. They all shared a similar view but their varied approach and the responses they received were much different.

One person is nothing more than an bitter irritant to nearly everyone she meets.  Her words were like rough sandpaper being used to remove a boil on the back of my neck:  They were painful, too rough, too close and definitely the wrong tool for the job.  They caused me to withdrawal violently to avoid more pain.

One person is a lost, lonely and sad fool who covers the pain with laughter that is too loud and too often.  His words are sarcastic and biting.  His snide comments were like my neighbor’s dog barking at the fence:  Teeth flash but are harmless as long as I never try to get close to the unpredictable animal.

One person is quiet and often speaks wisdom beyond her years.  Her words were carefully chosen and represented many  hours of thought.  Like a surgeon’s blade, they cut right to the heart of the issue, making plain the action that must be taken without excess damage.  She did not attack the person, but the problem.

Three voices.  One similar opinion.  Three means of expression.

How do you speak?  What response to you produce?

Happy Groundhog Day

My District Superintendent and friend, Doug holds my daughter just after her birth.
My District Superintendent and friend, Doug holds my daughter just after her birth.

Many years ago, my District Superintendent told us something that has stuck with me ever since.  He reported to a group of fellow ministers that one of his favorite holidays (and movies) is Groundhog Day.

I love Bill Murray and along side the cult favorite “What About Bob?”, his role in “Groundhog Day” is classic.  I own both movies and watch them whenever Anita isn’t in the house.  (She doesn’t have the same appreciation that I do.)

If you aren’t familiar with the premise of the movie, Murray’s character is stuck in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.  Every day is Groundhog day and he can choose to make self-destructive, self-absorbed decisions or make the lives of others richer and more meaningful and in the process, enrich his own life along the way.

My son and I were watching the movie a few months ago and as Murray’s character is learning to play the piano, Ben said, without even thinking, “If I had every day to live over and over, I would learn to play the piano, too.”  I looked at him and laughed.  “You DO have every day to live over and over.  You have the rest of your life!

This is the point, isn’t it?  Why don’t we take advantage of every minute of every day?  We don’t have to be stuck in some Twilight Zone Rodent Holiday to grow, develop and expand our lives and horizons.  We can be different.  We can be better.  We simply have to choose this option.

And so, as we celebrate the strangest holiday on our calendar, I know that Doug and I are both watching this film, laughing at Murray, thinking about our own lives and ways we can make them better.  Now if I could just bet my wife to join me…

Dance Fever

Jonathan was a great dancer but I suspect he was in it for the outfits.
Jonathan was a great dancer but I suspect he was in it for the outfits.

When our son was about five years old we signed him up for tap dance classes at the Cole Dance Academy.  He was really into Savion Glover who was big on Sesame Street and it was good for his coordination, or so we were told.  But somewhere along the line, the instructor lost sight of the kids and their program and roped in the dads.  They had this great idea: What if the boys and the dads dance together in the final show?

That idea sounded perfect to everyone but the dads.  They forgot that we didn’t sign up as a team.  This is for the kids.  They are the ones who needed the activity, help with their coordination and rhythm.  I grew up in the age of Disco.  I didn’t need help with my rhythm.  Besides, you weren’t going to strap a pair of tap shoes on this guy and shove him out onto the stage!

Unfortunately, we were over-ruled by the mothers.  The song, “Everything Old is New Again” was selected.  The instructor choreographed a cute little number that involved the dads and the boys dancing beside, behind and in front of one another.  And there was no getting out of it.

The only surviving picture of our dancing debut at Emens Auditorium, Ball State University. circa 1995

Please understand that I’ve been on stage many, many times.  I’ve spoken to crowds in the thousands without any problem.  But TAP DANCING?  Are you serious?  I was terrified.

So, in preparation for the big night, we practiced for hours and then practiced some more.  We bought special taps to nail into the bottoms of my shoes.  I rented the outfit and practiced some more.  And on the night of the performance, I straightened my bow tie, laced up my shoes and stood next to my son who was much more confident that I.

I gave Jonathan a reassuring smile and then the music started.  Together, we entered, swinging our arms and tapping our toes to the beat of the music.

And I don’t remember anything after that.  It all goes black.  I’m told that it was a great hit with the audience.  I really don’t know.  I just know that even typing with the tapping sound of the keys ringing in my ear, I’m experiencing a horrid nausea to the pit of my stomach.  The memory has caused me to become light-headed.  The thought of that night has caused my lips to go numb and my arms to ache.

My son dropped dance class shortly after this performance.  And I can’t say that I blame him.  But don’t worry…We worked on his rhythm using my 8-track tape of the Village People in the comfort and safety (and solitude) of our living room.  Now THAT’S music to dance to!

Christmas Time Is Here, Happiness and Cheer

IMG_3192“And this will be a sign unto you…”

One of my favorite shows each season is “A Charlie Brown Christmas“.  Despite being nearly 50 years old, it still captures our nation’s fixation on stuff.  Though repeated every year, the clear message is seldom heard.  Linus and the gang invite us to recall the true purpose of Christmas and forsake Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Spending Saturday, etc.  The true meaning of Christmas isn’t the aluminum tree, or the show, or the money, or the gifts.  The true meaning is found in the simple story of love and life, given to us in a form of a baby.

But we do it over and over again.  I did it this weekend.  I became angry with the manager during a call to customer service.  He informed me that, despite my opinion and the fact that they could not service the customer, they provide excellent customer service.  He said it was in the definition.  I lost it.

I did it when I called around to find that one special gift and then jumped in my car to race to the store and snatch my prize, the last one in the store.

I did it when I ordered frantically on-line to ensure that my items would be here in time for Christmas day.

Linus told me.  Charlie begged me.  Lucy scolded me.  But I never listen.

My Last Day Off

The view from my new desk location. I love it.

This is my tenth straight day away from the office and to be honest, I really don’t want to go back.  This is the last day of my Thanksgiving Break and I am just not ready to get in the car and drive back down town for work.

But I know that my Christmas Break is just around the corner and I will have another opportunity to another long vacation.  So between now and then, I’ll suffer through the 15 days of work that await me.

The good news is that this time off hasn’t been wasted.  In the 10 days I’ve enjoyed at home, I’ve experienced much rest and rejuvenation.  I’ve filled my days with reading and writing.  I’ve spent quality time with family and friends.  I’ve cooked up a storm:  Everything from banana bread to beef bourguignon, roasted chickens and mashed potatoes, stirred soups and tossed salads.

I’ve walked with my wife and chilled with my children.

I’ve watched West Wing and also witnessed Sandhill Cranes on the wing.

In short, this has been the perfect break.

Happy Birthday, “A”

“A’s” happy that so many love her.

She’s 3-years-old and there is nothing we love more than sharing the celebration.  In fact, when we do it, we do it right.  You can watch for yourself, if you don’t believe me. 

This past weekend allowed our wonderful small group many opportunities to love and support one another.

Hannah, Elliott and Claire were shining stars in Hairspray.

Together, we watched three of our Fishers kids perform in Hairspray, my own son in Footloose and then we held a birthday party for our favorite 3-year-old.

Ben and his friend Hannah after the Saturday show.

There’s just something special about the blessing of family that extends beyond blood lines.

A Much Needed Break

I’ve been burning the candle at both ends.  I’ve met myself coming and going.  To be honest, I’m ready for a little time off and by golly, I mean to have it.  My 8 days of rest start today and I intend to take full advantage of this beautiful week to rest and renew.

Today, I made a journey to Mount Summit Lake.  I spied some birds, hiked some trails and had a marvelous time.

After a nice drive home I threw a chicken in the oven and boiled up some fantastic broth.  Our Thanksgiving Dinner looks very promising and I’m already enjoying my time away.  I can’t wait to see what tomorrow will bring!

Under Construction

Ben, Elliott, Javi and Mia: A few of my favorite people.

Last September we took a walk to the intersection of Hazeldell and 38.  At the time, it was still closed to through traffic and needed more work to make it the beautiful road that it is today.  Safety barrels were in place, large equipment was in use and piles of dirt dotted the landscape, ready to be moved to new locations and away from the work-site.

On this journey of adventure were four young people who are important to me:  Ben, my son, Elliott, Javier and Mia.

At the time, it was the walk to the intersection was just about throwing rocks into the creek and seeing the progress on the road.  But with each little adventure we’ve had since, I realize that the time we spend is so much more than a short walk to a construction zone.

Each moment I spend with these precious young people is a opportunity to help them grow, to strengthen their spirits, build their character.  Every time I hug them close, it is a reminder to them that they are loved.  Every dinner we share is an opportunity to listen to their stories, understand their passions and love their hearts.

Do you have someone in your life that is still under construction and could use some attention?  Perhaps they need no-more than a short walk.  Or perhaps today is the day to really get in there and dig deep.  Either way, it’s time to invest in the project and in the process, change a life.

Road Kill

During a recent 13-hour day on the road, I was blocked from visiting my next location…And was reminded that spending more time on things that matter might not be a bad idea.

You’ve had a long week.  I just know it.

If you are a parent, you’ve run to a thousand practices, picked up a thousand spills and answered a thousand questions.

If you work in business, you’ve typed a thousand emails, attended a thousand meetings and answered a thousand questions.

It doesn’t matter who you are, where you work, what you do.  Life is just too busy and you’ve had a long week.  In fact this might have been one of those weeks you’d be willing to chuck it all and walk away.

But consider the alternatives and busy isn’t bad.  Active is pretty good.  But moderation is the key:  Learn to turn off your email.  If it is that urgent, they’ll call.  Learn what meetings are actually necessary and schedule your calendar accordingly.  Car pool with the other parents to soccer practice, play practice, band practice, math camp, youth group, small group, knitting bee.  Invite people to find their answers in other ways rather than mining the depths of your worn out brain.

Life is busy.  You’ve made it that way.  Now its time to change that pattern.

Waiting in the Wings

We are all in the same place, whether you realize it or not.  We are standing in the wings, ready to take the stage and the audience is waiting, ready to see the performance.  They are sitting on the edge of their seats, ready to see what you are about to bring to the stage of your life.

Its an impromptu performance that you’ve been preparing for your entire life.

You may not have an instrument in hand or a speech written on note cards.  you may not have a character in your repertoire or the dance steps memorized but the show will go on and you are playing the leading role.

Each and every day of your life, you step into the spotlight and those around watch.  They gape and gawk in an effort to see the show.

And how do you perform?  Do you play the tragedy with each terrible event that comes your way or are you the clown, entertaining without depth or character?  Are you charming but shallow?  Are you self-absorbed and self-centered?  Are you filled with rage at others…or at yourself?  Are you one personality on the stage of your life and another person behind the curtain?

Does anyone know who you truly are?

What performance do you give when you take the stage?  It’s time to decide.

It’s show time.

Analog Message in a Digital Age

I’ve been leaving uplifting quotes and positive messages on the kitchen white board.  My family is compelled to respond with their own pithy sayings and last week I received the greatest compliment that can be offered in this Facebook-dominated world:  One Like.

Hey, I’ll take it any way I can get it.

Eat Your Potage

A potato can be so much more, with a little love and a lot of time.

I’ve encouraged you to try new things from time to time.  Take up a hobby, read a book, try a new adventure:  It challenges your senses and gives you confidence.  It breaks the routine and opens your mind to new ideas.

In that spirit, I cooked a potato.

But, before you laugh, I’ll have you know that I also cooked pearl onions and baby bell mushrooms and burgundy wine and leaks and carrots and three pounds of stewing beef.  Over the course of seven hours of cooking, I whisked, stirred, chopped, and tasted.  I even pealed oranges with a potato pealer or all things.

It was my daughter’s 20th birthday and we celebrated with a most successful candlelit meal.  We aren’t usually high-class folks; pizza and coke will serve our needs most of the time.  But last night we pulled out all the stops and ate like the French:  No Italian Pizza for us!  Each course of the dinner was made from Julia Child and her wonderful book, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.”  Julia didn’t let us down.

For the Appetizer we had Potage Parmentier with Asiago Cheese Bread.  This beautiful, creamy potato and leak soup was topped with freshly chopped parsley and provided the perfect beginning to the meal.  We enjoyed small bowls of the soup along with a crisp glass of Chardonnay.  After the slurping stopped, our appetites were primed and ready.

The Salad was a tossed green salad with Julia’s perfect Red Wine Vinaigrette.  We enjoyed various cheeses to compliment the salad, including Goat Cheese, Parmesan and Gouda along with a fresh loaf of crackling French Bread.

The Main Course was a huge success:  Beef Bourguignon, Asparagus with Hollandaise Sauce served with a nice Burgundy wine.  This was the richest, most wonderful food I’ve ever tasted.  The meat was tender and full of flavor.  The Hollandaise sauce was buttery, lemony and smooth.  The asparagus was tender and crisp.  The house is still filled with the aroma of the beef and my mouth waters even as I describe the plate.

We ended the evening with the Candy-Glazed Oranges, a Port wine and coffee.

Emily was most pleased with her birthday dinner.

If you ever tire of the routine you’ve created, the rut you are in, the daily grind that awaits you, I implore you to try something new:  Grab a cook book and spend some time in front of the stove.  But be warned, you’d better have Julia at your elbow helping you along the way because it is a challenge not intended for the faint of heart…but worth every minute and every amazing bite.

Flying

My youngest and one of his greatest moments of flight.

Too often we allow gravity to hold us down.

Too often we fail to take the risk.  We can fly, if only we take the chance.

Perhaps its been the experience of failure that prevents us from trying.  But, like a great chef creating works of art with food, the risk of getting burned by the stove doesn’t keep him from moving forward.

Sure, we might fall to the earth, scrape our flesh, jolt our joints.

But we have to try.

Swing higher.

Jump further.

Stretch out.

Reach.

Perhaps this time you might soar!

Gaspump Gospel

The man approached me at the Speedway as I filled my car’s tank with fuel.  The man didn’t look dirty.  He didn’t look homeless.  He didn’t look out of place.  But there was something odd about his approach and at the same time there was something familiar in his story.

As soon as he opened his mouth I recognized the familiar themes:  There was an apology for the imposition.  There was a story about prior success and unfortunate events that resulted in his downfall.  There was a sexual assault.  There was a medical disability.  There was much effort on his part; attempts to find work and get back on his feet. He was living in his car and to top it all off, the last $50 he had in his pocket were stolen last night.  And now he needs help.  It was a tough story and I was skeptical from the beginning.

In fact, even before he opened his mouth I’d determined that I would turn him down for the obvious request for cash that was soon to come.  I’ve heard it all before from so many others in his situation.  As a pastor in northern Indiana, I’d heard so many renditions of this same story.  The only part of the story that was missing was that he was traveling to Kentucky from Michigan for his uncle’s funeral.

But then he said something that I’ve never heard before.  “I don’t want money, I just need some gas for my car.”

And with that, he had me.  There have been so many passer-throughs who needed a helping hand and when I offered to buy their gas, they looked at me as if I’d offended them.  I can’t tell you the number of people who turned down my offer for fuel.

But this guy just wanted me to go over, activate the gas pump and allow him to put in a few dollars in gas.  And I did.  Without another thought, I agreed to his request, activated the pump and allowed him to fill the car.

He thanked me and I told him it wasn’t any problem…because, in truth, it wasn’t.  It cost me $32.25.  That’s all.  And it gave this guy enough fuel to drive a little further and stay a little warmer at night.

A young man filling his car on the other side of the pump stopped me as I passed.  He couldn’t have been any more than 25 years old.  He looked me in the eye and said in the smoothest, sweetest voice, “Bless your heart.”  I nodded to him and returned to my car.  And as I drove away, it dawned on me that what we do for one has the potential to impact others.  I gave a guy a few dollars worth of gas but the young man, watching the interaction without my knowledge, received a little as well.

And here’s the point of this story.  This is the bottom line:  People are always watching.  Whether we know it or not, people see your deeds; good or bad.  They are thinking about your actions.  They are analyzing your generosity.  And in the end, your generosity can impact more than just the one guy at the pump.