“Friends are the siblings God never gave us” – Mencius
As I go through my normal ritual of reflection prior to writing my weekly post, this morning I had an interesting thing occur. So I have been traveling for work for the last week and as I was having my last breakfast in the hotel, when a gentleman approached me thinking I was someone else. He was an employee at the hotel, so it wasn’t weird or anything as he approached me, but nonetheless random. After realizing I was not the professional wrestler that he thought I was, (smile) we began a short dialogue about the richness of life, family and how our personal experiences have shaped how we live. I know, kind of a strange transition, but I can’t make this stuff up I promise.
Ronald was a kind older man from Indian decent with a passion for life, family and the well-being of his neighbors. He was originally from the Caribbean, but has been living in the United States for the last seventeen years. What struck me about Ronald was not his willingness to be open or transparent about his thoughts on life and family, but the consistent message I receive from my fellow brothers from the islands. That message being statements like, “You cannot clap with one hand, One hand cannot shake its own hand, or You don’t miss the water until the well has run dry”. My new friend Ronald’s statements are not just common phrases that we all have heard at some point in our lives, but they are the very creeds to his life. Creeds that govern how he treats his family, fellow brothers, customers and even strangers (like me) that enter his life randomly.
Depending upon our independent world views, living a good life can be defined in many different ways. For some it’s based on the amount of monetary riches one has acquired, which gives you the freedom to do what you please when you choose to do it, and for others it may simply be how connected we are to our community and broad world. Although ideally a little of both would be just perfect, but if I had to choose, at this stage of my life I would certainly look to community and family first. I was humbled by Ronald’s ability to share just a few minutes of his life story, (which honestly made my morning) while serving in his position. He called me “brother” while we talked and he often touched my shoulder as he communicated what seemed to be his zest and reason for living.
So now that Ronald and I have parted ways and I’m left to ponder my thoughts while on this six-hour flight back home, I think about what living the good life truly is. I reflect on my work, which I am grateful for, and has provided me with many opportunities that I will never forget. Like being introduced to colleagues that truly have become friends and hard lessons that consistently teach me how much more I have still to learn when it comes to developing people.
I reflect on the lives my children, their growth and development and the young adults that they will soon become. I take inventory on what I am teaching them and the values that I truly support through my life actions versus my words. I ask, do they line up? My answer, not always, and what am I doing when they do not, and how do I communicate that to them?
I think of my immediate and extended family and how often we do not connect at times and how the years just zoom by. I consider my mother, who just lost her sister (my aunt) and my cousin who lost his mother just two days ago that I haven’t seen in years for various reasons. What is life if we’re not connecting with our family and close friends in meaningful ways and why is it that we only come together at weddings and funerals? Don’t say it, “We’re all too busy!”. Is that our reason, or could it be that our (me included) world view has really changed to be more about us than anyone else? I’ll leave you with that to ponder yourself.
I reflect on my love life, being twice divorced and on my journey to find love. A love that accepts me for who I am and a love that I willingly give my everything to. Something I can honestly say I have not done in times past, nor did I know how to, however today is a new day for me and I look forward to being with the woman who truly has my heart.
It is funny how a brief conversation with a complete stranger can provoke such life changing thoughts. I do not see our paths crossing as mere coincidence, but more so destiny. This was something that I needed to hear for many reasons and hopefully it is something that you equally needed to read. Now the question is how will we respond?
I will always remember Ronald. His thoughts and ideas were contagious and attractive not only to the ear, but to my heart and my soul as well. I identified with much of what Ronald said, but I must admit, I often find myself far removed from actually living some of those things out due to my own busy-ness or self perpetuated priorities. But Ronald did not come to judge me for what I was not currently accomplishing, he came only to share and connect.
His decision to randomly approach me took some courage, because we Americans can be some of the rudest people, especially while traveling. So I am grateful for Ronald today and his depth of character that enriched my life, even if only for few a moments. I am grateful that as busy as we can become in our life pursuits, nothing will ever replace human connection. Whether it be from a stranger, colleague or family member, being open to the opportunity is what will make the indelible mark on our lives.
A mark that prescribes to a way of life that says to all the world, every community, every tribe and neighborhood, that everyone is essential and strategically important to this grand journey we call life.
Now go out and live the good life.