I have told my cabin and few others this story and I would like to share it with all of you today. The day before everyone arrived for opening day Tommy Trieber, Will Plumb and I, along with my cub leader Dr. Damien Ellins, visited one of my favorite places in the Adirondacks for the first time this summer, “The Ink Spot.” We swam in the glassy narrow scar between the rocks, admired the rushing waterfall, slid down the slides above and soaked in the early summer sun of the mid afternoon, the kind that makes you just want to fall asleep regardless of where you are or what you’re doing, for a few of our last precious pre-season hours. After the short hike out we returned to the car and headed back to camp, but not before stopping at a gas station to pick up, and scoff down, a yoo-hoo and a couple of slim jims one last time before campers arrived. It was here that I decided to purchase, as I often do, a one-dollar scratch-off ticket, and after the initial setback of the Mobil station not carrying my go-to game lucky 7’s, I bought a Take-5 ticket instead, and to my pleasant surprise, I won another ticket
Unfortunately, the prize was not another scratch-off, but instead a ticket for the television drawing that evening which I wouldn’t be able to watch. Slightly disappointed, as we began driving again I quickly started to ramble about how nice it would be to win, say 100 million dollars or so that night, to which Thomas asked, “Would you leave camp?” And after a moments thought I replied, “No, I wouldn’t, and as a matter of fact I would do exactly what I am doing after camp as well, and I would return to Davidson after that.” I would surround myself with the exact same people, treat them the same way, hope they did likewise, and do the exact same things that I do now. It was then and there, holding a cheap lottery ticket, drinking yoo-hoo and eating Slim Jims, in the back seat of a truck, halfway between the gas station and the Essex county fairgrounds that I realized, I could not ask for a better life, this was as good as it gets, and I wanted to be able to wake up every morning for the rest of it and make the same claim. That is my definition of serenity.
A big reason why I was able to feel that sentiment then, and still feel it today, is because I am in the midst of what is easily the best year of my life. We are now just over halfway through 2011 and I can definitively say that these past 6 months have been the most fun, enriching, sad, poignant, and joyful that I have ever experienced, and possibly ever will.
So why has 2011 been my best year yet? It certainly has not been the easiest; in fact it has easily been the most challenging, but I have gained and grown so much more than I could have ever imagined in this short span of time.
December 31st 2010 was the first day of the rest of my life. The day of New Years Eve will always be marked off on my calendar, I will sense its approach days ahead of time and I will silently acknowledge the date when it comes. I will wake up and smile and laugh and love and live that day to the fullest, like I try to do every day, but I Will know it is not exactly like any other day. That is the day I began to discover the three most valuable lessons I will ever learn. Love Life, Appreciate the awesome power of love, and always work to leave each day better than you found it, and found yourself, in the morning.
The first lesson I learned almost in an instant. A police officer came to my door and forced it upon me. Life is a unique and precious gift, given to all, appreciated by some and guaranteed to none. Every moment, experience, interaction and memory has an intangible value that cannot be exchanged or reclaimed once they have past. It is our responsibility to go into each day genuinely knowing in our minds that it is going to be a good one, because we will not get it back and we may not get another. Life is beautiful, but ever changing, and without a true love of it and it’s limitless wonders and opportunities, we cannot hope to accomplish the one thing worth doing in this world, sharing that love with others.
The second lesson has been teaching me just that. Within us, we all have a power that is beyond that of any other in the world, yet it remains largely untapped.
Say it with me please – I have a superpower…
We have the power of limitless love, and therefore the ability to spread unlimited good in this world, yet we restrain ourselves, conceal our superpower if you will, and restrict that love to a select few individuals (Parents, Siblings, Spouses), and sometimes not even them, when in reality, we can share it with everybody. (I love Dawn, Joe, Casie, Ashton, Ben, Nolan, AC.) Love is a tangible force that has the ability to create better individuals out of those who receive it and those who spread it, and make life all the more beautiful. I have felt it myself, every single day this year. I felt it in the first few days of January when my Pop-Warner football coach, a man who is in the late stages of Lou Gehrig’s disease and literally wakes each morning with slightly less life within him, said to me with words he needed to physically exert himself to speak, “I’m here if you ever need anything,” a message that he reiterated in this letter I received here just a few short weeks ago. Or when a fellow leader and dear friend Brian Cropper called me from California to say, “I’ll be in Pelham tomorrow, I can’t wait to be there for you.” I felt the same love at Davidson when I would talk for hours at night with my girlfriend, or roommate, or any friend new or old, saying everything, or nothing, and know that every word was being heard. Or when 9 Dudley guys, including some of your leaders right now, and some I’m sure Matt is glad aren’t leaders, all came to visit me at school for their spring break. And lastly, I feel it here at Dudley every single time I receive a hug from AC or Shorty, Scooter, Dave or Sheila, or so many others and know they are genuinely caring and thinking about me in that instant. We all have the power to affect others for the better and love is the means by which we do it. It is not the distribution of challenges, pain or sorrow, but simply the collection of love and love alone that carry us through life’s wildernesses.
The third lesson is how we go about sharing and collecting that love. Not long ago, the quote at the top of the morning schedule struck me, as Dale Carnegie said “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get people interested in you.” I was taken aback because it perfectly described what I have found to be the case over the course of this year. We must look to go beyond just scratching the surface with the people that pass through our lives, because every individual is unique. They carry life and love in them too. I have with me a copy of “To Kill A Mockingbird,” which was sent up to me in a package and is filled with notes that let me know an English major got to it before I did. It is an excellent book, but if you don’t have the time for the whole novel, simply read page 33. That is the first place in which author Harper Lee unleashes one of the greatest lessons in literary history: “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view.” In this copy, it happens to be underlined with the word “truth” written in next to it. Everybody has a story, a past, a present and future but all too often we discount all three by failing to fully explore them or pretending like they are not worth discovering, and we settle for that. Never Settle, never stop exploring, because there is no telling what you will find, what love and life lies behind every stone unturned in the individuals around you. Once you have done that, you’ll find that the most wonderful connections of your life have been made.
The final lesson is quick. I am a better person today than I was six months ago, and I hope that in at least some small way, I will be a better person tomorrow. My life is as good as it gets, but I personally still have infinite room for improvement. The pursuit of happiness is ongoing, the journey is its own reward and all we can hope to accomplish is to constantly better ourselves as individuals, so that we can continue to better the lives of those around us.
The lessons have not come to me easily, but together, these principles allow me to wake up every morning excited for a new day, and they can do the same for you. When you’ve learned them, believe me, it is only natural to have No Bad Days.
Dear God please open our minds to appreciate the wonder of life, open our hearts to share and accept love all around us and give us the spirit to jump at the opportunity of each day.