Have we become too busy to celebrate?

June 27, 2017

I’m co-chair of the Independence Day Parade for the area in which I live. The parade, which is held on the 4th of July every year, is slowly dying out as fewer and fewer local businesses and organizations sign up to be in the parade and thus fewer parade paradewatchers come out to see it. The parade, which used to attract up to 100 entries every year is down to less than half of that number and continuing to shrink.

There are many contributing factors to the loss of interest in the 4th of July parade, not the least of which is the fact that it occurs during the height of the summer vacation season. In our area, we have a really big and wonderful Memorial Day parade to honor veterans and those serving now, which siphons off some of the potential participants for the Independence Day parade. We used to get 5-10 scout troops – Cub Scouts and Brownies in particular – in the parade and now none show up.  I’m sure economics play some role, too. This year many local cities and townships canceled their 4th of July fireworks because of budget issues. Having said all of that, I think another big reason is that many think they are too busy to take the time to march in or go see a parade.

That thought brought to mind this quote by Socrates – “Beware the barrenness of a busy life.” I think Socrates was trying to warn us about becoming too busy to appreciate and savor life. I’ve posted here before about the dangers of becoming so focused upon nap at worksuccess in a career that one loses sight of why they are working in the first place – they lose touch with the family that they point to as the reason for their hard work They become so busy that their life and that of those they love becomes barren.

Next week we have the one opportunity that we get a year to stop our busy-work and take a moment to contemplate the birth of the greatest nation on earth, yet most are too busy to get into the parade that celebrates that event or to come watch it. Maybe it’s time to stop for a moment and consider what you are doing with the prime of the only life that you get. Are you too busy for family and friend? Are you constantly working and not taking any time to relax and enjoy the fruits of your labor? Are you perhaps confusing being busy with being productive or even withwomen looking at watch being happy? Is your busy life really fulfilling or has being busy all the time left it barren?

It is ironic somehow that the only two times in our lives that we seem to take the time to enjoy it are at the two ends of it. When we are children we are blissfully ignorant of the need to be busy all the time, although we seem to be most of the time. When we are elderly, we may finally get the time to slow down and enjoy life without the need to be busy. But, oh boy; in between those two ages, we seem to be heads down busy all the time. I’ve already posted here about the opportunity to take time for God at church having been preempted by sports – see What happened to Sundays? We’ve become a society that is too busy to stop and devote a couple of hours to church, when there are ball games and soccer matches and hockey games to be played.

wonderingThere is only one solution to this problem and that is to just say no to the next busy thing that is demanding your time and instead take the time to go to church or to march in or watch the parade or to do the other things that aren’t on a To-Do list. Slow down, catch your breath, take time to think about and appreciate the things and people that are around you. You need not be busy 24/7. Life is not about being busy all the time.  While most of you may not even know who he was, this quote by Eddie Cantor seems an appropriate way to end this post  – “Slow down and enjoy life. It’s not only the scenery you miss by going too fast – you also miss the sense of where you are going and why.”

Come out and see our parade on the 4th of July; or, even better, be in it.

Life is lived somewhere in between…

June 22, 2017

“Mountaintops inspire leaders, but valleys mature them.”  (Winston Churchill) – as seen on a recent post to the blog Jack’s Winning Words.

Life is full of ups and downs. We have times when we are viewing the world from the mountain peaks of a success and other times when the world looks pretty dark from the deep valley of a failure or disappointment. Usually, though, life is somewhere in between and perhaps not as memorable as the thoughts that we have from the mountains and the valleys of our lives.

For reasons that I can’t explain that thought also made me think of the song, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell. Their lyrics were about love and begin with the one that you love. I suspect that there could have been cover of that song by God, because there is nothing that can keep God from your life and Hreaching goale is sure handy to have around when you enter one of life’s valleys. Have you also noticed how many great athletes take the time to thank God right after they have reached a sports mountain top – a home run, a touchdown or a goal.

But, as the headline for today’s post says, life is mostly lived in between the mountain tops and the valleys. It is lived on a fairly level plain, with little of the drama of the mountain top or valley experiences. It is easy todepression3 become complacent in everyday life and forget to call on God or to thanks Him for the everyday small things that He does for us. I catch myself every now and then saying something like, “Boy I got lucky with that” or maybe “Wow I’m glad that didn’t happen.”  Then I stop and think about it and take an opportunity to thanks God for either my good fortune or for protecting me from a misfortune.

So, as we live our boring little, somewhere-in-the-middle, everyday lives; let’s not forget to thank God for being with us in the middle as well as when we need him at the bottom right-and-wrongin our valleys or thank Him at the top of one of our mountains. Personally, I don’t usually start the day asking God for anything in particular, but I do quite often just say,” God, help me make good decisions today.” Really what more can you ask for?

I’ll see you somewhere in between.

Grow up, be happy and look for the open doors…

June 20, 2017

Recently I was rummaging around the Internet looking for something and came upon one of those sites that featured someone’s list of 50 great quotes. The two quotes below were not together in that list, but they seem to naturally go together.

“When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.” —John Lennon

“When one door of happiness closes, another opens, but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one that has been opened for us.” —Helen Keller

There are some people whose natural state seems to be unhappiness. They are the sad looking manperpetually disgruntled nay-sayers that you run into from time to time whose mission in life seems to be to try to bring all of those around them down to their level of unhappiness. If these people held the winning ticket in the lotto they would be unhappy that the prize wasn’t bigger when they won.

Then there are those who seemingly have nothing and are still smiling and happy, just to be alive. When we are very young, most of us didn’t know what unhappiness was, other than that frightened feeling when we lost sight of mom or when we fell and hurt ourselves. The kind of unhappiness that many adults feel is a learned response to the world around us. It is a feeling that somehow others have more, were given more or took more than we have. It is a child’s response to understanding the word “mine” and having whatever it is taken away. We learn to stare longingly at the door that has closed, instead of looking for the other door that Helen Keller reminds us has just opened.

We tend to look at our relationships with others in life that way, too.  All relationships eventually end, some due to circumstances and mistakes that we make and some due to death. While it is certainly OK to harbor fond memories of the times and relationships sorry 3gone by, it is not good to fixate on those closed doors rather than looking for the open doors and relationships that are still available. Ruing the day when a mistake that you made caused a relationship to go bad will not change the fact that it has changed and perhaps ended forever. Learning from that mistake will help you avoid souring other relationships in the same way in the future. Learn and move on through the open doors to happiness that are still available to you.

The thing that I like about Lennon’s quote is that is has nothing at all to do with possessions or success in business or winning at some endeavor. It is really about maintaining a state of mind throughout life that promotes being happy with what you have and where you are in your life.  I suspect that the people who live in that state of woman-prayinghappiness have first come to understand their relationship with God and have accepted that He has a plan for their lives that will take care of them. They have surrendered their egos to the will of God and have found happiness in His embrace.

Too many of us tend to measure ourselves by what we have or don’t have in relationship to others. It is this comparative measurement that causes us to be unhappy. Oprah Winfrey put it this way – “If you look at what you have in life, you’ll always have more. If you look at what you don’t have in life, you’ll never have enough.” For many there is never enough, because they are always comparing themselves and what they have against others and their possessions. The open door that God always keeps open for you is to share what you have with others who have even less.

So, grow up and be happy. Share what you have and let God show you the open doors.

4th of July Parade Seeks Sponsors and Participants

June 14, 2017

I realize that many of the followers of this blog are not local to Milford, Michigan or even in this country; however, many are, so I wanted to publish this press release about our upcoming Independence Day Parade.

The Milford Historical Society is seeking both sponsors and participants for the 2017 Huron Valley Independence Day Parade (the 4th of July Parade) in downtown Milford. Norm Werner, co-chairman of the 4th of July Parade Committee said, “We want to do things to improve the parade and those things generally cost money. Just to do a flyover with a few planes can cost up to $1,000. Other things that could be added also come at a cost, also. We are seeking contributions from local businesses to help off-set those costs.”

The Independence Day Parade is organized and run by the Milford Historical Society, which is a 501c3 Non-Profit located in Milford. The Milford Historical Society runs the Milford Historical Museum in Milford and hosts several events during the year, including the Granny’s Attic Sale and the Milford Home tour, in addition to the parade.

Werner also said, “We are also looking for more participants this year and encourage local business and organizations to get into the parade lineup. Groups may march in the parade or have a vehicle or a float, or do all three. It’s a great way to promote your business or organization and to say thank you to the community for their support. We especially would like to get boy and girl scout troops back into the parade, as well as Brownies and Cub Scouts. Any bands or group from bands would also be great to have.” This year Kensington Metropark will have their team of Clydesdales pulling their big wagon in the parade.

The parade is held on the 4th of July, which hits on a Tuesday this year. The parade lineup starts at 10 AM and the parade steps off at 11 AM. The parade will line up again this year on N. Main/N. Milford Road north of Commerce and on Union and Hickory Streets. Once you have registered to be in the parade you will be assigned a parade slot and be given a map to your lineup location. “We hope to have more participation by military and patriotic groups this year”, Werner said. “We’re also in need of volunteers to help with running he parade by being street guards or directing the parade participants.”

For information about the parade and to download a Parade Participant application and parade rules, visit the web site Milfordhistory.org. Companies or organizations wishing to help sponsor the parade will also find a Parade Sponsor form at that web site or they may call Norm Werner at 248-763-2497 or Rich Harrison at 248-935-5556. Volunteers for the parade should call either Norm or Rich.

Will you be satisfied when you look back?

June 10, 2017

From a post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog comes this thought provoking quote, which begs the question that is today’s headline. “To be able to look back upon one’s past life with satisfaction is to live twice.”  (Lord Acton)

The obvious question is to assess what you will see when you look back over your life and whether you will be satisfied with what you see. One must start with an understanding of the term satisfaction. The dictionary defines it as a noun that means – fulfillment of one’s wishes, expectations, or needs, or the pleasure derived from this. Youbored can easily substitute words like hopes, goals or dreams into the definition. There will always be things that you might wish had gone differently in your life and maybe a few things (let’s hope just a few) for which you have regrets; however, if you can look back over your life and be pleased with what you see, then it was a life well lived.

If you ask older people what they are most proud of or satisfied with in their lives you most often might get a reply that points to having successfully raised their children.  A long and loving marriage is also a very common answer. Some might point to success and achievement in the business world, but that is seldom the measure that the common man holds his life up to, in order to measure his satisfaction with his life. Some might recall the satisfaction of having given service to help others and some might point to their relationship with God and its impact on their lives.

I believe that the search for satisfying moments in your life will yield many more instances of things that involved other people than occasions when you acquired some great-jobobject of your desire – a new car or a boat or a house. True satisfaction come from sharing moments and events and achievements with others. It is not necessarily a moment of personal recognition but more one of shared joy, of shared accomplishment and of shared satisfaction.

You really don’t have to wait until you are old to look back over your life so far and seek out those moments of satisfaction in your life. Relive those moments and let them help you set your priorities for the future. Let those moments help you realize that it is seldom the “me” things in life that are truly satisfying; it is the “we” times that make you the happiest. Whether they are the intimate moments shared with a loved one or the praying-togethergroup happiness of a shared effort, they will help you realize that it’s not “all about me”, it’s about working with and serving the needs of others that creates memorable and satisfying events in our lives.

So, I ask the question that makes up the headline above – “Will you be satisfied when you look back at your life?” The good news is that there is still time to change the ending, still time to refocus your life on the really important things – the people in it – and still time to make memories that you can look back on with satisfaction.

I’ll end today’s post  with a little song that talks about the alternative – I can’t get no satisfaction by the Rolling Stones. Don’t be dissatisfied with your life when you look back.

Keep your mind’s bank open for life…

June 7, 2017

Recently Pastor Jack Freed used this quote in his blog, Jack’s Winning Words“What you put into your mind before you are 21 is like a bank account.  You will be drawing on that for the rest of your life.”  (Yo Yo Ma)

While it is true that the things we learn in our formative years, during which many of us were in schools at various levels, it is also true that we continue to learn throughout our lives…if, our mind’s bank remains open.

There is a popular book titled, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum. The author focuses on the mores and character of our lives than on our knowledge and wisdom in that book. The fact is that, if we keep an knowledge inopen mind (open to learning new things), we can continue to learn and add to our bank account of knowledge until our last day. One can, and must, keep a sense of wonder about the things and people around us to keep learning. How do things work? Why do things happen? Who is that person and what can I learn from them? We must keep inquiring, questioning and wondering all of our lives in order to keep the bank accounts open. “There are few things more pathetic than those who have lost their curiosity and sense of adventure, and who no longer care to learn.” ― Gordon B. Hinckley.

It is rather common for young people, especially those still in school, to not understand the future value of what they are forced to learn in school. The common lament is “Why should I learn this, I’ll never use it?” In fact, that person may never use the exact things insightthat they are being taught; however, many things that are taught in school are taught within the context of a process and understanding the process is as important as understanding any single fact or equation. Most of the so-called STEM subjects fall into that category. Some subjects are lumped into a broad category called “enabling knowledge”, which is meant to establish a context in which the world can be better understood. Those topics may include social studies and history. Finally, a few may be classified as “enrichment” topics, such as art classes; which are meant to broaden or enhance our perceptions of the world around us. In truth, epecially once we get out of school, George Whitman put it well when he said – “All the world is my school and all humanity is my teacher.”

Some people seem to shut down the desire to learn more when they get out at whatever level of schooling they stopped, while others continue a life of wonderment and learning. A life well-lived might be better measured by what one has accumulated in the bankbrain map of one’s mind, rather than the money accumulated in regular banks. In the financial world there is the concept of compounding (interest earning interest) and in the bank of one’s mind there is the concept of wisdom. The interest that one earns on all of that accumulated knowledge is called wisdom. Instead of just drawing on what you learned as a student in school, heed this advice from Albert Einstein – “Wisdom is not a product of schooling but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it.”

worriesSo, keep your mind open to learning, to acquiring new knowledge and new ideas and view them as deposits into your mind’s knowledge bank. It is a wise man indeed who never stops making deposits in his bank of knowledge. Henry Ford hit upon another reason to keep learning – “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.”

Stay young my friends – keep learning.

Surprise, surprise…

June 6, 2017

From the Jack’s Winning Words blog recently comes this quote, which sounds like something that Yogi Barra would have said:

“You should never be surprised at getting surprised.”  (Kirk Gibson)

We all get surprised from time to time. Sometimes the surprise is that something orsurprised emoji someone doesn’t turn out to fit the preconceived expectations that we had about it/them. Much of the time that is because our preconceptions where based upon some form of prejudice and were kicked off by our visual impression of the person. How many times have you looked at someone and just “knew” what kind of a person they must be? And, how many times were you surprised, once you took the time to get to know them?

I remember the look on the faces of the judges when the little frumpy looking 47-year-old lady from England, Susan Boyle, took the stage on the Britain’s Got Talent show. As you watch this video of that performance you will see what surprise looks like. As one of the judges admitted, “We were all a little cynical before you sang.” Aren’t we all a little cynical in our day to day lives? Or, maybe it is just that we’re all a little prejudiced and pre-judge people before they open their mouths.

Perhaps it’s time for a real Yogi Barra saying and admit that when we prejudge people – “I made a wrong mistake.”

this-is-meGive the people who you encounter the benefit of the doubt. Some may indeed prove whatever preconception that you had of them to be true; however, most may surprise you and turn out to be someone that you enjoy getting to know. Perhaps they come at life from a different perspective than you do, but that’s a good thing that I’ve posted about before on this blog – see https://normsmilfordblog.com/2017/05/10/cant-figure-something-out-try-looking-at-it-from-a-new-perspective/

Not only may you see things from a different perspective, but you may learn something, too. If nothing else, perhaps you’ll learn something about yourself and perhaps make some changes in how you look at life and at other people.handshake3

So go out this week and surprise yourself. Break through your self-imposed barriers of cynicism and met and talk with someone new; talk with someone that you had avoided talking to because of your preconceptions about them. Don’t be surprised if you’re surprised.

Shake the world with your gentle message…

June 1, 2017

I generally save the various quotes that retired pastor Jack Freed uses in his blog Jack’s Winning Words. Sometimes I pick one out later to write about and sometimes more than one may catch my eye as fitting together to support a thought. Such is the case today with two quotes from past post’s on Jack’s blog.

“In a gentle way, you can shake the world.”  (Gandhi) – and –

“One message at just the right moment can change your entire day.”  (Megan Murphy)

We can never know what the impact will be of a kind word at the right moment or maybe a word of sympathy. Perhaps you will be on the receiving end and it will make your day brighter and change your attitude towards things. Perhaps you will have the opportunity to extend a kind word to someone else and change their day because of it. In either case, that gentle and kind word will shake the world of the person receiving it.

We currently have a President who regularly shakes the world with his messages, mostly delivered in tweets on Twitter. I’m sure that his words, though seldom gentle, change the entire days of many other world leaders. Unfortunately, he seldom picks the right moments to deliver those words and the shakeups that they cause are not always for the better.

None of us ordinary people have that level of platform from which to speak; however, I would submit that our kind and gentle words can have a dramatic effect on a wide number of people. If you’ve seen the breakfast food commercial where one cheerful person (supposedly happy because of his great breakfast) passes on his little sunshine halo to a few people who then pass it on to others; then, you’ve seen the impact of a smile and a kind word. It’s like the ripples that spread out across a pond when one throws a pebble into it. The people that you impact have impacts on others, and so on and so on.

The Mackinac Policy Conference at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island is being held this week. It is sponsored by the Michigan Chamber of Commerce and brings together the important political and government leaders in Michigan for discussions on topics of common interest. One of the three key topics that is on the agenda is a discussion of how to restore civility to the political process in Michigan. The same discussion could be had at the national level. Perhaps the answer is to start with a kind and gentle word between the parties and see if that beginning encourages discourse and compromise rather than the bitter partisan fighting that goes on now. Perhaps the message should be “Let’s talk” instead of “Let’s fight”.

For all of the rest of us, maybe a gentle message to our representatives in government that we’d rather they find a way to common ground and solutions on the issues, rather than standing their own partisan ground, might help. At least it would let them know that we are not happy with the extreme positions that prevent compromise and too often lead to gridlock in government. Shake your world today with a well-timed gentle message of encouragement and hope. Share your sunshine halo and see what a difference it may make.