People aren’t islands

beach clouds grass island
Photo by Pixabay on

Sometimes life seems to come at us at the speed of light. Days come and go, and the “To do Lists’ are often undone. Even when we advance them to the next day, other priorities often eradicate them from consideration. You and I both have heard those successful people talk about setting goals for each day and acting to achieve them. Often, when I hear these folks, who are usually standing at a podium, talking to a captive audience, I wonder how much of their success was boosted by the x-factor? You know, those unforeseen people, circumstances, and forces that add just the right pinch of ingredients that move things along in their favor.

I remember hearing the phrase “No man is an island”, when I was in elementary school. Back then I had no clear understanding of what it meant. To be honest, I didn’t develop a decent understanding until later in life, many years after college. Lest you think I was a non-appreciative youngster coming up. That wasn’t the case. I’ve said before, we were so poor, we couldn’t even afford dirt. The term dirt poor didn’t apply in our circumstances. Our elders always taught us to be appreciative for anything provided, from anyone, that might add even the weakest of light to your state of being. I must admit, I haven’t always held that sage wisdom close to heart; however, whenever it has ventured, it hasn’t strayed long and far.

In retrospect, I view my childhood, teenaged years, and early adulthood as times of “delicate” balance. Resources were thin, but there was always enough to advance forward. Those resources, whether encouragement from others, a bit of advice, a prayer from the old ones in my life, or a job paying a meager wage, came from someone God placed in my path. I realize now, without an ounce of doubt that people don’t wonder into your life. They’re placed there. On a day, not too long ago, I found myself meditating on the many souls, who have enriched my life. The number was astounding! There were some, I couldn’t remember; however, there is no way I could look in any mirror and honestly say, “I did it all on my own.”

I’ve been blessed to have had a good formal education, ending in a master’s degree, and a rewarding career in Human Resources. I retired almost five years ago from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, as the associate vice chancellor/chief Human Resources Officer. Please don’t be impressed by the title. I was the personnel officer, as they used to say. There’s a gospel song that goes something like this, “I come from a poor family. We didn’t have much, but the Lord’s been good to me.” When I look back on my educational and professional career, that song provides a fitting anthem for my life. It reminds me that my boots and straps have been provided by so many folks who have crossed my path, sat with me, and walked a few miles along the way. (It’s important to acknowledge that those folks didn’t all look like me. They came from a good smattering of the full bouquet of God’s creation.) Sure, there were times when my ego would get the best of me, and I would use the pronouns I, me and mine without a second thought; however, I would always be drawn back to the reality that life is staffed with the pronouns we, ours and us.

We aren’t islands. If you find yourself thinking that you are, stop and look around there are other critters on that island with you.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

Just when you think you’re locked in at 1,000 feet

Ground from above

If you’ve read any of my blogs, you’ve probably happened upon one about my cancer, Multiple Myeloma. I don’t’ want to get into the details of this disease here; however, I do want to share a little bit of my personal experience, of late.

This has been a challenging year for me. Viruses and bacteria have been waiting on every corner, positioned to pounce on my immune-suppressed body. It hasn’t been all bad, I’ve continued my exercise regimen, long bicycle rides early in the morning; regularly sculpting my yard to keep it in good appearance; along with a few other physically and mentally challenging activities to keep mind and body aligned. God has blessed me to continue moving forward despite what has been before me. Then came July and August.

I turned sixty-eight in July. The highlight of that month was my wife and I taking a trip to Saint Louis to see my favorite recording artist, Anita Baker, at the Fabulous Foxy Theatre. I’ve been an Anita Baker fan for as long as I can remember. So, as you can imagine, my anticipation of seeing her in her farewell concert tour, was a “1,000-feet” experience for sure.

The concert was scheduled for July 21, on Saturday, my birthday. Chris and I arose early Friday morning before sunrise to start our trip to Saint Louis. Our plan was to leisurely drive up to Saint Louis, rest once there, have dinner at a nice place, and spend Saturday taking in some sites. We would return to the Airbnb to get plenty of rest, so we could enjoy the concert. Just as we were leaving our driveway Friday morning, I started to feel a bit of a scratchy throat. I’ve experienced this condition enough to know that something was brewing. I immediately boarded my raft for a healing trip down the “river of denial.” I was certain a smattering of cough drops, and lots of prayer would heal all approaching ills.

Once in Saint Louis, we enjoyed the rest of the day, scratchy throat and all. I was ecstatically flying at 1,000 feet. I wasn’t about to let a virus, which had my name on it, ruin my birthday treat. Friday night brought peaceful rest. Saturday morning, not so much. I was able to move about; however, nothing was operating within normal parameters. We dressed and stepped out early, planning to spend the better part of the day hanging out around the Gateway Arch area. My body had other plans; it was quickly descending from the 1,000 feet marker. I felt bad to have to tell Chris that I needed to return to the Airbnb to rest. I figured we had driven all this way to see Anita, and I wasn’t about to expend what little strength I had walking and gawking with other out-of-towners in downtown Saint Louis. At this point, I felt like I was flying at about 500 feet, with the ground fast approaching.

Saturday night came, and I felt fine. I couldn’t have asked for a better birthday. I felt as though Anita was singing all her signature melodies to me. She even sang happy birthday for all in the room, who were born in July. My level of enjoyment wasn’t unique, demonstrated by the uncanny ability of us all to force Anita to sing a few of her famous ballads twice, since we robbed her of her first effort by singing them for her. This happens regularly at her concerts. She complimented us on our ability to sing perfectly in tune. Coming from her, that meant a great deal. Both Chris and I were flying in tandem at 1,000 feet.

As I write this piece, I just came off of a week’s stay in the hospital. Ever since I returned home from Saint Louis, I’ve been flying at 300 to 600 feet, always positive minded, always confident that I would be above the clouds soon. I won’t share a lot of detail here, but I will say that the bacteria squadron sent me crashing for a hard landing. To get back to my desired cruising speed and altitude, I’ve spent the last week being intravenously infused with various broad-spectrum antibiotics. I’ll continue these repairs, outside the hanger for the next nine days. God will have me back at 1,000 feet shortly.

Flying high has been a blessed state of existence for me, especially with my chronic illness. One thousand feet must be where God wants me to be. Who am I to argue with Him?

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.