The word trust is defined as “firm reliance on the integrity, ability, or character of a person or thing.” You trust your chair is going to hold you up. You trust the person who is driving you to work, or you trust yourself to drive carefully.
You also trust your friends. You trust that what they tell you is true. To be trusted, you must be trust-worthy. Being trust-worthy is part of having integrity and character.
Are you a person who can be trusted? If you are, then people will trust you and you will find it easier to trust them.
How are you feeling today? What kind of day are you going to have?
Whatever you have decided about the day and how you’re feeling in it so far, it is possible to make it better. Not perfect. Better.
When you decide your personal value is the foundation of every judgment and decision you make throughout the day, you are immediately on your way to having the kind of day you want instead of reacting to the day that happens to you.
Economics is based on scarcity. If everyone has the same thing it loses monetary value. The item might be extremely useful, appreciated, necessary, but as far as monetary value is concerned, there is no demand because everyone already has it. If only a few have it, the demand is high because everyone believes they have to have it, and the price is high because there is not enough. That is economics, advertising, commercialism, and the common understanding of value in a paragraph.
Your personal value has nothing to do with economics, but you are trained to believe it does. You are constantly bombarded with messages that remind you you do not have enough, there is not enough, you can’t get enough, and no matter how hard you work, it will not be enough. The most damaging message that comes from all of this is, YOU are not enough, and never will be. You are constantly reminded that unless you have this, unless you go there, unless you’re wearing this, unless you’re eating that, unless you’re driving this, unless you live in that, you have no value. Oh, not in specific words, but that IS the message.
None of it is true.
Your value is you. There has never been another you. There is no other you. There will never be another you. We are all snowflakes! There are no two people exactly alike. There has never, in the history of humanity, been an exact repeat of anyone. Nor will there ever be.
Your value cannot be measured because there is no comparison. Your value has nothing to do with how you look, act, feel, live, think, like, dislike, hope, dream, work, play, eat, smell, run, throw, sit, or stand. Your value has nothing to do with abilities, talents, grade point averages, status, careers, awards, stars, accolades, applause, or friends. Your value is you.
Here is the key. Your value has nothing to do with anyone else’s value. You do NOT have value because someone else does not. You do NOT have less value because someone else has more. Your value is not in relation to anyone but you.
If you do not accept your value, then you will spend your life and effort trying to find it. You will value yourself when others value you. You will value yourself when you finally are able to buy that car the ads tell you to drive. Value will finally be yours when you can afford that house, get that promotion, go on that trip, receive that award, get that attention, be seen with those people. And then you will be left alone with not an ounce more real value than was yours all along. Your value is you.
The most damaging message that comes from all of this is, YOU are not enough, and never will be.
Your value is not a feeling. But not realizing your value will affect and drive your feelings. Your value is not your personality. But not realizing your value will affect whether you react or respond, whether you stagnate or grow, whether you trust or fear. Your value is not behavior. But not realizing your value will affect and drive your behavior.
Your value is you. Say it. “My value is me.” Say it until you’re tired of saying it, and then say it a bunch more.
I have a nostalgic vein that I guess is pretty common. I thought it was just me, but I hear country song lyrics like, “I can’t wait to show you where I grew up…”, “I want to introduce you to my kin-folks, where I grew up”, “I Go Back” by Kenny Chesney, “The House that Built Me” by Miranda Lambert, and others. Wanting to go back home isn’t unusual. What often happens when we do, however, is we discover how much everything has changed. Life has gone on without us.
I get teased about driving friends and family by the house where I lived when I was in high school. The house looks the same but nothing else does. I’ve driven through the neighborhood where I grew up in Saginaw, Michigan many times. The shape of our house on Wellesley Drive is the same. Nothing else is. The houses look smaller and crowded together. The trees that were not much more than sticks when I was little now hang over the houses like huge green hands.
I recently followed the pull of the past and took a drive to Houghton Lake and Cadillac, Michigan. When I was very young, our family vacationed at a small resort in Cadillac called “Wally’s Cabins”. It was in the early 1960s and three or four-cabin resorts were common along Lake Mitchell and Houghton Lake. The photo on the left is what used to be Wally’s Cabins.
My parents had friends with a cottage just down the road from Wally’s. Their main cottage was right on the lake but they were building an A-frame house near the main road. The photo in the middle leads to the cottage by the lake, the A-frame is on the right. In those days there was just a two-lane car path and a swamp on the left where we hunted frogs and snakes.
In 1983 we were introduced to DeClerk’s Resort at Houghton Lake. It was like reliving Wally’s Cabins from my childhood and I loved it! Just like at Wally’s, each cabin included a rowboat and motor. It couldn’t have been better!
In 1983 we were considering having another baby. Our daughter was six and we were reaching the point of “now or never”. Cabin #2 at DeClerk’s Resort proved to be the perfect place for our family to grow. In February of 1984, we had triplet boys. When we returned to DeClerk’s the next summer, Kitty told everyone our triplets had been conceived in cabin #2. I don’t know if there was a rush to rent that cabin or not, but it made a good story.
I talked my precious wife into going back to Houghton Lake when the boys were just five months old. They were still on apnea monitors. They all slept together on a foam mattress in cabin #2, connected to their monitors. It was terribly difficult.
Our daughter loved fishing. I don’t remember her volunteering for cleaning but she was always excited to catch them.
The last time we were at DeClerk’s Resort was 1997. The boys were 13. Our daughter was married the following summer and now has three boys of her own. I wish I could have them little, all together one more time.
On my recent road-trip to the past, I was saddened to see how drastically the area had changed. Life has moved on.
The first time we went to Houghton Lake, I was thirty years old. That was thirty-seven years ago. Seeing what has happened to Funland was the most challenging part of the day. In my mind, I could still see our children and grandchildren on the rides.
Life goes on. Sometimes painfully. Looking back can be painful too, yet we all do it. It’s one thing to think about it, it’s another to actually visit and see just how much has changed.
There are a crazy number of things demanding our attention every waking moment of the day. The world is upside down. Many things we thought we could count on are gone. It is incredibly difficult to know what and who to believe. Very nice people are saying opposite things.
A simple walk in the woods always helps to clear my mind. I’m not one to go venturing in forests I’m not familiar with, but I can easily follow a path. I especially like paths that have maps on a post every quarter mile or so. That way I know exactly how to get back to my car.
We often see chipmunks and there are lots of birds. On our most recent walk we were excited to spot two deer watching us carefully. We saw each other about the same time but they stayed still until we were out of sight.
A walk in the woods does a couple of simple things. Exercise is obviously the first. We can all use it. Walking is an easy activity and who doesn’t enjoy getting out in nature?
Walking is also a great way to set your mind on something other than the chaos around us. If you pay attention to the things around you as you walk, and choose to really see everything instead of assuming you already know what you’re going to see, it sends your thoughts into a different direction than the normals paths it has been taking.
That’s the point. If we don’t choose to see, listen, watch, understand, and stay alert, our minds automatically follow the paths we’ve walked again and again.
I can choose to see and think differently. It’s up to me.
I followed the WordPress Discovery Prompts for 30 days. The last prompt was the word grateful. Rather than writing something serious, I chose to make it light and goofy. For example, saying I’m grateful my name isn’t Sigmund. Sigmund isn’t a bad name, I’m just grateful it’s not mine. I should have taken more time and expressed serious gratitude for so many things, and people. I’m doing that now.
Grateful means one thing to me. Family. It isn’t possible to put everything family means in a post like this. Or a book. Or a series of books. People spend lifetimes putting together scrapbooks of black and white photos, then Polaroid color photos, then color photos developed by Kodak, then printed digital photos, and now they’re viewed on a tiny screen, thousands of them, stored in a little flat box not much bigger than a business card you carry in your pocket. Not only that, but you talk to people with your camera now, and you can watch TV, listen to the radio, and look up all kinds of things. The one great thing about it is that instead of your family photos being stuffed in large books on a shelf at home, you carry everything with you all the time.
I don’t know if we ever dreamed we would have eight (at this point) grandchildren, but we do. We have reached the point where getting everyone together in one place is difficult. They’re all so busy with their families and work. Life recycles. When we were younger we had to travel to see my family and my wife’s family. Now it’s happening again. We’re the ones who often travel to see everyone. We love it.
These guys are our closest buddies, just a few miles from where we live. The photo is a few years old. The one in the middle is now taller than I am, and I’m 6’3”. At least I used to be.
This is what always happens to me at some point or other. I didn’t find out until years later the little guy on the left was copying me. He’s not really sleeping!
The little one I’m holding just celebrated her 1st birthday. Our son’s family lives in the Chicago area where he is an adjunct professor of Philosophy.
This young man will carry on the tradition of model railroading. We passed the family Lionel trains to him.
The little man in my wife’s arms is the youngest of our grandchildren. He lives with his family in the Nashville area where his mom and dad are on staff at a great church.
This is so cute!!
We are so grateful for an amazing son-in-law, and three beautiful daughters-in-law. They are all incredible, talented people. We are so blessed they are all part of our family.
Stories don’t make it. Photos only try. Just one word.
Well, I’ve reached the end of the Discover Prompts provided by WordPress. They do this every April, but since I wasn’t blogging like a fiend in April, I started using the prompts thirty days ago. So, does that mean I have nothing else to write about because no one is giving me a topic? Oh, no, my friends. I have sooo much to expound upon in literary prose that I will keep busy for a very long time.
The final prompt is grateful. There are so many things for which to be grateful, it is not difficult to begin. It will actually be difficult to end. Just when I think I’ve exhausted the list, more thoughts arise. So, here goes.
I’m thankful to have a neck. If it weren’t for my neck, my head would be attached directly to my shoulders, making it very difficult to turn when someone calls my name. Obviously, I could turn my whole body around, which I would have to do if I didn’t have a neck, but then I might trip over something that was previously in front of me but is now behind me.
I’m thankful my name is not Sigmund. I have never liked the name Dale, but I dislike the name Sigmund even more. I would have grown up being called Sig, (no one would have ever called me Mund), and that would have been very annoying. I have been called all kinds of things, many of which can’t be listed here. But I would prefer being called Dork, or almost anything else to being called Sigmund.
I’m grateful for knees. Stick figures illustrate how important it is to have knees. We should all be thankful. If it weren’t for knees, our walking would be stilted. Falling would be particularly dangerous and landing on our faces would be more frequent.
I’m thankful for tortilla chips. They are the perfect snack when I want something but I don’t know what. Chocolate? No. Milk? No. Spaghetti? No. Egg Plant? No. Tortilla chips are the go-to every time I just need something to chew. Crunchy.
I’m grateful for doorknobs. I’ve have been locked out of the house, by my own doing, and getting back into the house would be far more difficult if there were no doorknobs.
I’m grateful for paint stir sticks. When I forget to have paint stirred at the store, I have to mix it myself. I would have to use my hand if there were no stir sticks. I take so many things for granted, it’s good to remind myself about all the things I am grateful for.
I’m grate for toothbrush handles. If it weren’t for the handles, I would have to hold the bristles between my fingers. It would be so much more tedious to brush my teeth without a toothbrush handle.
I’m grateful for spoons. I do occasionally eat ice cream with a fork if I’m eating it right out of the carton. My wife prefers that I not do this, but when she’s not around, she doesn’t know. I get our ice cream at night when we’re watching our new Netflix or Amazon Prime series, so she doesn’t see the little fork marks in the ice cream. Ice cream inevitably melts as you’re eating it. So eating it with a fork would be difficult. It would also be hard to put a bite of ice cream in your mouth and take it out while smoothing the top, like everyone does, with a fork. I’m grateful ice cream is the only food we put into our mouths and then take it out.
I’m grateful for plastic milk bottles. Drinking out of a carton with the triangle opening at the top is difficult. Most often the milk pours out the sides and runs down my cheeks and onto my shirt. Drinking out of a plastic milk bottle is much easier. Not that I actually do that anymore.
I’m grateful for toast and frosted mini-wheats. One piece of toast and about ten frosted mini-wheats with a cup of hot tea is an incredible snack late at night while we’re watching TV. Of course I have to give at least one to Maggie as she loves mini-wheats. I usually take out a few extra to share because I’m not will to have less than ten. I try to chew them quietly. They can be noisy if I’m not careful.
Extension cords deserve more gratitude. If it weren’t for extension cords, our walls would be far more crowded with things that have to be plugged in. All of our furniture would have to be the height that anything electric placed on top would have a cord long enough to reach the plug. Electric items would have to take turns because there probably wouldn’t be enough wall plugs for everything.
I’m grateful for radio stations. When I’m turning the dial on the radio trying to find something to listen to, its gratifying to hear plenty of choices vying for attention before I finally decide to listen to Pandora.
I’m definitely grateful for bubble wrap. The joy of sitting and popping the bubbles in bubble wrap is hard to beat.
I’m grateful my childhood dentist was wrong. He said I wouldn’t have any teeth by the time I was sixty. I’m way over sixty and I still have my own teeth. Most of them have been repaired, capped, crowned, drilled, filled, ground and polished, but they’re mine and I’m proud to have them.
Today while I was trying to gather some thoughts about the discovery prompt, I learned the Latin root of the word focus is hearth. We hear all kinds of things about the need for focus and how difficult it is with the current craziness. Everything has been turned upside down.
Before the days of central heat and air when homes were heated by a fireplace, the hearth was the center of activity. The family gathered at the hearth not just to keep warm, but for cooking, conversation, telling stories, singing, and reading. The hearth was the focus of the family.
I remember a scene in “Scrooge,” starring George C. Scott, when Bob Cratchet arrives at home after the family has lost Tiny Tim. When her husband walks through the front door, Mrs. Cratchet says, “Come and sit by the fire and have a warm ‘the Lord bless you.’” The entire family was gathered at the hearth as they comforted each other in their time of loss.
In my lifetime I don’t remember a time when society has been more splintered than now. Trust is fractured. Many do not know who or what to believe, and social media has taken the supreme role in the notion “if it’s on the internet, it must be true.” There has never been a time when the hearth has been needed more.
The root of hearth is heart. The heart represents the center, the source of life, the safe place where confidence, strength, and trust can be restored. We need to find the family hearth again.
It’s difficult to turn away from the constant noise around us, but we must if we are to find a way through the chaos. We may not have a literal hearth in our home, but every person, every family has a heart. The hearth, the focus, the heart of the family, the heart of every individual is where hope can be renewed.
The hearth draws us back to the foundational things that cannot be shaken. It’s the familiar, the memorable, the reminder of those who have always been with us.
The hearth calls us from the busy-ness of life to sit for a while. Stop long enough to breath deeply and slowly. Make yourself rest so your mind can catch up with your heart that is way ahead of the racket around you.
If you want to learn how to focus in a terribly noisy world, listen to your hearth. It’s a place of warmth and comfort always ready and waiting.
Who comes up with this stuff? Social distancing? For people like me who are socially distant, nothing has changed. Except, of course for the mask that no two people agree on for more than forty-seven seconds.
I’m ok with social distancing, if it means staying away from crowds of people. I’m really not doing anything different than I was before. The real difference is we quit watching the news. I’m social distancing myself from everybody who does the news. Now that, I can get excited about.
I have a t-shirt with an inscription, “It’s way too peopley outside.” Yep. It is way too peopley outside, not just during all this craziness, (not that I’m one of those who believe the virus isn’t real, it’s real alright), but always. Staying away from people has not been difficult at all. It was hard, however, to follow the rules and stay away from our family for the first month. Not doing it anymore.
This is why I always got into so much trouble when I was a pastor. There were people everywhere! No one ever told me being a pastor was about being with people. Constantly.
I honestly envy pastors I have met who just cannot get enough of being around their people. I heard one pastor say, “If I could just preach and visit my people, I’d be the happiest man in the world.” I was dumbfounded. A retired pastor said, “I miss the burden of the people.” I thought he was crazy. The burden of the people? What does that even mean? Another pastor friend said, “The toughest thing for me to do on my day off is stay away from the church.” I thought, I’ve heard it all, now. This guy is out of his mind. The last place anyone ever found me on my day off was near the church. In fact, they couldn’t find me at all!
I hated visiting, and that’s where I fell on my face. People demanded it. Oh, I didn’t mind going to the hospitals, or doing funerals and weddings. Those were short term, in and out. At least the hospitals and weddings were. Funerals were a lot tougher. I have no idea how many funerals and weddings I officiated. And besides officiating, the ones where I played the piano. Add a whole bunch more. Do I miss it? You have to be kidding. If anyone had told me many years ago it would all involve endless people, I probably wouldn’t have done it. It’s a good thing they didn’t tell me, I guess.
People tell me I was a good preacher, and I appreciate it (I retired from ministry in 2004 after thirty-one years. After I retired I was asked to fill in for several months at a couple of churches. Now that was better! I didn’t have to do anything but preach. Preaching was always easy. If I could preach and head out the back door when I was done, that was like heaven. Finally, I reached the point where I don’t even fill in anymore, and I don’t miss it. Too many people.
Social distancing isn’t difficult at all for introverts. I’m ok when there are people around who I love and trust. I’ve never been a party planner. If I absolutely have to go, ok, I can make it through the night. The love of my life can talk to anyone, anytime, for any reason. I love her for it. Maybe if she could have been the pastor (the word pastor actually means shepherd) and I could have been the preacher, I could have lasted longer. No, she was a middle school teacher for many years. One of the great ones.
Someone gave me a book entitled, “Pastors – They Smell Like Sheep”. Uhh, nope. I never read it. In fact, I think I gave it away. I wasn’t interested in smelling like sheep.
My wife’s mother told her family that during the Great Depression, her family didn’t notice anything different. They raised their own food on the farm. They didn’t have anything of value except their land. They lived as they always had. It’s sort of like that now. For those who don’t live on being around others constantly, social distance is nothing new.
I wonder how much money some advertising agency has made by coming up with the phrase “social distancing”. Wait. I’m not supposed to think or say things like that. Social distancing is the new reality. Or so they tell us. If we’re listening, that is.
It’s really a struggle to stop and take a breather with all of the demands and screaming voices coming from every direction. Sometimes we have to slow down just to maintain sanity, or at least try.
I have always found the lakeshore to be very calming. With the rolling of the waves and constantly changing reach of water on the sand it’s easy to be taken in. It’s the same mesmerizing sense that takes over when I’m watching a campfire.
Music has always been a source of comfort. I have an Earl Klugh station on the music app I use that I love. Earl Klugh is an incredible jazz guitarist I have enjoyed for over forty years. Sometimes songs cycle through I don’t care for, but I have “liked” enough of Klugh’s songs that they frequently return. His fingers expertly dancing on nylon strings creates a magical sound with a calming effect much like the sound of waves rolling on the shore.
I like having my station playing when I’m working on my life-long hobby of model railroading. You would think a hobby like that would be relaxing, and it is, mostly, but sometimes its frustrating. Having music playing is helpful except when I stop what I’m working on and just listen. Sometimes the work is slow and tedious but the rewards are incredible. Listening to jazz guitar helps me maintain a slow pace and resist the urge to rush.
Another kind of music that helps us tremendously, especially when we need to slow down, is worship music. We love Elevation Worship and Hillsong United. (This is not a sales pitch! We have no connection to either one. We just enjoy their music). Amazing, encouraging, inspiring, calming, reassuring.
Our miniature golden-doodle, constantly at our side, is a great source of comfort. She can nap at any time, in any situation, no matter what is happening around us. We try to follow her example.
With every sunset I’m reminded that trouble won’t last forever. Hope is renewed with every sunrise. Time for more coffee.
When I think about my teachers, there are two who always come to mind. And, I suspect, they always will. Both were at the same school, Mackinaw Middle School in Saginaw, Michigan.
Both teachers came into my life when I was in the 5th grade. The impact of events during that school year have kept the memories new. Mrs. Vassold was my classroom teacher. Looking back now, she wasn’t old, but she seemed so then. Of course, to a ten-year-old, adults all seem old.
Mrs. Vassold was a caring, kind, and encouraging teacher. Everything seemed doable in her class. She had a real gift of instilling confidence in her students, something that I lacked. I didn’t realize until many years later how much Mrs. Vassold meant to me. As I think of her now, there is still a sense of calm connected to my memory of her.
Harry B. Wallerstein was our middle school band teacher. He was another educator with a gift of reaching into students’ hearts and planting seeds of confidence they might not otherwise ever experience. My chosen instrument was the cornet, which I played because my uncle had a horn I could use. It seemed like no time at all and our band was playing real songs. Mr. Wallerstein was my band teacher four years.
Mrs. Vassold and Mr. Wallerstein were on the same team. They may not have literally planned together, but the results of their teaching strategies and caring spirit changed lives forever.
Through many years of music experience, I am amazed at the music Mr. Wallerstein inspired us to play at such a young age. Those songs were tough! We played them beautifully. I’ll never forget Mr. Wallerstein playing a tape recording of a new song that had just burst on the airwaves. It was called, “Yesterday”, by Paul McCartney.
Mr. Wallerstein made learning music such fun. Every day he was on the lookout for students who were chewing gum, which was forbidden. Right in the middle of a song he would point at the offender and yell, “Ten cents!” He wrote their name on the board. There was always a long list. He collected all those dimes throughout the year. On the last day of school, he brought in a clawfoot tub, filled it with all kinds of pop and provided lots of potato chips. We were welcome to come in throughout the day, as many times as we wished.
I really didn’t realize how much I had learned from Mr. Wallerstein until I was asked to be a band director at a private school. The only training I had was what I had seen Mr. Wallerstein do. I did the same.
In 1997, I found Mr. Wallerstein’s address on the internet, he was living in Florida. I wrote him a letter, not knowing for sure if it was really Harry B. Wallerstein of Mackinaw Middle School fame. My letter began, “Dear Mr. Wallerstein, my name is Dale Parsons. From 1963 to 1967, I was in your band. I don’t know if you’ll remember me…” I was thrilled beyond words when I received a several page, hand-written letter. “Dear Dale, of course I remember you! When I read your name, I immediately saw your face…” I still have that letter and will always treasure it.
A few years ago, I looked up Mr. Wallerstein on the internet again. This time, I found a picture and a record of his obituary. I have looked for Mrs. Vassold over the years, but since I don’t know her first name, I have never been able to find any record of her.
Now, more than fifty-five years later, I can still see their faces. Mr. Wallerstein and Mrs. Vassold. I remain thankful for all my teachers, but these two have a high place in my memory.
That year is etched in my mind forever. I was in Mrs. Vassold’s class, during Social Studies, and the principal spoke on the PA. “Staff and students, I am sorry to inform you that President John F. Kennedy has been assassinated.”