Monday, January 14, 2019

A Simple Return

As I am want to do, I will often share stories from my daily life. These so called “stories” are nothing more than an account of things that happen to me sometimes. But today was an especially good day. And this is what happened...
Earlier today, I ran into a friend that I haven’t seen in a very long time. I refer to her as a “friend”, but honestly, we’ve never really hung out socially. It’s just that whenever I run into this person, she will generally seek me out for conversation.
On this particular day, my “friend” who we will just call “Katie” for anonymity, spotted me from afar and waved emphatically to grab my attention. For context, whenever Katie and I talk, our conversations are almost always pretty heavy. The girl has her struggles. Psychologically. Emotionally. Spiritually. And even Practically... But, I will always hear her out. I never judge. And I just plain feel for the girl. Because I too, have walked more than a few miles in those same shoes.
The main focus of our conversations typically revolves around Anxiety. We will often discuss how crippling Anxiety can be. And how those spiraling, self-defeating thoughts can drag you into that deep abyss very quickly. But as we talk, Katie’s breath starts to settle. And she beings to relax... We are finishing up our discussion on how best to cope, when I abruptly redirect the conversation and throw out, “Hey. Can I ask you a question completely out of left field?”
She says, “Sure you can”
I then ask her, “How are you financially?”
That’s when her face falls to the floor… Visibly defeated, she goes on to say how tough it’s been. How her dad is on disability. How she can’t even afford the medications that her doctor prescribed for her current ailments. And how she is currently looking for a second job just to make ends meet.
I nod in understanding and say, “Well, I guess I better return this back to you then.”
“Return back to me?” she exclaimed. “What do you mean by RETURN TO ME?” Then I told her this story:
I met Katie over a year ago. I’ve always enjoyed our conversations, but my heart always went out to Katie, for her financial struggles as well as struggles in other areas in her life. Around that same time, I remember coming into a little bit of money. It wasn’t a lot, maybe a couple hundred dollars. Standing in my bedroom with that money in hand, I thought to myself that I have no need of this money. That I already have everything that I need.
And right at that moment, Katie’s face just popped into my head. So, without even taking a second to consider it. I took that money. Put it in an envelope. And wrote Katie’s name on it…
For 5 straight weeks after that day, I carried that envelope with me, in hopes that I would run into Katie again.
But I never did. For a whole year. Until today...
As I told her about the envelope, Katie begins to cry… But then I apologize saying, “I’m so sorry Katie! I had no idea I would see you today. And I don’t have the envelope with me.”
She smiles and says, “It’s OK. It’s the thought that counts.”
And while that might be good enough for some, if you know me at all, you know that ain't good enough for me... So I turn to her and say, “Here’s what I’m gonna do. All the money that’s currently in my wallet is yours. I have no idea how much it is, but if it’s in there, what’s mine is yours…”
And thank goodness for small favors, I take a quick peek into my wallet and it’s a pretty decent amount. I fold it up and hand it to her quietly as to not embarrass her. As she takes the cash from my hand, tears on both sides are pooling up like oceans. She says, “Kyle, I can’t take your money!” But then I remind her...
“That money is yours. That day. One year ago. When I wrote your name on that envelope. That money became yours and yours alone... Katie, I’ve been holding this money for you. Until such day when I would see you again. So take the money. It’s not a big deal. I’m only returning to you what was already yours...”

#kindness #simplekindness #payitforward

Friday, January 4, 2019

HERO

2018 is officially behind us. And as I look back on the year, certain stories stay with me even today. But the funny thing is…These are not my stories. I am not the protagonist. I am not the conquering hero in ANY of these movies. Not even close...

Each of these stories are unique unto themselves. Different places. Different times. Different circumstances. But there is ONE common thread running through all of them. In each story, the central figure is the same. The person who saves the day is the same. The person who de-fuses the bomb is the same. The daring, swashbuckling, sword wielding “Hero” who rides in at the end of the movie, is the same…

In ALL of these stories, that HERO... is a SINGLE MOM.

I’m not sure why in particular I’ve been privy to Single Moms telling me their stories this year. Maybe it’s because I always have a ready ear. Or maybe it’s because I actually took the time to ask… But whatever the case may be, I am honored to know such valiant heroes. I am chastened by their acts of bravery, love, and perseverance.

I hear their stories. Listen to their trials. But then I just get to sit back... As I watch them OVERCOME.

I am not saying that all Single Moms are perfect. Nobody is perfect. Everyone trips on the sidewalk from time to time. Heck, I’ve tripped on the friendly neighborhood sidewalk before too. And I have a crushed cell phone and a cell phone sized bruise on my left thigh to prove it! :)

But the ability to LOVE and CARE for your family does not require perfection. Standing up for your family can be done on just ONE good leg. The Single Moms I know don’t make excuses. They make solutions…

In comparison, my life is easy. I can call for a “pinch hitter” to sub in for me whenever I want. All the tasks and responsibilities of running a family have been halved with me. God willing, I will never have to bear the weight of being the sole “breadwinner” alone. I am the luckiest dude in town, and I know it...

But every life is different. And we all must play the cards we’ve been dealt. So, as I play my hand to the best of my ability, I take a moment to honor those HEROES that push me. That raise the bar. That rise above their circumstances. That show me what TRUE PARENTING really looks like...

To all the Single Moms I know and have yet to meet,

Your stories. Your trials. Your hard fought victories. Have not gone unnoticed. They have made me a better parent to my kids. They compel me to be a better citizen of the world…

So, for this and so much more… THANK YOU.

#singlemom #hero #parenting

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Nothing To See Here

This morning before dropping the kids off at school, I had a 3-minute, run-of-the-mill, seemingly innocuous conversation with my son Nash. During our brief interaction. Not an eyebrow was raised. Voices stayed even-keeled. Heart rate remained in its “pre-coffee” un-stressed state.
Honestly, I didn’t think anything of our interaction… Until about a few hours later.
Today started like any other day at The Wong House. Wake up the kids. Get breakfast ready. Glance longingly at the coffee maker, weighing the benefits of a nice warm cup vs getting the kids to school on time…
At this point, Nash calls out from his bedroom, “Dad! I need you to sign something!”
“OK. What?”
“My Report Card. It’s sitting on the kitchen counter!”
Without hesitation, and frankly without much thought at all, I locate the report card. Grab a pen. Sign it. And just go back to wondering if I can crank out a quick cup in the 4 minutes I have left.
Nash then emerges from the bedroom, grabs the newly signed report card, and shouts, “Did you look at it?” And I reply calmly, “Nope…”
Nash doesn’t flinch and continues loading up his backpack. Then a second later, he casually throws out the question, “Why not?”
“Because Nash, I don’t need to…” Nash looks up quizzically, hoping that I might expand on that a little bit.
I explain my position.
“Nash… I already see how hard you work. I see how many times you are up past midnight doing homework and completing projects. I ALREADY KNOW YOU ARE DOING YOUR BEST. So what is this card going to tell me that I don’t already know?”
Nash just shrugs... And that is the end of our conversation. Nash doesn’t think anything of it. And neither do I.
For all of their lives, I’ve preached to my kids that I really could care less about the grades they bring home.
As their father, All I've wanted for them is to KNOW, UNDERSTAND, and LIVE OUT the concept of “Doing Your Best In All Things." That they should take pride and full ownership of ANY project or paper they put their name on. That if they truly DO THEIR BEST on any given project. They can rest easy and feel good about the work that they put in. And lastly, “Doing Your Best” can and should FREE YOU UP from the anxiety that can easily come from misfortunate results or the curse of un-met expectations.
“Guys. Just do your best. Do what you can do. I have to believe that it will always be good enough. And even if it’s not. Just know that it will always be good enough for me…”
Trust me. As a kid growing up, I very well remember the anxiety, the fear, the trepidation of REPORT CARD DAY. I well remember the soul crushing weight sitting atop my shoulders. I well remember the desperate thoughts of “Will my parents still love me after I show them this.” Oh, I remember those times all too well...
Nash, Evan, and McKenna have been entrusted to my care. And I never want them to think that my love or acceptance of them, is hinged upon a silly piece of paper. I simply refuse to assign any value to what a report card really is… A piece of sheet.
Will Nash ever realize the significance of this day? Probably not. But through both of our actions, we proved that REPORT CARD DAY is just like any other day... In that, I feel like a traffic cop that shouts “Move along! There is nothing to see here!” And indeed, there is nothing to see here. Today is like any other day. Even if it is, REPORT CARD DAY... #parenting #reportcard #teachingmoment #school #learning #kids #father #fatherhood #highschool #teach

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Nash's Terrible Day


Parenting Stories Ep #274 (Or the Blog Post when Nash and I see the same situation completely different)
Nash is now a freshman at San Marino High School. And on most days, he will walk about a mile home from school. But on this day, Nash walks through the back door a little later than usual. The kid looks ragged and bedraggled…His eyes glazed over. His hair, an unkempt mess that seems only suitable for a bird looking to make a nest.
Speaking as a parent with 15 years of hard earned experience, it is painfully obvious to me, that in this situation, my wisest course of action would be to give the boy some space and refrain from “Poking The Bear.” But... As a parent who is sometimes relentlessly upbeat. And also a parent who just might be a sadistic glutton for punishment, I of course ask the question NO TEEN ever wants to hear, “Hey Nash, how was school today?”
The reaction I received from the Zombie-like Creature was exactly what one could reasonably expect.
Nash utters NOT ONE WORD. He doesn’t even look at me. But as he sets his backpack down in the slowest motion that only sloths could admire, the kid finally turns toward my side of the room. And graces me with the most PIERCING DEATH STARE that would make even Satan jealous.
It takes a little time... But slowly my kid starts to return back from the Land of the Undead. And we begin to talk.
“What happened?” I ask. He then tells me that at the end of the school day, he got dragged into an uncomfortable situation not of his own making. “It was just so awkward Dad!” he exclaimed, but even still, he goes on with the story…
Nash leads with the following statement, “Well, I can’t tell you ALL of the details because I promised that I wouldn’t.” And of course, I reply that I totally respect that.
For brevity's sake, I will now give you a “Cliff’s Note” recap of the situation as relayed to me:
One day last week, a student who is a friend of Nash’s, got sent to the Principal’s office for a reason that Nash promised not to disclose. Randomly, this student’s mother arrives to the high school, apparently phoned by the school office. The mom knows Nash by sight, and calls out to him from the parking lot. She asks Nash for directions to the Principal’s office. Nash then walks the mother to the office. There, she is told to wait for the student because the principal is finishing up with their meeting. At that point, Nash waits with the mother, trying to calm her down. The student eventually comes out from the meeting. Nash stays. The student goes on to explain the situation to both Mom and Nash. By this time, it is well after the Final Bell. The mother then offers to drive Nash home, at which he accepts. In the “Car Ride From Hell” as Nash describes it, the student and Mom get into a shouting match. Being tugged in both directions, Nash does his best to intercede and smooth things over. It’s a short drive, but with tensions still running high, Nash exits the feud and the car. He then walks through the back door of our house with that “bedraggled” look I mentioned earlier. And now we're back to the beginning...
“Dad, it was a TERRIBLE DAY!!!” he exclaimed. “WORST DAY EVER!” he tells me.
But I just sit there… with a smile on my face as wide as Kansas.
“What are you smiling about???” Nash asks in exasperation.
“OK dude. You told me your story and how you view it. Now, let me tell you what I see…”
Nash, let me walk you through every decision you made in this situation:
1. I LOVE that you honored your friend’s request to keep the reason for being sent to the Principal’s office a secret. That’s what friends do. And I admire your loyalty to that person.
2. When the mom asked you for directions to the office, you had a choice. You could have just given her directions OR “Walk with her” to the office yourself. You chose the latter.
3. When both of you arrived at the office and were forced to wait. You again made the decision to stay with the mom.
4. While the two of you were waiting, you talked with the mom. Tried to calm her down. In that very conversation, you eased a parent’s nerves while at the same time advocated on your friend’s behalf. Both intentions are admirable.
5. When your friend came out to explain the situation, you again stayed when you didn’t have to. Add to the fact that your friend explained the details of a bad situation in front of both YOU and the mom. That just speaks highly of the trust your friend places in you.
6. When the mom offers to drive you home, you surely could have declined the offer and safely made your escape, but once again, you chose to stay.
7. And on this particular “Car Ride From Hell.” You intercede. You mediate. You walk that fine and narrow line of trying to smooth things over between the two, without officially taking sides. This is surely a difficult task for any adult, much less a 15 year old teenager.
“So Nash, from my point of view: Today, at every turn, you made EXACTLY THE RIGHT DECISION. When things got truly uncomfortable, you had several opportunities to walk away and excuse yourself, but you didn’t...”
“I understand that today was incredibly awkward and uncomfortable for you. HOWEVER, in many situations you will have yet to face, ‘Doing The Right Thing’ will oftentimes be VERY uncomfortable. Yet, regardless of the outcome, of which had little to do with you in the first place, YOU PLAYED EVERY DECISION PERFECTLY. And I couldn’t be prouder of you than I am right now…”
So Nash, I’m gonna have to disagree with your assessment of the day. IMO, this was not a TERRIBLE DAY. It was an AWESOME DAY. A day in which my son came of age. A day when my son stepped up and PLAYED THE RIGHT WAY regardless of the outcome.”
And if I can just tell you one more time... I am so freakin’ proud of you right now…”

Monday, July 2, 2018

Say Hello

“Say Hello” to Maddie…
No, Maddie is not a new addition to our family if that’s what you’re thinking. However, it's probably a good bet that we'll see a little bit more of Maddie in our future. Here’s the quick story if ya care to read it.
Sometimes in the mornings, I’ll see “Maddie” and her owner walking around the neighborhood. I’ve never met Maddie, nor have I ever said one word to her owner. In fact, I don’t think it ever crossed my mind to even “Say Hello.”
But on this fine Monday morning, I just happen to be outside in the front yard. I’d like to say I was communing with nature, but I was actually just jabbering on the phone with my brother. He and I were engaged in a lively discussion in which we were surely solving all of the world’s ills. But right as I was about to make an excellent and profound counterpoint to my brother’s lame argument, a lady wearing a big floppy sun hat comes frantically running up to me, trying to attract my attention. I instantly recognize her as the “dog walking lady” I see around town.
She immediately blurts out in broken-English, “My dog! My dog is hurt! Can you call the police?” At that point, I take the keen pleasure in rudely hanging up on my brother, and address the situation. “What’s wrong?” I simply ask. She excitedly points across the street where her dog is tied up, “Maddie has hurt her leg. She can’t walk. We’re too far from home. She’s too heavy for me to carry. I forgot to bring my cellphone. I usually bring my cellphone. Can you call the police? I forgot my cell phone. Did I say that already? I need to take Maddie to the Vet right away!”
Yeah… All those short, stilted, little sentences came firing out all at once, pelting me in a whirlwind of words.
From my vantage point, I could see that Maddie was agitated, but otherwise fine in my expert opinion (yeah, not an expert). I make a quick decision and tell the owner, whose name I later learned is May, that she doesn’t need the police. I could drive May and Maddie home right now in my car… She excitedly agrees and rushes to be by her dog’s side.
Running back to the house, I throw the front door open, take the deepest breath possible, and bellow at the top of my lungs, “NASH!!! LET’S GO!!!”
Nash comes dashing out of his bedroom sporting a very impressive “bedhead”, yelling “What? Where? What? Huh???”
I shout again, “Come on Nash! We gotta go!!!”
“To where?” he reasonably asks. “To Rescue A Dog!!!” I resolutely reply.
And with that OBVIOUS explanation in hand, like that sort of thing happens every day here at the Wong House, Nash just shrugs, slaps on his Crocs, and jumps into the car in record time. No other explanation was needed or given...
We pull the car up, and we see immediately that Maddie is favoring her front right paw and that she can bear no weight on it. I try lifting Maddie up, but Maddie doesn’t know me, and keeps pulling out of my grasp. Then, Nash gives it a go, doing the smart thing of getting down to the dogs level, and letting her sniff his hand first in order to introduce himself and “Say Hello” to the dog.
Nash is successful! And lifts Maddie into our car! We drive only a few blocks to their house, which seems like a short distance in a car, but certainly a country mile if have you an injured dog on your hands... There, we were able to safely transfer Maddie from our minivan into May’s car. Our job now complete...
With that, Nash and I walk away, secretly smiling at each other signifying a job well done.
But at the last minute, May gets out of her car… With glistening eyes, she meekly asks to know both of our names. Speaking our newly learned names out loud, she personally thanks us both, with a warm handshake and a grateful heart...
Now, I understand that this is barely even a story. That this is just plain old neighborhood stuff that should happen naturally in any neighborhood, anywhere in the country. But that’s kind of my point. "Neighborhoods” like the ones we all knew growing up, are sadly disappearing. And these kind of everyday, one on one interactions that we have with our neighbors, are now so rare, that they are now Facebook worthy stories instead of just part of normal life living in community.
I personally miss hanging out with the "kids on our street” during the hot days of summer. I miss block parties. I miss knocking on your neighbor’s door when you’re out of sugar. Or need a ladder... I miss just asking, “Can Johnny come out and play?” without texting or emailing first. I miss going to the Cool Family's house on the 4th of July, because THAT family's dad always bought the “BIG BOX O' FIREWORKS” that YOUR parents were too cheap to buy.

But as they say, life is what you make it... And it starts with ME. So, here's my first steps toward Community:

Tonight. I'm gonna go out for a walk after dinner. Without wearing headphones... I'm gonna walk with my wife. We'll download our respective days. And Talk. And heaven forbid, if a person starts heading our way on the same sidewalk (Gasp!), I will surely make it a point to SMILE, and “Say Hello.”

Will it make a difference? Who knows, but I know that for May and Maddie it did... And for me, that's more than good enough.





Friday, June 1, 2018

Crossing Guard Story



Do you guys know your Crossing Guards? Do you know the actual name of the person looking out for your child’s safety everyday at school, rain or shine? Don’t feel bad if you don’t, because until today, I didn’t either…

Our neighborhood Crossing Guard, who can be found most days on the corner of Sherwood and West is Salvador Castillo.

As one of those parents who mindlessly drive by in “insulated car cocoons”, I’ve come to know Salvador only as “The Waving Crossing Guard”. I call him that because EVERY time I see him, he is empahtically waving and smiling at EVERY kid, EVERY passing vehicle, EVERY single day. Most Huntington parents know of him. But did you know that Salvador was a POET? And a PUBLISHED AUTHOR??? Did you also know that Salvador is currently going through an incredibly difficult time in his life, yet he still shows up EVERY morning with a smile on his face to ensure our kids’ safety?

Yeah... So that’s the teaser. And here comes the full story if you so choose to read it:

So, today is the last official day of the school year. And also the day my son Nash graduates from Huntington Middle School. You would think that especially today, I would be more focused on buying a lei or planning a grand celebration dinner. But that just wasn't the case...

This morning, as I dropped Nash off at Huntington for the last time, I once again drove past "The Waving Crossing Guard”. And for some reason, my thoughts went NOT to Nash, the upcoming graduation, or my daily checklist. My thoughts went out to “The Waving Crossguard,” and how much I appreciated his service. My mind also rudely pointed out to me; that for all those years driving by and waving to this man, I don’t even know his name...

So this afternoon for pick-up, I show up a few minutes early, park the car, and make it my mission to personally express my gratitude, and yes... maybe even learn his name.

I park and make a bee line straight for him, trying to reach the man before all the kids let out. I greet him, shake his hand, and give him a hearty “Thank you for all that you do” type of comment. I also bestow upon him a Peet’s gift card from the stash I keep on-hand, surely for occasions such as these. In our conversation, I learn finally, that "The Waving Crossing Guard’s” name is Salvador Castillo. And in that moment in which he tells me his name, he flamboyantly rolls the “R” in Salvador for what seems like 30 seconds. I repeat his name back to him and recite “SalvadoRRRRRRRRRR,” rolling my tongue like it was dripping with queso… With my ridiculous pronunciation, my new friend just laughs and puts his hand reassuringly on my shoulder. And soon, we just end up laughing together...

And as is my nature, he and I begin to talk. He asks me about my kids, and I tell him a few details. But when I ask him about his family, his eyes light up like little LED’s. Salvador cannot physically pull out his phone fast enough to show me pictures of his beautiful wife. And next a picture of his beautiful daughter… Then, he says “Oh! I want to show you something!” And he immediately runs to his car to look for something. After a few seconds, he runs back and hands me this book. He energetically points to the cover, and says “See? My wife.” And there on the cover, is a stunning photo of his wife taken many years ago… As I reverently take the book from his hand, Salvador is simply beaming. The love Salvador has for his wife is palpable...

I didn't notice it right away, but at the bottom of the book cover, there was a name. The name, Salvador Castillo! This is a book of HIS POETRY! I turn to him and exclaim “This is YOU? You wrote this???” “Yes” he says with a wide smile. I mean, the guy writes a book of poetry dedicated to his lovely wife! And then it gets published??? This dude is MY HERO! I then ask if I can buy the book. He says you can find it on Amazon. And it IS on Amazon! I checked! But I wanted this copy, the copy he put into my hands. He says I can have this book for 10 dollars, so I give him 20. It’s in Spanish, I can’t read it, but I don’t care. I’m honored to own it…

As we continue our conversation, the tone gets heavier. Salvador tells me that his wife passed away a few years ago. And that it’s now just him, his daughter, and his grandson. Then he drops it on me…

He tells me, his daughter Leslie,  who is a mere 39 yrs old, suffered a stroke just 2 weeks ago… She had been in the Huntington Hospital for those 2 weeks, but was thankfully released to come home with Salvador a few days ago. He tells me that his daughter’s recovery is slow, but that he has been encouraged with Leslie slowly regaining her ability to speak. But now with his wife gone, his daughter recovering from a stroke, it is up to him to take care of both his daughter, and her 11 yr old son, on his own.

Even with all this going on his life, Salvador continues to show up, smile, wave, and protect our kids from harm.... My heart breaks for him in that moment. And I don’t really care where you fall in religious affiliation, I felt compelled right then and there to take that opportunity to express my concern for him, and pray for Salvador and his family. Once I did that, and encouraging words had been shared, we shake hands and part ways. But as I walk away, I tell him that I will continue to pray for his family and that I will be back to check up on him and his situation.

As I walk away, in literal awe of this man and his grace under fire, I am reminded that NO ONE on this Earth is face-less. That every person here, is a distinct individual with his or her own story, hopes, and dreams. And that Crossing Guards deserve our respect just as much as anyone else.

As a parent, I am constantly drilling into my kids that EVERYONE deserves respect no matter their station in life. That there is no such thing as the random guy, waitress, or bus driver. All are people. Distinct individuals. With distinct faces. And distinct histories. I remind them that EVERY PERSON regardless of their economic status or color of their skin, knows something that you don’t. And if you listen carefully, that person most assuredly has something to teach you…

Today, the crossing guard, Salvador Castillo, taught me well about strength, perseverance, the love of a Father, and the love for a Wife... These gifts, I will accept gladly. In hopes that one day, I might be able to pass these gifts on to my own children.


This story is not over. I will continue to check on Salvador and his family. Cuz at the end of the day, that’s just what friends do...

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

American Idiot

 
OK. Some of you might feel me on this… But doesn’t it just kill you when some idiot steals your parking spot when you were clearly waiting there first? Or how about when some idiot takes a left turn directly in front of you when you clearly have the right of way? And oh… How about this one? When you’re at Costco, trying innocently to get some shopping done, and some thoughtless, careless idiot rams a full grocery cart right into the back of your heel, shooting sharp pain throughout your whole body???

Yeah, well… Today, I was that IDIOT.

My regretful story begins at the Costco in Alhambra... I had just finished up my weekly shopping, and was now proceeding towards the register with an exorbitant amount of paper goods. But my momentum soon came to a halt when a traffic jam suddenly materialized in front of me. In my efforts to skirt around this "pop-up" mob, I maneuvered my cart directly behind a mother pushing a cart with her child. At this point, there is no sugar-coating this story in my favor. There were no mitigating factors. No justification for my actions. I wasn’t pushed. I wasn’t on the phone. Wasn’t texting. There just isn’t a scenario here, in which I am not at complete and total fault.

In my haste, I misjudged the distance between us. And RAMMED my cart directly into this poor woman’s achilles tendon right above the heel. I would like to tell you that she was wearing high tops at the time, but sadly that was not the case. She was wearing low-cut, slip-on shoes with her achilles taking the brunt of my cart full on… I was instantly aghast as I saw the pain contorting on her face... As I stood there, helplessly apologizing over and over, she remained silent, biting her tongue and wincing in agony...

Throughout the whole exchange, she said not one word to me. I don’t blame her at all. I wouldn’t want to talk to me either... After all my apologies fell helplessly to the ground, I decided that it might be best to just get out of her sight and out of her way. Surely, I was not helping matters.

As I slinked away in shame, all I could do is ruminate in my mind about what just happened. “What could I have done?” “What should I have done?”

I’m not so na├»ve a person to think that “everything happens for a reason.” But on the other hand, I always try to use any experience I have, good or bad; To learn. To grow. To be better…

“So what did I take away from today’s encounter?”

As I sat quietly in the car, the biggest realization that came to me was this: That in so many occasions in life, "I AM THE IDIOT."

That all too often, I make mistakes. Big ones… Heaven’s sake, just yesterday, my son Evan requested that I buy him an orange he needed for a school speech. I told him not to worry, and that I would take care of it. The day came, and you guessed it, I forgot to bring him the orange... It had completely slipped my mind. I failed him. I let my son down... As I think more on that situation and today’s as well, Evan showed me grace. He made the best of a bad situation, still completed his speech, and forgave me when I asked for forgiveness. And while the woman today said not one word to me, I believe she also showed me abundant grace… She had every right to tear me a new one, but she didn’t.

Today’s incident forces me to take a hard look at my own imperfection. My own fallibility… I’m not saying that everyone who cuts you off is an idiot. So often times, there is a back-story to any situation. The person who’s rude to you at the restaurant could be going through an ongoing divorce proceeding. The older man driving 20 miles an hour in a 45 mile zone that you honk at while whizzing by, might be completely lost and has no idea how to find his way home.

In my life thus far, I’ve learned the hard way to “cast not the first stone” or any stone for that matter. You never truly know the full story. And even if you do... Good people still make mistakes. I know I do.

I can’t take away that woman’s pain. But I can pay it forward by extending that same amount of grace to the next person who wrongs me justly or unjustly. But even as I pontificate on “paying it forward”, this really isn’t about re-paying kindness, tit for tat... This about realization. That WE ARE ALL IDIOTS at various points in our lives. That we all make mistakes. A lot of them…. How our parents still love us as much as they do is surely a wonder to me!

So, whenever the next occasion arises, where I even dare to consider casting that first stone, whether it be: That driver. That waiter. Or that co-worker. I need to think back to how many times that I myself, was THE IDIOT, the one at fault, the one pushing the cart.

I think once we come to the realization how imperfect we truly are, the more perfect this world can truly be... #weareallidiots