“Hope is like the sun, which, as we journey towards it, casts the shadow of our burden behind us. ...Hope sweetens the memory of experiences well loved. It tempers our troubles to our growth and our strength. It befriends us in the dark hours, excites us in bright ones. It lends promise to the future and purpose to the past. It turns discouragement to determination. -Samuel Smiles
My initial thought was to share with everyone my "new" relationship.
I've been thinking about this new love for some time, knowing this was the perfect time to pursue where my heart has been leading me for years.
These were the words I posted on Facebook about my new love:
"I love my new favorite football team, Chicago Bears. I'm so glad I broke up with the Browns years ago. The courting process was flattering, even romantic at times. The Harbaugh brothers were impressive and thoughtful, Miami was beautiful, New England was very smart, and Seattle was exciting, but the city of Chicago was too much. The uniforms, the stadium, the history, and the fans won me over. Even with a loss to the great Green Bay Packers today it still wasn't as bad as watching the worthless Browns. I even ask Direct-TV to block all Browns games from being televised in our home. Serious. The Browns organization is embarrassing. I love the Bears. Congrats GB... You guys -Green Bay- have a lot of class. 1st class organization."
I could go deeper into how my heart is a flutter with my new fall/winter partner, but decorum and discretion are in order. Giddy 48 year old men gushing about how hot their "new" girlfriend is on Facebook can be as embarrassing as your kids cursing in front of a pastor - in your presence -, or an adult farting during church service prayer.
Trust me, it's not pretty.
"Older" dating couples wearing matching sweaters or coats is a bit disconcerting too.
I'm not speaking from experience mind you. I've just seen -heard- all three occur and like I said, it wasn't pretty.
Anyway, I digress.
What I really want to share is the Facebook post that caught my eye while I was on my iPhone the day after Christmas. The post was from Jeremy Gilchrist.
It was as honest as it was touching.
"Sleeping on a floor when the sheriff came to evict me, was probably the saddest day of my life.
It was 3 days before Christmas in 08.
The weeks following that day were "survival mode" at its finest. I had to constantly remind myself about the tough times growing up, when we had nothing and still made it through life. I would visualize Christmas mornings growing up when my mother would play holiday songs and make the best of the day, even when we had just one gift each under the tree. I would remember my father taking pictures and my mom singing to the songs, that was enough for us.
Fast forward to Christmas day 2013.
I awoke today and immediately went to the iPod and started playing Christmas songs, waiting patiently for my girls to wake up. Iwalani, my 19 week daughter woke first. I let her mother sleep in. I took Iwalani to the living room and we danced together to the beat of the Christmas songs. We laughed, we smiled and we had our moment. After 10 minutes of doing this I began to break down, sobbing like a little boy. Tears streamed down my face, for I realized that I was repeating the yearly habit that my parents instilled in me some 28 years ago.
I share this with you all for it was the grandest Christmas moment I've ever had, in my entire life.
Christmas and any other day you choose, is not about money. Whether it be 1984 when I was 5 years old, 2008 when I was forced to the street or today when financially I am OK, I realized it was all about love. The power of love is something miraculous, when you choose to allow it to perform its magic. To the wealthy, frustrated, poor or lost, stay close to those who you share true love with. Do not wait for Christmas to shift your heart, do this on a daily basis.
Make it a goal daily to stay true to who you are and what you stand for.
I wish everyone reading this the best end to a year that you have ever had. I pray that you take the time to plan your 2014 and set some goals, so that come day one, you are ready to take on the world. You are ready to let your love shine, your actions speak for you and the results keep you motivated.
I want to personally thank everyone in my life that has been a part of shaping me into who I am today. The people who supported me, loved me and never gave up on me. To my family, closest friends, Sarah Humphreys and Iwalani, I love you all so so much. With love, Jeremy Gilchrist."
After I read the post, I contacted Jeremy to seek his permission to use his words in my TBTT piece. He said; "of course you can use my story. Plz tag me in it!"
Jeremy's words were powerful, causing me to reflect upon my past.They made me realize the best time to see the stars is when it's completely black.
Not so long ago I was preparing to be the father to two young boys, born eight months apart, with two different mothers. I was living in Christopher Wren apartments in Gahanna getting eviction notices on a monthly basis.
When my older kids came to see me it took all of my strength to just hold it together. Most nights I quietly cried until I fell asleep. "How did I get here?" was the silent question that swam around in my mind.
"How did I get here?"
A short time before moving to Gahanna I lived on West Case Rd in a condo. The condo wasn't much to look at from the outside, and even less to look at from the inside. It was home, but I often ask myself, "How did I get here?"
What I would later learn is the penalties of your choices as a man are costly.
Each year I go to Florida to visit my best friend Joe Ceravolo (Alec Ceravolo Matt Ceravolo). During those tough times in the past Joe would tell me to get down to South Florida to play some golf, have dinner(s), and to relax.
"Don't worry about anything, just get down here", he would say. There were times he even bought my airplane ticket to ensure my arrival to sunny South Florida. Joe was/is a true friend.
But it was one time coming back from Florida that I remember like none other. As I walked up to my condo I noticed how terrible the grounds looked. The landscaping in Florida was/is well manicured, and to see reality set in so quickly upon arriving back home was a little more then I could bare.
Hope can come in many different shapes and sizes, you just have to be open to looking for it.
To this day I'm beyond driven when it comes to our landscaping because of that very moment when I told myself if things ever changed in my life and the responsibility of lawn-care and landscaping were left up to me I would always take care of my yard. Flowers in the yard and on the porch, boxwoods, perfect edging, and a fresh cut lawn at least twice a week.
Now you know why I spend so much time in my yard. It's more than a yard to me, it's hope realized.
But, it was this one time when my mom shared with me her feeling so poorly over the mismanagement of the property from a visual stand point, feelings she would later share with my Dad, that stuck with me. My Dad only said these words in response to my mother's sad sentiments; "Shawn is where he is because he put himself there. When Shawn wants more then he will have more."
Again, the penalties of your choices as a man are costly.
True words spoken, tougher words to hear, especially from your father.
I'm not big on motivation because motivation is so short lived. A coach can give a rousing speech in the locker room before a contest only for the words of sincerity and intensity to be forgotten by the players 5 minutes into the game.
What I "do" take notice of is inspiration.
Inspiration needs hope and gives hope. Hope might not be a plan, but it has merit. Hope is indispensable, paramount. Hope is fearless and sustaining.
Jeremy's words reminded me why hope is so important, so powerful, inspiring. His reflections reminded me we all have a story, but not everyone invites hope in to be a part of that story.
Hope is the key.
Emily Dickinson puts it this way in her short poem; "Hope is the Thing with feathers":
"Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,
And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.
I've heard it in the chillest land
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me."
Hope might not be a plan, but it has merit.
Jeremiah 29: 11-14 says these words: "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope."
Hope is indispensable, paramount. Hope is fearless and sustaining.
Thanks Jeremy for inspiring me with your story. Thank you for having the personal courage to share your heart, and thank you for reminding me nothing is as vital as never losing hope.
I hope everyone has a great 2014, remembering the importance of never giving up, never surrendering hope.