Ripple Effect


The U.S. standard railroad gauge, which is the distance between the rails, is four foot eight-and-one-half inches. Why such an odd number? Because that’s the way they built them in England, and engineers who had been educated under that English system built American railroads. So why did the English use that measurement? Because the people who built the pre-railroad tramways, all used that specific gauge.

They used the four foot eight-and-one-half inch distance between their wheels because the people who built the tramways used the same standards, pattern forms and tools they had used for building wagons. And yes, the wagon axels, and wheels in Europe, were all set on a standard gauge of four foot eight-and-one-half inches. They had been that way for as long as anyone could remember, and that exact gauge had been taught and passed down from one generation to the next for centuries.

The obvious question now is, “Why were wagons built to that specific scale?”, and the answer is amazingly simple. Europeans knew that any other size would not match the old wheel ruts in the roads they traveled on. That in turn would cause damage, a rough ride and very slow, very uncomfortable travel from one place to another. The growth and development of Europe would have slowed down considerably had they used any other wheelbase. The results of changing this standard gauge would have literally changed the entire history of modern civilization.

So who built these old rutted roads that were made of stone blocks, and have stood the test of time? The Rome Empire built the first long-distance highways in Europe. They were engineered for the benefit of their legions as they conquered the known world. The ruts were made by a thousand years of Roman war chariots rumbling over them. Four feet, eight-and-one-half inches was the exact width a chariot needed to be in order to accommodate two horses running side-by-side.

Think of it, a measurement made by some unknown chariot maker, 2500 years ago, accommodated two Roman warhorses and changed the course of the world. Because of this simple act, every living person on the face of the earth, and every nation on the planet, is still under the influence of the Roman Empire. Even though it vanished off the face of the earth more than 1500 years ago, we still feel the effect. I wonder if it ever crossed the mind of that chariot maker that one decision he made would somehow ripple across time and literally change the entire world?

Like it or not, we are all interconnected in more ways than we can imagine. Time and distance really do not separate us all that much. As we go our way each day, the decisions we make which seem harmless enough, can have far-reaching implications. A self-serving unkind word, a text while driving, an impatient attitude with a store clerk can be devastating at many levels. An outburst that needlessly criticizes another, drinking and driving, or a moment of arrogant disrespect can be multiplied down through time and literally change our world and everyone in it.

We do these things on a daily basis and think nothing of how they might be magnified. The ripple of anger you start may become a tsunami of rage that devastates the shore of many lives. That in turn changes them and impacts everyone they meet, which then rolls on through countless others. Consider this; in 1905 a young boy in Europe named Adolf is slapped across the face and continually humiliated and abused by his drunken father. He grows up, joins the army with this hatred seething in his heart and then Adolf Hitler finds  his place in world history. He becomes a world changer all because of the actions of another!

Perhaps it’s time for us to stop and think about how our actions do make a huge difference. It’s easy to be kind, when we could have been angry, or to show mercy, when judgment was in our heart. It’s better to speak the truth than lie and not take responsibility. When you take the time to measure things out correctly, and do what is right, it’s a world-changer. Until we get hold of this reality, we will continue acting as if we can do what we want and it makes no difference.

We are all like that unknown chariot maker. A simple, insignificant act today will have a ripple effect tomorrow, far beyond anything we can imagine. Like it or not, we are all interconnected in this magnificent dance of life. How we dance today will determine who is dancing, and what the music will be tomorrow. If you want the future to turn out for the best then dance well today, and tomorrow is sure to take care of itself!

The Man In The Mirror

So much of what is in the world around us seems to be one thing until we open our eyes and look a little deeper. Once the veneer is removed and the spotlight is off, the real condition of things is unveiled, and a much different picture often emerges. For instance, we are led to believe that fame and money are the things that can really make our lives happy and meaningful. If that is the case, then movie stars should be the happiest and most fulfilled people on earth. However, the recent suicides of world famous, academy award winning actors Heath Ledger and Robin Williams proclaim a very clear and different message.

My wife and I watched an interview being done with Mr. Williams some time ago. His candor, humor and personality were off the charts. He was a master at his craft and he kept the interviewer and the audience in a state of wonder and laughter. His view of life was so different and he could interpret it in such a way that he kept everyone in awe. Yet when the conversation moved in the direction of who he was as a person, the vacant, questioning look that came to his eyes and swept over his face was sad, if not heartbreaking. There was a dark side to him that few knew about.

What we discovered was that he did not know who the real Robin Williams was. He lived his life through the person in the script he was hired to portray. Thus his acting ability was so powerful because in front of the camera he actually became his character, or perhaps I should say His character became him. His life was being scripted by screenwriters, and he lived it well during the filming of each movie. Yet when the filming was over, and he left this fantasy world of Hollywood, he also left his identity as well.

The truth he exposed in that interview was hard to believe but tragically true. He said he had no clear concept of who he was, no defined personality of his own. When he opened his eyes the morning after a shoot was over, he looked in the mirror and did not know who he was! In spite of all his brilliance on the big screen, and his flawless comedic ability in front of a camera, he was never certain about his real value as a human being or who he was as a man.

I minored in counseling/psychology when I got my masters degree in Biology. One of the disciplines I studied was a style of counseling called “reality therapy”, by Dr. William Glasser. The main premise of Glasser’s method is that it’s impossible for anyone to be emotionally healthy until they know themselves. Every person must eventually open their eyes and face the reality of who they are. More importantly, they must take personal responsibility for the life they have and embrace the consequences for the way they have lived. Until that happens, people are clueless dreamers, sleepwalkers who hurt themselves and everyone they meet along the way. As strange as it sounds, this is exactly how much of the world lives and it is what finally caused Williams to hang himself. He did not know who he was, he felt alone in the world and therefore concluded he had no reason to live.

Now comes the big question: are your eyes open, I mean really open to the truth of who you are? What do you see when you wake up and look in the mirror each morning? Do you see a failure who is emotionally isolated from others, or someone who is interconnected by meaningful relationships that hold promise for the future? Is there hope for improvement or the feeling of being a helpless victim who is locked in a cycle that never changes? Do you have joy in the journey or does life feel meaningless and directionless? Your honest answer to those questions can bring a life-changing revolution. Why? Because how you see yourself makes all the difference in how you live your life!

Know thy self! In other words, open your eyes to the truth of who you are, and face the reality of the life you have. Then ask yourself this question; is this what I was created to do? If the answer is no then you have to open your heart to the reality of the life you should have. Allow the desire of the life you want to provide direction and compel you to change so you can begin moving in that direction. Remember, desire literally means “of the father”, and that’s powerful. The life you desire is the one God the Father made you to fulfill. In case you missed it, nothing else on earth will bring you satisfaction.

The bottom line is simple, when His desire becomes ours, that reality grips our life with purpose and great things will happen! Unless we find our identity and our purpose for being here, life really has no meaning. However, once we uncover these amazing truths they bring with them the vision, focus and satisfaction we need to fulfill our destiny. It all begins when we open our eyes and take a hard, honest look at the one staring back at us in the mirror. When we like what we see then our life has finally begun.

Truths I Have Learned

Not long ago saw a fascinating list with the following title: “Great Truths That Second Graders Have Learned.” Let me share part of it with you.

1. Cat’s don’t’ like baths.

2. When your mom is mad at your dad, don’t let her brush your hair.

3. Never ask your 3-year-old brother to hold a tomato or a raw egg.

4. Don’t sneeze when somebody is cutting your hair.

5. You can’t hide a piece of broccoli in a glass of milk.

Don’t you just love the clarity of the above? It strips all of life down to a place of such purity and simplicity that you have to smile and nod in agreement. Even after teaching school for over 30 years I never tired of hearing the voices of those little ones echoing down the hall. I taught high school but I frequently walked into the elementary wing just to hear what was going on. I never knew what words of wisdom would flow out of those little hearts and that is what kept things exciting. Every day was a new adventure in the undiscovered territory of a child’s mind.

As some people age they seem to forget what every child instinctively can do. The responsibilities of life, and the brutality of others have a way of robbing us of our ability to enjoy the moment. We become so focused on doing the next thing that HAS to get done for the future, that we forget how to be caught up in the wonder of what IS being done in the here and now. This amazing ability to live in the moment is what every child possesses. That gift allows them to enjoy life in a way that we adults just continually miss on a daily basis.

I have had the great privilege of knowing a few adults who never lost this ability. My 97 year old mother is one such person. Even though her memory is not what it once was, and she forgets a few things, she is still happy, active and enjoying life. She wakes up every day looking for ways to make life better for others. My wife Esther is another such person. Even though she is clear-minded and can see through the thickest smoke screen, she is not a cynic. There is a child-like innocence about her that can melt the hardest of hearts, or be captivated in the moment by seeing the vibrant beauty of a single blue flower.

How about you? What list might you draw up if asked about the great truths you have learned? My guess is that it would be filled with personal conquests, self improvements, your leadership of others and the glory of your new 5 year plan. If so, you will have listed the very things that brought your real revelations in life to an early demise. My hope is that you will begin to rethink things from a child’s perspective and gain back the lost freedom that was once the real you.

Here is my list of things I have learned that really matter in life. Hope you enjoy it.

  1. When fishing, one foot always gets wet. Jump in and get both feet wet the moment you near any stream. This way you can enjoy the rest of the day.
  2. You always forget to pack something you need when traveling.
  3. Keep an extra house key and truck key in your wallet because you’ll need them.
  4. “E” doesn’t really mean empty on any gas gauge.
  5. When a man asks a woman “what’s wrong”, and she says “nothing”, it’s not so!

Now smile and have a great day, and remember what the old farmer said when asked by the city reporter why he was so happy. “Any day I wake up and I’m above ground is a good day!”  🙂

Life In A Winter Season

Life in the “North Country” of New York State is amazingly beautiful but it is also filled with many harsh realities. There is a magnificent change of seasons but high unemployment due to the seasonal nature of most jobs. There is a lusciously green spring, but a very short summer that is filled with swarms of black flies. One of the harshest diversities is the beauty of snow-covered peaks and the long, cold, dark winter with sub-zero temperatures. People who live in this region expect at least one or two extended blasts of Canadian Arctic air to sweep over the mountains in January and February. It drops to 35 or 40 below zero and can stay there for weeks at a time.

When this happens most everything slows down, and in some cases grinds to a frozen stop. Schools close, vehicles will not start and businesses don’t open. Life comes to a momentary halt as people curl up next to the fire, throw wood on the stove or crank up whatever it is that heats their hone. Most only go outside when they have to get food, walk a dog, restock the wood pile or clear the driveway from a few feet of snow. Those who do brave the weather are bundled up in layers so that only their eyes are left peeking out through a cloth tunnel.

Strangely enough, there are a few brave souls who still take their daily walk in these frigid conditions.  They can be heard walking a quarter of a mile away because at that temperature, the snow squeaks under foot like nails on a chalk board. It’s a truly amazing sound that must be heard to really be understood. One other sound that is truly unearthly is a loud, wooden “POP!” that emanates from deep inside the trunk of spruce trees. This happens because the sap in the tree freezes and expands. However the trunk itself is shrinking due to the strong cold and the results is that something must give. Fibers in the wood split open under immense pressure and that cracking can sound like a gunshot on cold January nights. Strangely enough, out of that pressure and damage comes a great good. It is this very process that makes spruce such a tough, resilient wood and the preferred material for building the best log cabins.

All of us experience our own winter season at different times in life. It comes when nothing seems to be going right, and life feels bitter, cold and harsh. We have disappointments, misunderstandings or just do the wrong thing in a moment of thoughtlessness. People we love may die, a job we need may be lost or a dozen other unexplained things can sweep in and take over like an Arctic cold-front. When this happens what are we to do? Do we give up and become bitter and resentful, or does God have a better plan?

In those times of winter distress, the best thing we can do is to move in close to the fire of God’s love, and patiently endure. No matter how cold it may be in that season of life, the Song of Solomon gives us an assurance that eventually the winter will pass! God has not forgotten you, even if at times you may have forgotten Him. He will never forget you because He loves you with a fierce, everlasting love. What He wants to do in those difficult seasons is to make changes deep in you that can’t be made in any other way.

Like the Spruce tree that cracks deep inside on a cold January night, God uses our difficult seasons to make deep changes in us. He allows pressure to build up against those things that have to go, and then “CRACK!” they are exposed and can be dealt with. Take a moment to ask God right now to help you change in your winter season. You can do more than just “go” through it, you can “grow” through it and become better. If you learn the lesson of the Spruce tree, who knows what magnificent things the hand of God may yet build out of your life. Now go and live your life with honor and expectant joy. Remember, no matter how cold and dark the winter may be, your Spring will surely come!