Perspective


Life has been pretty nuts lately.  On top of the typical holiday rush, I have been extremely busy at work.  I have a lot of big company-wide projects that I am leading that involve me directing activities in 78 different facilities.  On top of that, our Director of Quality is no longer with the company.  While interviewing for a replacement, I am assuming those duties in addition to my regular ones.  Add to that my second round of grad school and it becomes apparent that I’m staying pretty busy.

But that’s not all.  With two young children, there is always plenty to keep me busy at home (four birthday parties this Saturday alone!).  I’ve also had a fair amount of home repairs and improvements to do lately.  Then there’s the three non-profits of which I am a board member.  It seems like there is never enough time in the day.

As I as wallowing in my despair and self-pity this morning, I was grounded by fact that my Crazy Aunt Cathy is undergoing surgery this morning to remove cancer and she is doing so with an admirable dose of grace and optimism.  Now all my “poor me’s” don’t seem that significant.

We all endure stress and hardship.  It is inevitable part of life.  The key to remember is that damaging stress is not caused by our circumstances.  Instead, it is caused by our response to them.

Stay strong and get well soon Aunt Cathy – a whole lot of us out here love you.

Usually around this time of year I take a Christmas carol and write my own lyrics in a somewhat witty fashion. That was my plan for a post this week, but my heart just isn’t in it. The tragedy that occurred last Friday hit me hard. I have two daughters – one in first grade and one in pre-K. I can’t help but imagine the pain of loss endured by the parents, siblings, extended family, and friends of those who were lost last week.

I find myself replaying the events in my mind… the last moments of terror experienced by those children… the upcoming pain of Christmas presents with no one to open them… the survivors who have been stripped of their innocence at far too tender of an age. We’ve experienced several tragedies in the past few years… far too many. But this one seems to hurt more. My thoughts and prayers go out to those who were personally impacted by this event. I’ve experienced my share of hardship in life and I know that time heals wounds… but even healed wounds leave scars.

I had a pretty popular post on Facebook the day after the shootings and would like to expand on it a little here…

We were all devastated by what happened on December 14th in Newtown, Connecticut. The thought of so many innocent lives lost is heartbreaking. Twenty young children went to school that day just like any other day, but never came home. I think what makes this so difficult for me is how young the victims were and how many were lost in one day.

Now I’ll pose a question. What if I told you that a tragedy was going to happen again tomorrow? You’d do everything in your power to prevent it wouldn’t you? What if I told you twice as many children would be lost… or even ten times as many? The sense of urgency would be even greater, right?

Here’s the truth… 1,500 times as many children will die tomorrow due to preventable causes. That’s right… 30,000 children will die today, tomorrow, the next day, and EVERY DAY around the world. The causes vary – malnutrition, lack of shelter, diseases such as malaria, and a lack of clean drinking water are among the most frequent. The one thing they have in common is that they can be prevented, but only if people like you help.

Why is it that we ignore the death of 30,000 people a day? Maybe it’s because most of them live in other countries. They look different, talk different, have different cultures, and the media chooses not to bring their stories into our living rooms. But despite their differences, every one of the 30,000 lives lost is just as precious as those lost here in the United States. Perhaps my perspective is a bit different. I’ve personally witnessed two children who live in a Nicaraguan dump fighting off dogs and vultures for trash to eat. I’ve seen levels of poverty that most people in the U.S. cannot comprehend and that changes your perspective.

So how can you help? I know not everyone can travel to a third world country… but if you’re reading this, you have a computer and an internet connection which tells me you have the means to make a difference. During my last trip to Nicaragua, I got to work directly with World Vision and Opportunity International. I can tell you that the money that goes to those charities is NOT wasted. They do amazing things with very little resources. There are other worthwhile causes, like Samaritan’s Purse that focus on helping children in need around the globe.

There is also one other organization I would like to mention, Highlands Mission Cooperative http://highlandsmission.com. Full disclosure: I am a board member for this non-profit and if you go to the website, my wife is the one holding the baby. So yes, I have a personal interest in this organization. No, we don’t get paid to work with this organization and again, I can assure you that the money is put to good use. This organization has less waste than any nonprofit I have dealt with – and I’ve worked with a LOT of nonprofits. Highlands Mission Cooperative is doing some amazing things and I encourage you to go to the website and check it out. But don’t just look… get involved. Consider taking a trip… make a donation… do whatever you can because lives – young lives – are literally at stake. You can chose to ignore the death of 30,000 children daily or you can make difference.

Update to this post: the web designer is making some changes to the Highlands Mission website today, so if you run into issues with links, please come back later!

To say the least, it was an eventful weekend.  While mowing on Saturday, I noticed a low spot in my yard was really wet.  I checked the water meter (an eighth of mile up our steep driveway) and sure enough it was turning.  I had a leak somewhere.  The only water lines in that area are from my irrigation system, so I shut the valve off that fed it.  Then I ran up the driveway to check the water meter.  Still turning.

I then realized that water was coming from the evacuation drain for my foundation.  Uh oh.  I made another trip back up the driveway to shut the water off.  After digging around, I found that my main water line went into my house about 2 feet below grade and underneath my front porch.  This left me lying on my stomach underneath a porch trying to dig. 

I finally gave up and called in a plumber on Saturday afternoon.  He started digging some more.  We knew there was a T-connection to the irrigation system somewhere in that area and that was the likely source of the leak, but we could not get to it since we are on a hill and our water line plunges straight down into the ground. 

After digging around for a while, he finally said this was the second worse situation he had ever seen.  I was glad I made the list, but a little jealous that I wasn’t number one.  He had to call in an excavator to come in on Sunday (Cha-ching!) to dig out around the house just to be able to follow the water line. 

We finally found it.  Some genius put a threaded plastic T-connection underneath one of the footers for the porch.  In case you don’t know anything about construction, that is approximately the structural equivalent of putting Richard Simmons on the offensive line of an NFL team – it will fail and it will do so annoyingly.

When it was all said and done, we spent $1,000 for the privilege of not having running water for the weekend.  Then came the cherry on top – when I went to check on the girls that night, it was over 80 degrees upstairs.  My upstairs A/C went out.  Fortunately, I got that running last night.

While recalling this story and feeling sorry for myself I actually came to appreciate how fortunate we are.  I was upset that went without water and one of three A/C units for one night.  In a couple of weeks, I’m going back to Nicaragua.  Many people there walk over a mile every day to get water that makes them sick and have no idea what air conditioning is.  It’s only been about six months since my last trip and I’ve already lost perspective.