Like Cats, We All Leave Stuff Behind

Like cats, we all leave stuff behind.

On Christmas afternoon, our neighbors popped over with a delicious chocolate cake to share with us. They were fronted by their two delightfully adorable kids, who still had the magical glassy eyes of Christmas spreading joy to everyone they met. As we chatted at the doorway before they left, I watched the youngest, a round-faced, puffy-cheeked, smiling miracle of Christmas, prance around with sheer delight at everything and anything said by anyone.  I couldn’t take my eyes off of her as she had the cheeks you just wanted to squeeze. I watched the exuberant child as she walked over to our cat, which was resting in her usual spot on the front porch. The child reached out with her chubby hands and started petting the self-anointed princess of felines. The cat tolerated her well enough and the child’s hands remained all over the cat for about a minute until the child pulled back  and looked closely at her fingertips. She had something strange on her fingers. Cat fur. Strands of the same stuff we find all over the house. She couldn’t quite understand how it got there, and she rubbed her fingertips with her other hand until she now had the cat fur on both. The child was changed in an unexpected way. The cat did nothing but be itself, its very lazy self, and yet it still left something behind for the child to marvel and ponder about.

This whole delightfully simple and silly episode got me thinking. This is what happens in real life. We all leave stuff behind whether we intend to or not. We all leave our influences, good or bad, wrong or right, wonderful or annoying. And they stick on others like lint on a warm sock, or fur on a baby’s hand.

We don’t always realize the impact that one life has. Many times we walk away from a situation or a person and we have no idea that we have their cat hair all over us. We think we have made a clean break and have turned the page, but we haven’t. We never leave a station in life unaffected, whether we like to admit it or not.

Our influence may not be actual hair which catches a ride on a sweater like good ‘ole Fluff and Stuff is famous for, but we are never alone, and we are never unaffected.

If it’s true that we each impact the world whether we intend to or not, then the question remaining is what is it that we want to leave behind? Do we want to be like my cat and leave behind an annoying trail of fur which needs to be washed and removed? Or do we want to leave behind something which can make the world a little better? It might be one of a thousand things. It could be an hour spent with someone who needs some help. It might be a thoughtful visit to the hospital. It might be leaving behind a little of your money to help someone who needs it a little more than we do. It might be an encouraging word, an invitation, a willingness to talk, a willingness to slow down and listen.

None of us are untouched by others, and neither should any of us want to be free from influencing others. At this charitable time of the year, I wonder how I can leave a little bit more of myself behind. It’s something to ponder.

And it’s a holiday lesson I learned from a little girl and our cat. If we are going to leave things behind, it might as well be more useful than fur balls. Let’s all see if we can do something positive, because if we don’t, we will leave behind the opposite of that.

Shade: Are you offering it?

A couple weeks back, we were walking to a Chinese New Year feast at the house of some friends, and my wife and I found ourselves skipping from shade patch to shade patch to escape the blazing sun.

It was one of those stifling days where your sweat can have sweat of its own even when you are sitting idly under the shade of a tree. But if you have to emerge into the sun, it has the feeling that you might as well be standing on the surface of the sun.

It was hot. Biting hot.

However, the shade in such an intolerable environment provided a needed and unexpected respite from the offensive rays. The shade cooled with a caring embrace. The speckled dark patches on the road lay as welcome mats of refreshment, and we danced down the road, jumping from patch to patch like a pair of school children might engage in a bizarre game of jagged movements. But we didn’t care how child-like we looked. All we cared about was finding a place of relief.

Life is very much that way, isn’t it? We find ourselves dodging a series of tests and trials where being badly burnt is a definite possibility. We might be burn by circumstances, by accidents, by malicious intent, or by the slowly progressing humanness which we can never escape. We might find ourselves exposed to the elements and ready to melt under the overwhelming heat  of our circumstances. Or we might feel stifled by the oppressive nature of the climate around us.

Enter shade.

It might be a word of encouragement.

A friend who tells us how much they appreciate us.

A quiet night at home to restore our faith in ourselves and humanity.

It might be a small gift.

It could be a gentle touch  on the shoulder.

It might even be a smile of appreciation.

Shade that encourages our soul comes in a variety of means, but it always feels the same – refreshing, life-giving, and encouraging.

All of us have our trials – maybe even on a daily basis – and we all need those who are willing to shelter us with the leaves of shade.

When is the last time you were able to offer shade to someone who is standing uncomfortably, sweating in the blazing sun?

Look for opportunities to regularly offer shade to those around us because, no doubt, we are going to need it ourselves before too long. Shade is needed for all of our journeys, whether a short trek to a Chinese New Year dinner or a slow walk into our future.

Shade. Offer it. Accept it. Live it.

You Don’t Need Much to Be Successful

It’s that time of year. I’m putting up the softball backstop once again. Look at this beauty:

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That’s one of the best softball backstops in Malaysia. Not much too look at, I know. But the availability of things is limited here – especially when compared to the baseball/softball paradise of America. But you would be mistaken if you thought I missed all that America has to offer. I don’t. In fact, we do just fine here, making do with far less attached to a little creativity.

Let’s start with the backstop in the picture. A couple of the maintenance guys at our school welded that frame together several years back and cemented it into the ground. The netting is made from some leftover, green construction netting which the school had laying around. It’s not pretty. It needs to be replaced every couple years, but it’s cheap (free!), easy to put up and it stops softballs. What else do you want?

I literally can’t relate to the American amateur sports scene anymore. I keep hearing more and more about travel teams, $300 bats, $200 gloves, and $100 cleats. Who can actually afford all that stuff anymore? I predominately played with a tennis ball growing up. I would stand on our front porch and throw the ball against the side wall repeatedly. I never had an aluminum bat growing up. I had a couple wooden bats which were either too small or too big, but that didn’t stop me.

It seems like so many people are obsessed by having to have everything new, expensive, and cool in order to play.

Well, living and coaching in Malaysia shows one very quickly that that’s a big lie. Most kids here who play don’t even have their own gloves. They have team gloves and team bats and team equipment that everyone shares. It’s so difficult to get a team to travel to play in a different region because people simply can’t afford it.

And yet, we play, we learn, we have a lot of fun. Isn’t that what it’s all about? Learn, grow, and pass it on. When amateur sports begins to price out the kids at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder, then something is wrong.

We need to encourage our kids to be creative with less. Learn to use what we have without having to spend more money on an upgrade. Build a backstop out of stuff in your backyard. Got a lathe? Try and make your own bat.

And if you do have three gloves, how about gifting one to someone who can’t afford one?

When we equate success with those having the best stuff and opportunities, then we need to reevaluate and think what can I do to better help those who have less.

It’s softball season! Let the fun begin. Simply.


America Got This One Right

America has its faults – as does every country run by human beings.

But the collective they got it right when they established Thanksgiving as a national holiday.

Even as retailers push each year to pervert the intent and reach of the holiday, there is something extremely satisfying about setting aside a day a year to count one’s blessings.

For farmers its the harvest.

For the businessman or businesswoman the bounty of another year.

For the person of faith its the overwhelming thankfulness for blessings, family, grace, and daily breath which is guaranteed only moment by moment.

Even in the midst of trials, troubles, pain, riots, bickering politicians, the collective we have much to be thankful for.

May our bountiful Thanksgiving table make us remember what is truly important. May we appreciate the blessing, but remember those who need a tangible touch this holiday season. May we use our Black Friday shopping for the benefit of others. May we sit and reflect on the many blessings – and as the old hymn says – may we count every one of them.

Many of the trials, pains, and turmoil of this day would end stop in their tracks if each of us would really understand how much we have to be thankful for.

I hope everyone had a beautiful and blessed Thanksgiving Day as we usher in the most wonderful time of the year.