The Traveler

I’m a traveling man.

I’m reminded this Christmas as I, like millions around the world who will spend time with loved ones over many days, that this life here on earth is but a vapor. It’s short.

I’ve known so many over the past twelve months who were here a year ago, but today are no longer with us here on this earth. They’ve passed on. They’ve finished their race; some unfortunately had a shorter race than others. I miss them and the joy they brought not only to myself, but to so many who had the pleasure of their company. Amazing men and women of fine character, who left a legacy for many to follow.

We can’t take things for granted. Small opportunities to leave a legacy are like commas in life’s book. They’re like rest stops along a highway. There’s so many and they’re passing us moment by moment, hour by hour, day by day, and year by year. There will come a point, and please hear me, that the clock will stop ticking. Whether you’re ready or not, you will find yourself turning the page, only to find it’s the last page. Every race has a finish line. Every journey has a destination. Please make the best of it.

We are all travelers but not all of us enjoy the trip. Not everyone stops along the way to take in the sites. Some of us are hurrying but before we know it, we will be pumping the breaks, looking for a rest stop, and trying to make it last longer.

Enjoy the journey. Travel lightly.

The Things That Divide Us: Part I

There are things in this life that divide us and destroy us. In this entry I want to talk about something I’m all too familiar with, as I am sure many of you are as well. Lies.

As a child and growing up, I was always told the Bible verse that states the truth will set you free. I was punished as a child for lying and told that if I had only been honest, the punishment would have been much lighter. Sure, there would still be a punishment, but maybe there would be a little redemption due to my honesty.

I learned as an adult what my parents were trying to teach me about. The small lies about stealing a cookie or getting out of bed to play with toys when I should have been sleeping, are on a much grander scale as an adult. The lies as an adult carry much harsher penalties and there’s always so much more at stake.

I recall in a previous relationship I had, the amount of lies I was told. Each lie, as you know, compounded into another lie until eventually it snowballed out of control and there were so many lies just to bury the one simple lie in the beginning. There were so many lies that it became hard, even to the author, to determine where the truth ended and the lies began. For such people as this, their life ends up becoming one big lie. They lose the truth of themselves because they’ve had to fake things for so long.

Lies don’t just hurt the person telling them. Lies hurt the person on the receiving end as well. Lies sometimes have a ripple effect and can hurt people as the snowball rolls downhill out of control.

I know all this probably sounds simple, but if it is, why have you and I been hurt so much over a three letter word? If lying didn’t cost so much, why is the devil himself called, “the father of lies?” If lies didn’t sting so bad or have such hefty consequences, why are there broken families all over the world, because of something that started as a lie? If lying was the just thing to do, why are we punished as children for doing just that?

Lies destroy and lies divide. If you’re caught in that web and you’re struggling to get free, just start by telling the truth. It may mean you have to swallow your pride a bit, and others might be angry or hurt. But please stop the cycle before someone is destroyed.

What is Your Life’s Motto?

I have been thinking about this recently and asking myself this exact same question. Truthfully, everything I have written about up to this point, is straight from me and my thoughts. Continuing on with that trend, I must say that I spend a significant amount of time reflecting on life and the people in my life. How can I be a better husband, a better father, a son who makes his parents proud, a better friend, a better photographer, and an all around better person? These are all things I brainstorm quite often!

What is my life’s motto? What will be written, visibly or invisibly, on my tombstone? When I was in the military, we were always told to leave our current duty station “better than we found it.” It always sounded so cliche when I heard it, but it really has taken on a lot more meaning to me personally; more than it did the dozens of times I heard it in the past.

My goal in life is simple. Leave this earth better than I found it. Leave my small community better than I found it. Leave my friends and family better. Every single day, strive to end the day better than I started it. Is it that simple?

I stumble a lot. It happens. I mess up, fall into a ravine of self pity, and eventually climb and pull myself out. Of course it isn’t simple, but it’s not unattainable. I pick small things, like writing a blog or making a podcast, that somehow might impact someone else. I give a photo away that means a lot to me but more to others. I send a message to someone that might feel abandoned. We have all been there. I choose to respond with kindness to those who may not deserve it in that moment. We have all been there as well.

Bottom line, I make a conscious decision daily, despite my own shortcomings and failures, to make today better than yesterday. To be a better version of me than I was yesterday. To make those moments of reflection moments I can smile about and not moments I’m ashamed and afraid to confront.

I just try and be better and hold myself accountable to that.

America, Social Media, and Me – Part 3

A lot of times I begin writing and have a plan how something is supposed to go, but then part of the way through, decide to shift course and take it somewhere else. Therefore, what you’re reading 99% of the time is directly from the heart and not always something planned out. What was originally supposed to be a five-part series, I am going to conclude it today in the third segment.

In the second part of this series, I threw some statistics at you, both here in the United States and also internationally. Statistics regarding social media, numbers of users, active users, and time spent on social media. I concluded the segment by saying I would be the last person to tell you to spend less time on social media, although according to Apple, my screen time was down 23% this past week compared to the previous week. Not sure how that happened, but I am now under five hours a day staring at my screen. The majority of my time spent on my phone, computer, or iPad, is spent on social media. Facebook is my number one go to for social media, followed by Instagram, and then various other platforms I’m a member of. One of the main reasons for this is because my passion for photography. I spend the majority of my time, not necessarily scrolling through my newsfeed and seeing what everyone else is up to, but posting photos, looking at different analytics, and posting what I hope to be something encouraging for others to see. Which leads me to my next point and the point of this entire series.

Out of all the time we spend on social media, staring at a screen, scrolling, clicking the “like” button, or shaking our heads at some of the ridiculousness that is placed before our eyes, how much is spent with the intent of lifting others up? I am sure my newsfeed is no different than anyone else’s, not only here in America but around the world. We all have those acquaintances who feel it is their duty to mankind to voice their opinions. We all have those who, by the looks of it, are never wrong and make it a point to comment and contradict whatever it is they see. Maybe you fall into one of those categories. I know at one point in my life, I spent a lot of time on social media, airing my opinions and how I felt about different things going on here in America. It’s easy to do! It’s so incredibly easy to get on your phone at any given point throughout the day, and vent about what is frustrating you in that moment. Seriously, it takes little to no effort. I did it daily! After a couple years of doing that, I noticed a couple of things. You may have too if you fit into the above category. Your friends begin to dwindle. No, I am not talking about those who think exactly like you do. Rather, people as a whole. Furthermore, nobody really cares what my opinion is. I’m not an expert when it comes to religion, politics, finances, social skills, etc. Whenever you post on social media, regardless of who you are and how many friends or followers you have, there will always be someone who sees your post and can disagree or argue with you. Most find it almost impossible to keep scrolling without doing just that, and letting you know you’re wrong according to them.

Social media, while creating some avenues for us to be more social and intertwined than ever before, has really allowed us to be more narrow-minded, closed off, and more isolated than ever before. Think about it. Don’t like the way someone responds to your post? Delete their comment and block them. Want to find a group that caters to your way of thinking and your mindset? You can find hundreds of thousands of like-minded individuals to applaud everything you utter out of your mouth! Social media, while it gives us the ability to interact with people throughout the world, has limited and deteriorated our interpersonal skills along with the ability to communicate and compromise with people who don’t think, believe, and see things the same way we do. Social media has contributed to destroying our social skills. And we allow it to happen multiple times throughout the day. Every. Single. Day.

I decided to change my approach to social media. I actually had to retrain my social media habits and it took over two years, and I still have the occasional urge to fall back into some old negative behaviors. I decided I wanted/want my social media experience to be different. Instead of contributing to the arguments, looking for the next post to contradict, and isolating myself or others, I decided to make social media my platform to lift others up, to improve not only my life, but also the lives of others. I wanted my social media to be less about me and more about others. Rather than giving viewers something to argue about, to shake their head and scroll past, I wanted my social media platforms to be an avenue to reach people. I wanted people to see my post and it give them something to think about that day. Rather than incite fear and anger, I want to inspire hope and impact. Each time we open up our social media, whether we are scrolling through or posting something, we have that ability. We can go either direction and it’s an amazing thing to realize and take advantage of in a positive way.

I end this series today with a challenge. You have some on your social media platforms that view things differently than you. If you live in America, you know that our current political climate is a cause for extreme division; not only on social media, but within families and circles of friends. There are things that divide us. But thankfully, there are more things that unite us as people. My challenge to whoever reads this, is take a moment today on social media to build someone up other than yourself. Take a moment to set aside how knowledgeable you are, what degrees you have, or what you may think you’re an expert on, and just be a person who has the passion to see someone else be better. Make today about someone else besides yourself.