Those three words have the ability to change someone’s life, or, at least their day. They are three of the most important words to a child’s ears.
Simple loving acts of kindness can also spread joy. Watch how much another lights up when you smile at them. Or when you show genuine interest in another or listen intentionally.
Though all are free, each requires a conscious effort to intentionally take our eyes off of ourselves and put them onto another for a moment, without expecting anything in return.
Yet, often what we get back in terms of joy is invaluable.
Two nights ago, while on Vacation in Maui, I stood at the sand shower by the pool hosing off my sandy feet. A small toddler walking with his mother paused for a moment to watch. He was clearly fascinated by what I was doing. I looked at him, then his mom. “It gets the sand off,” I said to the little blond boy, pushing the button and dangling my feet beneath the light spray.
“Wanna try it?” I asked, smiling at him. He hesitated for a moment then stepped closer. He balanced on one leg and placed his tiny foot under the shower. Beaming, he looked at me for approval. “Good job. Pretty cool eh?”
He beamed and stepped back as I rinsed my other foot. He then moved forward again to do the same.
This was a moment, frozen in time, which I will probably remember for the rest of my life. Will the young lad? Perhaps.
The point is, life is too short to miss opportunities to spread joy; to be loving and kind.
It also made me miss my own son and my dad.
In February of this year I delivered a five-minute talk about my memoir, Beyond Recovery.
My goal wasn’t to convince anyone that they need to get sober. No, my goal was to share that it is OK to let people know you love them and that forgiveness is one of the most powerful ways to do that.
Several close friends and family sat around a long table listening intently as I began reading an excerpt from Beyond Recovery entitled Second Chances. As I scanned the audience, I noticed others leaning in. Some even had tears welling up.
I never really know what will reach someone. Each time I practice telling my story I have to try a few things before I know what works.
I took my seat after answering several good questions then listened to a few other speakers.
When the event was over, the soundman approached me as I began to leave.
He asked if my dad had always said I love you. I paused for a moment, “Yeah, I guess so.” I replied.
“Why do you ask?”
“Because mine never did,” he said, eyes looking away…
He talked a bit about it. I listened, but didn’t press. I sensed that it was still a sore subject.
He thanked me again for sharing a piece of my story—said it touched him.
“You made my day. Thank you!” I replied, shaking his hand.
We all yearn for two things: Love and Acceptance
Father’s day is this Sunday. Even if your relationship is less than perfect with your father, I encourage you all to let him know you love him. If he is no longer here, perhaps you could write a love letter. Trust me; it will change your world.
If you are a dad, most kids will always love you. It’s OK to say I love you to them. They need to hear it. If you are a single mother encourage your kids to talk to their dad, if possible.
My hope and prayer and goal by sharing a piece of my heart, that you too will find that which you seek. Sometimes you have to give it before you receive it.
Here’s the excerpt I read. You can order Beyond Recovery through any local bookstore or on amazon
Beyond Recovery A Journey of Grace, Love, and Forgiveness
Miracles and Milkshakes
Whether you believe there are no mistakes or not, I do. I have seen things happen so many times that seemed wrong or painful or didn’t make any sense. When I looked within, prayed, or talked it out with another, I learned to walk through whatever it was that was causing me agony inside. I came through. I survived. …
Miracles happen every day. So do tragedies, I wish I could say the story ends here and we all lived happily ever after…that’s only in movies and fairy tales.
In October of 2005 I got a call from my mom …
“Your aunt called and said that your dad is very sick. You should go see him,” she urged. “He’s at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital.”
Shit. Here we go again. Another hospital visit. Why me? Why now?
“Okay. I’ll stop by after work.”
My heart pounded as I parked the car.
Is it too late? What if he’s going to die? How am I going to handle this?
Suffocating from the ‘what ifs,’ I said a short prayer.
“God, please grant me the strength and courage to face this situation. To accept it for whatever it is. To come from a place of compassion and let my dad know how much I love him.”
I walked into the hospital and asked the receptionist which room he was in.
She gave me the number and pointed to the room. I walked down the dimly lit hall. It was quiet. The room was dark. My dad lay in a hospital gown. He’d lost forty to fifty pounds since I last saw him three years earlier. Salt and pepper stubble covered his gaunt face. He looked very frail.
Our eyes met. His warm smile melted away all the pain and hurt and anger of the past thirty-five years.
My heart glowed with his beaming smile. He was truly delighted to see me. In that moment he showed me what it was like to let go of the past. In that moment, despite his body giving up, he was radiant.
His smile filled my heart with so much joy. I was so, so glad it wasn’t too late. I really don’t know how I could’ve handled it if I was too late.
“Shawn,” he chuckled, “you look good!”
“Thanks Dad,” I said, giving him a hug. “So what’s going on?” I asked, trying to be strong.
“Some infection…they don’t know.”
“Wow. You’ve lost a lot of weight,” I remarked, feeling a little uneasy and very concerned about his health. His smile didn’t match his body. But he was at peace—I could see it in his warm brown eyes. He’s letting go, I thought.
The stubble on his face reminded me of all the times he’d given me a hug and a kiss goodnight as a kid. I felt safe. I looked up to my dad so much as a young child. I could brag that my dad was a fireman! When he left us, all that changed. The love I felt was replaced by anger and hurt. He had abandoned me and my two brothers, and I let it imprison me. I drank over it so I wouldn’t have to face the feelings. But now, the love we shared for so many years was stronger than ever. It enabled me to push through the layers of resentment, like a seedling reaching for the sunlight in spring.
As I held his hand, I felt all that love come rushing back. Fond childhood memories rushed forward. After baths as a child, he would dry my hair by vigorously rubbing it with a towel. I loved that. Now, as we talked about life and how much I loved him, once again, I asked for his forgiveness for all the anger I had held from the past.
Without thinking about it, I began to rub his head—a comforting gesture he had done for me so many times as a kid.
“Dad, I love you.”
“Ha!” he chuckled. His eyes expressed peace, love and care. “I love you, too, Shawn. I’m sorry we lost Seth.” His voice trailed off a bit. (We hadn’t really talked about the loss of my brother since the time several years earlier. I had made amends with this as part of my recovery.) Still, his words touched a piece of the wound that still existed.
“Please let Kelly know I love him, too,” he continued. “Even though I never got to see you boys much, I thought about you often. You were always with me,” he said, holding his hand close to his heart, smiling. Tears streamed down my face. “I know, Dad. I know. It wasn’t easy, but we all turned out all right.”
“Yeah, I’m proud of you, Shawn.”
I wiped the tears from my face. “Thank you. I love you, Dad. Is there anything you’d like?”
“A milkshake,” he replied quickly with a childlike smile.
I smiled at the simplicity of the request.
“I’ll get you a milkshake the next time I come back, okay?”
“I’d like that.” We hugged and said our goodbyes.
That was the last time I saw my father. He passed shortly thereafter.
I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t make it back to get him his chocolate milkshake. I feel a little guilty. I could’ve just gotten it that day. I guess I’ll just have to wait until I see him again. Now, every time I have a milkshake, I think of my father. I imagine us sitting on a park bench watching the ducks, sipping on a milkshake together. Somehow, that helps assuage my guilt. I feel blessed that I got to say goodbye. This experience also serves as a reminder to make peace with those closest to us—to cherish the time that we do have. Our life on this planet is so very brief. Depending on your beliefs, there’s plenty of time for milkshakes in Heaven.