“Be the change you desire…

They say I’m a dreamer… I’m not the only one…

I love Steve Jobs quote, ”The people crazy enough to think they can change the world are usually the ones who do.”

I believe it. Do you? I’ve seen it happen so many times already in my lifetime.  Someone comes up with a new way to put together things and suddenly we have new industries, new ways of communicating, new ways of travel.

What will be the next big paradigm shift in our world? Who knows? One keeps coming up for me that I am very passionate about.

It’s not new. In fact, it has been around since the dawn of our existence. It is not unique to man either. Before humans inhabited the earth, this powerful force was alive and well. It touched every living creature on the planet in some way. It is something that people will die for. It has the capacity to change someone’s life forever or when withheld, destroy it. It is free which would lead one to believe that it was ubiquitous, but sadly, it is not.

I, like many of those around the world have been at odds with each other over values, opinions, ideals, religion, race, and politics for far too long.

There is something that can wipe away pain, dissension, hate, judgment, and prejudice. Virtually all of us have the solution in us already, sometimes though we don’t use it. Instead we would rather be right or on one side or the other.  We all have the capacity to love.

How hard is it to be kind? How hard is it to love another even if you disagree with their opinion? Would you no longer love your wife or child if they didn’t agree with you? What if they had different values, beliefs, religions than you? What would you do? Would you love them anyway? Why then is it increasingly difficult to do our own part of loving one another? If you stopped to think about it, if we all loved each other, there would be no more war. There would be no more famine. There would be no more hate or prejudice. No, what I am suggesting though, is that the blame has to stop. It’s time each of us steps up and takes personal responsibility to be a little more loving.

All we need is love.

Each of us has within ourselves the capacity to love another human being. Yes, it is a choice. I am not saying that we need to like everyone or even agree. But, for crying-out-loud, embrace our differences!  We are all unique creations with a purpose. I seriously doubt our true purpose in this brief time on planet earth is to tear down each other and consume as much as we possibly can before it’s all gone.

Earth

There is more than enough for all. Some of us have been blessed with more resources than others. We all have a virtually unlimited capacity for love and kindness.  Unfortunately, like muscles, they need to be exercised.

I have done my best not to engage in the slamming of one side or another especially on Facebook. It is so easy to get wrapped up in the fear and hate that is being spread on media like a California Wildfire. We all have choices. We all have our values, morals, ethics, beliefs, and opinions. I am not advocating that we all become yes men and women. I am advocating though, that we need to practice a little more kindness, empathy, and love toward one another.

After reading a couple friends rants and posts on Facebook recently I started to get angry. Rather than engage in the polarized, virtual, not face-to-face dialogue that was only going to go around in circles I posted this instead—

“Be the change you desire— spreading hate just fuels the fire.
Try instead, if we might, to live in peace, harmony, and light.
To love and be loved no fear, no spite.”

Kiss your babies if you got em.  And hold the door open once in awhile.

Love a little more, you’ll feel better, I guarantee it.
Hey, if we all got along a little better we could change the world!

Who wants to prove Steve Jobs right?

Shawn Langwell
Author/Speaker

To hear more listen to recent interview here: Langwell Interview 7-14-17

 

 

Longing for a white Christmas and a holiday of joy

Christmas is supposed to be a joy and a celebration right? Then why does this time of year have me all knotted up?

I long for the memories of a white Christmas past.  Like the story I shared in my book…

White Christmas

It had snowed like crazy in the middle of the night. The branches of towering Ponderosa Pines that lined their property sagged under the weight of the snow. The five ton granite boulder that sat outside the dining room window, looked like part of a gigantic snowman. A blanket of virgin white snow surrounded the ground and patio outside the cabin. Untouched—it was calling our name. The gifts would have to wait.

My brothers, two cousins and I couldn’t wait to make tracks and have a snowball fight.

After we pelted each other a few times with snowballs, my Grandma Pauline beckoned us inside to breakfast and then to open gifts. We inhaled our bacon and eggs and pancakes and took turns shredding open our gifts. All the boys got Pogo sticks and my cousin Sheila got a bike.

“Let’s make a snowman!” Aunt Bonnie suggested to my mom…

Kelly started to make a snowman, but thought it would be better to chuck a big snowball at Seth—“Snowball fight!” Kelly cried out as he pummeled Seth in the back.

We laughed and giggled chucking snowballs at each other.

My cousins, Michael and Sheila, joined in, while my mom and aunt finished their snowman. They had already made arms with branches and put a carrot in the middle of the head for a nose.

“Hey, want some coal?” my grandpa asked as he handed them two lumps of coal—he had disappeared a few minutes earlier get some from the big sack that sat near the pot belly stove used to heat the upstairs bedroom area.

That was one of the best Christmases ever!

I have been blessed with so much. More than I ever imagined as a teenager. Then why do I feel empty inside, like something is missing?  Perhaps its tough because I miss those who are no longer here to celebrate the holidays and life: my dad, my grandparents, and my brother, Seth. Perhaps it’s residual feelings  I’ve held onto like this story of my early teens that  I shared in Beyond Recovery

Lost Christmas Joy

I have spent many years trying to get past my hurt and anger, primarily toward my father for leaving us. As a kid from a broken family, it was hard to not hold a grudge. Especially when the rent was due, my brothers and I had to wear hand me downs and needed new shoes, and there was barely enough food in the fridge. Early on, there were times when we’d open the cupboards and they were practically bare.

People step up when needed—my dad’s parents always gave my mom five hundred bucks at Christmas so we could get clothes. I took on more responsibility. Her boyfriend helped with more firewood. We made do. We survived. However, winters were difficult for me, especially around Christmas time. What once brought me great joy with food, family, presents, and at least one snowball fight, became a day I dreaded. Most of this was perpetuated by an overwhelming lack of gratitude and focus on what we didn’t have rather than being grateful for what we had. We could only afford a small four-foot tree that we propped up on a coffee table to make it look bigger. To make matters worse, our sole heat source was a wood burning stove upstairs and a toxic kerosene heater downstairs. We had no money for firewood, so my two brothers and I cut bay trees that were so green they hissed when we tried to burn them. Pat, my mom’s new boyfriend, would collect scrap lumber he found in dumpsters for us to use as kindling, and my grandpa let us use the discarded oak parquet tiles from his work. Those would burn hot enough to get the green bay going, but the tar backing and finish made some nasty smoke while the fire was starting.

I’m grateful that our home was not condemned. It had been built as a summer home and had no insulation. There was no bathroom downstairs and the single wire, ungrounded 110 amp electrical almost killed me; I was taking a bath one day, and while standing in a tub full of water, reached over to turn on the electric heater—bad idea.

 Our roof was shot. It leaked like a sieve, and we had no money to get it repaired. Instead, we stapled plastic sheeting to the ceiling to collect the drips, then poked in the low spots and placed buckets underneath to catch the drips in four spots instead of twenty. If my dad were still around, we could have fixed all these problems. But our limited resources stared us in the face anytime we needed repairs, new clothes, or saw how many presents our friends and relatives got at Christmas. How could a mother not feel resentful about the lack of child support? How could us kids not be pissed about a father who was not there to take us to baseball, basketball, or soccer games? I missed my dad. It sucked.

I don’t share this to be a downer. I  share it to let others who may also wrestle with joy and  discontentment around the holidays, know they are not alone. On one hand I want to be cheerful yet on the other,  I wallow in grief over family members, and sometimes feel all alone.

The struggle is real. Talking helps, so does writing it down. I figured if maybe I shared a little of my heart, it may help another realize that they are not alone.

So what do I do to get out of the holiday blues? I try to smile more. I give more. I try not to think so much about myself. I give more hugs. There’s something magical about smiling at someone that lifts their spirits and in turns lifts mine. Hugs do the same thing. Physical contact is known to improve mental  well being and health.

So for the next two weeks I am going to try and smile more and give more hugs.

 

img_1609

 

 

 

 

Oh Tenuous Life, Fly Away Cary, Fly Away.

Today I reconnected with some old friends from my youth. We gathered to pay our respects and say farewell to yet another “valley kid”, Cary Smith, who had been taken far too young.

The more days I walk the face of the earth, I realize how very tenuous life is. I am also reminded of how insidious the disease of drug addiction and alcoholism is. It is truly “…cunning, baffling, powerful.” Though I don’t know the exact circumstances leading to the demise of my childhood friend, I do know how easy it is to fall prey to addiction.

But that’s not what I remember about him. I remember that he always made me laugh and made me feel welcome.

When I was still partying, I recall showing up to a party feeling incredibly uncomfortable. I was shy. Booze helped me overcome that, but so did my friend Cary. With sweaty palms I scanned the room looking for someone I could talk to. There on the deck, Cary stood sipping a beer. “Langwell! What’s up?!” he shouted, waving me over.

“Have a beer,” he said, handing me a kegger cup.

Instantly, after a beer and my friend reaching out to make me feel welcome, my anxiety dissipated.

That was many years ago. I hadn’t seen him in well over 30 years. When I read his obituary two weeks ago, I felt raw.  He, too, was fifty-two. It could’ve been me.

Now, I stood alongside the stables at Dickson Ranch in the crisp fall air, swapping stories and catching up with some friends whom I had not seen in over 35 years. Unlike the parties of 30 + years ago, I felt at ease. I didn’t need to drink.

As I was getting ready to leave, my friend PJ asked if I had a copy of my book that he could buy. As I handed it to him he asked if it was going to make him cry. “Yes.” I said, choking back my own tears.

We hugged and said goodbye.  I drove away with tears in my eyes. Ten minutes later, as I traveled along Nicasio Valley Road, I reflected on the loss of my own brother, and others and thought how grateful I was that I have been forsaken. Just then, I looked up to see a white car speeding toward me at at nearly eighty miles-per-hour on the wrong side of the road. I slowed, breathed, and let out a sigh of relief as the driver safely passed back onto the right side of the road.

What if I hadn’t looked up?  I could’ve been another statistic of yet one more “valley kid” taken “too soon.” But today was not my day.

My thoughts turned immediately to my friend who had passed. He is suffering no longer. I pray he is now at peace.