“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

 

 

It’s never too late to say, “I love you.”

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.

wp-1464277254498Simple 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

Chapter 25
Second Chances

 

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.

“Hi Dad!”

“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.

“A milkshake?”

“Yeah—chocolate.”

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

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