My family and I just got back from vacation… and while we used the time away to decompress and just forget about the world for a little while… I brought back a few life lessons from our trip.
1. Dance Like There’s No One Watching. Yeah I know… I hate that song too… but there is some real value in that little piece of advice. One night of our trip after dinner we thought it would be fun to take our kids dancing. My plan was to watch them and get hilarious pictures to embarrass them with a few years down the road. Plans quickly changed when we saw the sole person on the dance floor was a young man in his mid 20s with downs syndrome. His name was Alex. He was having the time of his life out there alone – but he also wasted no time in asking every young woman who walked in if they would dance with him. He had no shyness in him whatsoever. One young lady in particular happened to join him on the dance floor just as a fast paced, jump around like crazy song ended and a very slow, dance-cheek-to-cheek-song started. She danced the entire song with him as Alex’s dad discreetly took some pictures … tears sliding down his face. I can only imagine what the dad’s thoughts were in that moment of watching his son dance with this young lady. I imagine they were similar to mine … “thank you God for gentle, loving souls.” When the song ended… Alex without missing a beat approached us and my 7 year old son, without hesitation went out on the dance floor and joined Alex for a fast song and then was joined by my wife and 5 year old daughter as they danced in a circle together. Alex danced every song like there was no one else in the room except him and his partner(s) for that song. His joy was contagious. So much so that I allowed myself to get roped into an Elvis impersonation dance off… and got 2nd place. (There may or may not be photo evidence of this.) Alex… you inspired me… to dance like Elvis and not take life so seriously. And Alex’s dad and young lady… you will remind me to always be ready for every opportunity to show someone love.
2. Mean People Have Less Fun. One afternoon at the pool, an angry, mean, leathery skinned, hateful couple took great exception to all of the kids splashing in the water. Even though, this couple wasn’t in the water, they didn’t like the “ruckus” it was creating. Yeah. I felt all kinds of deep sympathy for them. It was unbelievable to watch this couple. They spent all of their time stewing about the noise and the splashing instead of just getting up and moving – or perish the thought – jumping in and joining in on the fun. The thing is, you could have looked at this couple even without the obvious environmental aggravation the pool and its occupants were causing them and known that they were an unhappy pair of humans. They had perma-frowns on their faces. They were the kind of people who wouldn’t find joy in a room full of rainbows. In fact, I bet they were the kind of people that if you gave them a million bucks – they would only complain about the taxes they’d have to pay on it. Several times I was very tempted to run over and give him a wedgie and her a big kiss on that tan leathery face of hers… but I refrained. Maybe they had experienced great loss or tragedy in their life… I know that is a possibility… but I also know that even so… if they live in their past hurts regardless of their current circumstances and they can’t find joy in their life, then their lives are nearing the end as they will wither and die… and that’s true for all of us. Mean Old Leathery-Skin-Perma-Frown Couple… you inspired me… to splash in the pool and smile a whole lot more. Your frowns will be a reminder to me to laugh, and show kindness, even on days when I don’t feel like it.
3. Life Is Nothing Like A Box Of Chocolates. Forrest Gump is rarely wrong – but on this one he and his mama were way off base. Life is full of choices but very rarely do you not know what you are getting into… Watching people is one of my favorite past times. My wife very often will snap her fingers in front of my eyes if I stare too long… And going to a theme park and watching families interact is a dream situation for a bonafide people-watcher. You just get brief glimpses into the lives of all of these families, but you can still learn a lot about them… about the choices they have made, and sometimes that they are making right in front of your eyes. One family in particular was heartbreaking to watch as some unknown drama played out in front of us over the custody of their son. It was literally a quiet yet physical tug of war … and I do mean literally a physical tug of war – with their son as the rope! The mom was holding on to the feet of her son and dad was holding on to his chest… and neither would relent… over who was taking him. He was probably 5 or 6 and had obviously been through this before as he limply waited to see who would win him in this wrestling match. Who would let go first? There is no way of knowing exactly what was going on but it was obvious this wasn’t their first rodeo of this nature. Undoubtedly, it won’t be their last. Our choices have lifelong implications when it comes to who we marry, who we have children with. Thankfully, we don’t have to pick our mates like selecting a mystery piece of candy from a box… though many do just that. Tug-O-War couple… you inspired me to love my wife even more everyday… and your crazy battle for control will be a reminder to me to never take her or our marriage or our family for granted.
I hope that you find inspiration and reminders in everything going on around you too… Just take a moment to look… and when you do, I hope that you have reminders to laugh, love and live life to the fullest… that you never take for granted the blessings you have everyday.
Jason Rehmel is the Lead Pastor at Eastside Christian Church on the east side of Cincinnati. If you are someone who has had a terrible experience(s) at a church or churches – stop by some weekend and give it one more shot with Eastside. Whether you have felt judged, or dismissed, or unwanted – wherever it has been – Eastside is different.