The last few days have been particularly inspirational .. why?
Simple. Because of the everyday people I have met who each have unique experiences they shared about their lives, changing responsibilities and .. in my view, real life wisdom gained from hard times and changing circumstances.
I have my own challenges .. and conscious that my troubles, though they may appear to be large and difficult, pale into insignificance when I hear the stories of others.
I’m a father who is keen to provide stability and a good foundation to my wife and family. Thanks to God, I am in the process of establishing my own business (an alternate Management Consultancy – my 3rd company) with some very experienced colleagues with whom I hope to do some great things. Each day brings new challenges which I most often am able to deal with .. but there are days when life is overwhelming. However, perhaps because I am edging ever closer to the grand old age of 50, every so often I am able to reflect on how beautiful my life is .. despite several low points, there are opportunities in front of me that are beckoning me to just believe .. in myself, my loved ones and a few colleagues .. all of whom need me .. all of whom I am lost without.
So .. while I continue to reflect on what lies ahead for me .. I am slowly letting go of my worries, choosing instead to focus on small steps .. small victories .. each giving me renewed confidence and small bursts of self-belief.
This leads me to some interesting encounters, over the past few days, which reminds me how we all need to take a step back, remember why we do things and take pleasure in knowing that life will always present opportunities .. to succeed .. keeping in mind that we should ALL ask ourselves WHAT SUCCESS MEANS .. and .. KEEP CLOSE WATCH OF WHEN WE HAVE ACHIEVED SUCCESS. Questions, only we can answers ourselves without the hang ups of “keeping up with the Joneses” and feeling like we need to compete with or measure ourselves against others.
After all, how much do we really know about what others around us and what they have had to endure to achieve (their) success?
Encounter One (Taxi Driver, mid 30s, young wife & 3 children)
Returning home from a busines trip, I meet a taxi driver who tells me his story. White male who was once a passionate footballer who had his faor share of fights and squabbles .. his girlfriend, a childhood sweetheart, falls pregnant and presents an ultimatum. “He needs to choose her or his friends”. He thinks carefully, realising what each choice may lead to .. and choose the girl.
10 years on .. they have THREE children (2boys, 1 girl) and he has turned his life around. Deciding to put his family first, enjoy his children, devote himself to his wife and live with honour. Today, he coaches a football team (for one of his boys who has promising talent), has changed jobs (a cabbie for 7 weeks) and now has a work/life balance that gives him, his wife and children joy and happiness. Amazing!
For me, this is a real life story of a Briton who has made tough choices .. which, thank God, have proven to be the right ones – for him (and therefore his young family). This man has wisdom and lives each day, working to build a bright future for his children. Amen. Who says miracles and the signs of God are absent from our lives in the 21st century? Praise be to God.
Encounter Two (Two young boys, Jehovah Witnesses)
So .. I am doing way too much .. at the expense of my own family .. mostly my Mum and my sisters who I love dearly. I am constantly working .. trying to build something for my wife and children .. hoping that one day, their lives will be full of whatever it is they choose to do .. ideally, with dignity, grace and success (whatever that means to them individually).
The doorbell rings .. two boys present a Watch Tower magazine about “How we use out Time .. Are we doing too much”. I smile and accept their gift .. and laugh to myself .. God really does work in mysterious ways .. and does talk to me!
Encounter Three (Elderly Lady, 60s)
I have stupidly neglected my health and by way of encouragement and support my dear wife has got behind me to support my new fitness regime. Most Sundays, when I am home (I work abroad), we now go for a 8-10K walk through the neighbouring woodland of Epping Forest. At the end of the 1st leg of our walk, we normally stop off at a lovely Pub / Restaurant where we have a delicious Sunday meal together (as some families still do!).
This weekend, while eating a small meal, an elderly lady is looking for some salt to start (and enjoy) a lovely Sunday roast. I clamber over tables and reach for the salt and present it to her. She rewards me with a beaming smile and thanks me .. apologising for any inconvenience. I remember my dear Father (who passed away in 2012) who would be radiant with a boyish smile offering this type of assistance to any older person, especially the ladies (!) and I offer a prayer – hoping that he is proud of his son who tries always to keep his memory alive by doing small gestures like this .. keeping alive the ideals of yester-year .. where we ALL respected our elders (including our beloved parents).
These encounters offer me reminders .. to do good .. based on manners, etiquette and ideals I have learnt since childhood that makes me proud to be a Londoner and British.
Encounter Four (Taxi Driver, Lates 50s, wife and 4 children (all girls!))
Back in the teaxi, on my way to the airport .. back to work.
My taxi driver shares some lovely stories about his family. One thing that sticks in my mind is the idea of material objects becoming OBSOLETE (words of his 15 year old daughter). We boh laugh at how, we both used to collect CDs, Videos and DVDs of classic albums and movies .. only to find we can give them away today because they are antiques .. of NO INTEREST whatsoever to the younger generation who live in the world where everything is streamed by virtue of the Internet and increasingly sophisticated digital technologies which the millenials and Generation Z expect to just work (!) and be available regardless of where they are .. at home, in the car, on public transport .. and, yes, even in the skies above us when travelling on an aeroplane.
I remind the taxi driver that there was a time where our parents, grandparents and others of the “older” generation would reminisce about the “good old days” and wonder at how life “used to be”.
Alas, as I approach 50, I am getting closer to becoming the “older generation” ..
Thinking back to my childhood when life appeared simpler, happier, etc. I wonder .. was it really? Or is this just life teaching us all valuable lessons about growing up .. urging us to learn lessons .. turn our experiences and everyday encounters into pearls of wisdom for those we come into contact with .. reminding those we meet to keep strong, believe in the collective human spirit and remember that regardless of our colour, creed or income levels, that we are afterall flesh and bone .. with the same wants, desires, troubles and aspirations like the person next to us, behind us and in front of us.
We are all becoming scarily obsessive about our mobiles, tablets, gadgets .. that keep us hostage to the digital world around us.
Let’s remember to unplug every now and again .. look up and around us .. gaze into the eyes of our loved ones and connect with them in normal, human and, perhaps, “old fashioned ways”.
Whatever you are doing today, this week and long after, keep healthy and embrace every encounter – at work, at home, at play.
Remember to listen to everyone around you .. young and old .. male or female .. perhaps you too may be inspired an encounter!