Posted in life lessons

Warren’s Wisdom

Warren doesn’t send Christmas cards. But he calls everyone who sends him one. After missing three of his calls, I called him back last night. Within minutes I had grabbed my shopping list pencil and I was scribbling (not doodling) on the narrow pad on my kitchen island.

Warren is 20 years older than me and I get the senior’s discount…get my drift? I started taking notes when he said “You have to cultivate a positive attitude.” This was after he’d said that since his wife died, with no one to bounce ideas off, there was a tendency to become negative.

“So what do you do to stay positive?” I asked, pencil poised. I’ve known Warren for 40+ years and I knew he would have specifics. I first met Warren and his wife Irene the year I taught school in their little prairie town. I was lonely and missing the guy in the photo, who lived elsewhere and wasn’t my husband yet. They welcomed me into their heart and home and even after I moved away, the friendship continued.

I wrote (1) beside the next thing he said: “I try to appreciate even the simple nice things throughout my day.”


“Like the pleasant person who handled my groceries and spoke to me, or the stranger who smiled at me as I passed them on the street,” he offered. “Basically, any interaction that’s nice is positive.”

“What else?”

(2) “I try to bless the lives of others…99 percent of the time they will bless you back!” He laughed, “I know that sounds self-serving but that’s not why I do it. If I compliment a friend on the nice color she’s wearing, her smile back at me is a positive. Simple things like that.”

(3) “It’s important to have something to contribute,” Warren continued without prompting. He told me how he tries to have a positive input in peoples’ lives, especially those that can’t pay him back. “These things can be done anonymously or in the background since you’re not doing it for thanks or recognition.”

Then he told me that he reads his wife’s journal entry for that calendar date every day as part of his morning devotional. Irene kept a journal for the 50 years they were married and he has enjoyed walking down memory lane with her since she’s been gone. However, it does bring up some regrets…”I could have been better husband…a better father….”

“I don’t think Irene wanted you to be anything other than what you were,” I offered, remembering how she adored him openly.

“Yes,” he replied, “I keep one special Valentine’s Card she gave me where she wrote how very much she loved and appreciated me. I read that quite often.”

(4) “Staying positive also means you have to deal with your regrets!” Warren said, still unaware I had jotted a #4 and was scrawling on my grocery list pad. “I have talked to my kids about it and they have reassured me that neither of us was perfect!” We both laughed. “You have to live in the present moment, not the past,” he said.

(5) “I think its important to have a community of carers around you,” Warren added. He mentioned that his neighbours watch out for him. If his window blinds stay closed he gets a call to see if he’s okay.

(6) “You realize at this age, that life could end any day!” Warren said with another laugh. “So you’re grateful for every new day.”

I was no longer prompting him, just note taking as he mused.

(7) “You have to do something every day. In the summer I play sports six days a week…volleyball, pickle ball, tennis, slo pitch…I’m in the best shape of my life!”

(8) “Oh yeah,” Warren added with a chuckle, “I try to avoid the grumpy old men.” He explained after I asked that he doesn’t like to spend much time with negative complainers other than to try to brighten their day with a kind word or deed.

(9) “And I don’t have a cell phone,” Warren declared. After further talking I discovered that his main reason was because he did not want or need a connection with a world full of bad news. “In some cases, ignorance is bliss,” he said, “as long as I have my ball glove or racquet, I’m okay!”

(10) After telling me about his plan to go through a lifetime of photos and albums and reduce it to one album for each of his children, he said ” Having projects is probably good for the mind and the body. It keeps you thinking and moving.”

(11) “I appreciate the negatives as much or more than the positives.” This jolted me and I had to ask why. “Because you learn more about yourself and you grow as a person through hard times and suffering. They make a greater impact on me spiritually and mentally.”

(12) He was quick to add, “But I don’t think about the negatives before going to bed!” This needed no explaining. If you want a good night’s sleep it helps to be at peace in your mind.

(13) The last thing Warren said gave me hope. As a relatively young senior I have sometimes wondered if I’m done, washed up, out of sync, unneeded…. But to hear a man in his 80’s roundly declare “There are still things to learn at this stage of life! And you will keep on learning until the end of your life…if you want to learn.”

Thanks Warren.



Posted in focus on faith

Generosity Part 2: the myth of scarcity

In 1990, 25-year-old Jim Ziolkowski was trekking across Nepal when he entered a remote village and encountered an inauguration ceremony for the village’s new schoolhouse. The 8507980865_aa9e29534f_bschool had been built with the help of British mountaineers. The local residents’ joy and the obvious importance of the school moved Jim deeply.

When he returned home to the US, Jim took a job with GE Capital,…ready to embark on a long and lucrative career; however his heart was still in Nepal….

So Jim … quit his job, recruited his similarly broke brother, Dave, and friend, Marc Friedman and launched buildOn, a nonprofit organization with the intention of building schools in developing countries….

The count as of today is 587 schools have been built.


The vast majority of us will not quit our jobs, leave our careers, and risk all of our large or small personal fortunes to make a difference. It’s not that we’re not caring. Far from it, we would love to help make the world a better place. It’s simply that we aren’t all called to incubate and grow an enterprise. We have other dreams and talents. But we can partner with people like Jim by contributing to their efforts financially. And amazingly, none of us has to break the bank to make it happen. When enough of us write checks, the checks need not be large. (Wendy Smith, Give a Little: how your small donations can transform our world, pp 3, 4) 

I’m not a Jim. Are you? Using Wendy Smith’s terms, Jim is a “doer”; the rest of us are “donors”. Without donors, doers wouldn’t get very far!

But I don’t want you to miss the key element in Wendy Smith’s position; reread the subtitle of her book…how your small donations can transform our world. Key word? Small. Five bucks, ten bucks, twenty bucks…. most of us can afford that.

In the same vein, James Bryan Smith writes in The Good and Beautiful Community, that people fail to be generous when they accept the false narrative of “scarcity” which says, “if I give it away, I have less.” He urges us to replace that myth with God’s truth, which is: “If we all share, we all have enough.” In other words, there is enough for everyone–but only when we take our fair share.

The principle I want to leave with you is from James Smith: frugality creates margin which enables generosity. Don’t be stingy — be wise. Make wise choices regarding your personal resources of time, talent, and treasure so that you have enough left over to share with others.