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Appreciating the little (and big) things

2019 has been some kind of year. I am looking back right now not so much because of the new year we all just went through, but also because I just celebrated my 61st birthday! I sit here at the end of this decade and now into the 2nd year of my “60’s” and am amazed at what all has transpired in my life and the lives of my family.

This past year was a year in which I once again changed jobs, moved from Iowa, started a new graduate program and professional certification, and then also watched as all of my family made the same kind of changes and adjustments within the context of their lives. I saw our high school football team at Lipscomb Academy here in Nashville (where I coach offensive line), go from multiple losing seasons in a row to making it to the semi-finals in the state playoffs. A wild and great ride it was and so fortunate to be a part of the program and get to work with these great young men and their families.

My amazement is compounded with the successful run of the San Francisco 49er’s this year, with my son George and the team this past Sunday winning the NFC Championship game and earning a spot in Super Bowl 54. Any of you that follow football and know the Niners and/or George’s story know it is one of small windows of opportunity turning into gigantic life experiences. Last minute scholarship offer from Iowa, buried in the depth chart for 3+ years, played a couple years, drafted 5th round to Niners, made the team, earned a starting spot, and now into his 3rd year is a 2 x Pro Bowler, All Pro, and has set several receiving records. Now he is part of a team and organization that went from 4-12 and second worst record in the NFL a year ago, to 15-3, winning the NFC West in heart stopping and breathtaking fashion, then winning 2 playoff games including the NFC Championship, and now is set to play in the Super Bowl against the red hot Kansas City Chiefs. WOW!

Just watching all of this as a parent and fan of my kid and this team, it has all been pretty amazing. And of course, George is not the only interesting story line in all of this, there are many others. Stories about teams, players, and coaches from all over and in every sport. People and teams that have experienced failures, had huge obstacles to overcome, dealt with adversity, and been counted down and out. But yet, in the face of all the odds telling them their success could not and should not happen, here they are succeeding anyway.

It causes me to think about doing impossible things. About dreaming big, dreaming the impossible, and then going out and doing and accomplishing the impossible. It seems the impossible, in whatever walk of life you are in, is more possible now than ever before. What we once thought might only have the slightest and most remote chance of becoming a reality turns out to happen over and over again. But why? Why does this keep happening? Well, from where I am sitting it is because of the human spirit, love, passion, the willingness to work hard, to focus on goals and work toward them, in committing to things larger than oneself, enduring hardship after hardship, and then overcoming obstacles until you find a way to get it done. And this is not limited to the world of football or even sports. These kinds of stories are all over and happening every day. People everywhere doing things they were told could not be done. People going out and achieving the impossible on a regular basis.

It reminds me of the Ali quote on impossible:

Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given, than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.”

In recognition of my 61st birthday, and all of these impossible events, I am spending time in gratitude and appreciation. I know I have been so fortunate in my life and am certainly appreciative of the opportunities I have been given, the windows and doors that have opened for me (and those that closed!), as well as the challenges they have presented. I am grateful that I have been in a position where I was able to pursue these endeavors and ride alongside others who dream wildly and live their lives not just chasing the impossible, but each day actually expecting the impossible to come true, and then seeing it happen.

In the midst of all of this, each day I am striving to live with the intention to be present in the moment. Each day to see and take in the small victories and gifts life presents us, and particularly the people that have been part of all of it along the way. The big and flashy stuff is sure fun, but the ability to see and appreciate the little gifts in life for me makes all the difference. Like a newborn’s little hand as they grasp your finger, a sunrise over the ocean, your dog again glad to see you and wanting to go for a walk, the smile and touch of a loved one, a stranger who helped you or one who you had the chance to help. Just all of it.

In the appreciation of these little moments, small victories, and gifts, I have found the ability to let go of wondering or worrying about the impossible actually coming true. These little things release the need for me to grasp too tightly onto the big things. I never know the exact source, the exact outcome or location, or who will be involved, but I know the unexpected, the unpredictable, the impossible (big and small) will once again take place. In the process of doing what we often think of as the big and impossible things, life presents us with the joy and gifts of the unexpected small things taking place. One can only stand in appreciation, awe, and sheer joy and grace in what we get to experience.

For this birthday I will still review my goals for the coming year, make sure I am on pace to engage in the “action steps” I have set up to accomplish those goals, and take stock in all that I need to do. But I will not even for a second, let my focus on all of that, detract me from appreciating the small miracles and blessings that are around me each day. I am learning again and again that life is what we make of it. We see what we choose to see. We hear what we choose to listen to. Gifts (or burdens) are in the eye of the beholder with our perception and interpretation framing how we see, experience, and respond to things. In the end it all seems like such a gift that there really is no time for focusing on anything else. Doing so feels like a distraction and prevents me from appreciating the gift of the moments we have all been given, even in times that are difficult.

So yes, HAPPY BIRTHDAY to me and to all of you for each day is a new birth and a new opportunity to see and appreciate the little things, while you are on your way to doing those things you once might have thought were impossible. Have a great day, dream big, see the small things, and be blessed in every way.

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