Friday, November 21, 2014
My Favorite Candy (In Courage Mints)
Over 25 years ago, I set out to explore the C&O Canal Path, located near my home in Maryland. This marvel of the pre-railroad age follows the Potomac River from the Watergate in Washington DC until after 184 miles it ends in Cumberland Maryland. The canal path passes peacefully through some amazingly beautiful countryside, important historical locations such as Harpers Ferry, as well as interesting sites best described as industrial archaeology. Over the course of a couple of years I managed to walk the entire length of the canal, at least twice. Typically, I would start at a convenient access point, then walk down to the point where my last walk ended. Then I would turn around and walk as far as seemed reasonable. Finally, I would turn around one last time, returning to my parked car, thus covering the entire length of the canal at least twice. There were some sections that were particularly pleasant and/or close to my home that I walked many times. These hikes averaged around 14 miles in length. During those walks I averaged around 3 miles per hour. That is about 20 minutes from mile post to mile post. Two years ago, I started walking again, while in what is called “terminal leave,” my last, two month vacation prior to my official retirement. Initially, I could walk 1.1 miles, twice around my block. Over time the lengths of my walks increased to 5 miles. Then during and after my recent problems, the length has settled down around 4.25 miles. I was averaging around 2.5 miles per hour over most of this time. I really wanted to get back to 3 miles per hour, but that seemed impossible. A couple of months ago, I realized my average speed was increasing. First I found I was averaging around 2.6 miles per hour. When I reached 2.7 miles per hour, I shared the news on facebook. I received some positive feedback. I shared the news again when I reached 2.8 miles per hour. Finally, I reached my goal. After a rest day, I averaged 3 miles per hour over my 4.25 mile course. The day was cold and rainy. I expect I was walking a little faster than normal so that I could sooner return to my warm dry car. I knew some of the encouragement I was receiving came from friends who are, like me, locked in their own battles with father time. Some of it came from younger folk who found an old man doing a Rocky imitation at least somewhat amusing. Whatever the reason, the encouragement I received felt good. The experience reminds me that we can achieve our goals, if we really know what we want. Goals need to be well defined. They need to be believable (to you). They need to be important (to you). Usually, we don’t know what we want. Too often, even if we know what we want, we don’t believe in the possibility of our dreams. The truth is you can achieve just about any reasonable goal if you search until you find the right path. I have a friend who wanted a Corvette for most of his adult life. His wife and children postponed the Corvette again and again for more than thirty years. Finally he found a low mileage used Corvette in immaculate condition for $9,000. He had to fly halfway across the country to take possession of his prize, but now he has achieved his goal. He is the proud owner of what he considers a particularly desirable Corvette convertible. He only drives his car when the weather is nice. He is constantly teased about how he cares for his car. We ask him if he has ever had it over 35 miles per hour. He laughs. After all, he is the guy with the Corvette convertible. There is something more we need as we define, then work towards our goals with patience and persistence. We need people, two kinds of people. We need to find people who have already achieved what we are looking to achieve. If you want to learn more about investments, find someone who knows a lot about investments. Learn whatever he is willing to teach you. If I was as serious about physical fitness as I was about financial fitness, I would be talking to dieticians, personal trainers, and probably a Yoga instructor. My body is seriously lacking flexibility. We also need people who pick us up when we fall down and push us forward when we are tired and afraid. The best way to find coaches and cheerleaders when we are in need is to be a coach or a cheerleader for someone else when they are in need. If you know something that can be of assistance to another, don’t be afraid to share it even if it takes a bit of money out of your pocket. For example, if you are an automobile mechanic, don’t be afraid to teach a young man in your church how to change the brake pads on his twelve year old Hyundai. Don’t worry, the God of the universe will see to it you will receive your reward. Jesus said, “And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.” It costs nothing to be a lifter and an encouragement. Don’t tell people what they can’t do. Don’t hold them back to your level. Lift them up when they fall down. Find ways to encourage them to take just one more step when that seems impossible. Do it for someone else. Someday someone will do it for you.