Fifty years ago this month, Dwight Eisenhower was the President of the United States. He had been a hero of the Second World War and was in the last year of his presidency. His successor would be the first Roman Catholic President and the youngest President to be elected to that office. The thought of an African-American President was a dream to some, laughable to others. A lot has changed in fifty years. I know I have.
Fifty years ago this month I was born in Billings, Montana. If I am to live as long as my father, I have about 15 years of life left. A sobering thought, but one that does not linger long in my conciousness. I know I am healthier than he was. He had a bad ticker and despite all my efforts (via some un-healthy habits) mine is in better shape than his.
So, what do I have to show for fifty years of life on this planet? By all accounts and measures, I am a blessed man. I have an amazing family, a successful business and a few good friends. I have a roof over my head, food whenever I want it and clothes to protect me from the elements. I have more than most people in the world have. And, most importantly, I have learned a few things.
I’ve learned that, with the exception of a parent, there are a finite number of times that you can hurt someone and still expect them to love you.
I’ve learned that no matter how much I think I don’t need God in my life, I am wrong. I need his presence, his blessings in my life every day.
I’ve learned that lessons passed on from generation to generation go unheeded by the youngest generation until such time as maturity and need make those lessons come alive.
I’ve learned that it is absolutely true that there is nothing you cannot do, if you are willing to work hard enough.
I’ve learned that oftentimes it is easier to quit than to go on and that the times you quit will be the times you regret later in life.
I’ve learned that you can find the love of your life more than once in your lifetime.
I’ve learned that one simple act of kindness can literally change a person’s life.
I’ve learned that hope and positivity trumps negativity and pessimism every single time.
I’ve learned that in my darkest hours, if I simply reach out to God, he is there.
I’ve learned that failure is not the end of the world. It is simply the opportunity to try something else or the same thing in a different way.
I’ve learned that loss is a natural part of life, that some people are taken from us much sooner than we would like.
I’ve learned to laugh at myself.
I’ve learned that it is absolutely true that everything happens for a reason, but it may be years before you figure out what that reason is.
Most of these lessons I have learned the hard way. Some have been easier. Some I have learned out of pain, others out of joy. Some have been learned out of self loathing, others out of pride.
One other thing I have learned is that I never stop learning and I hope I never do. Everyone has that point in life when they think they know better, know more than someone else. The truth is, if I ever stop learning from others, if I ever stop questioning and seeking answers and learning lessons, that should be the day I stop celebrating birthdays.