Camp for America? (Part I)

I’m sitting at a camp for special needs kids – yes, I’m a parent, twice-over, of kids with severe medical issues. That’s the reason I’m here but the reason I’m writing is because there is something magical in this place. This is a place where people put aside their differences – beliefs, politics, preferences, color, age, gender, and yes, including and especially their medical challenges – and take part in a weekend of pure fun, pure joy, pure freedom. Why is this important? In World War Z, there is a part where a young doctor goes into an annihilated area to determine why some people have managed to live, in spite of the devastating illness that has overtaken the world. His point was:

Don’t study a virus as it is spreading, study where it isn’t and you will see the combination of elements needed to combat it.

Stated another way, find what’s working and do more of it! This is not only useful in finding cures in medicine, it’s also useful in recognizing where people can change behavior. When I used to see patients, I was often told by many of them something along the lines of, “I just have to act this way.” And I frequently made the same statement – it was a simple statement – but one rarely uttered by a therapist and certainly not frequently said to a person seeking help. The statement was, “Bulls&*%.” I almost took joy in the startled look I predictably got…every time. People expect therapists to be sweet and nice and while I would describe myself as that, there is nothing sweet, nice, or caring about letting someone continue to tell themselves a story that is a lie when it is hindering their ability to function.

So now I say to our nation, to our people, with deep love and respect, “Bulls&*%.” I don’t believe that we are incapable of getting along. I don’t believe that we are incapable of controlling our emotions. I don’t believe we are incapable of seeing others’ points of view. I think when we tell ourselves that fallacy, we give ourselves permission to degrade others in order to build up ourselves.

We know better. We can do better. We should expect better from ourselves.

Now the right question is….In this utopian camp for children with severe illnesses, what can we learn? What can they teach us?

I observe and ask myself, “Why are people so willing here? So interested in being happy? So acquiescent to play well with others? And most importantly, how do we replicate that feeling and expand it to scale?”

I’ve decided that the secret recipe is this:

Create a place where everyone feels valued, needed, and free – and you will see people who respond with joy, compassion, hope, and be inspired to achieve higher than they ever thought possible!

Now let’s bring this feeling, this inspiration to our people, to our Nation…I’ve got a few ideas 😉

To be continued…..

Photo by Andreas Rønningen on Unsplash Photo by Keith Luke on Unsplash Photo by Aranxa Esteve on Unsplash

Where are we going? Part I

Our nation is divided by political parties, even in spite of many issues on which we agree ( We have started arguing and distrusting the positive impact of education ( We have labeled certain religions as threatening and are trying to close our borders. We are even now hearing of states wanting to split into separate states ( All of these decisions and positions are predicated on fear and anger. Fear that someone different than us will influence or affect us unduly and anger that others won’t do things our way.

Do I understand the position? I do. By definition, if it is our belief that life is best lived a certain way, we live it that way and certainly hope, and even expect, that others will too. I mean, if it’s the best, of course we want everyone to act and live this way! The rebuttal of course is that the best life for one is rarely the best life for another. But it is incredibly difficult for any of us to see things from other peoples’ points of view. I mean, let’s face it, we’re busy enough with our own issues, we don’t have time to take on others’ as well. But in this case, it may not only be beneficial to do so, it may be necessary.

The implications of such splitting are extensive. Sen. Rubio delivered a long commentary on the Senate floor recently that discusses why civil discord is not only beneficial to our nation but it is an absolute necessity for our Governmental leadership ( I would add that I believe this extends to us, the American people. Why?

The strongest, most effective teams are made of a diverse group of people.

It doesn’t matter if we are talking about business, military, education, or politics – when we consider multiple points of view, we have the best chance of finding the right answer to solve any problem. When everyone agrees on an idea, a path, or a plan, the “group think” mentality rules and everyone feels confident in the answer. Sadly, reality is that they likely feel overconfident because at all times, the team that considers multiple perspectives and multiple solutions will have the greatest variety of choices and ultimately, and consistently, dominate.

Have we lost sight as a nation that diversity and creativity are our country’s greatest assets?

When a country is ruled by a dominating individual, that country is only as good as that one person’s best ideas. If the person is particularly brilliant, they will have good ideas, better than most in fact – but will always fail ultimately against a team of brilliance. If the ruling person or party is particularly gifted in manipulation, they will succeed in convincing many of their heightened skills and ideas – whether or not they are true. But again, ultimately, they will be beat by teams of brilliance – especially those with the freedom of creativity in their process.

As a nation….we absolutely must come together, unify, and value the differences in our people. If we do not, we become our own worst enemy, our biggest adversary. And we are better than that – we are the UNITED States – we must always remember.

“A Nation divided against itself cannot stand…” Lincoln

Commit an Act of Inspiration: Honoring the Parkland 17

 “Life is not measured by the number of days or years you spend on Earth but rather, by the number of people you inspire…”

I met someone recently who lost a friend too soon. Five weeks from diagnosis to passing. He was 40 years old and a father to little ones. I met some ladies yesterday who shared similar stories of loss. One lost her husband after 45 years of marriage and another discussed the dedicated details she attended to for her husband’s military burial. All this in just a couple days and when you add to it the recent loss in Parkland, I was left wondering what can we do, how do we make sense of it?

Life can be too short for all of us and while we know that intellectually, in order to truly internalize the lesson, we have to experience extreme loss. But what if instead, we could learn from others? What if the legacy of the ones we love inspired us to dream big, be daring, and value every minute? And so I ask the question, few dare to consider:

What would the 17 say to us today if they could? What would they have done if they were given just one more day on Earth? Would they tell us to fight? Tell us to be more cautious? Would they tell us to hold back, focus more on worries, concerns, loss? Or would they tell us to soar? To enjoy our families and friends? Is it the strife and mundane we want to remember, or the moments of brilliance? Joy? Strength?

In other words, what would honor the 17 – not just remember them, not just fight for future children, but what would help them leave behind a legacy of inspiration?

When I lost my daughter, I knew I had to find a way to think of her with a smile. I couldn’t cry forever – that wasn’t the legacy I wanted for her. So we started doing what we call “Sarah-Inspired Activities”. We remind ourselves to boldly act and live in ways we might have shied away from previously. We do things as a family as a point and include her in our discussions as just one of the kids – albeit an angel kid. When we lost our neighbor at the age of 50, I applied this same idea – his goal had been to get out of the hospital and take his jeep to the beach. He didn’t get the opportunity but in his honor, I took my jeep and had a blast.

In honor of the Parkland 17, I challenge you to find something in your own life you’ve been neglecting, putting off, or wishing you could do but have been afraid – and do it anyway – do it for you, do it for them, do it to live every moment you have on this Earth!

If every person in our nation was driven to an “Act of Inspiration”…

what a legacy the Parkland 17 could create!

Photo by Andrew Read  Victor Lozano and Tam High School Vigil