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"Be Where You Are!"
by Michael D. Hargrove - Soccer Dad
You want to say, "I'm busy too pal! I've got kids, a spouse, a business, a workout regimen, I speak all over the country, I coach baseball, soccer, indoor soccer, take the kids to gymnastics and swimming lessons, volunteer at the kids school, and I've volunteered to help put the club's teams together. Okay, tell me again what it is you do?!" But of course, you can't. You just smile and politely say how you understand how tough it is to raise a family these days...and how tough it must be to have a job like that...and how tough it must be to be them...and you go on to the next call.
One point I'm fond of making in my workshops is to: "Be where you are...remember where you are and why you're there!" The truth is, we've all been too busy at one time or another for the people and times we know in our hearts are the most important.
Actually, I've been just as guilty as the next guy. We all must realize that the time to be involved with our kids is NOW, because it won't be long before our little ones are asking us for the car keys and calling us assholes under their breath.
Now, I know that no matter how talented a speaker I fancy myself to be, I can't get through to everyone. Still, I find myself frustrated at the loss of adequate words to help others (even some of my dearest friends) come to see that these are our moments most precious. Oh, everyone says that they understand alright, but actions are the true test of understanding.
So in the hope of getting more of us to act, I want to share with you someone else's words (Michael Foster's). I share this story to encourage us all to make the time now to notice, to listen, to encourage, to cheer, to hold, to love, and to be involved with our quickly maturing little ones.
John Carmody found that out, staring through the living- room window at the cheerful Tuesday afternoon life of the street. He kept trying to think about the big important things, lost now-the years and the plans, the hopes and the love, But he couldn't quite get them focused sharply in his mind just now-not this afternoon.
Those important things were like a huge nebulous background in his mind. All he could remember now was a queer little thing: nothing, really, if you stopped and thought about it in light of the years and the plans and the great love. It was only something his little girl had said to him one evening, two-perhaps three weeks ago. Nothing if you looked at it rationally-the sort of thing kids are always saying.
But it was what he was remembering now.
That particular night, he had brought home from the office a finished draft of the annual stockholders' report. It was very important. Things being as they were, it meant a great deal to his future and to the futures of his wife and his little girl. He sat down to re-read it before dinner. It had to be right; it meant so much.
And just as he turned a page, Marge, his little girl, came with a book under her arm. It was a green-covered book, with a fairy tale picture pasted on it. She said, "Look, Daddy."
He glanced up and said, "Oh, fine. A new book, eh?' "Yes, Daddy," She said. "Will you read me a story in it?" "No, dear. Not just now," he said.
Marge just stood there as he read through a paragraph that told the stockholders about certain replacements in the machinery of the factory. And Marge's voice, with timid and hopeful little inflections, was saying, "But Mummy said you probably would, Daddy."
He looked up over the top of the typescript. "I'm sorry," he answered. "Maybe Mummy will read it to you. I'm busy, dear."
"No," Marge said politely, "Mummy is much busier upstairs. Won't you read me just this one story? Look, it has a picture. See? Isn't it a lovely picture, Daddy?" "Oh, yes. Beautiful," he said, "Now that picture has class, hasn't it? But I do have to work tonight. Some other time..."
After that, there was quite a long silence. Marge just stood there with the book open at the lovely picture. It was a long time before she said anything else. He read through two more pages explaining in full detail, as he had directed, the shift in markets over the past 12 months, the plans outlined by the sales department for meeting these problems which, after all, could safely be ascribed to local conditions, and the advertising program that after weeks of conferences had been devised to stabilize and even increase the demand for their products.
"But it is a lovely picture, Daddy. And the story looks so exciting," Marge said. "I know," he said. "Ah...Mmmmmmm. Some other time. Run along now." "I'm sure you'd enjoy it, Daddy," Marge said. "Eh? Yes, I know I would. But later..." "Oh," Marge said. "Well, some other time then. Will you, Daddy, some other time?" "Oh, of course," he said. "You bet."
But she didn't go away. She still stood there quietly, like a good child. And after a long time, she put the book down on the stool at his feet and said, "Well, whenever you get ready, just read it to yourself. Only read it loud enough so I can hear, too."
"Sure," he said. "Sure-later."
And that was what John Carmody was remembering now, not the long plans of love and care for the years ahead. He was remembering the way a well-mannered child had touched his hand with timid little fingers and said, "Just read it to yourself. Only read it loud enough so I can hear, too."
And that was why, now, he put his hand on the book from the corner table, where they had piled some of Marge's playthings, picking them up from the floor where she had left them.
The book wasn't new anymore, and the green cover was dented and thumbed. He opened it to the lovely picture.
And reading that story, his lips moving stiffly with anguish to form the words, he didn't try to think anymore, as he should be thinking, about the important things, about his careful and shrewd and loving plans for the years to come, and for a little while he forgot, even, the horror and bitterness of his hate for the drunken driver who had careened down the street in a second- hand car, and who was now in jail on manslaughter charges.
He didn't even see his wife-white and silent-dressed to be with Marge for the last time, standing in the doorway, trying to make her voice say calmly, "I'm ready, dear. We must go."
Because John Carmody was reading.
"Once upon a time, there was a little girl who lived on a woodcutter's hut, in the Black Forest. And she was so fair that the birds forgot their singing from the bough, looking at her. And there came a day when..."
He was reading it to himself. But loud enough for her to hear, too. Maybe.
© Copyright 1997 by Michael D. Hargrove and Bottom Line Underwriters, Inc. All rights reserved.
Michael D. Hargrove is President of Bottom Line Underwriters Inc. and can be reached at the contact points below.
Toll Free: 1-888-My Success
Fax: (503) 638-0602
P.O. Box 1218
Lake Oswego, OR 97035
Copyright © 1998 by Bottom Line Underwriters, Inc.