There is a wise old saying…an ancient Chinese gem: 

When three people walk together my teacher is among them.


We had a simple dinner with some friends and the first thing I was taught

was if you listen but a little…you’re bound to learn a lot..


I learned a lot about sadness

sadness that our basic foundation seems destined to destroy…

I learned if we are ever to survive that sadnesses

we must discover joy. 


I learned a lot about how the sadness of a natural disaster, 

of divorce

of sickness 

of wars that never seem to end

can be offset by the joy that floats around a table

filled with family and friends. 


I learned in the midst of a sad world

there is more joy than one might think

as I watched the laughter, support and wisdom 

of people sharing food and drink. 


As luck would have it other friends came into the restaurant

It was like a holiday!

They were celebrating their 5th grandchild…

born earlier that day.


I learned although weakness can come from sadness, 

meant to injure, to bruise…to annoy

our courage, our determination…our strength

comes from our faith, our love…our joy.


I learned this simple lesson which I will from this day forward now employ….

I shall not close my eyes to sadness

but I shall open them more…to joy…


Any ancient Chinese scholar sitting in that restaurant would have smiled…

It would have been easy for he…or she…to see

there was more than one teacher in that room that night…


In truth…they were surrounding me.

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Once a year it comes in the mail…a kind of annual rebirth

It’s a card…it’s from a realtor…asking…

“What is your house worth?”


This year’s card again got me thinking…and I’m sure Deborah would agree

the value of our house is different for the realtor than it is for Deborah and me.


A realtor might pause in front of that bedroom door and frown

wondering who in their right mind could have hung it upside down.


She could not know I worked on that door for almost an entire day

and though it is a little different we kind of like it hanging that way.


A realtor might want the writing on our closet door erased…

He might not realize it’s part of our family’s lore…

that our children’s and grandchildren’s every changing heights are written on that door.


A realtor might see the lights in the kitchen…she might laugh or scoff

wondering why to turn them on…you actually turn them off.


She’d have no way of knowing…the switch will stay that way forevermore

having been installed by the same person who hung that bedroom door.


A realtor might want that swing in our backyard replaced…its old and shows its wear

He couldn’t know our children and grandchildren grew up swinging out there. 


A realtor might see the cracks in the ceiling and become enraged.

She wouldn’t see them as we do…wrinkles that come with age.


Yes, a realtor might look at out house and see imperfections behind every window and every door

Never comprehending, in our house, 

it’s those imperfections we adore


To a realtor this is just another house as in search of houses to sell they roam 

but a long time ago it became more than that, 

when it became our home.


So back to the question of the moment, how much is our old house worth?

The house that has seen us through sadness and joy; through marriages and births.


The house where for over 30 years our family has laughed and cried and sat...

The answer is quite simple, you can’t put a price on that.


At least that’s what I was thinking as I read on the card the realtor would pay cash!


And why I smiled so contentedly…when I tossed it in the trash.

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I had a dream last night…

I know dreams aren’t always as they appear…

this one had me teaching……and I’ve been retired for 6 years.


For me to remember a dream…is extraordinarily rare

and I don’t remember this entire dream…just bits and pieces here and there.


When I awoke on the other side of my dream…ready to begin my day

I had to stop and wonder what my dream was trying to say.


Perhaps it was reminding me…trying to make me comprehend

that even in retirement…teaching never ends.


That there is always someone out there…someone I can reach

someone with whom to share my wisdom…someone I can teach.


Another reason for my dream was easy to discern…

to remind me I will always be a student…who has a lot to learn.


Reminding me in life through adventures big and small

no teacher…no person in this world…

ever knows it all.


Reminding me in life…through my successes and my flops

if I’m lucky…if I’m truly blessed

my learning never stops


Reminding me wherever I go…east, west, north or south…

A good teacher is one whose ears…get as much exercise as their mouth…


Yes, I had a dream last night…

that I was still teaching

and still learning too…

and I woke up this morning realizing…


that dream keeps coming true.

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When she was young…just a little girl

when life was more innocent and free

she believed in castles in the sky

in fairy tales…and fantasy.


She believed from the sparks of a campfire fireflies were born

She believed in happy endings

in mermaids and unicorns… 


She believed in houses made from gingerbread

that every sentence ended in rhyme

She believed rubbing a lamp could summon a genie

She believed long hair she could climb.


When she was young she believed in Santa Claus.

She believed her grandparents lived in a world of black and white.

She believed in the magic of a kiss.

She believed her blanket would protect her at night.


When she was young she’d play outside for hours.

She’d come home with scraped up knees.

She believed she could see the entire world when she climbed to the top of a tree.


And when she grew up she still believed… 

In happy endings..in fantasy…and play

but the duties and responsibilities of life often got in the way…


Which is why now that she is older

she loves to find moments when her fantasies are reborn…

moments when she revisits her fairy tales…


and finds her unicorn.

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On the bottom shelf in an old bookstore this dusty book he came across

It was filled with a myriad of chapters including this one…about loss.


And as he read these words…he thought…wouldn’t it be great if we could found a way

to etch these words into the hearts and minds of the people of today.


Words like these provide wisdom…if we take the chance to read them

and they can change the world…if we take the time to heed them:



If you lose your fortune…you’ve lost nothing…f

or it’s only material things you lack

and if you’ve had a fortune once…

you can always get it back.


If you lose the courage to stand up for what you believe in…

to practice what you’ve been taught

then unlike losing your fortune…

you have lost a lot.


If you lose your honor and integrity…

then you’ve lost even more

for without these no matter how wealthy you become…

you…are truly poor.


And if you lose your soul…

for whatever reason large or small…

and fail to get it back…


then you have lost it all. 

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Yesterday was a great day…one I will long revere

It began when I looked in the mirror…and realized…I’m still here!


That I have a wife, children, grandchildren and friends 

with whom this life…I share…

This is how my day began…and it only got better from there!


We watched the sun rise on our morning walk.

We saw a father carry his daughter piggy-back

We said ‘Hi’ to Stella, she is homeless…

and for the first time…she said ‘Hi’ back.


We stopped to talk to an old man as we walked down to the sea.

We took goodies down to our daughter-in-law 

(she’s having surgery on her knee).


We bought candy from the candy store.

We drank fresh-squeezed lemonade.

In the heat of the Florida sun…we found respite in the shade.


We bought the final present for Ava’s birthday party…(she just turned 13)

We put a new rug in our craft room…we decorated for Halloween.


We saw our eagles…on the top of the pole where they both like to rest

We ate take-out food from Thai Town…their Pad Thai is the best!


From my spot in my favorite chair I watched the sun set through the trees.

As we turned out the lights and kissed goodnight I thought…

I love days like these…


And when I awoke this morning…knowing yesterday was through…

I looked in the mirror and couldn’t help but think…


Today’s starting out pretty great too!

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I pass it every time Ava has a home volleyball game 

and It makes me wonder about fate..

It’s a tree…growing outside my old classroom…planted in 1988.


It was for one of my Autistic students that this one tree came to be…

A wonderful student, his name was Eric…he had muscular dystrophy.


When Eric first entered my class…he walked on his tip toes…with great care.

Eventually his muscular dystrophy would put him in a wheel chair.


But he also entered with a reputation…I was told…all he did was cry…

and it drove everyone around him crazy because they couldn’t discover why?


I was told he could say a few words but as far as learning he was much too slow

I would come to find out it wasn’t Eric but our expectations that were low..


One day on a trip to the store…

(I’d strap him in the passenger seat of my van before we would depart)

I hadn’t driven very far when I heard him say…”K-Mart”.


As I drove and listened that day my thinking about Eric redefined…

He wasn’t just sayin random words…he was reading all the signs!


That day I learned if I listen to my students…sometimes they will lead…

for next to me sat the boy so slow…he had taught himself to read!


He couldn’t hold a pencil but he could write…in my heart and soul I knew it

so I found an old electric typewriter and wheeled Eric to it.


He commenced to typing us little messages…

and though his sentence structure was chopped

he began to smile a little more and we noticed his crying completely stopped.


Okay…it didn’t stop completely…but he didn’t cry as much

as his fingers walked along the keyboard and he found the letters he wanted to touch.


It was a minor breakthrough 

he was still limited by his understanding and his muscular dystrophy…

but just so watch him smile as he typed…was good enough for me…


Muscular dystrophy, however, was immune to Eric’s charms…

and one night on summer vacation…he died in his mothers arms…


The staff and students of the school in order to commemorate his memory…

outside the last classroom he ever attended…planted him this tree.


And that’s why I think of fate every time I pass in front of Eric’s tree…

Thankful not only for what I saw in him…


but for what he saw in me.

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With so much bad news all around us..in our country…in our neighborhood…

We sometimes have a tendency to overlook the good.


Yesterday a woman came into the store and bought two books…

There was a gleam in her eyes when she told me one book was for her

the other…for her husband…a surprise.


But since here husband was in the store she didn’t want her intentions known

“Could you hide it under the counter?” She asked. “I’ll can pick it up when I’m alone.”


“I’m here to buy my daughter a book.” A man said.

She told me to go to the counter and see the man behind it

She knows I’m not good at locating things.

She said you’d help me find it.”


He described the book…I took him to the section

but he didn’t need me…I must add…

The book was open on the shelf

with a note reading, ‘It’s this one Dad’.


“That’s just like my daughter." he said

“Not only to leave it in plain view 

but to make sure I would find it…she even left a clue”


Sometimes we need to look for good news…

in a world where we’re barely treading water…

Like the love of a wife for her husband…

or a father for his daughter…


They say bad luck comes in threes…perhaps good news comes in twos…

For two times in a row I witnessed love…and I consider that good news


Good news in the smile of a wife’s dilemma

and how she found a way around it…

Good news in how a daughter hid a book

and the face of the dad who found it


And isn’t that the wonder of good news?

How easy it is to spot.

How it doesn’t have to overpower you…


in fact most times it does not…

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When I stop and take a look at my life now that I am well past fully grown

I like to think how I’ve been blessed by all the people I have known.


Certainly there is my family, my children, my grandchildren and my wife

but what about all the others people who have helped to shape my life.


Some were with me from the start but are gone now…to my dismay

Some have been here many years…others merely crossed my path along the way


Some I’ve known by name others I never really knew…but I’m still glad

at what they all have given me…at the impact they have had


I’ve known mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters…aunts and uncles too

I’ve known teachers, students, and children who helped to mold my point of view.


So many people I have met whose influence I can’t ignore

from priests, professors, bus drivers to baggers in the grocery store.


I’ve known mechanics, fishermen, lawyers…waiters and waitresses galore

all who made me think a little differently than I had thought the day before.


I’ve known authors and musicians…I’ve loved their melodies….their words

I’ve been changed by every book I’ve ever read and every song I’ve ever heard.


I could go on and on because in my mind a host of faces are now blending

You might say when it comes to the people in my life…the list is never-ending.


And I imagine it’s the same with everyone

For no one ever lives their life totally alone

No…we are who we are today


because of all the people we have known.

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