Once Upon a time – and the story has a beginning. Do you ever wish for a place to let down all your defenses, a place where every curtain could be opened, a place where you could say whatever is on your mind, a place to be at peace? Where is that place for you? Where would you begin to pour out the contents of your soul to someone who listens at heart level?
Walking the trail in my neighborhood is a lovely, tranquil escape. It winds four miles alongside the Thornapple river where vegetation grows thickly and little fur creatures can be seen scurrying through trees and into hidden burrows. For travelers who aren’t quite ready for an eight-mile hike, park benches are strategically placed at points that look out onto more picturesque parts of the river.
There is something about a park bench that invites conversation. The empty bench welcomes the weary to rest for a while and drink in the silence of nature and let the calmness of the wind relax their soul. On my last walk along the trail, I spied one of those empty park benches. It just didn’t look right. There it was – like a strong embrace waiting for someone to climb up and spill their heart to whoever would listen. Do you ever crave time with someone who listens without judging, listens to your words then protects them so they stay guarded between the two of you? Do you ever need time with someone who has your confidence and whose wisdom and counsel you admire?
What if you could have this Once upon a time experience? Whose eyes would you want to look into as they pat the seat next to them and say, “Crawl up here and let’s talk awhile?” Who would you want to share that park bench with and share your deepest feelings and fervent dreams? Imagine being invited to sit next to someone who listens at heart level, with all their senses.
I don’t know any of these mentors and coaches personally. I don’t know if they are good listeners and I can’t see inside their hearts to know if the person they portray is authentic, but I want to believe they are. I want to believe they breathe out impeccable character and speak wisdom into people they encounter. I’ve read their books, listened to recorded messages, watched them on video, and heard from colleagues who testify to their integrity.
Here’s a place, crawl up here on the bench next to me where it’s quiet and stay while we immerse ourselves in the insight of humanity’s Most Valuable Players.
I’m having trouble finding my purpose and knowing what I’m good at. “The quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor.” – Vince Lombardi
Every time I think I’m ready to start working toward my dream, I start wondering ‘What if’ and I’m paralyzed by fear. “Basically, there are two paths you can walk: faith or fear. It’s impossible to simultaneously trust God and not trust God.” – Dr. Charles Stanley
How can I find courage within me to take the next important step toward my goals? “What is courage? It is the ability to be strong in trust, in conviction, in obedience. To be courageous is to step out in faith – to trust and obey, no matter what.” – Kay Arthur
Right now I feel like I have no brain. Why can’t I learn new things like everyone else? “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” – Benjamin Franklin
No matter how hard I try, I never measure up to the other people on my team. “The reason why we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind the scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.” – Steven Furtick
I’m tired of being average. I want to do something really amazing. “If you are always trying to be normal you will never know how amazing you can be.” – Maya Angelou
I want to become the best version of myself, but I don’t want to be full of pride. You know. Like I’ve heard people say, ‘Never let pride go to your head, and never let failure get to your heart.’ What do you think? “Talent is God given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful.” – John Wooden
Sometimes I get so impatient with where I am in my life. I’m so focused on foresight and planning ahead, I can’t enjoy this season right now. “Contentment is the equilibrium between the enjoyment of life now and the anticipation of what is to come.” – Priscilla Shirer
Everything is going wrong lately, I want to throw things. I know that won’t help. “We have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for the day. Life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we react to it. Our attitude is everything.” – Charles Swindoll
I have a joy jar and every day I add something to it that I am thankful for. It helps me remember that no matter what, there is always something to be thankful for. “If we magnified blessings as much as we magnify disappointments, we would all be much happier.” – John Wooden
Yeh, I know all that about tough times making my character stronger … but. “There is no cramming for a test of character. It always comes as a pop quiz. – Andy Stanley
These are tough times. I feel like I’m surrounded by little earthquakes that erupt out of nowhere and mess up my life. “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” – Helen Keller
I love the word integrity but lately it seems like leaders in powerful positions are not practicing it. “Integrity doesn’t come in degrees: low, medium, or high. You either have integrity or you don’t.” – Tony Dungy
Gandhi, you are respected and revered among peoples of the whole world. How do you keep perspective and love humanity as you do? What advice can you give me that will carry me through life in harmony with humankind and nature? What can you tell me about finishing strong? “Keep your thoughts positive because your thoughts become your words. Keep your words positive because your words become your behavior. Keep your behavior positive because your behavior becomes your habits. Keep your habits positive because your habits become your values. Keep your values positive because your values become your destiny.” – Mahatma Gandhi
If you had the chance to talk to someone and pour out your heart to them, who would you choose? Whose embrace would make you feel at ease? The next time you see an empty park bench, sit awhile with your thoughts and think about what steps you can take to be at peace with yourself and finish strong.
IT’S ABOUT THE JOURNEY–MINE AND YOURS–AND THE LIVES WE CAN TOUCH,
THE LEGACY WE CAN LEAVE, AND THE WORLD WE CAN CHANGE FOR THE BETTER. – Tony Dungy
This article was also picked up and published by Bizcatalyst360.com.