I recently had the opportunity to reconnect with my old friend Steve. Growing up, we were neighbors and best pals. Steve and I started hanging out as babies and continued to do so until we were about 13 years old. We’ve stayed in touch over our many years. We have fun catching up and reminiscing about the old neighborhood, the status of old friends, our families, and our lives in general. Steve has been following my coaching and my writings. He was one of the first purchasers of my book a few years ago. He reached out and asked me to sign his copy. I was very happy and honored to do so. He brought the book to my Minneapolis office so I could sign it and send it back the next time I was in town. I arrived in Minneapolis mid-December. The book was sitting on my desk. I picked it up and opened the front cover to write a nice thought and sign it. But my pen stopped and hovered over the book. As I wondered what should I say to my old friend, a thousand thoughts and memories spun in my mind. There were too many things I could say to him. Even more than I had expected. I found myself transported back to my childhood. I felt some smiles and I shed some tears, too, because much of my childhood was an experience that taught me how not to be. It wasn’t full of happiness and joy or great family times. For me and my mom, the opposite was the norm.Over my many years of working on self-improvement and personal development, I’ve transformed my thinking. I have learned how to embrace my childhood with positive thoughts, rather than looking at it with shame or self-pity. As a result, one of my core beliefs now is that my childhood inspired me to seek out the good; to see the good in people, opportunities, relationships, and in embracing experiences and challenges. And it turns out that the occasion of signing Steve’s book was about to lead me to see some good from my childhood that I had been too young to fully appreciate. Let me give you a little childhood history. My father was a mean drunk. Actually, one of his favorite sayings was, “I’m mean when I’m drinking, and I’m drinking a little bit all the time.” There were countless nights when he came home drunk and would start a fight with my mother, which lead to physical abuse for us. Sometimes he wouldn’t come home at all. We just never knew. Back in those days, our options for escape were limited. When it came time to flee, our standard plan was to go to a neighbors’ house. Ninety percent of the time we ended up at Steve’s house. His mother, Lucy and his dad, Jim would let us in. I was profoundly moved as I imagined the emotions they must have gone through as they made the decision to let us enter their peaceful home. We were not normal guests showing up for a visit. I was so young then, and afraid, but now, as an adult, and with so much distance and time between me and those events, I felt a sense of what it must have been like for them to accept and move past the fear and real risks involved. They were letting people into their home who were being pursued by a violent, ranting drunk. The police had to be called so many times. As unpleasant as that would be today, it was truly scandalous back in the sixties. Yet they still let us in, time after time. Fifty plus years later, the compassion and generosity of all this hit me like a ton of bricks. I had known that Steve’s mom and dad had made an impact on me that I still feel today, but in this moment I was breathless as I comprehended the real probability that, without them, I might not be here today. Had Lucy and Jim not accepted and protected my mother and me, my life certainly would have been different. They saved me from my dad, they helped my mother have hope, and they showed me that families can be full of happiness and joy.What’s more, Jim would play baseball with us for hours at a time. He loved to play catch. He would make sure I was getting my practice in. This is more significant to me than it might be for someone else—because sports meant more to me than to most kids. One thing I know for a fact about my life, one thing I’ve said a thousand times, is that I survived my childhood and all through high school because of my athletic ability and my desire to achieve in sports. I loved to practice my sports. That is one of the many qualities Jim taught and helped nurture.How amazing it is that thinking about writing a few sentences to an old friend lead to this rediscovery and flood of appreciation and gratitude for these very special people in my life. I hope you will get the chance that I had to look back at your young life with adult eyes and see people who changed your life for the better and cared for you in ways you couldn’t fully understand at the time. What a gift it is to know the gifts we’ve been given.And never doubt that we can have a huge impact on the lives we touch. We can save people from choosing the wrong path. We can encourage people to choose a positive path. Thank you, Steve, for our friendship, and thank you, Lucy and Jim, for having such a powerful impact on my life. Thank you.Dave
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