There are many benefits to living back in Syracuse New York, too many to count. Four of those benefits are my dear friends, the Choat's. The man of the Choat household is my best friend, Junky Joe. Junky Joe is one of one children born to his mother and father a number of years ago. He was raised in Bakersfield California until moving to Syracuse with his family multiple years ago. Last year the mother and father of Junky Joe moved to Syracuse New York so they could be closer to their child and his family.
I have been assisting Junky Joe lately, a small price to pay for all the love and affection he and his family have given me throughout the years, by chopping wood for the smoker he uses to cook various meats and other foods.
This past Sunday I went over to the Choat household to visit with the family. After a certain amount of time the father and mother of Junky Joe came to visit with their family as well. The three of us men were sitting outside on the back deck and admiring a new wood splitter that Junky Joe had purchased to replace his firman's axe. As we talked about the new wood splitter I decided to walk down there and give the new thing a try. I walked out and grabbed a log of wood from the pile against the garage and marched it over to the chopping block. The log I grabbed had a nasty knot shooting out of the bottom of it and as the other two men walked down to join me they wondered out loud if I should put this one back and grab another log from the pile. But I had already raised the heavy wood splitter over my shoulder and the log was already standing, looking into my eyes and giving me dirty looks, and there is something that happens when a man holds something heavy and sharp, he has to prove his manhood by swinging the hardened steel and breaking something in his path.
What seemed like 45 minutes after the first swing was swung, the three of us men still stood taking turns trying to break and show this log who possessed the real strength. In the battle of Man vs. Wood man always wins...Always.
It was my turn to swing the fireman's axe and show that log who was boss. I swung down on the inferior and silly log beneath me and then pulled the blade from the hardened wood. The father of Junky Joe said something to the effect of "Wow, that boy sure is accurate!" It was nothing, really. I swung the axe and hoped as the blade swooshed towards the log that I would actually hit my mark and not skim the side and accidentally cut my foot off in the process. Apparently I did something right, something good, something successful because the father of Junky Joe was so impressed that he made mention of it out loud in the moment with me standing there listening.
Today, 3 days later, I was swinging that same wood splitter and chopping wooden logs for the smoker of Junky Joe. Every time I swung the handle I could hear what that old man said Sunday afternoon. I thought how accurate I was with the axe and how I needed to improve, I needed to continue to be accurate. With every swing of the handle I felt powerful, I felt like I was accomplishing something, I felt like I was good at something. I can remember as a little boy playing basketball and imaging that I was starting for the New York Knicks, all eyes in the entire stadium were on me. Every time I went for a lay-up in the school gymnasium I could see the flashes of camera lights in the arena catching my picture.
The father of Junky Joe said words about me on Sunday that encouraged me, they lifted me up, they made me feel amazing, and they have stuck with me now 3 days later. I am good at something, so good in fact that an old oil man from Bakersfield California noticed and said so. It is like hitting the winning home run, scoring the winning touchdown, winning the game for the home team.
Such simple words presented in an innocent and simple way have had such an impact on my heart. I am good at something... I am really good at something.
I can only wonder how much more important my words are to those closer to me. Words can sometimes lose value when we use them too often, that's one of the problems with words, it can be difficult to gauge what the current value of each word is in the moment.
I suppose the simple reality here is that I need to be more honest, more true, more intentional, more heartfelt. I need to choose better words that lift hearts and open minds and I need to suffocate those words that break and wound and pull down.