I have a friend who thought she was a terrible daughter. I watched her and listened to her, and I thought she was a great daughter. I had rarely seen someone so devoted to their mother. So, why did she think she was a terrible daughter? Because of the negative feedback of her mother when things didn’t turn out right.
What this woman had not learned to do was to see every gift she had given to her mother, every time she did her a favor, every time she listened to her, every sacrifice she had made and say, “good job” to herself.
We can easily let the negative feedback or lack of positive feedback keep us from viewing ourselves correctly and enjoying the encouragement of a job well done. That’s why we need to learn to see the good things that we do. We need to learn to say, “Good job, Wes” or “good job, whatever your name may be.” Continue reading “Learn to Say “Good Job” to Yourself”
Summary: when we invest our time in thinking most about the things that will give us joy, we will feel more calm, energy, and strength to move forward.
When you think of philosophy, you might think of esoteric questions like, “Is the chair really there?” or “If a tree falls in the woods and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?” Those questions are more important than may appear at first glance, but most people are not really that interested in them. What people are interested in is finding a way to live better and make it through the struggles of life. The Stoics and many other philosophers in the time of Christ made that their focus. The philosopher Seneca made a surprising statement about what our most important task was. He wrote to his young apprentice Lucilius, “Above all, my dear Lucilius, make this your business. Learn how to feel joy” (Letter XXIII). How about a philosophy class that started out that way? Our first priority will be to help us all feel true joy.
It’s a business or a task, though, because joy is not always easy to come by. There’s a lot that can keep us from feeling joy.
My then 18 year old son, David, told my wife and me that he wanted to talk out in the outdoor living room. My wife and I sat down in our wicker coach, and he took a seat on the porch swing. “Mom and Dad, I’ve decided that I want to get married.”
Not longer after, he married our daughter-in-law, Nicole from Colombia, at the Sun Outdoors Conference Center where our church met weekly. Then, they moved into . . . my basement. This wasn’t what they wanted. Waiting lists for apartments in Gatlinburg, TN were about six months wherever they applied.
The wait was only five months, and those five months turned out surprisingly well. We learned to really love our new daughter-in-law deeply, and the marriage was working. However, when the Riverwalk Apartments down the street called and said that they had an opening, nobody hesitated.
The day David and Nicole moved into their one bedroom apartment was a special day. I was amazed at how excited they were. They were renting their own apartment! Nicole was crying and then laughing, high levels of emotional expression, even by Colombian standards.
It made me think, what if I could look at my own house that way each day? I really love my house. It sits on a cul-de-sac on .5 acres of unique wooded land that terminates at a creek in a gulley. It has beautiful wood floors, a large bay window, beautiful built-in shelves, a well-crafted fireplace, and many other features. It is 2,500 square feet. Outside, we have a large three-level deck. We turned our carport into an outdoor living room that we love. We have a firepit. We have a pool. It’s in a quiet neighborhood, but it’s in the middle of everything. Beyond that, it sits on the edge of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park and one of the great vacation destinations in our nation. Continue reading “See Your House Like You Did the First Day You Got It”
Our guide met us at the airport, and we made our way to old Cairo. We entered into the traffic of Cairo, and we had never seen anything like it. Forget about lanes, distance between cars, and crosswalks. 30 million people live in and around Cairo, and it felt like they were all pushing and shoving to get into the road we were on.
In my town, we can get a little bit of traffic because of the tourists. This occurs primarily on one road in the middle of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. In Cairo, traffic is like that one road everywhere, only worse. Here, people stay in their lanes and follow relative order. There, forget about lanes. Forget about crosswalks. Forget about following two cars behind. Even on the highway with no one around, they stay a couple of feet behind an accompanying car.
There was a woman who was part of some of our tours who had traveled all over the world. She had even been to India which is notorious for its bad traffic. She said she had never seen worse traffic than what she saw in Cairo.
Traffic in Other Countries
The good thing about experiencing such terrible traffic on my first international trip was that everywhere else seemed not so bad. Bogota is a city famous for its bad traffic. After a day there, I had learned a new word, trancón. It is a word rolos (people born in Bogota) use to describe the traffic. After being in Egypt, Bogota seemed relatively orderly. It was really not bad at all. I could feel comfortable driving there.
In Guadalajara, I felt like I could easily drive there. And Cartagena. And Spain. But probably not Santo Domingo.
In Santo Domingo, I learned another word that is similar to trancón. It is tapón. It is the word for a plug or a cork, where things move down to a smaller place and you can’t get through. These tapones can last for hours.
They not only drive like locos, but the streets are crowded with cars. This is not always because of the traffic. It was more that several cars are trying to drive on roads that seem to be made for horse carriages rather than cars, especially large ones.
One great thing about Santo Domingo is that, though the traffic is overwhelming, there is a way around it, or rather over it. You can take a cable car or teleférico over the city traffic. It also gives you an amazing view of the city. It’s like viewing the city in a helicopter. You see the homes of the rich and poor, the rivers, the downtown in the distance, and the mazes they call streets.
The thing that makes roads in the Dominican Republic especially dangerous is all the motorcycles. They daringly move in and out of even the tiniest seam in the traffic. It’s often better not to watch. We stayed at the home of a cousin of one of our friends. This cousin actually lives most of the time in NYC. When he is in the DR, he attempts to drive in Santo Domingo. He told me that he had actually got in a wreck with a motorcyclist in Santo Domingo. It was not his fault, but it was traumatic. The motorcyclist died because of the wreck.
Those were the types of dangers we faced in Santo Domingo. Nevertheless, our driver, whom their friends called “Maria Racing,” got us through the maze of roads that were the opposite of a grid and navigated us safely through this labyrinth without even a scratch. She’s used to it. She uses her 12 passenger van to transport students. I asked her how many students she transports. She said, “45.” That’s why she wanted a 15 passenger van. She thought it would be better to take 60 students.
One thing travel has taught me is that people have different tolerances for different things. This is not wrong. In fact, being aware of it can open up new possibilities. For example, I have a 12 passenger van. People often ask me, how many people can I fit in it? I say, “9 Americans or 20 Dominicans.” This may sound offensive, but it’s actually a true statement. I have found that Dominicans and others are simply more tolerant of squeezing together into smaller spaces. Americans are not. They like their space. It’s not bad. It’s just different. I have asked myself, how many preferences like that do I have that I haven’t even thought of?
Driving in other countries can make you appreciate what you have. One way I like getting around is through Uber. It’s a great way to have conversations with locals. One gentleman from Bogota told me about his trip to Peru. I told him about appreciating the clean water in Bogotá and that going to Egypt and Mexico had made me appreciate the clean water in America (more on that in another post). I asked him if he had experienced anything like that. He said, yes. The traffic in Lima (the capital of Peru) was terrible. He said that after returning to Bogotá, he realized it wasn’t really that bad in Bogota, even though he had thought so before.
And that’s what happened to me. Watching the traffic around D.C. from the plane as I re-entered America after my first trip to Egypt, I could not believe how orderly the cars were. I have been in awe of it ever since. I have been to New York City, downtown Gatlinburg, Atlanta, and Charlotte, and I still have seen no traffic that would be anywhere near as disorderly and chaotic as what I saw in Egypt. I’m not trying to be hard on Egypt, which is a country I love and would love to visit again. I’m more in awe of how easy it is to drive around in the United States. It’s a real blessing, and I want to be thankful for it.
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Principle # 9 for keeping sane and productive in an insane world: Live everyday like you were in Madrid.
When you fly across the Atlantic Ocean to Europe and beyond, you will leave in the evening and arrive in the morning. You will try to sleep in a tiny seat unless you get bumped to first class like I did one time on my way to Egypt. It won’t work out that great. You will arrive tired.
My daughter Anna and I traveled to Spain in April 2022. It was partly to visit missionaries our church supported near Barcelona. It was also partly to tour Spain. The ticket to fly into Spain and out of Barcelona was nearly the same as flying in and out of Barcelona, so I thought, why not see these two great cities and take the train to Barcelona? That’s what we did.
When we arrived in Madrid, we were tired. We checked into our hotel and both laid down to sleep. I woke up about a half an hour later and said to myself? “What am I doing sleeping? I’m in Madrid!” So, I got up, left a note for my daughter, and went out to walk around.
I did need coffee, though. I went right down the street and found that icon of Madrid: Tim Horton’s. No, the place where I walked was not one of the great tourist spots of Madrid, but it was Madrid. I loved it. I savored it. I looked at every shop, listened to every person, and observed the architecture of every building. I was in Madrid!
A year later, I went back to Madrid. I had arranged a mission trip for my church with the missionaries from Spain. We were going to go work at a camp north of Sevilla in the south of Spain. I had no idea if anyone would go, but I bought my plane ticket for the trip. It was an unheard of $375 round trip from my local regional airport in Knoxville to Madrid. I not only bought the ticket for the week of the mission trip. I would actually go one week earlier and spend a week in Madrid. If no one went on the trip and it got cancelled, what was the worst that could happen? I would spend two weeks in Spain. That did not seem like a bad downside.
The mission trip did happen, and I did spend a week in Madrid. I walked all over the city. I took tours. I visited museums. I talked to people. I tried restaurants. I loved every moment of it. I was in Madrid!
Thinking back on all this when I arrived home, I thought, what if I could live here in Tennessee like I was in Madrid? What if I saw my own city with the excitement of being in a foreign country?
It is really not that unreasonable. There are people here who have stories. There is natural beauty to see. There are animals to observe. There are restaurants to visit. There are visitors from other places. There are fascinating stories in this place. There are sites and attractions and parks and businesses and houses and architecture and events to see. So why not live here like I was in Madrid?
For me, it’s even easier. I live near Pigeon Forge, TN. Everyone wants to come here. Everyone loves it. Everyone wants to move here. I own a home for which I pay less per month than what some people pay per day for a large cabin! Can I enjoy that? Can I have that excitement like I was in Madrid?
It’s hard sometimes. We get used to things, and we get bored with them. We categorize them in our mind and stop really seeing them. But we have only scratched the surface of the places where we live. I am reminded of that when I visit foreign countries. I study the country and learn about it. I go there and am generally able to tell people things that they don’t even know about their own country. I have had the reverse experience here. People visit here, and I keep learning about my own city from them. There’s more to see and know than we think. There’s more excitement than we think.
We can live each day like we were visiting a foreign country. We can capture the wonder of visiting a new destination each day. We can live each day like we had just landed in Madrid.
Thank you for taking the time to read this post. It is a series of posts where I share principles or ways of seeing things that have helped keep me sane and productive in the midst of raising seven kids, pastoring churches for 19 years, getting higher degrees, and traveling the world. I hope that you find them helpful and that I’ll see you here again. Subscribe below to keep updated on the posts.