Category Archives: Courage

For Love of the Game

Opening day for another great season of baseball.

As it does each year, it brings with it the reminders of why we love the game…
The National Anthem played while the boys stand there with their hats held across their hearts, the smell of burgers and popcorn fill the air, volunteers everywhere, little siblings running up and down the bleachers-laughing, screaming, crying because they just dropped their ice cream-parents cheering for each and every kid on the team as if they were their own.

Yes, a sense of family is born each season- and with that, means teaching the boys to be humble for days that end with a win and dust off the clay when losses come their way, learn from them and keep on, keeping on.  I venture to say this is true in most aspects of our lives.

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What made today really awesome not only for my son but for all the players and parents was the umpire.

Charles is unlike any other. We have had the pleasure of getting to know him for a few seasons now. An Army veteran and former player himself-once upon a time was recruited and played for a Minor league team with dreams of making it big before repeated injuries set him on a slightly different path. Charles has a true passion for the game, and brings with him a genuine care and concern for each and every player. Often taking time to offer words of encouragement, give specific pointers, strutting his goofy dance moves on the field, always calling a fair game and keeping the kids and parents laughing with his amazing sense of humor and love of life.

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He serves as a wonderful reminder that regardless of the obstacles we must overcome and where we work, we can do it with passion, to the best of our ability and  seize   every opportunity to make meaningful connections with others.

I thank him for his service to our country and to the kids in our community especially #42.

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Nature’s Arena

Mostly it is loss which teaches us about the worth of things.

~Arthur Schopenhauer 

This has been a difficult time for many in our community- countless firefighters and other first responders working tirelessly to put out this massive wildfire in our area- many elderly impacted by the enormous amounts of smoke, people without power, school children evacuated, can’t get to work, stuck in traffic and can’t get home.

Yesterday, one of my students and his family now have no house to go home to. None of their belongings were saved.  Yet they are simply happy to be alive.

“I once cried because I had no shoes then I met a man who had no feet.”

Keeping life in perspective.

I hope this serves as a small, gentle reminder to begin and end each day with a grateful heart.

The Comforts of the Shadow

In the shadow of ourselves we worry not. We punch the time clock promptly @ 5 pm and hurry home to prop our feet up and forget about the day. Not a minute more will we exert ourselves for that  crappy paying job.  In the comfort of the shadow, we proclaim the police or local neighborhood watch group will take care of the recent string of burglaries wreaking havoc all around us. Never does it occur- that we should stand guard.

The shadow is our safety net; it is what author Steven Pressfield refers to in his book The War of Art as Resistance.  Resistance is the consummate lover of fear, rationalization as to why you can’t or won’t do what your heart longs  to do. This clever enemy will suffocate your soul with self doubt and familial critics.

It is a slow and sinister dance with the devil disguised as your Muse.

Steady your gait, feet properly aligned, eyes fixated on the rope, slow your breathing. Yes! You’ve done it. You peer back at the tightrope with great adulation. The rope is 20 feet off the ground and the net gleams with pride. With a sly grin and a wink of the eye, Resistance calls it a night. His work is done.

Nik Wallenda, the American acrobat has set nine Guinness World Records walking tightropes and riding bicycles at great heights soaring far above packed soil.

He got out of his way and chucked the net.

Ever breathed in the endless beauty of Yosemite National Park? Walked quietly among the Badlands?yosemite-national-park-landscape-scenery

Teddy Roosevelt stepped out of the shadow of his unspeakable grief and preserved these natural wonders and wildlife  into an everlasting gift of 150 million acres of national forests, created the USFS and many national parks throughout the land that we still enjoy today.

Whatever calling or gift we possess within us- story teller, healer, protector, acrobat or conservationist must be excised from the soft silhouette and catapulted into the world.

Be not among the timid souls but dare greatly in stepping out from the comforts of the shadow and into The Arena.

Lessons from the Trail

She broke the world record by hiking the entire Appalachian Trail which runs from Georgia to Maine… in 46 days.  

Pretty dang impressive!

The calls and requests for interviews came quickly for Jennifer Pharr Davis. What were her stats? How many calories per day did she eat per day? How many pairs of shoes did she go through?  As she stood in front of our high school students recently sharing her remarkable and courageous journey she noted that ‘not one of the reporters asked her what she learned or how she felt, what obstacles did she endure and overcome’ while trekking through fourteen states. She admits she was pleased with this record however that was not what was most important.

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She had made this hike before as a young recent college graduate looking for something greater then your typical 9-5 job.  She found it on her first hike -which on average takes 5-6 months, hiking through the 14 states that make up the AT.  With a wry sense of humor about her extreme exhaustion, foul smell and wanting to quit, she pressed on… one step at a time.  Battling nature’s elements, meeting people from all walks of life(if you ever get to hear her speak, ask her about the stalker), seeing her inner strength shine through in a way she had never seen before and most importantly, discovering and learning to love and believe in herself.

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Since her capture of the world record in 2011, someone else has gone on to beat her by only three hours.  While she admits that stings just a bit, it’s ok because no one will ever be able to take away the incredible journey, lessons and love for the Appalachian Trail.

Her experience has in fact led her on a different path; one that she didn’t plan or anticipate.  She has gone on to travel the world hiking many of the long trails on six different continents including hiking all 50 states with her now four year old daughter. And has since started sharing her passion and love for hiking and nature with others by founding the Blue Ridge Hiking Company and gave her first Ted Talk awhile back.

What I know for sure… there is a tremendous opportunity to connect with others through storytelling.   When we truly take the time to listen, ask questions, show empathy and allow ourselves to be vulnerable with our stories,  we often will see ourselves through their journey. This connection can happen anywhere- with students in the classroom, book clubs, chatting with an old veteran or coworkers working the midnight shift at the hospital.

While many of us are driven towards accomplishing our goals and dreams, perhaps the greatest moments and memories of our lives are when we trust the journey of the path unknown.

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Paying Tribute

Since the news and  social media have taken the time in honoring celebrities who’ve died this year, I think it certainly warrants paying tribute to those who leaned in, served our country honorably in the United States Armed Forces and also passed away in 2016. 

May God Bless them all. 
🇺🇸Staff Sgt. Matthew McClintock

🇺🇸Staff Sgt. Louis Cardin

🇺🇸Senior Chief Petty Officer Scott Cooper

🇺🇸Staff Sgt. Matthew Lewellen

🇺🇸Staff Sgt. Kevin McEnroe

🇺🇸Staff Sgt. James Moriarty

🇺🇸Capt. Andrew Byers

🇺🇸Sgt. 1st. Class Ryan Gloyer

🇺🇸Staff Sgt. Adam Thomas

🇺🇸1st Lt. Jeffrey Cooper

🇺🇸Staff Sgt. Matthew Thompson

🇺🇸Staff Sgt. Christopher Wilbur

🇺🇸Lt. Col Flando Jackson

🇺🇸1st Lt. Anais Tobar

🇺🇸Gunneris Mate Seaman Connor McQuagge

🇺🇸1st Lt. David Bauders

🇺🇸1st Class Charles Keating

🇺🇸Lt. James Lions

*this is not a complete list


Lessons Learned from a 7 year old

A few times a month I have the privilege of visiting, playing games with and helping kids with homework at our local children’s emergency abuse shelter.  They have taught me way more than I could ever have imagined.

On my most recent visit, I walked into the common area-the living room of sorts to meet my friend  ‘Shelby.’  She greeted me with a slight smile, her big blue eyes and a “Hi, Ms. Pepper.” I asked her where she wanted to sit. “In the corner on that rug” she replied. The area rug was full of vibrant colors; blue, red, green,  and orange. The aide wheeled her over and helped her out of the wheelchair to the floor.

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We sat together taking turns reading with casual conversation in between.  One of her favorite books and mine is the Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams because -‘the rabbit my Mom gave me looks just like that one.’ She said her Mom used to read it to her- that was before she left them.

As we were setting up the Game of Life, she softly said, “Ms. Pepper, Daddy didn’t mean to break my legs.”  My heart sank and eyes began to tear up as I glanced over at her casted legs.

Here was a 7 year old precious little girl to whom I barely know, sharing her story and scars with me.  

What is so remarkable is despite her Mother leaving  and the incomprehensible act of her Dad physically abusing her, she chose to see the goodness in and offer forgiveness to those who hurt her.  She allowed herself to be vulnerable, Real and open to  love just like the Velveteen Rabbit.

As we carried on with our Game of Life and laughing along the way, I noticed how cold and sterile the common area felt like a hospital cafeteria or waiting room. The walls were stark white, the couch was old and musty, the chairs at the table were small and hard.

Shelby chose to find the one part of the room that had life and color.  The courage, optimism and strength of this precious child will serve her well on her journey through life.

On this Thanksgiving Day,  a sweet little girl will be on my mind.

I am thankful for my time with her and know our friendship will remain strong as she helps remind me that we always have a choice of how we look at life.

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Wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving!

The MDL

Sitting around a campfire awhile back at a leadership conference with three people I had never met before and a kind, father like figure to me, I told my story.  This was not the bits and pieces I had offered up on rare occasions with a couple close friends over the course of my lifetime. I spoke the truth of the physical, sexual and emotional abuse and neglect that I endured over the course of several years and survived as a young girl, the overwhelming sense of shame that I felt and how this ultimIMG_3825ately determined my purpose  while here on God’s great earth.

From the words of a dear friend, this was the Mission- Decision- Line.  It meant there was no turning back- I was now on a forward trajectory in continuing  to share my story.

I feared judgment and waited nervously for feedback as I was ‘sure’ they were anxious to change the serious tone of our campfire outing.

 

That didn’t happen.

 

A slight sense of relief quickly came as they embraced the personal battles I had “overcome with tremendous inner strength.”

Shame has no power when given a voice.

While this was an obvious ‘tap on the shoulder’ moment, the true M-D-L came to me a number of years prior- standing along a beautiful scenic overlook along the George Washington Parkway on a cold, early April evening.

For the first time in my life, I took a leap of faith and decided to trust someone.

That spot is sacred ground to me- and will always be one that remains so vividly in my heart and mind. Standing there with a cool drizzle coming down upon our heads overlooking Memorial Bridge, the calm waters – I felt an overwhelming sense of peace, tranquility and a need to free myself of the pain buried inside all those years. Earlier that evening, TS had trusted me enough to share some painful experiences of his own. Oblivious to what he had just done; he opened the door of healing- I believe for both of us.

That night, I chose to give up my dependency on pills. I chose to cross the bridge of trust.

I chose to open my heart. I chose to live and serve others.

I am forever grateful.

Personal and professional growth often comes with a price-discomfort. Lingering thoughts and questions are often thrown about in our minds when facing obstacles and the ever looming uncomfortable thought of “I am not enough”-

Will I be judged?  Most likely.

Will I make mistakes? Probably.

Can I trust others? Only one way to find out-by giving it a shot.

Our scars and the miles we run on this journey  are what makes us unique, strong, beautiful, imperfect, courageous and hopefully  provides us with enough fuel to  cross the finish line of what is sure to be a worth while life…

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