107. He can’t not give.

I had the privilege yesterday afternoon of briefly meeting an amazing man whose wife shared with me the story of his lifelong commitment to helping and giving to others.

I found myself, once again, in a doctor’s waiting room and as I was impatiently looking at my watch some 40 minutes past the given time of my appointment a lady sitting next to me began a conversation.

As I listened to what she had was telling me it dawned on me that perhaps I should spend more time in doctor’s waiting rooms as this is the second time in just over a week that I have been introduced to remarkable people.

She was proudly speaking of her husband who is struggling with a long and difficult respiratory illness that has kept him home for over a year and has forced him to close a business he inherited from his father and has run for the past 40 years.

This couple is from a small rural community and the local general store has been in the family “forever.”

Her late father-in-law had purchased the store in the 1950s and her husband had taken it over when his father passed away in early 1974.

The store served not only the small community in which they live but also the surrounding population of some 50,000 people and over the years her husband became known as a man who went out of his way to be of service to other’s.

In this day of gigantic big-box stores where customer service is always on backorder it was indeed refreshing to listen to this lady speak with obvious pride for the way in which her husband went out of his way at all times to help others

Imagine a store today where the owner routinely packs a little extra into every shopping bag whenever you purchase something.

Her husband had long made it a personal practice to give his customers more value than they paid for and regardless of what they purchased he always added something extra at no cost.

If the customer brought fruit, he would throw in a few extra apples. If the customer bought meat he would add a few extra hamburger patties and his kindness and generosity did not stop there.

No matter what the need of his customer, he set out to fill it. If the customer was going through financial difficulties he would simply do something that doesn’t exist anymore in the year 2015. He would send them on their way with whatever they needed with the simple request to “Pay whenever you can, don’t worry about it.”

Over the years he has helped dozens of people get through tough times by providing food and necessary household items, never turning away anyone in need.

On many occasions he would make home deliveries, often driving 40 or more miles to deliver a $5 item to someone sick at home, at no additional cost and quite often when doing so would provide a little help around the customer’s house.

It was not uncommon for him when delivering groceries to an elderly community member to change a lightbulb, shovel the snow sidewalk or take a few minutes to cut the grass before he went on to his way.

He also volunteered at the local hospital and local senior’s home and even on occasion at the local school to help children of recent immigrants become proficient in English.

His wife told me than her husband had acquired his never-ending kindness and generosity from his own parents who taught him that service to others is, “The greatest work there is.”

He has been was a lifelong practitioner of The Habit of Selfless Giving and he has lived his life this way without any expectation of receiving anything in return.

A little over a year ago her husband’s illness “came out of nowhere” and it soon became apparent that he would not be able to continue running the store and serving the people he so loved.

Word of his illness spread to the community people

And then a strange thing happened.

Members of the community, many of whom had long been recipients of his kindness, took it upon themselves to reciprocate.

In less than 30 days more than $165,000 was donated to a special find set up specifically to help them through these difficult times. And the fund continues to grow.

Knowing that he was a proud man, many people quietly dropped off bags of groceries and household items at his door to be discovered later.

The outpouring of love and support for this man was overwhelming and has continued unabated for almost a year.

Sadly his condition has deteriorated and, with her eyes misting over, she told me that she did not believe he would be around much longer but she knew his legacy of always giving and serving others would remain a part of the community forever.

They have never been able to accumulate much as they gave away “to those more needy” most of what they earned and she told me of the enormous gratitude they both feel to members of their community for the enormous outpouring of love, support and assistance they have received since the husband became ill.

With a broad smile she told me that all attempts to say thank you had been met with the response of “We’re just returning the favour.”

And through the kindness of those folks “returning the favour” she knows she will be financially comfortable in her remaining years.

She said her husband often repeated his favourite phrase that there is no greater gift one can ever provide for oneself than to do something for another that puts a smile on their face.

The Habit of Selfless Giving while being of enormous help to many others, has given this delightful couple more joy than anything imaginable.

A few moments later when her husband came back to the waiting area his wife introduced us and as I stood up to greet him I accidentally dropped the book I had been reading on the floor. Her husband, a desperately ill and severely arthritic man in his 80s, immediately bent over and picked it up for me before I had a chance to do so myself.

He couldn’t help himself. He doesn’t know how not to serve others.

I felt humbled by this brief encounter and I went home rehashing my conversation with his wife over and over in my head.

I learned a wonderful lesson yesterday and I really am going to put off a lot more effort into ensuring that The Habit of Selfless Giving becomes a greater part of my life.

After all, what could possibly be the downside?

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.

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They said he wouldn’t, he said he would.

Yesterday morning while sitting waiting for an appointment with a doctor, I was wondering what to write about for this, the third blog on The Habit of the Glass Being Half Full.

Deep in thought it took me a moment to realize that the voice I was hearing to my left was that of an elderly man sitting next to me waiting his turn.

I turned to look at him and saw the warmest, most welcoming smile imaginable. He looked at me and said, “You don’t look like you belong here, you look the picture of health what brings you here today?

I answered that my visit was routine and, as politeness dictates, reciprocated with the same question.

He looked at me with a mischievous smile on his face and said, “Well, the doctor insists that I see him every month but my real reason for coming here is to rub his nose in it at every opportunity I get.

“You see, four years ago they told me that all the tests I had undergone revealed a form of cancer and that I should best put my affairs in order as I would most likely have less than six months to live.

“Naturally when I heard that my first reaction was a sense of devastation. But then I remembered something really important.

“Many years ago my son and daughter-in-law were killed in a tragic car accident and my wife and I were left to raise Brandon, their only child.

“Brandon’s been part of our lives ever since the day he moved into our home, barely old enough to walk. He has lived with us and has been a delightful reminder of our own son and has given us the blessed opportunity and honour of raising our own grandson.

“When they told me I didn’t have much time left I thought of Brandon. From his earliest childhood he has talked of wanting to grow up and be a doctor just like his dad. I had made him a promise many years ago that when he graduated from medical school I would buy him the gift of his choice and we would celebrate with a special dinner, catered by his favourite restaurant in our home, and dedicate the evening to his parents.

“Brandon was in his first year of medical school and four years seemed such a long way away. But, you know, a promise is a promise and I decided there and then that not only would the disease not kill me in six months but that I would live long enough to keep my promise to attend the graduation dinner and beyond that watch my grandson get married and hold my great grandchildren in my arms before I left this earth.

“That thought immediately changed my life and I became instantly doubt-free as to my survivability and the reason I’m here today is to remind the doctor that my diagnosis was better than his, and we are excitedly looking forward to that wonderful evening.

“I’m also here to thank him for all these years of support, for encouraging me to believe in myself and to believe that I could beat an unbeatable disease, and never doubting, never challenging my assertion that I would win.

“You know, this is been a wonderful learning experience for both my wife and me as it has taught us that the impossible is possible, miracles will occur, and that we do have a great deal of control over how our lives unfold.

A few minutes later he was called into the doctor’s office and some 20 minutes passed before he came out, put on his coat and on his way out the door approached me and said, “Even more good news. He doesn’t want to see me for six more months. I have to make an appointment which means I have at least six more months to live because we all know we can’t keep a doctor waiting.”

His story, his humour and his zest for life was such a powerful reminder that the more we adopt The Habit of the Glass Being Half Full into our lives the better the outcome will always be.

It sure is interesting how events in our lives are determined by the perspective we bring to them.

This wonderful man proved to me that it truly ‘ain’t over till it’s over,’ and I very much doubt that it will be over for him for many, many more years to come.

The Habit of the Glass Being Half Full – it’s not a helpful habit, it’s essential.

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.

105. Can a glass of water determine your fate?

If ever there was a time to adopt The Habit of the Glass Being Half Full, that time is now.

Particularly if you live in Alberta.

Living in Alberta is a constant reminder of the dependency of our provincial economy on the price of oil and, as you are no doubt well aware, the price of oil has been plummeting like a rock, resting temporarily at a price not seen in years, before plunging to even deeper lows.

Just yesterday, one of the larger energy companies announced the pending layoff of 1,000 of its employees. Certainly other companies will follow suit and there will be more to come.

Having never been laid off from a job I have no personal frame of reference for this experience but I can only imagine the levels of fear coursing through the veins of tens of thousands of Albertans who toil in the energy industry.

News like yesterdays does nothing to ease the fear and I’m sure many are wondering not if, but when, their time to be sent home will come.

Each of these unfortunate souls will be faced with the difficult dilemma of trying to replace their jobs and income in a depressed market.

This won’t be easy.

But the potential to develop rewarding opportunity out of disastrous circumstance is there for all.

None of us can raise the price of oil and none of us can repair the economy. It is out of our control.

It is what it is.

Many of these folks will sadly spend days, weeks and possibly months lamenting their plight while experiencing unwanted, uncomfortable and unpleasant changes in their lifestyle.

Others will see opportunity and use this time to seek better, longer-lasting and more meaningful employment or will create other means to provide and produce income.

The Habit of the Glass Being Half Full, for those who have absorbed it into their very being, is 180° away from those who don’t.

Adopters of this habit, perhaps after having given themselves a few days to mourn the loss of their job, vent their anger, and curse the world, will use this opportunity to energize themselves into a busy rebranding mode and will seek any and every occasion to replace what they lost with something even better.

These folks, rather than being paralyzed by circumstance will be galvanized into action and will fearlessly, and with confidence, while brushing aside all challenges, do whatever is necessary to regain what they’ve lost and will not allow their inability to control the economy to influence their ability to control their destiny.

These are the folks who understand the immutable power of The Habit of the Glass Being Half Full and realize at a deep, visceral level, that the only meaning on any and every event in our lives is the meaning we choose to place upon it.

That is the only possible meaning.

And the meaning that they will place upon this event is one that will leave them better off and further ahead, happier and more fulfilled because they get that their destiny rests within them and not in the hands of a person who, with the stroke of a pen, took away their paycheck.

It is fascinating to read that some of the greatest wealth acquired in history was done so during times of recession, setback and shortages, for it is in times like these that those live by The Habit of the Glass Being Half Full do not allow shame, doubt or fear to enter their consciousness – and if it does, they shove it aside – instead they simply view what has happened to them as a circumstance and redirect their lives in a positive and energized manner.

The experts tell us that 2015, particularly in Alberta, will be a tough year.

Those adherents of The Habit of the Glass Being Half Full will tell you that 2015 will be a year like any other year and they will do whatever they can, within their power, to make it the best, transformative life here of their lives.

Each of these affected folks will be faced with the same choices and the course of action each takes will be determined quite simply by the meaning they place on the level of water they see in the glass.

Exercise wisely your power of choice.

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.

104. We could all use a grandma like this.

Last week I introduced The Habit of the Glass Being Half Full and yesterday morning I received a call from Frederick who told me about his grandmother, Miriam.

Miriam was a young girl, growing up in Germany when one day her life was turned upside down by the sudden arrival of a group of soldiers who came out of nowhere, rounded up her entire family and shuffled them off to a train.

She spent two days on the train, crowded in a cattle car with no food, water or washroom facilities.

When the train stopped she was separated from her family and never again saw the parents, her brother, and her two aunts and her grandfather.

Somehow, Miriam miraculously survived the next few years and after the war made her way first to France and then to London where, at age 23, she met a young man, Harry, who too was a concentration camp survivor.

They married and raised three children including Hannah, Frederick’s mother.

For most of his youth, Frederick shared a home with his parents and grandparents and, as his parents were both required to work, he spent much time with his beloved grandmother.

One day, when she deemed him to be old enough to understand, she told Frederick the story of her final few moments with her own mother.

They all knew what was about to happen when the train came to a halt and they were ordered off, and her final memory was of her mother kissing her gently on the forehead and instructing her to, “Keep smiling things will be better tomorrow.”

Those were the last words Miriam ever heard from her mother and watched helplessly as her whole family was dragged away by men in uniform.

Miriam told Frederick that every day spent in the horror of that camp was a day for her to remember those final words, “Keep smiling, things will be better tomorrow.”

After being liberated from that camp Miriam found herself alone, afraid and uncertain about what the future held but she stoically reminded herself daily of the need to, “Keep smiling for tomorrow will be better.”

And she practised thinking about a better tomorrow, about a happier tomorrow about a tomorrow filled with every dream she’d ever had and she slowly began to build a life for herself.

In France, she endeavored to learn the language as rapidly as she could while doing menial jobs to survive, all the while believing in a better tomorrow.

Frederick went on to say Miriam’s life was filled with challenges from the early death of her beloved Harry to the challenge of raising three children on her own while managing her own health problems.

He said he never once saw his grandma without a smile on her face and a conviction that screamed that matter whatever happens today, tomorrow will be better. Miriam found opportunity in every disaster and possibility in every challenge and her mantra shaped Frederick into the successful and always optimistic man he has become today.

Frederick lost Miriam five years ago when at age 91 she succumbed to a respiratory disease.

As she lay dying with her family gathered around her bedside Frederick’s swears her final act was to take his hand in hers, put a smile on her face and say “Keep smiling for tomorrow will be better.”

The Habit of the Glass Being Half Full was Miriam’s gift to a family and to the world and Frederick believes that her commitment to this habit of endless optimism was what enabled his beloved grandmother to not only endure the many hardships that life threw her way but to beat each and every one of them.

The Habit of the Glass Being Half Full.

Sure as heck beats the alternative.

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.