“From what we get, we can make a living; what we give, however, makes a life.” – Arthur Ashe
I’m not a big fan of cliches. They are used too frequently without thought and just products of repetitive statements we use during complex situations that certainly require something of more value and sentiment to the recipient.
I was thinking of one in particular. “I’m here for you” or “I’m there for you”. I get the basic gist of it – a simple offering of support and maybe a little more but what should it mean? I guess I could devote a great deal of analysis to these statements but my evaluation is centered around what I’ve meant when saying it in the past compared to now, and what it’s meant when offered in my direction.
Thinking of when I used to say it, I pretty much meant it literally. I’d be “here” for someone but they’d have to generally come to where I was if they needed something important. I was “there” for someone but not really. I was usually at a safe distance so that I would be unable or unwilling to get “there”. Not always and maybe not intentionally but in thinking back, too frequently.
In addition, I find little comfort when someone says “I’m there for you” when going through tough times. I really don’t need a congregation of people at where I’m at since I already know how I got “there” and don’t like where “there” is at. I may not expect the answers but it won’t help me to have company “there”. What is needed is a temporary escape from “there” and maybe another mind and set of eyes to show me a possible way to get out of “there” because a cascade of thoughts and emotions sometimes complicates the recognition of the simplest and most logical solutions.
I know, this sounds like a bad comedy bit but here’s the point. Now when I say “I’m here for you”, it means that when called upon, I will be “there with you.” I understand that trying to provide a quick solution to a complex dilemma generally leads down a more complex path or at times, proving to be more destructive. I do know that taking someone from where they may be (figuratively and/or literally), slowing things down, maybe mixing a genuine hug and reason to smile, and letting them be heard so that they can hear themselves on the outside of their mind provides a good starting point to get out of “there”. This then challenges the best parts of myself by seeing what that person (not me) is capable of doing and offering small guidance about what might be done to slowly take their initial steps somewhere else. Importantly they will know that if needed, I will support and help them up (not carry) when they stumble and fall. More importantly I will reinforce them on the best direction because it’s their obligation to “make it happen” for themselves.
This is a lot of words but a simple point I hope you recognize. By who you are, you have the best potential to be difference makers. By virtue of how you were raised and the nature of your character, personality, compassion, morality, and fundamental beliefs, you can provide so much of the best part of who you are to others. I’m not just talking about the obvious targets like girlfriends or family but also friends and acquaintances who are reluctant to demonstrate the hidden cracks on their hearts and souls.
How often do we ask “what’s wrong” and get a response like “I’m fine” or “okay” (save that discussion for another day) and settle for it when we know things are absolutely the opposite. I won’t ask “what you are waiting for” but more “why are you waiting”? You are no longer the “innocents” of my generation but increasingly responsible and accountable for your generation. If you want a perfect world, time to start perfecting the world around you and see if it can be expanded a bit at a time through your own acts of kindness based on your own goodness.
I’ll end with the words of a U2 song. “A broken (or injured) heart is an open heart” so if you recognize it, maybe that’s the time you could really be “there” to help it heal – this is separate and apart from romantic relationships but on a more profound scale. Simple gestures might just lead to small miracles. Either way, I’ve been “here for you”, will be “there with you”, and help you get away from “there”, and always will! It’s not hard to find me, you know?
So think about what you say to someone and the actual real meaning behind it and then, give more meaning afterwards to what you just said because one day you may be the one person they need to rely on! It may be a heavier burden than anticipated but sometimes, affirmations that evidence your character may also call upon untempered accountability so that the perfect world you’re looking for might reveal itself beyond your horizons.
After watching my dad love me, I hoped one day I’d love my own child too;
When I asked for a child, He decided to give me two;
When I held my sons the first time, I still can’t hold them enough;
I once helped them take their first steps, now they’re faster than me;
When I prayed they’d be healthy, the Lord decided to make them athletes too;
I prayed that they’d be safe, now they stick up for others;
I wanted them to be kind, and now they’re full of compassion;
I hoped that they’d listen to me, now I listen to them;
I shared with them my thoughts, now they think for themselves;
I gave them my best guidance, now they’ve learned to lead others;
I’ve taught them about life, now they know how beautiful it can be;
They’ve changed the world I lived in, now they’re changing their own;
I’ve seen them grow older every day, now it seems they’ve grown up too fast;
And though they know I love them, I doubt they’ll ever know how much;
I was able to give them life, they were able to give me the best of everything;
I see why I wanted to be like my dad, I only wished he was here to see how I did;
I’ve been blessed with two sons, but the miracle was the father they made me;
God rewarded my wish to be a dad like mine, and I know one day my sons will be even better ones. – Joe Dico
(I wrote the following about Christian almost exactly four years ago when he was 13 years-old and seemed worth revisiting on his birthday. Now as he turns 17 and one year away from starting his baseball career at the University of Washington, it almost seems too profetic after I saw what was emerging from him way back when this dream seemed so far down the road!
“Keep on beginning and failing. Each time you fail, start all over again, and you will grow stronger until you have accomplished a purpose … not the one you began with perhaps, but one you’ll be glad to remember.”
Failure doesn’t occur until the moment you stop trying. Even worse is if you never risk making any attempt or effort at all because it may damage what is only our ego and/or vanity – sadly that only means we’re too timid to test our courage and determination. Such a mindset is the most tragic because it serves as a better measure of our character and future direction but then again, if there was never an attempt for success, there’s no failure to compare it to and I suppose there’s a false security in that for those who choose such an approach.
I guess for many people, there’s some safety and resulting comfort in never exploring beyond the limited aspirations they’ve set forth because there’s too much uncertainty in the unknown. That’s probably a blissful and comfortable existence but for me, I just have an overwhelming desire to satisfy my curiosity, especially about things that challenge the fulfillment of what I want.
As I often do, I look back at everything good and bad that’s occurred in my life and the one essential part of the equation leading to the results of all those things has been one ingredient – ME. Did you know in high school I only applied to one college, USC, and that was for a couple of reasons. It’s the only place I wanted to go and, my family didn’t have a lot of money for me to fill out too many college applications. My grades were decent but I’m pretty sure I was accepted because I wrote a “kick-ass” application letter about why they should accept me and as you know, they did. However countering that, I also thought I’d be in love forever so that among other things canceled out my plans for USC at the time with the hope I would go there at a later time. Interesting choice on my part at the time and we all know where that thought led me but then again, I would not have found Mom and I have no regrets about the alternative outcome.
I also wanted to go to law school and while there, I honestly wasn’t at the top of my class because I knew the real prize was the bar exam and balancing working full-time, a (very) active social life, and a girlfriend who would be my wife, stretched my resources rather thin during the four years I was there. However after graduating, that’s when I shifted gears to study for the exam and passed it the first time around when 60-70% of others didn’t with some never passing even after multiple attempts. To this day I’m not sure how that happened because as I’ve mentioned before, I found out that my father had terminal cancer the night before the exam began and it would have been understandable had I been too distracted to pass. Maybe divine intervention since he passed a month afterward or I was lucky but then again, I doubt it!
The next major goal occurred after Jason was born. I was determined to invest in being a decent Dad while choosing a profession that challenges that intention so I looked for a job close to home, even though the best jobs were in LA and OC. I didn’t know “squat” about South Bay law firms but sent about 20 letters and resumes to the most interesting ones and I guess based on the way it was written, my future boss called me and after what I assume was an impressive enough interview to BS my way into getting hired, got a job at one of the best firms in So Cal, and later became a partner which is supposed to be every lawyers dream. It was not as big of a deal after a while but at least I did it which few could say. And I got to be a bigger part of not only Jason’s life but thankfully, yours! Maybe I was lucky but doubt it!
Christian, we’re alike in so many ways and maybe it’s in large part due to the time we’ve spent together since my injury and there is no precise value that could measure how grateful I am about the moments that has led us to the relationship that we now share. Some people are afraid to walk beyond what they can see because of fear of the unknown. Me, I just have to know and then respond accordingly and I see you building your confidence each day that reflects a similar approach.
Some don’t want to run in bare feet on a gravel path towards the places they want to get to because they’re afraid of falling, the cuts and bruises they’ll suffer, the dirt, etc. That’s just not a justifiable reason for me not to get there. I carry the bloodstains and scratches like a badge of honor because it means I didn’t give up even though things weren’t as smooth as I hoped for and made me more confident about the next journey ahead. I guess it’s just not within us to quit or sit still when there’s something that we feel is worth having.
It took a tortuous path that led to my injury but I guess it was just me testing a different kind of curiosity but so began a different journey that I mapped out. Was everything as smooth as I hoped for – of course not but at least I didn’t just imagine what was out there because I had to find out. I like obstacles because I enjoy the challenge of overcoming them, especially when I know the rarity of others being able to do it. Even just falling short doesn’t feel as disappointing if I at least exhausted all I had for things to result the way they did and in the end, I took something from it.
What’s pretty cool is that even though I had varying amounts of support (sometimes not a lot compared to you), all of the above were accomplished because of ME and I needed no greater incentive than what I created and demanded. Ownership of my life without excuses has made it easier to accept my shortcomings (along with accomplishments) without deflecting responsibility.
If something can’t be done, make sure that you are the one to determine what it is, with every avenue explored to make that determination. Remember that those who say you can’t do something generally never had the courage or confidence to try themselves, or just stopped pushing themselves without realizing how close they were had they kept trying a few more times. When you do it, they’ll probably say you were lucky but I doubt it since you’re already showing that you understand that there is little reason for doubt when it comes to YOU!
(Marine Sergeant Joe Dicochea, Korean War veteran, and my dad – Original Posted Memorial Day, 2015)
“Just give me tomorrow.” – unidentified Korean War Marine soldier
Jason, I think you’ll like this given your admiration of the Marine Corp.
I was watching a Military Channel documentary “Against the Odds” about a company of Marines who fought in one of more iconic battles in the history of the Corp at the Chosin Reservoir during the Korean War or “police action” as it was officially referred to. I guess this was to avoid the stigma of the conflict that ended just years before called “WWII”. I’m not sure that the soldiers in the field during the later action felt any different than the ones who were part of the earlier one. However if that description made it more palatable to the politicians and public at the time, so be it but again, I’m sure the consequences and emotions associated with the battles faced by both “boots on the ground” were vastly similar regardless of it’s presentation to the masses.
Now back to the “Frozen Chosin” and the company that eventually was known as “Bloody George” because of it’s casualty rate. Their role became famous within the grander story that makes every Marine proud to be part of that tradition. Just a quick breakdown of the story, the George Company of the 1st Division after landing on Inchon (another iconic battle) and fighting in Seoul drew, more by circumstances than choice, the responsibility of having to hold their ground serving as “Spartans” to fend off what seemed to be the inevitable annihilation of the entire division by an unexpected attack by a Chinese forces. The Chinese army vastly outnumbered them while the division battled unforgiving terrain and the most severe elements of the winter that struck during this engagement.
I was riveted in fascination by the story and interviews with the surviving members of that company. Since my father (your grandfather) was a Marine veteran of Korea who continually referred to ideals of his beloved Corp as I grew up, I look upon just about every Marine combat veteran with an abundance of respect and personal pride by just having that connection with my father as well as other family members who wore that uniform. J I know you carry that pride and still hold my father’s Marine emblem in your hand during each pre-game prayers and rituals. Interestingly, I was informed after my father’s death by a Marine Corp vet who knew my Dad that he was involved in that epic battle while he was still still only a teenager. I’ve never bothered to verify its accuracy nor do I question its veracity since it wouldn’t affect the “hero” I’ve always viewed him as during my whole life. Moreover given his character, it doesn’t surprise me that he didn’t share that information because as I’ve learned, it was an awful engagement to be a part of and it was a memory reserved for a different audience than someone who could never understand the basic and personal ferocity of war.
So back to the point (thank goodness). George Company, who continuously battled for months of fighting culminating in surviving and escaping from a relentless onslaught of attacks by the Chinese (who outnumbered them 10-1) and the environment at Chosin, were nearing the end of their organized march to the deliverance of their home base from this personal “hell”. At this juncture, a correspondent approached one of the beleaguered company and asked what probably sounded like a ridiculous question at the time considering all the Marine had been through. However his response gave a profound meaning to not just his or his comrade’s existence but served as a reminder to mine.
Paraphrasing the question to that soldier, he was asked “if I were God and I could give you anything for Christmas, what would you want?” A picture was taken of his face with the vacant stare often seen on those in combat, fatigued and almost indifferent to the death he’d witnessed, answering with this simple response: “just “give me tomorrow!”
It would take way too long to share my own history to fully capture how important those words came across to me when I first heard them and all the times I’ve repeated them in my head since then. I think of all those times when I probably exaggerated the despair over the pseudo and “faux” ordeals that I unnecessarily burdened myself with at the expense of valuable time lost and the damage it caused. As I sit where I’m at now in my life, I can only say that I’m so ashamed of myself and I apologize to my Creator for all those days I despised and destroyed, along with all those “tomorrows” whose future occurrence I dreaded – how’s that for honesty?
I understand now, and thankfully not too late given my close calls with mortality, that each day was my own personal gift with resources to invest as I saw fit and that the “tomorrows” were only a privilege with no assurance that they would ever begin. I was such an f’ing fool and I also apologize to those who continually attempted to point out the overwhelmingly numerical reasons why my life was better than the few I chose to focus on and torture myself with – again, how’s that for honesty?
So my point, especially to you Son. Never under-appreciate the simple, basic elegance of the days afforded to us since they pass out of our vision too quickly and thinking what’s ahead of us to replace it just may never be there. It shouldn’t take that particular Marine or some old guy who fell on his head leading to a massive brain bleed, with the odds numerically against them more than most others for getting another “tomorrow”, lead you to understand what is right here in front of us is the only time that we are guaranteed to make the best difference for ourselves and everything around us.
J remember what I told you: until the last sun sets on the days we are given, every tomorrow has the potential to be the best day of our lives with the odds dramatically in our favor based on what we do, how we live, and the hope we carry towards the next day and it matters not how it ultimately turns out.
So I dedicate this message to my father, the Marines, and all military veterans given that this is Memorial Day and it’s important to me that I do something even if it’s sharing this particular story and associated message. Referring to the Marine Corp credo of “semper fidelis”, I think it’s pertinent to the ideal of being “always faithful” to acting for the betterment of ourselves and those especially close to us.
In my case in thinking about the story above, if we try to practice with that faith and tragically are not “given tomorrow”, at least what is left behind for others is a memory and it should reflect the following: We did the best we could, despite any adversity we had to endure, and capitalized on every internal and external resource available to us to make a joyful difference in the only life that we’ve been given, regardless of whether our own expectations of perfection are met.
I’ll end with this quote because I’ve been waiting so long for the right opportunity and I think it relays such a strong message regardless of the particular religious beliefs that are individually adhered to.
“Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.” – Marcus Aurelius
When we begin to appreciate how remarkable even the most basic things about our children’s lives are, then we as parents can better understand that everything beyond that is nothing short of a miracle! – Joe Dico