When I was teaching my autistic students 

with, what I thought, was enthusiasm and verve

the parents of the students I taught would oftentimes observe.


And though it’s been many years since I retired

since I left that life behind

two parents in particular…stick out in my mind.


One parent thought I could do no wrong…she thought I was a saint

The other thought everything I did was wrong…a saint, she thought…he ain’t!


I’ill admit when it came to the first parent my ego needed to practice little restraint…

I mean I was doing the best I could but please…really….me…a saint!


And when it came to the second parent my ego needed a little boost..

Again…I was doing the best I could but was I as bad as she deduced?


When my clearer head prevailed after their praise and criticism were dispersed…

I know I wasn’t the best teacher in the world…nor was I the worst.


I did do some things well and so I felt some of the first parent’s praise I earned

while the second parent reminded me…I still had a lot to learn.


These parents taught me how praise could put me on cloud nine

while criticism could cut me like a knife…

in my jobs

my friendships

my marriage

in my parenting…my life


It was probably one of the greatest lessons that I have ever had…

Teaching me to improve on any good I do while learning from the bad.


Even now, when that first parent’s doubt enter my mind…

when I find my confidence is faint…

I smile remembering there’s at least one person out there

who thinks I am a saint.


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There are times when I’ve looked in the mirror and thought

certain parts of me I’d like to undo them

but the older I get the more I realize

it’s all in how I view them.


When I see how old my face looks…

I could lament my wrinkles and my scars…

or rejoice in the knowledge that I’ve been blessed

to have made it in life…this far.


I could lament that I wear glasses

that my vision’s not crisp and clean…

or rejoice knowing with my glasses

all the beautiful things I’ve seen.


I’ve seen our children and grandchildren grow up

I’ve seen nature’s beauty all around me

and everywhere I look

I see how my family’s love surrounds me,


I could look in the mirror at my ears 

and lament their enormous shape and size

or rejoice that with these ears

I have heard our babies’ cries.


These ears have heard all kinds of music, 

our children’s and grandchildren’s first words

They’ve heard every sound from a lion’s roar

to the chirping of the birds.


Besides…when I stop and think about it…

when everything is done…and everything’s been said

If I didn’t have these big ears…

how would I attach my glasses to my head?


So the next time I look in the mirror

and see all my different parts that seem defective…

I’ll turn around and try looking again


this time from a new perspective

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Watching a sunset the other night accompanied by a cool Atlantic breeze

I remembered something my granddaughter once said…

and I got down on my knees.


We were also watching a sunset when I heard, “PopPop pick me up.” 

her reasoning was clear

“I want to see what you see…everything looks different from down here.”


I guess I hadn’t thought much about it ’til then…

I wasn’t as introspective

but she was right…

so much of how we see life has to do with our perspective…


When we look out on the world what we see is the sum

of who we are, of what we know…and where we’re looking from.


Our shared view of that sunset was different for her than it was for me

mine was colored by age, experience and time…

hers was more innocent and free.


When I picked her up, here eyes widened and she whispered in my ear,

“I can’t believe how beautiful the sun looks from up here”.


And I whispered back, “I only hope from wherever you may stand

as you grow up, your view of the world, will always be this grand”.


And as for me I hope that childhood innocence is something I’ll never lose…

as I try to experience what the world looks like from a myriad of views


Which is why when I stand watching a sunset these days…

in the cool of an evening breeze

and I remember something my granddaughter said…


I get down on my knees

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I took a walk in the moonlight this morning…

In the cool breeze while I watched how the leaves around me shook

I was struck how the way we think about ourselves 

can be determined by where we look.


When I looked at the ants down by my feet

I realized how huge I am…

how important…

how tall…

But when I gazed upon the stars

I realized…


how small.

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I found out recently my body is making too many red blood cells

and although this news…I didn’t love it

It only means, every now and then, when it comes to my blood…

the doctor takes some of it.


So I’m in the doctor’s office as the doctor’s needle begins to take hold…

And I’m feeling a little sorry for myself…wondering…when did I get so old.


Then I look around the room I’m in and what should I happen to see

But 3 other men with needles in their arms…sitting next to me.


Only they weren’t having blood drawn…although stuck with a needle just like me

they were in for cancer treatments…hooked up to IV’s.


The man across from me was sleeping 

the man in the corner was trying to find a way

to get comfortable. “Because”, he said,

“I’ll be her most of the day.”


When I smiled at the man sitting on my left he said, “It’s not as bad as it appears.”

“It’s something you get used to…I’ve been coming here 10 years.


I finished quickly and as I was leaving a man using a walker, barely clinging to life

struggled to walk in on his own…followed by his wife.


As I looked back I heard the wife say, “he’s cold”

and as the nurse pulled a blanket off the shelf

I felt a little ashamed…for feeling sorry for myself.


It’s true when I first sat down so they could take my blood

I was feeling a little blue…

but a little change of perspective 

quickly changed my point of view.


As once again I was reminded

how life is a continuous quest

and I should think less about my troubles


and more about how I’m blessed.

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Life’s a funny thing…you have certain expectations…fixed objectives

then something comes along…that changes your perspective.


Many years ago I had my heart set on receiving an award…

I was one expectant nominee

until I received a letter explaining how not everyone could win…

and not everyone…was me.


The moment I finished reading my rejection letter 

I received a call from an old friend, Lee.

Doctor’s found cancer in her husbands leg…

it had been amputated above the knee.


I drove immediately to the hospital (It was a scary, anxious ride)

where I found Phil in bed…he was smiling…and Lee seated by his side.


At that time, Phil and Lee were in their 80’s

I’d known them 15 years

We tried to make each other smile and laugh

and forget about our fears.


We talked about the life they’ve lived…of children, grandchildren…careers

and when it was time to go…Phil wanted to kiss…his wife of 60 years.


But he had trouble raising up and she was unstable on her feet

so with one gentle hug I pushed their heads together 

and allowed their lips to meet.


As we left Lee took my arm and when we finally reached her car.

She said, “Sometimes, in life, Jim, we tend to forget how fortunate we are.”


“We worry about so many little things,” she said as she got in to drive,

“but today, the only thing that matters is that Phil is still alive.”


I smiled, put my head in through the window then gave her cheek a kiss

and as I watched her drive away…alone…that award…I didn’t miss.


Perhaps that’s why I’m never too upset when life 

isn’t the way I’d like it to be…

It goes back to the day my perspective changed


In a hospital room…with Phil and Lee.

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Two people at a city park…in relative obscurity…

One man frowning, pacing to and fro…

the other sat smiling in the shade of an old oak tree.


It was a beautiful day. 

The sun was shining.

There’s was breeze blowing in from the sea…

But look how different the two appeared…

What could cause such a discrepancy?


Wanting to know the reason

I set aside my book

and maneuvered into position

to have a closer look.


The answer was quite simple

It seems both men were assessing…

One was adding up all his troubles…

while the other…counted blessings.


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