A Change of Plans and A Lesson on Happiness

I had just finished reading from one of my favorite books and was on my way to go see a good friend. When I got to his place though, I was greeted with a pleasant surprise.

While I was reading, I forgot to respond to a text my friend had sent out. After I was done riding I quickly left without paying much attention to it. I left my place on my bike at an extremely fast pace and also getting some nice “hang time” on my bike while hopping over some fresh, overly filled, potholes. Once I got to his place though, it was too late… he had already left. 

I was a little disappointed, in my arrogance, of not checking my phone but I thought quickly, with the sudden “free time.” I drove my bike just a few minutes down the road to one of my favorite places… the train station.

It was Saturday and the time was around 10pm. The trains were still coming by dropping off the town people from a long day in the city. Some people probably were just getting back from doing some of the usual sight seeing of the “Grand Concrete Jungle,” some we’re probably getting back from a weekend shift at work, some we’re getting back from a day’s worth of shopping in a place with, in my opinion, just way too many places to shop, and some we’re getting back from hanging out with friends and enjoying a night “out on the town.”

As I peered over to the other side of the tracks, there were people whom were going the opposite way towards the “beautiful chaos” of that place we call “The City.” It’s never ending I thought and there’s just another name we call it, “The City that never sleeps.”

Then I looked over to one of the benches, and I saw one of my friends, Juan, sitting on the bench. He was casually reading the day’s news-paper with that happy grin I always see carrying around(I always saw him around town reading the newspaper). I then got his attention when I said, “Hey Juan! How are you my friend?” He responded with, “Good- good, how are you?” I asked if it was alright to sit down, and he said, “Of course,” as he set the paper down and looked to me.” The conversation was nothing but delightful. I was a little anxious before I started talking to him though. Whenever I talked to him in the past he never really was in the “talking mood.” He always gave me one or two word responses. He was always extremely polite but just was out doing his own thing and not really in the mood to chat. So, our conversations usually ended quickly.

This time, the conversation went a little different. He ended up opening up, immensely, telling me how he was 62 years old(I figured out why he always read the newspaper) and he letting me know that he was from Costa Rica. “I came over when I was younger through Mexico,” he told me. Juan, missed his country greatly but he told me that, “America is my home, and although I want to go back to my country and visit, it’s a lot tougher down there in Costa Rica.” He ended up telling me about how 20 years ago while he was working in a textile factory, the company went “under,” which then quickly prompted the loss of Juan’s job. He didn’t go much into detail about what happened after that but in short, he told me, “Times we’re really tough.”

I kept talking to him and then asked him a pretty basic question, “Juan… are you happy?” He quickly responded with, “Ohhh yes, I’m very happy.” I immediately asked him, “Why is that?” He then told me, what I thought, was special. Juan told me, “I just do whatever I want. I’m in complete control of my life, no one’s telling me when to get up, what to eat, what to drink, and no one’s telling me how much money I should make.”

Juan’s someone who’s in complete control of his life. Although, it might not be the most glamorous life, according to some people, he’s living his life and he’s living it the way he wants too. Most importantly, he’s Happy. He continued on and said, “Yeah, sometimes I walk over there, sometimes I do this, and sometimes I do that. I just do whatever I feel like doing for the day.” I then saw that he was picking up his newspaper, I was prompted to ask, “What exactly do you like to read in the paper?” He then responded with, “Oh everything, I read everything, I just check it all out.” He then gave me one of those “awesome” grins that you just can’t help but smile back. He then just shrugged his shoulders like he wanted to tell me, “Dude I just don’t care what other people think. I’m happy and that’s all there is to it. If someone wants to put me down, then… that’s okay, but I’m going to live my life the way I want to.”

To say the least, I was just so taken aback from this conversation. Mainly, because I just didn’t expect him to be so enthusiastic and open with me after all the past conversations we had, that lasted somewhere around 30 seconds. I was thrilled to have had that conversation with him.

I then asked him one more question. I didn’t have them with me this night, but I had some smoothies at my place. I asked him, Could I go get you one of my smoothies?” To that he responded politely with, “No-no, I’m good man, but thank you.” I was a little disappointed by that, but I’ll remember to try again next time I see him. One of these days maybe.

 

“Happiness doesn’t depend on any external conditions, it is governed by our mental attitude.” -Dale Carnegie

The Stranger With an Opportunity

 

It was another one of those days. Then… I talked to a stranger.

The day started off a little rocky for me. I didn’t wake up early enough to get my entire morning routine done. Moral of this little story, don’t hit snooze. Other than that, the rest of the morning and day went great. When I got up I knew what I needed to do to start the day off right and get me going.

After I got my tasks done for the company I’m subcontracting with, I headed out into the town to run some errands. First, I wanted to switch banks so I went to my current bank to cancel the account. When I got in I was greeted by that really long bank line. I reluctantly joined the rest of the people in the back of the line.

While in line, I did what a lot of us do, nowadays, when we’re waiting in line somewhere. Yup, you guessed it, I pulled out my phone. I quickly realized that I was getting deeply ingrained into my phone. Although, it was productive “phone fiddling” I soon recognized that everyone else was on their phone too. Then, I was reminded of something one of my mentors got stuck in my head, “Every moment is an Opportunity.” To say the least, I put my phone away shortly after that, and started a casual conversation with the guy next to me. The conversation wasn’t long at all. I told him what I did and he told me what he did for a living. I mentioned that the company I work with develops websites, apps, and software programs. After hearing that, he jumped a little, and then said that he started his own company on the side of what’s he’s doing and is actually, “Looking for someone to develop some things for me.”

After that, we each got called up to do our “bank business.” When each of us got finished with, and the friendly tellers remembered to say, “Thanks for banking with us and have a great day” we met afterwards and exchanged cards. He seemed ready and excited to get his business going. I was excited too, because if he did partner up with us, he would get a killer app software program, or website that his business would greatly benefit from.

Remember, even in the most awkward and strange circumstances, there is an opportunity or learning experience hidden somewhere. All you have to do is keep your eyes and mind open for it.

“Your big opportunity might be right where you are now.” -Napoleon Hill

See and Act

A little while ago I was getting some work done at a local cafe in town, when I saw someone who I wanted to introduce myself to walking by the store window.

I don’t know about you, but when I’m into my work, it’s really hard to get me out of what I’m doing. So, I was at this lovely little cafe in town and although I usually am deeply ingrained in my work, I always try to be aware of what’s going on around me. On this day I recognized someone who I’ve seen walking around town on many different occasions. I had also ran into him at some local stores, and restaurants. I don’t know why, but I never went up and introduced myself.

This day was different though, when he walked past the window it took me a few seconds to realize who I’d seen and then I told myself, “Not today, don’t be afraid, you might never see this guy again.” Next, I made a quick move, quickly dropped what I was doing, took my headphones off, and pretty much sprinted after this guy. Also leaving behind all of my stuff, including my laptop, headphones, book, and notebooks.

Before I get into the encounter though, I just want to say a few things, I had no idea who this guy was, what he did for a living or what was going to happen with me introducing myself. I just felt like I needed to, at least, say hi.

After finally catching up to him I stopped, a little bit worn out, but I told him that I had seen him so many times around town and I just wanted to finally introduce myself. The guys name was Joe and he owned a floral shop in town. He said with a chuckle and a smile, “Well yea man I own a business a few doors down and it’s nice to meet you man.” I sensed he was in a rush, so we parted ways. The conversation lasted less than a minute probably.

The cool thing though, with me starting my own business, I now know of another business owner I can go to and ask questions about what it’s like running a small business in town. I also know of a floral shop where I can get some flowers at in the future.

Before talking to him though… none of those things we’re a possibility.

Yeah, nothing absolutely “incredible” happened, but I found great value in that meeting with Joe. I learned a valuable lesson… Act, and act quickly or that opportunity might never come again.

“A ship is always safe on the shore – but that is NOT what it is built for.” – Albert Einstein

 

I’m Tired, but…

 

I was tired and just physically and mentally drained. I didn’t want to go out.

The past week was one of those weeks that just drain you. My energy level was at an all time low. I could blame it on the long weekend and the very high intensity day but I didn’t want to do that. I was just drained. I think many of us can relate to that whether you run your own company, work a full time job, work a few part time jobs, or have a bunch of ‘side hustles’ you do.

Maybe this will remind you of one of those weeks that you were “busy.”

‘Back to back to back to back to back to back to back to back to back. In short, your week was just filled with STUFF. You could barely breath right? I think you know what I mean when I say, if it was one of those weeks for you, when you finally got back home you just wanted to put on the TV, get a beer or a glass of wine and chill on the couch. Does that sound familiar?

Okay well thats what I felt like. I was beat after the day. I was ready to call it quits. I. WAS. DONE. But…

I decided to fight through it, because I knew I had more things to do. The night wasn’t over for me and I wasn’t going to let me being “tired” stop me. I will admit though, there have been many times where I’ve let the “Tired Monster” beat me.  Not today though. The “Tired Monster” was not going to win this battle.

I had another mission to go on. I had some people see, people to meet and smoothies to deliver. I packed up my gear, got suited up, and I was off.

The time was 10:20pm: This journey took me to the train station to start off. Before getting to the train station though, there was a handful of people out on the street as I rode past them. Many people were just lounging and enjoying the peaceful and cool summer air. Others were enjoying a late night walk with their significant other, many though, we’re enjoying the company of a group of friends and enjoying the art of friendship. Which, at many times, exhibits uncontrollable laughter, and smiles as big as a crescent moon.

Oh how great Summer is!

Wait though… what about the other people on the street. “The Survivors,” I like to call them. As some people walk into their late night dinner reservations, maybe even running a few minutes late, they sometimes miss the passing stranger digging through the trash outside of the restaurant, hoping that not many people are around so they can go on with their routine undisturbed.

I ran into Chris this night, whom I introduced to you all a couple posts ago. I ran into Chris by the train station. He greeted me saying, “What’s up bro!” I responded with, “What’s going on Chris!” Chris was hanging with Tim that night. Someone I introduced to you all about a week ago. I decided to hang with them for awhile. Tim got up after a few minutes to get to the liquor store before it closed and Chris and I just hung out for awhile and chatted.

I was excited to see him after our last encounter. I asked him how work was today and he exclaimed, “I got off today man! I had the best day of my life in a long time though.” He proceeded to tell me about why this was the best day ever for him. Some of those reasons he told me were that, he was just able to hang out drink and be thankful for what had in his life. For a man in Chris’ situation and to hear him say how thankful he was for the shirt he had on his back, the food he got from the food pantry, and just the ability to live the life he wanted. I thought it was simply amazing and inspiring. It reminded me to be thankful for the many things that I have that other people aren’t blessed with having.

He also told me about how fortunate he had been lately and how generous people had been to him. He said he asked for two dollars from someone and they gave him a twenty dollar bill. He helped a lady bring her bags from off the train to her car and she gave him a few dollars. He helped another family find the right bus and got some money from doing that too. Simply put, he was ecstatic of the good fortune he had been facing lately. It seemed like, with Chris being in a giving spirit, he was given things in return. On another note he told me of the people who weren’t as giving and didn’t give him any money. To that he told me, “Some people will just never understand what it’s like to be homeless man.”

I loved talking to him that night though. He was in such a great mood and I just didn’t want him to come down from it. From the last conversation we had, it was a complete “180.” I left that night really excited for our next encounter.

After leaving the train station, I got “Daisy” going at a pretty brisk pace. The air had gotten a little cooler but I had a lot of adrenaline going at this point, so I didn’t notice the drop in temperature. I continued down the road, looking for people, but I didn’t see much. I ended up stopping at one of my favorite places. The shelter in town. I was ready to see some of my friends, but it was past visiting hours and no one was hanging outside either. So, I was ready to leave when a familiar face came outside. I hadn’t met this guy formally ever, but I knew he worked there late a lot of nights. He said, “what’s up” and continued walking by. I stopped him though when I said, “Hey man how’s everything going tonight?” I introduced myself and he did too. His name was Teddy. Teddy had the look on his face that he was just beat though, and was ready to pack it in for the night. I don’t recall how the conversation really went, but I remember talking about his work life and how he works another job landscaping. He had a glowing smile though although, through it, I could see how drained he was from how much he had to work. Ironically, after he mentioned he “loved” smoothies, I mentioned I had some with me, and gave him some. He drank that smoothie to start with a puzzled look to say the least. 

I don’t know what it was though, but I just had the greatest chat with him. Before ending the night though another worker came out named Amelia, she was delightful and she said “Why not” to me offering her one of my smoothies. Side note: They both really liked it! I hope that the smoothies gave them both that extra boost of energy to take on the rest of the night.

To conclude… I took down the “Tired Monster.”

A Piece of Trash

Remember… it starts with just one idea.

I like to go on walks. I find walks to be little “energy boosters” to start the day or to get reenergized to take on the tasks during the day.  On these walks though, I always see so much trash laying around. I don’t know about you, but seeing how much people litter just really bothers me. I want my city to be in the best possible shape and when I see that some people just don’t care what their own city looks frankly, it just worries me. I love my city.

So I had an idea…

I decided that during my walks I would pick up just one piece of trash. It probably takes me a total of 2 seconds to bend over and pick up the piece of trash. It reminds me that, yes it’s not a huge difference, but everything has to start somewhere. By picking up a single piece of trash, I believe that I’ve made a difference. If I want my city to stand out, in the way I want it too, I have to do my part. By picking up a piece of trash, no I haven’t made a huge impact, but I did something.

Could you imagine if everyone, in every city around the world, just picked up one piece of trash when they went out on a walk ? There’s an interesting thing to think about…

If you’re reading this and have a similar problem in your city, just think, by picking up at least one piece of trash when you go on a walk, you too, can make a difference.

Remember…

“Little things seem nothing, but they give peace, like those meadow flowers which individually seem odorless but altogether perfume the air.” -George Bernanos

 A Series of Unfortunate Events

As a bike rider you have to be prepared for the worst situations.

It started with one bike when I moved into my apartment(this was when I had my car before losing it), I knew I was going to eventually switch over to riding a bike full time when I bought it. I bought the bike from a guy off Craigslist. I had to make the trek up to Valley Forge, but it was worth it. “The Cannon” has been treating me well.

Then I got another bike. This bike was given to me by a dear friend of mine who now is a resident of Australia. After going on a 30 plus mile bike ride starting in Lambertville he said, “I’m leaving in a few days and can’t really take anything with me, just take it.” Keep in mind that this bike was legendary, this bike went from New York to San Francisco. The body of the bike was littered with bumper stickers from this historic rides from all of the bike shops and cafes that he stopped at on this journey. It was a mean, “ferocious” looking bike too. It had the character of an ancient Wizard who had been living anonymously amongst the locals in hiding, just waiting for it’s next opportunity for greatness. Yes, the bike wasn’t perfect but when I started to ride it, I knew why it had made it across the United States of America. I was grateful and honored to have a bike like “The Legend.” I also had a bike to back up the other one in case there was some mechanical issues.

Time went by and the bikes were, generally, pretty good. Many times though I had to replace the inner tubes and do some general maintenance. There was a time three or four months ago heading to work where, halfway on the ride, I heard a pop and had to pull off to the side and hope one of my coworkers were on the way to work or could pick me up so I wouldn’t be late. What about the time when my chain busted in the middle of a downhill on a journey from school… The bike life, “You never know what to expect.”

Then, my brother, who was living in Philly at the time was moving back West. He had a bike too and he gave it to me. A nice purple Schwinn, who rocks a nice extremely cushioned women’s seat, which had an unforgiving power to it while propelling me to heights that only the most fortunate bike riders ever experience in their lifetimes. It took me a very long time to experience this and “Daisy’s” raw unforgiving power though…

It was this bike who saved the day on Saturday. She was third in line for use since the day I got it and didn’t receive any use other than the first test ride when I finally got it from my brother. To say the least she was a little upset and just anticipating when her opportunity would come. Days went by when I refused to acknowledge her. She was a forgotten “by product” of the past. “The Legend” and “The Cannon” had been first and second in line since virtually day 1…  but I had been neglecting them. I had beaten them up and had forgotten to put the necessary love and maintenance into them.

The day was Saturday, and the agenda was full. “The Cannon” was first in line. I was ready to go. I just gave him some fresh air in both his tires. He was primed and ready to go, so I thought…  First on the agenda, Laundry. It wasn’t until about 2 minutes later when I heard a loud, “Pop.” Damn it…  I had to make a move. I picked up “The Legend” and was off to “cleansify” my Laundry. About halfway on my journey I experienced another unfortunate event… “Pop.” It was over… “The Cannon” and “The Legend” had been critically wounded. One of their tires had each popped. I couldn’t stop though. I left him there and proceeded to the laundromat to start the first cycle. When I started the trek back, while my laundry was getting “Cleansified,” I carried “The Legend” off the battlefield. I had to act quickly though, while my laundry was in the cycle I had some errands to run. When I got back to my place I saw “Daisy” and gave her the opportunity she had been waiting months for. ‘To prove that she belonged in the starting lineup.’ I took her out and she took me on one hell of a ride. I hadn’t ridden that smoothly for quite some time. Her shifting was the only thing that was a little off, but other than that, it was a clean ride that left me speechless.

At the end of the ride, “Daisy” was satisfied. She did a hell of a job. For now, “Daisy” is the starter. She earned it that day, after waiting patiently for her opportunity to present itself. Once “The Legend” gets healed from his wounds, he’ll move back to the starting spot. But for now “Daisy” is in that position, and after doubting her for too long and not putting the trust I should have, she proved that she belonged with the best that day.

 

Really though I learned a crucial lesson after all of this. Although some people started to hint that I was going to be a bike hoarder the rest of my life after, somehow fitting these 3 bikes in my room, I knew what I was doing and I knew who I was. I was over preparing. After this experience I learned that you never can over prepare too much. Prepare, Prepare, Prepare as much as you can and when people start to talk behind your back and call you crazy don’t let it phase you. Keep doing what you believe is right and block out the negativity.

“Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.”

A Rough Past and A New Friend

When you decide to wake up and start the day you never know what will happen and who you’ll meet.

I headed out on my bicycle. It was Friday night, one of those nights where the air was humid and cool and the streets were filled with people in search of making memories. I made some smoothies earlier in the afternoon and decided to take out one of the ingredients. Based on a request a few nights ago from Mario, who I met a few weeks ago, I took out the Spinach since he wasn’t very fond of it.

It was around 10:30  and I was ready to go on another adventure. I first stopped at the Agape house. Jamar came out, someone I met a few nights ago, who just started a job at a graphic design company. He had been through some rough spots in his life and was just beginning to gain some traction. He had a great passion for designing things and he thought he found the right job with the right boss. Throughout talking to him though, I noticed something… he literally looked as if he was sleeping while he was talking to me. I think I just barely saw his eyes through the “droopiness of his eyelids.” It looked as if he had been up the last 2 days just working and thinking about his life. He ended up telling me that, “I’ve just had a long day.” I was really grateful he wanted to come outside and talk with me, but I also wanted him to get in his bed and get some much needed rest. The conversation didn’t go much farther than that. I told him I’ll see him soon, and we parted ways.

My next stop, was the train station. There was no cop waiting outside, and it was eerily quiet. Before getting on the platform, a train flew by, thus shaking the station and waking up and “angrifying” the bugs. When I got to the platform I approached a man who looked at little lost. It was about 11:20 at this time, and he looked like he had been waiting on the platform for quite some time. After introducing myself I asked him, what he’s doing out here this late, “Waiting for a friend.” He told me, “The trains been running late.” His name was Chris and I found out he was extremely passionate about making music. His eyes also looked like they were starting to gloss over and he looked as if he rolled out of bed before he came here. We parted ways shortly thereafter.

I then proceeded to the waiting area. I saw my two good friends Tony and Kate. They were asleep, but Tony woke up just to say hi. He didn’t want one of my smoothies, but appreciated the offer. I came back later and dropped a smoothie off for Kate for when she woke up. She was the one that lost her father around the same age that I did. We established, a good friendship a few nights back. Maybe I’ll catch her at a better time.

I then went to the other side of the platform where I met an interesting and very passionate man. His name was Chris and he had been dealing with a burden for the last 20 years. Chris had long flowing hair and a thick burly mustache. Before anything though, we just talked about our days. He told me he had an amazing day at work. Of course, we introduced ourselves and he accepted my smoothie(which he found was pretty good and exclaimed, “Maybe I should stick to these energy smoothies instead!”) Chris had been drinking since 10:30 that morning. He was very intoxicated, so it was difficult to understand him at times in our conversation. I do want to say that Chris went through something a Father should never go through in his life…

After, getting into an altercation with his girlfriend and the Mother of his 2 kids, they soon parted ways with each other. The situation was pretty bad and Chris ended up having his two kids taken away from him and hasn’t seen them for 20 plus years. Chris has been working a lot of manual labor jobs recently and has found enjoyment in his work. He told me, “I’m the best damn worker around and I love work. I can’t wait to go back on Monday.” I was really happy to hear he liked what he did.

Chris started to get animated and really aggressive when he started talking about what people had done to him in the past. He didn’t get aggressive with me, but he was just generally fired up and started shouting a little bit. I wasn’t getting the best vibe from the conversation either. I was actually getting very sad as he continued to tell me his life story about his kids, losing his Mother, Father, and Brother all within a few years span. I had no idea what to say, so I just continued to let him talk.

Before I decided to leave though we got in a little conversation about his sister and he said that his sister lives down the road from him and helps him out all the time. That really settled him down as he said, “I would do anything for my sister, I love her to death.”

Before parting ways with Chris though, I let him know that I’m sure I’ll see him again and gave him the best bro hug in town.

I still didn’t feel right about the whole conversation. There were a lot of emotions, and passion in what he was saying and at times he got a little teary eyed. I just felt like I opened up a door in his life that he didn’t want to be opened ever again. So I was walking away not feeling the best about what just happened. That was until… he stopped me and shouted, “Thank you Brother! Thank you for the company! Thank you for the company…  Thank you for the company… “ With him saying that it let me know that the conversation allowed him to let some feelings of his out that had been brewing for awhile and I was just the person that decided to listen. There was a spot in the conversation where I didn’t say a word for about 30 minutes. He was letting go of some emotions that no one ever bothered to listen too. I was happy to meet him and be there for him.

Every moment is an opportunity.

 

“Possibility starts with a conversation.”