How the 55-year-old son of a southern farmer influenced a northern four-year-old farm boy.

He grew up on 300 acres, milking before and after school.
I grew up on a homestead, and milked before & after too.
He loved climbing and hanging from trees.
I too climbed and hung from my knees.

We both grew up in simpler times.

I received a call from my mom this past week reminding me that it was Billy Graham’s 99th birthday.  She reminisced about when she and I watched a small black & white screen in my grandparents living room.  With a message so simple and direct, Billy Graham spoke words that challenged my 4-year old heart & mind. To this day, I still see the moment vividly but recall the visceral sensation even more.

 

 A 55-year-old stranger challenged a 4-year-old boy with relatively new technology, broadcast television.  The course of my life changed at that moment. Most all of my choices were affected by that one.  And to this day,  I’ve never met the guy, looked into his eyes, or even spoken a word.   We’ve never laughed, played ball, or hiked a trail together.  As he enters his 100th year on earth, any possible windows of opportunity are closing.

How crazy is this?

Think about it.  I have such a profound association, warmth, and appreciation for someone I’ve never met!  A relationship was formed.   Influence was received.  One day, upon hearing of his passing, I’m sure I’ll cry tears of sadness, appreciation, and joy.

How about you?  Who will you cry over that you’ve never met… & why?  Likely, it’s because of what they left behind and how it has influenced your life’s course.

They have equipped you to face life’s challenges.   Their simple message made you better.  It’s amazing how a few words of wisdom make all the difference during a challenging time.  The sharing of their legacy has helped you shape yours.

Question: How did the son of a 55-year-old dairy farmer influence a 4-Year-Old?

 

Answer: By using the technology that was available to communicate what mattered most to him.

How you choose and use technology to share your life’s stories will characterize the legacy you leave.

What matters most to you right now?

What concept do you think someone 50 years younger than you should know and apply.    150 years from now, who will gratefully experience perspective because you took time to share?

Do something this weekend.  Something that can change the future   Write a page, draw a picture, or shoot a short video.  You’ll find that once you start, you might not want to stop.  (Especially if you choose to trash perfectionism.)

Just make it.
Don’t make it perfect.
Perfect it later.
Just do something.
Do something today.

Your voice, your image, your words.
Your progeny, learning from your experience.
Your lineage persevering because of your perspective.
Wisdom from someone who cares, informing their decisions.
What will you do today to record and express guidance for future generations?
How will people think, feel, and live out the message you leave when you are gone?
 

“Someday you will hear that Billy Graham is dead.  Don’t believe a word of it!  I shall be more alive than I am now.  I will just have changed my address.  I will have gone into the presence of God.” – Billy Graham.


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Who are you: the referee?.. the judge?.. or the equipper?

It happens everywhere.
In all working relationships.
A visit with extended family,
A team project at work,
With your children,
With your spouse.

 

All relationships experience occasional challenge.
But what character are you in the drama?
The hero? The villain?
The antagonist?

We each play a part in the challenge.
Your character role affects your outcome.
This habitual role affects your future outcomes.
Leveraged over generations, you can see that your default role truly matters!

 We could unpack our own issues…

But let’s simplify for now,

Let’s talk about kids!

When kids squabble we enter the justice loop.

We listen to both sides.
We discern who was right & who was wrong.
We lay down a consequence for the oppressor.
That’s what a good judge would do, and do justly.
It is the court that your family trusts.
An objective judge, with integrity.
Do you find yourself in this role?
Me Too!

Let’s dissect what happened:

  1. Someone’s freedom infringed on someone else’s freedom.
  2. There was a relational breakdown.
  3. They came to the governor (that’s you).
  4. According to the mandate of your household, you determined who was at fault.
  5. There is a consequence for the oppressor.
  6. Over time behavior modifies closer towards the desired outcome.
  7. The victim gets justice.
Yes, you served justice.
BUT you just reinforced the victim in their role.

The victim made a claim,
You delivered the verdict.
The villain is punished.
The victim sees justice.
The need for a constant family court is established and reinforced.

 

How do we step out of the role of daily referee and into the role of equipping our kids, so they don’t need to be rescued as often by a good judge?

Jevonnah Ellison says, “We condition other people how to treat us by what we tolerate from them.”

 Eleanor Roosevelt said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.

“In any story, the victim has two jobs: to make the villain look bad and the hero look good. There is no reward at the end of the movie for the victim.  If you’re a victim, you want to get out as fast as possible.” – Don Miller

“Victims feel as if they have no choices in life.” – Henry Cloud

Playing the role of the victim is a powerless role.

 The character playing the part of the victim does not shine brightly until they choose to step out of the victim role and do something.  They do something about the current injustice while preventing future injustices.

How to steer clear of the victim role.

  1. Take responsibility whenever you can and wherever you can. (own it)
  2. Evaluate the scenario. (location/elements/formula)
  3. Take action Respond accordingly. (respond don’t react)

Let’s bring it home,
Back to the kids…

Questions that equip your kids with the mindset to avoid the victim role:

  • What could you have done at that point? (Responsibility)
  • “Was there a short-term benefit that kept you from removing yourself sooner?” (reminds them of their proximity choice in the matter)
  • What choice did you make that contributed or amplified the situation? (more responsibility)
  • What can you do in the future to keep yourself from being in this position? (preemptive procedure )

Our leadership can equip those we care for: at home, at work, and in the community.  We encourage them to take responsibility while eliminating many small claim conflicts.
If our parental goal is to prepare our children for the future where they will thrive…
Instilling a mindset of responsibility rather than a reinforced victim role allows our progeny to live a more productive life with much less drama.

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How my son grew 2-inches from a single wrestling move.

Grant is our first born and has the typical traits:  conscientious, reliable, and a 3rd parent to his younger siblings.  He has an articulate systematic mind with the rare combination of a sensitive loving heart.  Picture a big brother who offends you with a recommendation (command), but then insists that he comes alongside you and walks through the mud with you.

From the first time Grant heard one of Craig Groechel’s audio books, he was hooked.  Craig is a master at blending laughter with learning as he speaks on relational leadership. While he primarily presents for non-profits, the principals he teaches are naturally universal for family & business. Grant and I attended a leadership conference this week where Craig was the main speaker.

 

Here are a few points that I’m digesting & applying from the conference:

On Change.

– People Change under 1 of 2 conditions.

  • When they have to. (desperation)
  • When they want to. (inspiration)
-Ask yourself, “If someone took my place, what is the first thing they would change?”

-You can not change what you are willing to tolerate.

On Systems.

-Good systems leave very little to chance.

Systems create behaviors.
Behaviors become habits,
Habits drive outcomes.

-You either have systems by intent or by default, but you do have systems.

-Your systems are the result of what you have created or tolerated.

-If you are too busy to create the right systems, then you will always be too busy.

On Anticipatory Leadership.

-Be careful of The Dunning Kruger Effect (cognitive bias)
The more confident you are at predicting the future, the more likely you are to be wrong.

-Ask questions to gather information. (not to confirm your bias.)

-If you wait until you are 100% sure before you try anything you will always be too late.

-Disrupt what is with what could be.

 

Problem + reaction = Solution
Problem + Anticipation = Innovation.

 

-Great innovations are born out of limitations.

-Small tweaks rarely change the world. BE BOLD

Offstage…

Grant and I both enjoyed what was taught from the platform. But the biggest growth lesson for me was something that happened off-stage.  Something I’ve known for a long time.  Something I want to be constantly reminded.  Something that made Grant grow two inches!  (Ok, so in reality, he just walked much taller.)

In the hallway upon seeing Grant, Craig shouted.

 “Grant, is that you?

Is that really you, Grant?!!!”

He then pulls Grant in for a hug.

Without missing a beat, Grant was in a headlock!

 

Craig knows how to meet people where they are.

Craig loves God, loves people, and it shows.  He finds joy in his work that begins in his home and branches out from there.  I’m grateful that my kids get to experience the hearts of people who value the same things that I do, be it by book, Audio, video, and every now and then a Headlock!

Amy Groeschel gives her husband/coauthor a kinder gentler headlock.

Every day, our words and actions can build people up.  Consider amplifying your animation and expression.  You may see people walking taller.   It’s one thing to love people… and another thing to level-up and love them out loud.   To be human growth agent, it only takes a moment.  And the effects last so much longer.

If you want to grow in leadership,  If you want to lead people so they walk taller, these books are great growth resources…

 

 

To get an idea of what the conference was like, check out:

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What your tracks reveal about you…(even after you’re a memory!)

“Take nothing but memories,
Leave nothing but tracks”
-attributed to Chief Seattle (Chief Si’ahl)
 My mother’s father was: a naturalist, a boy scout master, and always eager to share his knowledge.  As we walked trails, fields, mountains, and valleys, he constantly quoted, “Take nothing but memories, leave nothing but tracks.”

Leaving an impression on my young mind, he triggered my fascination with tracking animals… and humans. So much to be discerned from studying perspectives of what creatures leave behind.

Red Squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus)

Look behind you.
Yes, look, right now.
What evidence have you left in the past 10-minutes of your daily routine?

A light smudge,
A heavy disturbance,
A micro-fiber from your shirt?
Or no discernible trace?

Your movement leaves a signature.
You’re taking memories.
You’re leaving tracks.
Tracks to be read.

The cross-scan

When reading tracks, it’s helpful to:
    1  Rest your head at surface level
    2  Firmly plant your temple on the ground
    3  Now your eye sees particles as paramount

If you see nothing where you are, a quick look along the edge of the seat in your car can be revealing.  Next, explore the floor in your home, where the carpet wears.  The closer you look, the more you’ll wonder..…  “From where did each particle originate?”

Every crumb a story.

What story do we weave by the tracks we leave?…
Not just on the ground, but in real life all around?
The effects we leave on the ones we love.
What stories will be told when our kids are old?

How would your life’s tracks be described?
Heavy? Light?  Or, no discernible trace?

Were they fossilized in stone?
Or as footprints in the sand, that daily wane by wind & wave?

As others describe the tracks of our legacy ….
Are the tracks discernible from any angle?…
Or is their head on the ground searching for a slight distinction from a weathered impression?

From this perspective, you’ll see…
Every track is as individual at the traveler.
Every traveler is as unique as the struggles they’ve endured.
Life’s details are revealed in the traveler’s tracks…
All of life, good & bad.

And what about life’s imperfections?

We all process life’s unexpected events by making decisions and distinctions.  As if we get to choose what we carry and what we leave behind.   How we categorize and prioritize is based on what matters most in our journey.
The baggage we do carry is evidenced in the tracks we leave.  The weight of our baggage amplifies the depth and definition of our imprint.   Our baggage is what enables us to leave a bolder impact on those we encounter daily…

The big secret is: Your baggage is your gift…

You don’t choose your gift.  But you do choose how to use it.  How you open, manage, and implement that gift becomes part of your identity.  The distinctions you choose to make and live by have the power to ultimately amplify or limit the degree of love you share.  Aand always remember, some gifts can be returned!)

Embrace your struggles as the gift they are:

Grow from your gift,
Share your gift with others,
Every step we take leaves a print.
Everyone we love receives our impression.

Make your track bold.
Make your track positive.
Make your track memorable.

Leave tracks,
Reap memories,
In small steps,
Or a giant leap,
Live your legacy,
Celebrate it all!

               

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When Kids Resonate.

For as long as I can remember my kids have been animal magnets.   Is it hereditary?… environmental?… Or did they grow up in a barn?

Ana & Piper

Ana & Piper

Yes to All 3.  Before they could walk, they were cuddling delicate furry creatures.  Kristen intentionally raised them to be gentle, kind, and loving.

Her influence is clearly evident as you watch my kids sensitively approach an animal. They start with a whisper in the animal’s own language.  Then they lower their head, round their shoulders, and look down to the left with an extended upheld palm….  The majority of animals find this irresistible and before long they are basking in the cuddles of my glowing kids.

Grant & Joy

Grant & Jasmine

Today I told my daughter that as a dad, it is so gratifying to see her in her element!   “Daddy, What does that mean?”  “It’s your sweet spot”, I explained, “your happy place.”

Then I paraphrased Ken Robinson’s definition from his book, “The Element: How Finding your Passion Changes Everything”

“They have discovered their element — the place where the things you love to do and the things you’re good at come together. The Element is a different way of defining our own potential.” – Sir Ken Robinson

 

I snapped these pics today and the more I looked at them, the more I realized…

My kids are so much closer to their authentic selves when they are caring for animals.

When your kids are in their element, they are literally resonating with the creator-living their intended purpose while vibrating at a divine frequency – remaining others-focused and characterized by love.  Yes, they get the by-product of the joy and benefit from the encounter with the furry creature, but the creature is the focused recipient of this outward love.  What a concept!

Then a question hits me even deeper…

What is it like for God when he observes us, empowered by His love, caring for others?

I imagine that it must be a nonstop joy-fest for Him.  Surely, with 2.2 billion people on earth professing faith in God, there must be at least thousands, at any given point, actively loving others.

My kids acted on the impulses their parents have taught and modeled.  Then we experienced extreme joy observing their gentle intimate moments. As this dad smiled over his kids thriving in their element, I think I caught a glimpse of what it’s like to be God. It was really sweet, fun, and quite fulfilling.

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Do I treasure these pictures? Yes!  Are they in their element?  Yes.   Are they loving life?  They say yes.

But, even more…

I look forward to the day that the pictures reveal a deeper level of joy-fulfillment and purpose.  A day when each of our kids, with their gentle hands, warm smiles, and content expressions, find themselves so comfortably and so peacefully embracing…their spouse.

You know we’ll be overflowing, and I’m certain God will too.  You can be sure that Kristen and I will share our collective joy by posting those pictures as well.  Friends who have been there, say it’s just a few quick blinks away.  May we all remain fully aware in each moment that we have together,  while we have it.

My friends,  It’s a beautiful life.  Savor it all.

 


 

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God?…. Hormones?…. Or all of the above?

Opening my eyes this morning I started to focus out the window on the crisp blue darkness just prior to twilight…

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Then it hit me!…

At this moment, 20-years ago, I was on the highest of highs!  One of the very few times that God spoke directly to me, undeniably.  For those who believe in a God that loves you wildly & specifically, you may find this encouraging.  If God is something you don’t believe in, you can chalk these details up to my blissful ignorance… & hormones!

It was November 9, 1995.  I had been talking with a young lady from Concord, NC for almost 3 months.  I was beyond flattered that she drove the 550 miles north to visit this “guy from NJ”.  We talked the night away: life experiences, family cultures, and life’s twists & turns.   As the morning hours progressed:  The depths of life, celebrations, regrets, distinctions, and then lengthy pondering about her imminent  2-year term as a tutor in the south of India.

Sunrise November 9, 2015

Sunrise November 9, 2015

At 5:45 AM we looked towards the window and saw the night transitioning to twilight.  Without skipping a beat Kristen innocently suggested that we go watch the sunrise in my favorite field close by.  Those words were the most romantic words I had ever heard!  The conversation continued as I pointed my Ford Bronco towards the brightest point on the horizon.

As the sun came up conversation awkwardly ceased.  Sleep deprivation combined with sharing our life stories and apparent mutual ambitions seemed to reach an overflow point…. and we both realized it.  I vividly recall the blur as I exited the truck and floated around to open her door.  As the sun crept higher and the embrace wonderfully prolonged, that’s when I experienced the audible voice of God in a depth and dimension like never before.  A voice so gentle – yet compelling me to the deepest of my core…I felt an immediate change in my stature as if instantly growing from the inside out… as if I transitioned to another level of manhood in a simple few seconds…

The words simply were, “She is for you, Take care of Her

Twilight - November 9, 2015

Twilight – November 9, 2015

In the 20 years since, life has been an amazing journey.  Certain lows and countless highs.  3-Children that reflect so many of our traits.  Traits that make us laugh & shake our heads.  Traits that make our heads shake as jaws drop in amazement.  They are always up to something fun.

Kristen has a fierce loyalty, unwavering integrity, and a diligence that I never saw coming.  The people that enjoy who I am professionally from the stage are actually enjoying much of her in me.  I simply couldn’t be who I am without her.  I gave Kristen Joy Kerwood my last name, and she, in turn, gave me her middle.

I’ll never forget those words.

She is for you.  Take care of her.

Our family’s best times are when we:

  1.   Accept each as our own.
  2.   Take care of each other.

If 20-years is a score, Here’s to 4-score more!

And may the generations pass the baton!!!

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I’ve Seen It Rain Fire In The Sky!

Scanning my 2013  journal I relived the following. 

 May the retelling of this encounter encourage you as you venture into all that 2015 holds for you, your family, and your legacy.

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From art to nature, I have been contemplating how the facets of an object ultimately point to it’s creator.  I usually recognize these details when I slow down to explore the simpler things in life.

Events of this nature usually end up in my journal, shared with a few close friends, and left it at that.

But this encounter was VERY interesting and far too significant to keep that quiet….

(Journal entry: January 1, 2014)

Pulling onto the driveway from an almost 7-hour round trip commute, I was quite eager to exit my little Honda Fit and stretch my legs.  As my eyes rose past the horizon, my mind shifted gears.   “Look at all those stars!”, I thought as I gawked overhead.  Then the thought hits me, “How could the clear night sky point someone to God?”  (Even now, I don’t know if this was my original thought, if I was thinking God’s thoughts after Him, or if I simply pit way too much sugar in my coffee.)

Next, I look down at the dark ground to reset the experience then look up with fresh eyes of purposeful wonder, as if looking for God in the stars. Instead of seeing a splatter of random specs, with vivid clarity, I begin to notice details: varying intensities, individual placements, the unique identities of each heavenly body.  I start to realize how the magnitude of the night sky is moving me on a much deeper level.  Just then, a shooting star darts from upper left to lower right, then an immediate second…upper right crossing to lower left… as if God made an X in the night sky with his finger…as I was searching for the creator!

I was overwhelmed.  I just experienced: 2-shooting stars, in rapid succession, In the context of fresh eyes searching for God.  As if that wasn’t enough, I was then reminded of the historic symbolism of the “X”.

As I walked towards the house my mind raced with questions:

  • Is this what it was like being an astrologer looking for the Christ child?
  • Bright lights in the sky, Looking for Emmanuel?
  • Did God communicate with them this way too?
  • Were they freshly filled with courage?
  • With a fresh pep in their step?

At a hair past 11PM and I entered the house and shared the story with my sleepy wife, Kristen, and my wide-eyed son, Grant.  I explain that I’m bundling up to go lay in the field to see what else there is to see.  Grant was eager to join me.

10-minutes later we’re laying in the field.  I reminded Grant about broad gazing to look for shooting stars compared to narrowly focusing on a single section of the sky. I then pointed out to him that the “X” I experienced 20-minutes earlier was between Jupiter & Betelgeuse.

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“Grant, do you remember ever seeing a shooting star before?”, I whispereed. “Not that I can remember”, Grant replied. I then said, ”God, please show us a shooting star so Grant can remember it as his first shooting star and that he will know that you made it just for him”… 3-seconds later…. a streak of fire across the sky!

Instantly we were both 10-years old: gasping for air, screaming, laughing, and hitting each other’s triple layers out of a euphoric excitement! A memory we will simply never forget!

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For those who believe in a loving God who wants a relationship with those who seek him, this was quite an encouraging evening! For those who may not believe, this was all just a coincidence. For 25 anxious minutes we continued to lay on the cold ground.  Only to see no more fire in the sky. For me, the absence of additional shooting stars simply authenticated the three that I did see.

I walk freshly into the coming year encouraged to talk with God as a child who’s Daddy yearns to pour out love & life.  Not to a Father who craves a stilted prayer, but as a highly favored child of a Daddy who is eager to engage in a meaningful conversation with each of his children.

So I ask you now…
What “silly” thing will you ask God for?
Are you ready for an answer?
Go ahead & ask!
He loves you!
Really!
Ask!!!

On Being Alive…

Joseph Campbell with Jean, his beloved wife of 49 years.

Joseph Campbell, with Jean, his beloved wife of 49 years.

“I don’t believe people are looking for the meaning of life as much as they are looking for the experience of being alive.” ~ Joseph Campbell

Some skydive, or engage in complexities that most find impossible, while others simply fall in love.  Many people are closest to feeling most alive when they make themselves most vulnerable. What consistently fuels your experience of being alive???

Make Someone’s Day… Spontaneously!

My daughter, Ana, and I pop into the airport on the way home after a long day on the road.  I hear someone calling me from 50 yards away, “Bill, bring that young lady over here!”  I know what that means, but Ana has no clue.  There are a select few pilots that I would spontaneously trust with this most special young lady.  Geoff Nye, a masterful 11,000+ hour pilot and a true gentleman, is a no brainer for this protective daddy.

Geoff Nye & Ana in the Aronca Champ

Geoff Nye & Ana in the Aronca Champ

In a magical moment Geoff & Ana departed the bonds of earth and joined the freedom of the feathered. As I imagined myself at her age, experiencing a low level doors-off flight over autumn’s rolling hills, my heart swelled with such a depth of joy & happiness that my eyes could no longer contain themselves. (that’s man-talk for, “I  cried”) 10-minutes prior, Ana and I were weary travelers. Now we both find ourselves beyond exhilarated!

After rejoining the earth bound, Geoff inked another line into Ana’s logbook while reminding her that this logbook was likely the first of many for her.  What a way to wrap up a day!
Geoff Nye filling in Ana's logbook.

Geoff Nye filling in Ana’s logbook.

I learned a few unexpected things today.  Basic, but VERY true things:

  1.  One person’s initiative & generosity can have an immediate effect on someone else’s day.
  2. The giver & observer often receive more joy than the receiver.
  3. Living vicariously through someone else’s experience can be such a blast!
Geoff Nye & Ana, Thumbs up!

Geoff Nye & Ana, Thumbs up!

Therefore I’m asking myself some new questions today:

  1.  Where can I express spontaneous generosity that makes someone’s day?
  2.  How often do I pause to observe someone experiencing a highlight in their life?
  3. If this doesn’t move me, am I missing out on a level joy & happiness that is available to us all?  (like low hanging fruit)

Join the conversation below…

What is the uniqueness in your life that you have shared spontaneously?

What is an unexpected effect you’ve experienced as a giver, receiver, or observer? 

Breakfast, As It Should Be

Wrapping up some early morning errands, I dropped into a small town breakfast nook for coffee & a bite.  There is something about a Mom & Pop breakfast shop atmosphere that accurately reveals the culture of an area like nothing else.

Sunday's REsteraunt

 2-eggs over, onion home fries with crispy scrapple and 12 grain toast.  I sit back and took in whatever Quakertown, PA brought into the door:  2-older gentlemen men of different economic means, laughing and loving the basics of life.  A father and daughter quietly pressing buttons on their phones.  Next in is a small group of…WOW!  that was quick!
Sitting in front of me is exactly what I ordered:  both eggs just right. real potatoes, inconsistently cut (proof that they were prepared with human hands), toasted bread.  Everything was just exactly as ordered.
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The waitress returns returns, refilling my cup,
          “How is the scrapple?…”
          “The scrapple, the eggs, everything is just perfect!”
 She pauses for a second, as if confused by my happiness.  What comes next is refreshingly unscripted…
“It should be!”
What a simple phrase, “It – should – be.”
Well of course, it should be, in all areas of life!
But can we really count on it?
As my home fries continued to vanish, I couldn’t kick the thought…
If it really should be, then:
1.   Why was I so pleasantly surprised to experience detailed service?
2.   What else in life am I surprised by that should be commonplace?
3.   What do I say or do with my kids that they love that should be more commonplace ?
  • It’s not a perfect world
  • We are certainly not perfect people.
  • But it sure is great to enjoy something as it should be.
I’m keeping my eyes out for what my kids find surprisingly delightful that “should be” routine, “should be”, normal & “should be” commonly experienced.
What is the stand-out, “should be”, in your life that you would like to see more common?
PS.   If you’re passing through Quakertown, PA do stop by Sunday’s Deli & Restaurant140 E Broad St, and do request Ariel….  The combination of food & service is awesome! (Because it should be!)