I went to a funeral on Saturday and learned an unexpected lesson. The lesson was about shoelaces.
Michael collected shoelaces. For every holiday or special occasion his number one gift was always shoelaces. His body looked so peaceful with red laces gently woven between his fingers. Next to his casket was a wooden chest filled with the biggest and most colorful collection of shoelaces. It was then, that I realized the secret of shoelaces. This is a secret that can be applied to improving your personal, professional, relational, spiritual and financial life.
Shoelaces represent courage, simplicity and pride.
Mike’s parents had the courage to take care of him for over 50 years. He was an amazing individual impacted by Down Syndrome. Sunday after Sunday Mike’s parents brought him to church. There must have been some really tough moments, and I am sure his parents were overwhelmed and must have felt exhausted wondering what the future would look like. They had courage and trusted God that he had a plan for their family. No matter what area of life you are focusing on, have courage to do the tough things. Have the courage to start a race, apply for a new job, teach your kids, get out of debt, or do whatever else might challenge you. When your shoes are laced up, you are telling your brain that you are ready for a challenge. You tell yourself that you have the courage to begin again.
Mike’s life was simple. It was beautiful. He was surrounded by the people and things that meant the most to him. We are always striving to find the newest most complex way of doing things. It was truly refreshing to think about someone who lived so differently. As I stepped into my house that evening, I decided that I was going to begin simplifying my life. I would go back to basics and focus on how simple the important things really are. What struck me is how this can also be applied to the way I conduct my classroom, work with my own kids, train for a marathon, eat healthy, and watch my financial life. Some of the people and pieces of writing that are the most deep, seem to have the fewest words. Some of the best teaching methods are simple. Training, teaching, eating and financial plans that focus on the basics consistently work. Shoelaces are one of the most simple pieces of our daily wardrobe.
Mike’s family showed considerable pride. His family was thankful and content with the life that they had been given. They lived in the present. They were never ashamed him, nor pretended that he was he was not a part of the family. Family pictures always showed Mike. His parents were proud of him, and their actions demonstrated this emotion. When a person laces up his or her shoes, a feeling of pride is present. You have no choice but to own the current ability you have. No matter what your finishing time, current job, family you have been given or financial status; There is always something to be thankful for- always something to be proud of. During the funeral, I saw an old friend I went to high school with. He asked what I did for a living, and for one of the first times in a long time I very proudly said, “I am a teacher.” It is a great feeling to be content and proud of who you are today, not just who you want to become in the future.
As I think about the secret of shoelaces being courage, simplicity and pride; I am also reminded about why my thinking has evolved. I had no idea that I, a runner who uses shoe laces daily was so connected to another human that I had never taken the time to learn about. Yes, we are different from many people in this world, but at the core level; we are quite similar.