Watch Out, I May Gum You

Pick Me! Pick Me! Ah, the memories of recess at school either bring back fond memories or they were a horror story for you. Kids line up as 2 captains are chosen, usually the more gifted athletes among the other students, and then teams are created from the captains choice of players. The sifting begins as best friends, girl friends, and best athletes all get chosen first and as the crowd dwindles the anxiety falls on everyone left in line until there is the last kid picked. The success of the team however, is ultimately decided by the captains choice of team mates.

I was in seventh grade and my 4 man relay team had won first place at our field day event the previous 2 years. Let me tell you that’s quite an achievement for 12 year old boys. We had pretty much gotten our team together but some where along the way, someone got their feelings hurt, and honestly I don’t remember what happened because it was 32 years ago.  However, three of us decided to let our lead off guy go in favor of someone else. Field day finally arrived and we were pretty confident we were going to graduate elementary school as relay champions. The teams lined up, the gun went off and we, got, smoked! Our original team mate went to run with one of the opposing teams and he completely smoked the guy we replaced him with on the first leg. It was so bad that by the time I received the baton, I ran the last leg, the best we could muster was third place. The only thing that kept us from winning a third straight title was our choice in team mate. Our choices, no matter how small have consequences. I know using a 32 year old memory of a relay race may not seem too consequential, yet imagine if you will, what a persons life has the possibilities of becoming if the proper choices are made.

Too often, I believe, we live our lives blaming our circumstances on others instead of shouldering the blame ourselves. If we choose not to study or apply ourselves in school how does it become the teachers fault when we under achieve? I had a classmate who was in pretty much all the same classes I was in, at least in elementary school, and after high school graduation he went on to graduate from West Point Military Academy and I eventually graduated from Georgia State University. Now please, don’t think I’m comparing myself here because I’m honestly not, but what I am doing is drawing an example of choices. In high school I chose to party and not apply myself.  I was friends with my classmates girlfriend, now wife, in high school and she would share how he would go home after football practice or wrestling practice or track practice and would study and then go to bed. On the weekends he wouldn’t stay out partying, in fact I don’t think he ever did, he used his time wisely and he applied himself. He made wise choices. I don’t know what line of work he’s in but really it doesn’t matter because that’s not the point, the point is your choices do matter.  The choices you make not only affect your life they also affect the lives of others around you.

I recently read a story in which a young high school girl decided to slip out of her house with a friend and go to a party at a young boys home. She began to party and drink and pretty soon she became intoxicated. During the evening she and her friend were raped by some boys attending the party. Horrific events and lives are changed all because of our choices and the choices of others. While her choice to sneak out probably was not the wisest thing to do, it in no way gave anyone the right to violate her. Yet lives are changed forever, because of the choices that are made.

Life can be funny, and if we are honest with ourselves it can sometimes be predictable as well. Through my youth and even into my early twenties while I never failed to brush my teeth morning or night and I always went to my dentist every 6 months for a cleaning, I never really took the time to floss or rinse with Listerine. Now, this is possibly where not everyone is the same due to genes, etc. yet after my dentist retired and I began seeing the young lady who took over his practice, on my first visit with her I was told I had gingivitis. Not only did I have gingivitis, I had been living with it for so long I had suffered major gum loss in my mouth. Sorry, I don’t mean to gross you out, but it was so severe I had to eventually under go 2 gum reconstructive surgeries to place enough gum on my lower teeth just so they don’t fall out in the future! While some would say it was my old dentists fault for not recognizing my symptoms, and I can’t disagree with that, the truth is, because I chose not to properly clean my teeth and take care of my mouth I have had the issues I have had with my teeth. See, small details in our decisions do have consequences for our futures.  Often times, it is those “small” choices we make that eventually become much larger consequences in our futures.

So, why am I bringing all this up? Tomorrow I have to undergo yet another dental procedure, this time the process is to replace one of my teeth with an implant in the next year. A process I’m not looking forward to at all. And a process that could have been avoided had I made better choices. What I want to share with you is this; as you make your way through your daily life always be mindful of the choices you make. You may not see the results of your choices that instant or even that very day, but believe it or not, somewhere down the road, for better or worse, you will have to deal with the consequences for all the choices you make, the wise and the not so wise. So tomorrow, if you choose to eat a nice juicy steak, think of me and before you go to bed be sure you floss all that meat out from between your teeth so you can continue to enjoy steak the rest of your life, or until you chose to go vegetarian. Whatever you do, just choose wisely my friend.

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