I read this book in 2 days.  It wasn’t 2 whole days, and it was an easy read.  It was uplifting, thought provoking, funny, sad, joyful..all sorts of things.  When I first started reading it, I thought it was an “inspirational fiction” book.  It didn’t take me long to realize it was a true story.  One of my favorite parts of this book is that it takes place in a setting I am familiar with (West Louisiana.  Ft. Worth, Tx and Dallas, Tx).   I grew up in Richardson, Texas (a suburb of Dallas).  And I remember when my school district was desegregating.  My grandparents were very prejudice.  So when this book talks about the way African Americans were treated back in those days, I remember.  Granted, I was born in 1969, and I didn’t start school until 1975 when I started Kindergarten and it was 1976 when they bussed us white kids into the African American neighborhood to go to school.  I grew up with African American Maids all of my childhood.  This book hit close to home for me in this way.

In the back of the book, there are discussion questions, but I do not think I will go through them on the blog.  There are too many.  Instead, what I think I will do is stick with some of the  ideas and quotes that stuck out for me while I was reading because ultimately, that is what this whole journey of 52 books in 52 weeks is about…my own self-discovery.

  • The first lesson in this book that really stuck out for me was the idea of friendship being a “catch and release” type thing.  How often are we fickle with our friendships?  We make friends with someone, but the minute they do something to irritate us or they do something we don’t approve of, we just walk away.  We “catch” them and befriend them.  They irritate us and we “release” them.  This is called “Catch and Release” like we do with fish sometimes.  We catch them; decide they don’t meet our requirements or we were just in it for the thrill of catching them.  Then we release them. We may think we are releasing them back into the wile and not hurting them, but that hold that our hooks put into them did do some kind of harm didn’t it?  Taking them out of the water caused them trauma when they couldn’t breathe, didn’t it?  Yet, we released them.  When we do this to friends, doesn’t it hurt them too?    How often do we say that once we are friends, we will be friends forever?  I don’t think that happens very often.  I do not think that unconditional love in a friendship happens very often.  I know for myself that I have released a lot of friends.  And yes, sometimes, it’s the *idea* of having a friend that is awesome, but once that person becomes my friend, I think..’Wow, this might be a mistake”.  This may sound sad, but it is true.  What about you?

Here is a great quote from Jesus about friendships: “Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his own life for his friends.”  How have you shown your friendship to your friends lately?

  • In our American society, we spend a great deal acquiring things.  We want to make a lot of money so we can buy the best and most toys.  We want a house, car, boat, vacations that keep up with the Jones’.  There is a part in the book, where Denver (the homeless man asks Ron (the affluent art dealer) “Are you sure you own them, or does they own you?”

This is not the first time I have heard this idea.  I have often witnessed people who have less “things” or “means” than I do yet they seem so much happier.  I have a friend who is a true inspiration to me.  She was single and her kids were all grown up.  And she gave up worldly possessions, with the exception of a few things like her bicycle which she used to get around and her drum which fed her soul.  She lived in a tent in a friend’s back yard.  She made money to eat by pulling people’s weeds.  She didn’t need/want a lot, and she sure didn’t have a lot (by most people’s standards) yet she was probably the happiest person I have ever met.  Her living situation has changed since then, yet she still lives in the moment and very simply.  And she is very happy…living her life ON PURPOSE without all the things that can block her vision.

When we have so many things, they CAN own us.  I remember as a child that my mom let things OWN her, and if we broke one of those things, she would get so angry with us, like she loved those things more than she loved us.  I remember I owned a set of $30 candle sconces. No big deal.  They were sitting on the kitchen table and Nick and his friend had made a fort underneath the kitchen table, knocked over the candle sconces and broke them.  I was livid!  How could they do that?  These things were special to me!  I made him buy me a new set.  Those $30 candle sconces owned me, and it did not feel very good at all.  From that moment on, I let go of the attachment I had to things (well for the most part).  I certainly haven’t screamed at my children for breaking anything…not even when Nick wrecked my Cadillac.   It’s just a thing.

  • It’s the simple things in life that should make us happy.  The book talked about watching a homeless person whose beard was caked in his own vomit, he smelled, he was eating out of the garbage and yet was very happy.  When asked about why he was happy he simply replied, “I woke up.”

I live a privileged life.  I have not *had* to work in over 16 years.  My husband makes a good living.  We have always had a roof over our heads and plenty of food to eat.  We have always had a car or some form of transportation.  We have always had clothes to wear.  We have always had the simple luxuries of life.  I’m not talking living in mansions; as a matter of fact, we have always rented the houses we have lived in.  But they have been nice houses.  Anyway….even with all of this, I have had moments/months where I have been just horribly depressed and felt like life just wasn’t worth living.  I took all of my blessings for granted..each and every one of them.

When I read this passage in the book, I realized…wow… if a homeless man eating out of a garbage can can be happy just because he woke up, then I with all of my blessed life, can certainly be happy just for waking up too!

  • One of the themes from this book is about prejudice about homeless people and how homeless people who seem to have nothing still have something very valuable to give.  The stories in this book will amaze you, and I will not share them with you and take away the experience of reading them for yourselves.  However, it brings me back to an experience I had while attending one of James Arthur Ray’s seminars called Creating Absolute Wealth.

During this event, we were forced to wear clothes that were ripped and tattered…clothes that were “given” to us by the event staff.   They messed up our hair and made us look dirty.  We had no ID on us, no watches, no phones.  Nothing.  They made us look homeless.  We had not eaten anything in hours. Then they dropped us off in down town San Diego for a couple of hours.  We were to experience what being homeless, hungry, and having absolutely nothing felt like.

I remember walking around the mall area and having people point at me and laugh at me.  When I tried to look people in the eye, they diverted their gaze.  I found a Victoria Secret bag with the removable cardboard bottom and I went into a tattoo parlor and borrowed a pen and wrote “Will tell stories for food”.  I held the sign up hoping that someone would stop and listen to my story and buy food.  No one would.  That is until another “homeless” person stopped and said, “Are you hungry?  You don’t have to tell me a story.  I will just take you into the store at the corner and buy you something to eat with my food stamps.”  He showed me how a homeless person can get food in downtown San Diego even without food stamps, and you didn’t have to dig through the trash cans.  Turned out, he was no longer homeless; he lived in public assistance apartments, and he had his food stamps.  And he was sharing them with me.  I was humbled by his generosity.  He had NOTHING but he was willing to give what he had..which was compassion.

  • “When bad things happen to good people”….that is a cliché’   It’s one for good reason, because it happens over and over again.

“Sometimes we just have to accept that which we don’t understand”.

“I know when somebody you love is gone, that’s the last time you feel like thanking God.  But sometimes we has to be thankful for the things that hurt us….cause sometimes God does things that hurts us but they help somebody else.”

And you know that phrase that is so popular right now…”It’s all good”.  Do you remember what God said at the end of 7 days of creating?  “It is good”.

If God created this Earth and everything in it and he knows how many days we are going to live and if everything happens according to HIS plan, then isn’t is ALL good?  We may not understand, but we can trust that “it’s all good”.

These thoughts can be applied to so many things.  When I read them throughout the book, I thought about people who have passed on or even tragic events that have happened in my life or in this world.  There is a polarity to everything.  If one thing bad happens then somewhere in the world at that moment, something good is happening.  Or on a more personal level, if something bad is happening to me right now, there is a reason for it and it can be used for something good.  Sometimes it takes us a while to realize how it can be good, but I guess that is where faith comes in J.

  • “Our limitation is God’s opportunity” & “People think they are in control, but they ain’t.  The truth is, that which must befall thee must befall thee.  And that which must pass thee by must pass thee by.”  These are two amazing quotes from this book.  I think I will let you glean from them what you will…without my input J.
  • “How do you live the rest of your life in just a few days?”  This quote reminded me of my last blog entry.  Are you living your life NOW or just letting it pass you by?

There is one last thing I would love to say, but it is the punch line of the book, found on the last page of the story.  It probably the most profound sentiment in the entire book.  Just do me a favor, go the library or book store, or wherever and pick up this book.  You won’t regret it!