Monday, December 30, 2013

My column from Sunday's newspaper

I spend the waning weeks of each year in reflection, and a topic that’s been on my mind this year is character. What’s interesting is that an old door triggered this line of thought. 

One day last week when the sun poked through clouds as grey as wood smoke, I decided to take advantage of the moment. 

The dogs were ecstatic as we headed down to the barn.

I pulled up a makeshift chair, which was a five-gallon paint bucket turned upside down.

Sometimes when I sit alone under the giant oak and hickory, life somehow seems clearer.

Not far from where I sat, a redheaded woodpecker landed on the stump of a dead pine to hunt for lunch and to see what I was up to.

Watching him knock his head against that tree made me smile. There were times I felt like I was doing the same thing.

The sun fell on a weatherworn door on the old house, bringing it into sharper focus. I
sat admiring it for a long while. 

A lot of folks would never think of that door as beautiful, but it had something. My mind wrestled with the right word to describe it. All of a sudden it hit me. That door had character.

This thread started me thinking about character and all it implies.

Character is not something you buy or something someone gives you. 

Unlike wealth, you can’t inherit character, and once you have it, no one can take it away.

Many things attribute to one’s character, but often it comes from trials and involves scars.

At times you only glimpse character in the way someone behaves when the ship hits the sand (to clean up the old saying and make it suitable for a family publication.)

Life is a constant trial. Some days you're on top of the world, and other days you're lower than the icky stuff at the bottom of the fishbowl.

Some trials are lost because you fought a losing battle. At other times you had a chance to win, but were outwitted, matched, manned/womanned (I made that word up), or because you ran out of juice before the sound of the bell.

Those are the ones that leave the deepest scars. The trials where you thought you had a chance. You scrapped, scraped, and gave it your best shot only to come up a little short. These trials are character building, and teach you lessons that help you grow.

Winning doesn't necessarily make you a winner. By the same token, losing doesn't make you a loser. The only way to become a loser is to stop trying. In the end, no trial is a total loss if you learn something.

Some of you are probably wondering how a story can begin talking about a hundred-year-old door and wind circuitously on to thoughts about life lessons, but that sometimes happens when I write.

That old door seemed a fitting metaphor for character. It was young once, built at the hands of a craftsman, and through the years, it served well, blocking out nature's storms. 

Maybe at times a little rain blew in at the bottom, or the cold wind seeped in around the edges when the mercury dipped. But for the most part it stood strong, keeping the homeowner safe, warm and dry. 

The sun, the cold, and the rain left their marks, but character is something that transcends the trials of time. I think old doors and people with character are beautiful.


  1. Great post and I agree with your thoughts on character!!! I smiled when I saw your made up word (womanned). :)

  2. Love this speaks directly to my heart! Your thoughts reflect what I believe to be teaches us many lessons and certainly adds character to those who stand strong!

  3. My grandmother would always talk about character and when I was young I had no concept of what she meant. Now that I'm older and I've experienced life and struggle and loss, I understand.

  4. You don't lose because you didn't win, you lose when you stop trying.

  5. Really great post... I love the metaphor Rick... :)

  6. Happy New Year Rick to you and Jilda!!

  7. Coming up a little short is The Pits. 2013 did that, on balance. I believe it just needs a bit more womanning.
    Happy new year.

  8. Anonymous5:49 PM


  9. When I first met my husband he told me I had good character. That was one of the best compliments I've ever had. Love your door!

  10. Dear Rick, thanks so much for getting my brain/mind thinking about just what does make up a person's character. Like you, I think that if we never waste an experience . . . that is, if we learn from all the happenings of our life . . . then we can build a character that can withstand all the elements of the journey. And my hope for all of us is that we find something good in every happening. Something that benefits our growth as a human being. Thanks so much for getting me to think about this. Peace.


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