The First Duty of Love

Couple“The first duty of love is to listen.”  Wow, that quote by Paul Tillich held my attention from the moment I read it.   Then the slight twinge of guilt followed as I evaluated myself.  “How good of a listener am I?”  The last two years in my new business have been fast paced and extremely demanding – physically, emotionally and financially.  It seemed as if I didn’t have enough time to really listen to me much less anyone else.  But, how does that affect the people who matter to me?  I think of my fiancé, my family, my team, my close friends and most importantly, GOD.  How well am I listening?

As a relationship coach and talk show host, I’ve had the privilege to invest hours listening to persons share their thoughts and concerns.  Yet, I hold myself in contempt when it comes to how well I have listened otherwise.

For example, I love my ‘special lady’ and my folks and make it a point to tell them.  Yet, as I look more closely at my level of listening, I become more self-critical.  I’m not saying that I don’t listen but rather that good isn’t good enough when you can do better.  In the words of former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, “Sometimes doing your best is not good enough. Sometimes you must do what is required.”

So I challenge you as I commit to being an effective listener.  More so, an ‘active listener.’   Starting with my spiritual life.  My level of listening impacts the quality of my life and relationships.  By the way, your level affects yours too.  Active listening can be compared to the way the pores of our skin opens in response to hot water vapour.   It expands our awareness as it benefits both the sender and receiver.  Relationship experts Linda & Charlie Bloom says ‘The Three Magic Words in Relationships‘ are ‘communication, communication, communication.’  They say that in good communication, speaking is only half of the equation.  The other is listening.

With active listening by all involved, relationships become stronger as friends and love ones see life through each other’s eyes.  Stress levels lower.  Arguments and misunderstandings are avoided or amicably resolved.  Conversely, failing to actively listen can corrupt even the most promising relationship.

What is active listening?  Essentially, it is the act of making someone else the priority by focusing your attention on understanding and validating their message,  even if their view differs from yours.   In his article ‘Become a Better Listener,’ psychologist, Dr. John M. Grohol says active listening is all about building rapport, understanding, and trust.

Hence, I will hold my tongue and open my ears to honour my special lady.  To be her safe harbor where she can freely express her thoughts, hopes and dreams.  I will set aside distractions and decidedly listen to my love ones and to my inner voice.  I will make it a part of my daily life to listen to GOD as he speaks to my heart.  Ours is a commitment to actively listening to each other.   Are you already committed to the same?

What you do Matters.  ~ Kirk Johnson

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The World Will Know Your Name

You've got it in you!

You’ve got it in you!

Good Day World, I know you’ve been waiting for me. Yes, waiting for my unique talent, personality and GOD-given abilities. I know you know that I am uniquely me and like a fingerprint there is no carbon copy. I am the one and only original. I am Me. I am here and will fulfill my purpose, walk out my destiny. I am joy-filled, confident and at peace.

I am more than an Overcomer. I am a ‘Finisher.’ I am whole. I am here and like a bullet train I will push through to my destination.  It’s not about my ‘title’ in life but my tenacity, integrity and dogged determination to live life fully and in that, my purpose.  I will work diligently to make the difference in my family, community and country and I will begin with me. I will search and destroy doubt, negative attitudes and self-defeating thoughts. I will rest, rejuvenate and educate my mind, body, spirit and soul. I am a Winner. I am a helper. I am a Believer. I Am ME.

I must admit that this mantra inspires me. So much so, that I almost had to ask, “who wrote it?” (Smile) Seriously though, the need to remember your value and life’s mission is a constant need across islands, provinces, villages, states and continents. From Atlanta to Andros, Chile to China, Kosovo to Kenya, Japan to Jamaica, we all need inspiration.  However, while it’s wonderful to receive it from others, it cannot replace the hope and drive that must come from within.

Today I remind you to search your heart and mind for your passion, purpose and dreams. I often find inspiration in the song ‘The Script’ sung by Hall of Fame and Will I Am. I was at a meeting recently and the speaker inspired me with the message ‘Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed’ (Proverbs 16:3). Don’t delay and don’t give up because what you do Matters. ~ Kirk Johnson

They Shot and Killed My Brother…

Police Crime Scene

Police Crime Scene

My younger brother Craig was shot and killed by a group of men during what police described as an attempted robbery.   How could this happen and I’m asking God, “why?”  Why my brother?    He was attacked by thugs who shot him and then shot my father.   My dad survived but my brother did not.  I cried like a baby when I got the news.

Today, more than 10 years later, I still feel the pain.  Even now my eyes are filling with tears as I write this message.  Tucked away in my office, I’m doing the best I can to quickly wipe away the tears but they keep falling.   Each wiped tear is replaced by several others.  God help me.  How do I handle this?  I have so many questions.  They killed my little brother and it hurts inside.  What’s more, the murderers have not yet been apprehended.

It’s my father’s birthday today and so is Craig’s.  He would have been thirty-five years old if he were alive.  One of his favorite songs was Believe by Cher.   For several years following his death, my brother’s birthday was my father’s worst day.   He would become melancholy and withdrawn as he asked God the same question I have, “Why?”   My mom has battled with the same question and her hurt hurts my heart.   She has silently faced the reality that Craig is no longer here.   I know that God is not responsible for my brother’s death, but someone is.  The loss has personally touched my entire family, my brothers, my sisters, my friends and my community.   Despite the sobering loss, I’m thankful that my father is here today and that Craig had time to make amends with God before he died.

I’m not trying to force my beliefs on you but rather to first acknowledge that despite how strong we are, there is a source greater than us and that secondly, I have found that source to be God in Christ Jesus.  What you do matters.

KJW

Meeting Oscar-Winning Actor Sidney Poitier

Sidney Poitier honoured by President Obama

Sidney Poitier honoured by President Obama

My meeting Sir Sidney Poitier was without the extended entourage, fine tailored suits and clamoring reporters we often see.  It was not at the renaming ceremony of the Paradise Island Bridge in The Bahamas, nor was it during his guest of honour  appearance at Oprah’s “Dinner of a Lifetime with Sidney Poitier”  or President Obama’s honoring ceremony.

Rather, It was last weekend on the set of a video shoot for a new production by Regal Shine Films.  We were shooting in a cemetery near historic Nassau in The Bahamas.  However, the internationally acclaimed actor and diplomat was there for a completely different reason.  His limousine quietly drove into the cemetery’s parking lot and after a few minutes, a small group of persons made their way towards us.  It wasn’t until he was within 30 feet that I realized it was Sir Sidney, a few family members and a single bodyguard.  I would also later discover that the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the honourable Fred Mitchell, his driver, a press officer from the government’s Bahamas Information Services and a few others were present.

However, they, like us were not the focus of his attention.  We would later greet him, shake his hands and listen to his personal words of inspiration.  But right then, it was as if we weren’t there.  Understandably, he had a singular focus.  He was there to visit his parents’ place of rest.  He first walked to his father’s gravesite and spent a few minutes in quiet contemplation.  Then he walked the extra 50 yards to visit his mother’s grave and there he sat alone with the woman who gave birth to him 85 years ago.

My emotions were torn between the enthusiasm of meeting the man who inspired my father and whose cousin was  my mother’s neighbor and the sobering sense of loss that he was likely experiencing.  It was not the first time I had met Mr. Poitier but I can’t help but wonder if it was my last.   It made me think about how fortunate I am to still have my parents alive. More importantly, the need for me to fully value them in ways that are clear to their understanding.  Truth is, we can love someone all we want but if they don’t interpret it as love that meets their need, then there’s a shortfall.

In your case, my encouragment may relate to a friend, love interest or coworker, a family member or a complete stranger.  Life doesn’t always give us that “second chance.”  Make every moment count.  What you do matters.

KJW

Parasailing at Sunset

Kirk & Charlene Sunset Parasailing

Kirk & Charlene Sunset Parasailing

At hundreds of feet in the air, our feet dangled.  Then we extended our arms like sea gulls as the fresh ocean breeze gently moved us back and forth.  What’s the most adventurous thing you’ve done? What’s the most romantic thing you’ve experienced?  Can you imagine bringing both together and sharing it with someone you think is awesome?  I did that and what a fantastic experience it was. Today, I treated Charlene  to a surprise parasailing adventure.

About two weeks, I told her I had planned an “experience” for her and that it may include getting wet.  I answered her questions with skillful ambiguity and she accepted.   Even after we arrived at the beach she still did not know why we were there.  No doubt, the collection of jet skies gave her an idea but it was the ideal distraction to the real surprise.   The weather was a cool 70 degrees fahrenheit and the sun was setting.  The perfect time for a romantic soar for two at two hundred and fifty (250) feet.

The team at J. R. Action Water Sports ferried us by jet ski to the launch pad.   Charlene and I slipped into our life vests as the father and son team joked about what we were about to do.  We all laughed about medical insurance.  They were just as friendly as Marcia, who had greeted us near the water’s edge.  We were soon harnessed to our chute and off we went from the platform.

We rose higher and higher until we could see many of the notable landmarks on New Providence and Paradise Island.  Below us were miles of crystal clear ocean and to the west of us, one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen.   I was in no hurry for it to end and neither was she.   We locked arms in a pose similar to Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Rose (Kate Winslet) “flying” on the bow of the Titanic in the movie of the same name.  It felt great to see her smile.

Parasailing is not for everyone but quality time certainly is.  Today, make the extra effort to make that someone special feel valued and treasured.  The love you give is an investment not only in the person but equally yourself.   You’re worth it.  What you do matters.

~ KJW

When I Grow Up

“I Love My Life”….the popular reggae song played from the boom box connected to my iPad as the group of about eighty, 5th and 6th grade boys swayed to the positive lyrics.  Then, their excitement and anticipation grew as I selected a few of them to show their dancing skills in front of the class.  Each of the four boys showed off their popping, breaking and other popular dance moves as their classmates cheered them on.

As the momentum continued to build, the students eagerly shouted responses to my rallying call.  “CW Sawyer Eagles can you hear me?”  “Yes Sir!” they screamed.   With the room divided into two halves, each tried to top the other.  They seemed as excited about the music and entertainment as the permission to shout as loudly as they wanted.  We laughed, clapped our hands and talked for about 40 minutes.  But what stood out most to me was our discussion about what they wanted to be when they grow up.  Mick wants to be a dancer, Roland a Royal Bahamas Defense Force officer, Wisley a carpenter and Teko, an FBI agent.  Joranden wants to be an astronaut, Shaquille an NBA star and Daron a truck driver.  For others, they want to be a singer, doctor, artist, scientist, fisherman, track star, musician, UFC fighter, teacher, zoo keeper, pilot and even a spy.  Phil Stubbs’ popular Bahamian song, Persevere reinforced the importance of what they had to say.  It took longer than I had expected but gladly I listened as every one of the young men got to express his dream for adulthood.

What about you? What would you like to be when you “grow up”?  Some of us are barely past our teens.  That’s the Justin Bieber, Bodine and TI’s of today.  Others of us have been around long enough to know who John F. Kennedy, R.M. Bailey and Bruce Lee are.  Wherever you are on the time line, the truth is your time won’t last forever.  Carpe diem, “seize the day.”  What you do matters.

KJW

The Other Woman

Affair at the OfficeKaren’s married but she’s kissing her boss. I’m sitting here seeing it for myself but I still can’t believe it.  I feel the anger building inside.  Am I expected to sit here and pretend I don’t know what is happening?  Her coworker Shirlene knows what’s going on and as if on cue, delays Wade’s wife Sophia in the office next door. Sophia doesn’t suspect anything but how long will this deceitful game continue before the walls come crashing down and the truth is exposed?

Today, I am on the set of “The Other Woman” a dramatic and emotionally charged stage play, produced by twins Radel and Ranel of Redemptive Productions.   It is another day of rehearsals and the actors are an impressive bunch.   Graciously, I am one of them as is my fiancée Charlene.  You won’t believe the roles we play but I will share more about that in my future blogs.  Opening night is still weeks away but the country is already buzzing about this “real to life” Bahamian drama inspired by the styling of actor, director Tyler Perry.

How many of us know of similar true stories?   I am talking about the men and women in marriage or committed relationships that decide to go rogue?   Cheating, like most things, is a process.  It begins as a seed in the mind and grows to something more.   Some experts contend that cheating happens when an unfulfilled partner seeks fulfillment elsewhere.  To others, “stepping out” is the act of selfish ingrates who would be unfaithful under the best of circumstances.  The fact is that it happens and often results in deep hurt, anger and resentment.   However, I am not writing to castigate anyone.   But rather, to remind  us of the importance of honouring our commitments; exploring and discovering who we are and our values; openly and honestly talking with our mate or spouse about our desires, struggles and aspirations; resolving conflict in a timely manner and investing the time and effort to understand and meet the needs of our love one.  Faithfulness is a decision and a responsibility.  What you do matters.

KJW