What If You Only Had One Year to Live? ⋆ Politicrossing
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What If You Only Had One Year to Live?

How would your life change day to day?

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What if all of the sudden your doctor told you that you only had one year to live? How would your life change? Chris Widener, Founder of PolitiCrossing, talks about his new book, Four Seasons. Focus on the preciousness of life with Chris in this short video. You can purchase Four Seasons right here. Or read the first chapter below the video.

Trending on PolitiCrossing.com: What Does the Term African American Mean?

March 10, 3 p.m.

As Jonathan Blake turned off Roxiticus road and into his drive, he pushed the console button that would open his gate, and the massive, wrought-iron gates began to open. While waiting, his gloved hand on the stick shift, his eye caught the marker on the brick post. It read “Three Lakes.” When the gate had opened far enough, Jonathan eased his black luxury car through and continued up to the house. Jonathan had always cherished Three Lakes, but this afternoon, he loved it more than ever. Moving slowly up the mile-long driveway, he surveyed the land on which he had lived for most of his life. The massive, glorious trees that guarded the front entrance created a secluded tunnel leading to the first of the three lakes sitting just off to the right, a quarter-mile up the driveway. Lush, rolling terrain that occupied most of the rest of the 157 acres that made up the estate welcomed him warmly this afternoon.

The drive from Manhattan had taken him roughly an hour and 15 minutes. Having until two years ago been the owner of some 50 city and county newspapers up and down the East Coast, Jonathan had driven in and out of Manhattan thousands of times during his lifetime. This trip was different, though. There was so much to think about today, so much weighing on his mind. Monumental events loomed on the horizon—events that would affect Jonathan and his family profoundly and change their lives forever. Normally, the drive from the city to Three Lakes was a calm and soothing one, changing slowly along the way from the sterile, high-rise atmosphere of the fastest-paced city in the United States, to the natural, colorful scenery of the area surrounding Far Hills, New Jersey, deep in horse country. The drive usually drew Jonathan through an inner change, taking him from the overworked executive to the relaxed husband and father, ready to spend time with his family. Not so this day. The mind-numbing thoughts racing to and fro had made this drive seem nonexistent. By the time he approached Three Lakes, he was dull from the desperate mental exertion. He negotiated the drive on autopilot.

Nearing the house, Jonathan reached to touch another button, and the second stall of the five-car garage opened, making way for him to park. He slowed down and eased the car into its resting place. Turning off the engine and climbing out of the car, he pressed the opener again and closed the garage door behind him. The first stall, closest to the door to the mudroom, was reserved for his wife Gloria’s car, but seeing that it was gone, he knew that the house was his, at least for a time.

He rarely felt this way, but today he was glad Gloria was gone. He needed some more time to himself before revealing the tragic news.

The house on Three Lakes was enormous. At 23,000 square feet, the English Tudor-style home built by Jonathan’s father on the rolling landscape outside of Far Hills was the quintessential Northern New Jersey estate. It had five bedrooms in the family quarters, a two-bedroom guest wing above the garages, and a formal dining room that seated thirty-two when the large cherry table was extended. The huge kitchen was where wonderful family memories began, where feasts were prepared for the hungry family to enjoy. In addition, there were formal and informal living rooms, a den, a recreation room complete with a billiards table built in 1865, and two offices, one for Jonathan and one for Gloria. The two rooms that set Three Lakes apart from the other large homes in the area were the library and the ballroom. It was Jonathan’s mother, Charlotte, who, indulging a lifelong love affair with books, made sure that her husband, Edgar, included a library when he built the home. It was 2 stories high, with bookshelves all the way around its 1,800 square feet, holding 20,000 volumes. All of the great books of history were there, and Jonathan, also a book lover and avid reader, had spent hundreds of hours in the library reading them. The room was decorated exquisitely with overstuffed leather couches, recliners, and study tables in the corners, complete with a banker’s lamp on each. Providing access to the volumes on high shelves above your head was a two-story, rolling oak ladder that moved around the perimeter of the room.

The second special room was the 4,000-square-foot ballroom. Throughout their years together, Edgar and Charlotte had hosted many a party there and always engaged the most popular bands and ensembles to entertain their friends, relatives, and business acquaintances. A large chandelier hung like a sparkling beach umbrella in the center of the room, while off to the side were sitting areas around the wooden dance floor where tired dancers could talk, enjoy good food, and drink their wine or champagne. A huge fireplace dominated the outer wall, and in the winter months, guests looked forward to the warmth of a crackling fire. Large, two-story windows around the room gave way to broad, sweeping views of the gazebo, the front gate below, and the largest of the three lakes. The room was, quite simply, breathtaking.

Edgar and Charlotte Blake had built the home as a place in which to raise their two children, Betsy and Jonathan, away from the hustle and bustle of the city. It was their permanent family retreat. When Jonathan was 20, his older sister died in a freak drowning accident. Edgar and Charlotte then lived alone after Jonathan left for college, their solitude punctuated with frequent visits home from Jonathan and later, Jonathan and Gloria.

When Edgar died at the age of 64, he left the house to his wife, Charlotte Wilson Blake. She died four years later, and the house in which Jonathan had grown up became his. Jonathan, Gloria, and their four children have lived there ever since.

After entering the house through the mudroom, Jonathan moved quickly through the kitchen, stopping only briefly at the preparation island in the middle of the room to see what had come in the mail that was laid out there. He quickly perused the stack and came to the conclusion that there was nothing important, at least not compared to what else had been occupying his mind since this afternoon. He left the kitchen cutting through the formal living room, down the hall, through the main foyer, and into his haven, his office.

Jonathan always felt safe and at home in the office that had originally been his father’s. Scores of books nestled in the bookshelves, surrounded by dark, rich, mahogany woodwork and leather furniture. He settled into his favorite chair next to the glass cabinet that held his favorite hunting rifles and shotguns, slipped his tired feet out of his shoes, and raised his legs to rest on the ottoman. Reaching over to the table next to him, he opened a small humidor and took out an Opus X cigar, one of the small pleasures of his life. Jonathan never smoked more than one per week when he was working, as he didn’t want them to become commonplace but to remain a special privilege he allowed himself as a reward for making it through another hard week at the office. Since retiring, though, sometimes he would allow himself an additional cigar during the week. After cutting the tip off, he took the lighter from the table and lit the cigar. Jonathan savored the rich aroma of the cigar. He loved the smell and had since he was a little boy when Edgar would relax with an occasional cigar.

There he was, home by himself and left to his own thoughts. The quiet of the house was deafening as he sat motionless, his head resting against the back of his chair. He stared out the window toward the backyard, where he could see the gazebo and the fields beyond. He looked longingly over his land and dreamed of what the future might have held.

“How will I tell them?” he wondered. “When will I tell them? What will they think? What will they do? How can I let them down like this?” As a cloud of cigar smoke curled into the air, his eyes turned toward what the Blake family affectionately called “The Wall.” The walls of the office were covered with artwork, plaques, and diplomas, but “The Wall” was reserved for the special photos that, taken together, told the story of his life. Jonathan put his cigar down in the ashtray and walked deliberately to the wall to gain a closer look. There stood Jonathan Blake. He was a tall, good-looking man. At 6-foot-1 and 175 pounds, he was still in good shape, though in these later years in life, he had lost a little weight as some of his muscle mass had disappeared. In his younger years, he had weighed close to 190, a picture of good health. Now, his hair was dark, with just a touch of gray, the symbolic mist of wisdom framing his temples. His eyes were steel blue. All in all, he had leading-man good looks.

Set among the pictures were his 12 favorites. He buried both hands deep in his pockets and, moving from left to right along “The Wall,” he considered each picture and the time of life it represented. There was the picture of Jonathan and Betsy, aged 10 and 12, along with their parents, out in the back of the house next to the original gazebo, still full of vim and vigor, ready for life. He remembered the day well. It was warm and sunny, and he was a typical boy. His mother and father had asked him repeatedly to settle down and leave his sister alone so that they could get on with the picture taking. It was an amateur family portrait, but it captured this family, and that was what was significant. It showed them on the land that they loved, together for a moment in time. Jonathan thought of what a beautiful woman Betsy would have been had she lived. She had a broad, white smile that was infectious. Jonathan wished that his family could still be together. Now, as the other three were gone, this was an important picture, an important memory, for Jonathan. It was a connection to his past, his original family, his blood. His eyes turned to the picture of him and Edgar fishing in Pennsylvania. Charlotte had captured this on film when Jonathan was 14 on one of the family’s vacations. Edgar loved to fish and hunt, a passion that he eagerly and successfully instilled in his only son. In this photograph, Jonathan, not Edgar, was reeling in the big one, something that didn’t happen very often. Jonathan’s boyish grin was the center of the picture, his father’s smile of pride in his only son a close second. Jonathan looked just like Edgar, simply younger.

Just below that was a picture of Jonathan’s lacrosse team at the Delbarton Catholic Boys High School outside of Morristown. The Blakes were Presbyterian, but Jonathan, and then Jonathan’s two boys, Michael and Thomas, all attended Delbarton because it provided the finest education money could buy in that area of New Jersey. Thomas, the youngest of Jonathan and Gloria’s four children, would graduate that spring from Delbarton and then go on to Princeton University, another family tradition.

Delbarton had taught Jonathan to love a classical education and given him an outlet for his love of the written word. It also taught him to place God in the center of his life and to remember that he had a responsibility to his Maker and his fellow man. Delbarton was also where Jonathan pursued his passion for sports. He always played team sports, and he was elected the captain of the lacrosse team in both his junior and senior years. Many of his fellow students came from wealthy families, so it was always a source of inner satisfaction for Jonathan, knowing that it was his leadership abilities and athletic skill, not his father’s money, that got him voted captain by his teammates. His senior year, the lacrosse team went to the state finals but lost, despite Jonathan’s valiant effort of three goals.

The team picture brought that game to mind, and Jonathan studied each member of the team. He saw young men about to graduate from high school, go on to college, and then into the real world. He had kept up with most of his teammates and knew at least where most of them were and where their lives were taking them. As with all senior classes, some went on to do great things, others to more mundane and ordinary lives. Some, like Jonathan, attained great fame and wealth. Others lived simply, content with an average existence.

Jonathan thought about each of these teammates, so childlike then, so energetic, so full of dreams. Life had taken them in many directions. He wondered how many of them were truly happy now as they neared the twilight of their lives. He wondered how much longer they would live and what legacy they would leave for others. He wondered if any were truly making a difference in the lives of those around them or if they were just waiting life out, distracted by a plethora of activities.

In the middle of “The Wall” was a large picture of Jonathan and his precious mate, Gloria. He was a sophomore at Princeton, she a freshman at Drew University in Madison, about an hour away. Gloria had come to know Jonathan through her brother Martin, a classmate of Jonathan’s who now lived in Germany and taught at a university there. The picture was taken in front of one of the restaurants on Palmer Square. Jonathan noticed how young they looked. Their faces were so… taut. Age takes its toll on your skin first, he thought. There they were. Gloria was beautiful. Not striking, but naturally good-looking. Her light-brown hair caught the sunlight just so in the picture. At the time of the picture, they had been dating only two months, but they were in love and about to realize they would spend the rest of their lives together. He reminisced about Gloria. She was a spunky but brilliant young woman from South Jersey. Jonathan was bright, to be sure, but his family’s network of relationships definitely played a part in helping the Princeton admission process go smoothly. After college, Gloria taught school until Jennifer was born four years into her teaching career. How he respected and adored Gloria. He still caught himself looking lovingly at her across the room when she was not aware of him. Occasionally, she would catch him looking, and he would just smile a smile of love and appreciation.

Beside the picture of Gloria and Jonathan was a picture taken at a restaurant in Paris while on their 10th-anniversary trip. Jonathan had been to Europe many times before, but Gloria had only dreamed about it. Jonathan arranged to surprise her with this trip. It was the only time they went to France, and it was memorable for the setting as well as the occasion. Around that photo were four others, each one with Jonathan and one of the four children. There was Jonathan and Jennifer, the oldest of the Blake children, eating cotton candy at the zoo when she was 9. She was a small version of her current self with her brown hair, blue eyes, and a wide smile. How he loved Jennifer. He remembered when she was born, how he had cradled her in his arms so tenderly that first time. He had gazed into her eyes, amazed at the gift of life that God had bestowed upon him. How would he care for her? How would he be able to provide all that another human being, his child, needed? He had felt deeply the awesome privilege and responsibility of another life under his care.

Jennifer had grown up to be a strong woman, a lawyer. She was beautiful, proud, and self-confident. Yet Jonathan knew that her life was not perfect. Jennifer and her husband Scott, who was also a lawyer, were obviously not happily married. This caused Jonathan and Gloria much pain; they had many discussions on how they might possibly be helped. Jonathan pondered what might happen to them in the future. He didn’t know. And now, more than ever, he felt completely unable to provide any help. He wanted to do something, anything, to steer them in the right direction. He made a mental note to work on that soon.

There was also a picture of Jonathan with Michael, his second child, wrestling on the living room floor, both of their faces beaded with sweat and looking directly into the camera as if they had stopped and posed. How does a father describe his love for his first son? Jonathan breathed deeply, letting the air out in a heavy sigh. Jonathan had dreamed of a life of partnership with Michael, and his son had not disappointed him. Michael had also graduated from Princeton and was becoming a young man who would, in a few years, be ready to partner with his father in life and work. Jonathan had for years vividly pictured in his mind late nights plotting the next adventure with Michael, alternating between bestowing fatherly wisdom and eagerly embracing the vigor of a young man pursuing a higher goal. Michael was now married to Patty, a charming young woman whom Jonathan and Gloria considered the greatest find Michael could have made. Grandchildren would come from these two first, he figured. The thought of grandchildren was important to Jonathan—even more so now.

A picture of Samantha, Jonathan and Gloria’s third child, and her dad dressed exquisitely for a high school, father-daughter dinner was next to the picture of Michael and Jonathan. Jonathan wore a dark-blue, double-breasted suit. He had looked dapper, he thought. Samantha wore a dark-blue dress to match. Samantha. Now she was a pleasant enigma to Jonathan. She was the tenderest of the Blake children. A typical middle child, she was quiet and deferred to the strength of the older children and the attention shown to her younger brother. She usually played the role of the quiet helper in the Blake family. Jonathan admired Samantha for her calm spirit. He appreciated her servant’s heart immensely. He thought the world of her. The problem was simply that he didn’t know her very well. Yes, this picture placed him at a certain time and date in her life, but the reality was that if any of the Blake children had been lost in the shuffle of Jonathan’s busy life, it was Samantha. Jonathan hadn’t spent much time getting to know her while she was growing up, and now he regretted that. Soon she would be marrying William Moore, a young Presbyterian minister, and begin to develop her own life and family. He had thought ever since the engagement that the chances of delving into his daughter’s heart and life were growing increasingly slim. He had often pondered recently how he might find time to make a place for himself in Samantha’s life. This, too, he would make a priority now.

A picture of the youngest, Thomas, about age 14 and looking a lot like Jonathan did in the picture with Edgar, and Jonathan holding a shotgun in one hand and a duck in the other, completed the collection of pictures of Jonathan and his children. Thomas had brought a sense of completeness to Jonathan. He had always wanted four children. His slightly morbid reason being that he wanted to make sure he had more than two children in case anything happened to one of them. While Michael had been groomed to be a businessman, Thomas had been groomed to take up Jonathan’s leisurely pursuits such as hunting and fishing. He was smart and did well in school, but his passion was in sport. Michael could obviously handle a rod and reel or a shotgun, given the scores of trips he had taken with his father to pursue fish, elk, and deer, but Thomas was a young master in Jonathan’s eyes.

Yes, Jonathan pondered, each of the children had their strengths and weaknesses, as do all people, but all in all, they were good kids, leading good lives. Jonathan was very proud of them all and loved them as only a father could. Finishing off “The Wall” were pictures of the family on the beach in Florida, a picture of the combined staffs of Jonathan’s newspapers taken at one of their annual Christmas parties, and, next to the picture of Gloria and Jonathan, was a family portrait. Here was the Jonathan Blake family, attired in suits and dresses, standing on the newly renovated gazebo in the backyard. It was a beautiful summer day, and there was a lot to be happy about. The family was all together, they had attained wealth and status that only a few ever achieve, and above all, they were healthy.

All of the pictures on Jonathan’s wall boldly declared one thing: Family man. Jonathan Blake had remained married and faithful to his one true love for his whole life, had succeeded in business beyond anyone’s expectations, including his own, provided jobs for literally hundreds of people, and had raised four fine, upstanding, God-fearing children who would most likely repeat the pattern in their own lives. His life appeared to be a success.

As he stood there staring at the family portrait, thinking more of the trouble he was now facing and the dread with which he faced it, knowing the impact it would have on his family, he heard the mudroom door swing open and then close again. Gloria was home. Jonathan’s heart began to race. He stood there, hands still deep in his pockets. He didn’t move. He didn’t need to. Gloria would surely look for him in his office first. She would be there soon enough, asking questions Jonathan didn’t want to answer. He didn’t want to have to do what he would be required to do in the next few minutes. In fact, he loathed the pain he was about to cause his love.

You can purchase Four Seasons right here.

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Chris is the Founder of PolitiCrossing, one of the World's Top 50 Speakers and a member of the Motivational Speakers Hall of Fame. He considers it a privilege to be able to speak to people, help them lead successful lives, become extraordinary leaders and, masterful salespeople. Chris has authored twenty-three books with three million copies in print in 14 languages and over 450 articles on success, leadership, sales and motivation.



 
 
 

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Faith

A Nation of Unsung Heroes

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The movie, Unsung Hero, is not only a great movie. It’s a movie that captures the struggle and hard-earned survival and eventual success of millions of Americans who have had to overcome struggles to earn their own American Dream. For two centuries, Americans have been known for their resourcefulness and resilience, and we are not done yet!

We are again living in difficult and challenging times. Surveys suggest that nearly 60% of American families are living paycheck to paycheck. Their solutions to their plight won’t be coming from politicians in Washington. Their success, as always, depends on their will and resourcefulness in overcoming daily obstacles, their ability to survive on limited resources, their scrounging for work that allows them to survive another day, and help from those who care.

That common but heart-rending struggle is conveyed in an inspiring way in Unsung Hero. The film focuses on the early struggles of the Smallbone family in the early 90’s. We watch as David Smallbone’s once-thriving music business as a concert promoter in Australia falls apart. They lose their home, their car, and their life’s savings. With no opportunities in Australia, David moves the family halfway around the world to Nashville to secure the only job he could secure. After missed flights and a long and tiring journey to Tennessee, David learns that his promised job had been given to someone else.

As their dreams fall apart, you watch as the steady faith and creativity of Helen Smallbone, played by Australian actress and mother Daisy Betts, pulls the family through one setback and challenge after another to find a way through. With six children and another on the way, every member of the family is challenged to do their part to keep them afloat. They do yard work, any work that would fill their jar of savings. They couldn’t let it be empty, and they didn’t. They kept finding a way.

They were Australians with no friends, no family, no car, sleeping on beds made out of clothes. To nurture their faith, they began attending a local church. Aware of their needs, church members found ways to help in any way they could. In a foreign country living in a city with over half-a million people, it took finding a loving faith community who cared enough to help. Watch the movie, to find out the rest of the story. Bring plenty of tissue and be ready for a few tears along the way.

America needs this movie right now. Why? Too many people are feeling hopeless in the face of growing inflation and lost jobs. They face frustrating obstacles and enormous challenges, and the answer is summed up by a quotation of Mother Teresa shared in the movie, “If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.” Luke Smallbone, the producer of the film, acknowledged the importance of that truth, “That is really the heartbeat behind the film.” It is also the local solution that has always helped Americans find their way through-the power of family and the presence and support of their local “family of God.”

Washington may send you money, but they can’t provide the flexible and persistent support needed. It’s one’s local family, friends, and faith communities who can encourage resilience and help shape a needed recovery. Solutions come from a local community’s caring and support. It used to always be that way, and it needs to be that way again.

Our nation is full of unsung heroes who are helping their family and friends, and they are more needed than ever. If you don’t have anyone helping you, stop looking to Washinton for the help that will never come no matter who is elected President. Get involved again in your family and your community. Call your family and let them know you need help. Get back involved in your church or synagogue and let God work through them to help you get back on your feet. Investing in community is an adventure that allows you to help and be helped to the glory of God and country.

When you get involved, you most likely will not make any headlines. That is left for terrorists, violent demonstrators, and other disasters and threats out of your control. But America is strong because of millions of unsung heroes who make it all work and seldom get acknowledged. This column is dedicated to you. You deserve to be honored and applauded for all you have done and will do to keep America the country it has been and must remain. May it continue to be so in your adventure!
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Elections

Let’s Reclaim America’s Optimism Advantage

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On this New Year’s Day, America needs more than a parade and great football games; our people need renewed optimism in living our American Dream. Instead of looking for government fixes or some magical new president who will make things right, we need a kick in the pants to get busy making America work no matter what obstacles we face.

At the 1992 Republican Convention, Ronald Reagan shared what he considered the secret of his success as our President: “I appealed to your best hopes, not your worst fears, to your confidence, rather than your doubts.”

Oh, how we need leadership like that in America today. As we start this year, too many people feel powerless. Inflation may be coming down, but high fuel and food prices have taken their toll on far too many Americans. Watching the invasion on our Southern border means too many of our cities are being overwhelmed with no end in sight. We wonder if there is anything we can do but watch. The sense of despair and helplessness is contagious, but so is optimism. What attitude do you spread?

There is more than you think within your control. Every day, you make choices to make your situation better or worse. Studies of optimism find that optimism comes from a track record of overcoming obstacles. If you have had obstacles the last few years and are still making it work, pat yourself on the back. Be a proud survivor, not a victim so many seem to take pride in claiming to be.

Make each day count by starting your day doing one thing to make your situation better. Find one way to cut expenses. Find a way to increase your resources. Make a call or visit to nurture your network of colleagues and friends. Learn from your mistakes and celebrate your successes, both big and small. Nurture your faith realizing that God gave you gifts and give thanks every day for the blessings you have. Lest you forget, you’re blessed to live in America. People risk everything to come here, and few want to leave.

Yes, this is an election year, and it would sure be a gift to have a leader who would nurture the hope and optimism of all our citizens. So as the campaigns progresses and you listen to potential leaders vying for your support, ask yourself a few key questions:

Do they want to control your choices or ensure your freedoms?

Do they want to make you more or less dependent on government?

Do they want to increase the size of government and entitlements and the taxes needed to fund them or decrease them?

Do they want to force your children to go to public schools that don’t’ get the results your children deserve, or are they willing to give you the freedom to pick the schools your children need?

Do they disagree with their opponents and state why, or do they demean them and call them names?

Do they want to grow the size of government and its debt, or do they want to decrease both?

Do they believe in the citizens they represent, or do they convey that they are the answer to America’s future?

Do they take responsibility for their mistakes and actions or quickly deny responsibility and blame others?

No President is perfect. It’s easy to promise and a lot harder to deliver. Reagan focused on three things: an optimism based on free-enterprise innovation, smaller government, and lower taxes. He delivered on all but smaller government. As Reagan advisor Arnold Laffer confessed, “When it came to cutting welfare payments and school lunch,…it was very hard. Someone would come over and say, ‘How can you cut school lunches?’ Reagan would reply, ‘I guess you’re right; I’ll tell them not to cut that one.’”

The pressure to keep growing government is tempting and easy to understand, but it is not what America was created for. America’s form of government was designed to protect citizens from an over-controlling, over-taxing government. We need to reclaim that passion for freedom and self-reliance. Our founding citizens wanted the opportunity to pursue happiness, not happiness given to them at the expense of other taxpayers.

The election is months away. So I’m going to borrow on the optimism of Ronald Reagan to inspire us all on this first day of 2024: “I’m not taking your time…to ask you to trust me. Instead, I ask you to trust yourself. That is what America is all about… It’s the power of millions of people like you who will determine what will make America great again.”

Reagan wouldn’t want us to wait for the next election. We’ve had enough of eloquent politicians who think they have all the answers. We need to believe in ourselves and get busy living our own dreams. Then, in November, let’s elect a leader who will stay out of our way and give “We the People” freedom again—freedom to fail, succeed, and thrive in our own American Dream!
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