You are a Domino

I was watching this video today that showed the most incredible domino progression. We have all seen things like this. One domino falls over and triggers thousands of other dominos to fall. This video impacted me perhaps because of the gradual increase of things that moved from that single motion. The tipping over of a domino began involving the movement of other objects. At one point a piano is moved and a car is put in motion, all because a single domino fell. Energy has a way of building, and as it builds, more and more reactions occur.

Life is motion. Everything we do, even every thought we have, ripples through the universe like the domino. A small thing may trigger many things leading to something huge. No matter what we choose to do, it triggers reactions leading to other reactions, leading to other reactions, and so on, and so forth. I believe that an action that starts out positive builds positive energy and continues affecting the universe positively. The same can be said for negative energy.

Let me introduce you to a domino.

Mrs. Dilworth from Paris, Idaho completely changed my life, and to this day she has no idea. When I was in my early twenties I was really hurting financially. I happened to walk in the music store of my old drum teacher. This was a great store; it was in an old beat up building that had been falling apart for probably forty years. It was recognized as one of the great local music stores in Salt Lake City. I just liked going in there to look at new instruments. One of the employees was a few years older than me and looked exactly like the 80’s hair band rocker. He was the drummer for a band that was playing a gig that night in Montpeliar, Idaho, a rural town that you would really not have any reason to go to if you weren’t a rancher…or a mediocre rock band. The drummer had a conflict and he wanted someone to sit in with the band tonight. Now I hadn’t played the drums for a few years, and frankly, I wasn’t very good when I was playing. He assured me that it was just quiet lounge where I wouldn’t have to play anything but a simple beat. He said, “Just play quiet enough and no one will even know you are there.”

He was lying.

I really needed the couple hundred bucks this gig would pay, so I agreed to go. His band picked me up and we headed to Montpeliar, about three hours away. I was packed in a small, tattered car that was jammed with instruments and amplifiers. It was a cold day, too early to be called spring, but not cold enough to feel like winter. Of course, I didn’t take a coat. When we pulled into town we parked at an old cowboy bar located on Main Street. This was not a quiet lounge. We were late so we hurried and set up. There wasn’t going to be any practicing and I didn’t know any of the songs on the song list. Have you ever been to a cowboy bar in cowboy country? It is loud and alcohol fuels a very rough crowd.

Well, it became apparent quickly that I was playing with a rock band. The music was loud, fast and unrecognizable. Remember, I was never a good drummer and I thought I would be playing a simple 4/4 beat, and certainly no drum fills. Well, I was terrible and the band members kept giving me “you suck” stares followed by unpleasant hand signals. I was in over my head, they knew it and I knew it. Within about three songs I was kicked out of the band. They pulled a completely drunk cowboy out of the audience and he played the drums like I wished I could have. I was embarrassed and upset and wished so badly I had driven there in my own car. But I hadn’t so I was stuck there. What made it more painful was that it was a two-night gig. That was Friday night; they also were booked to play on Saturday night. I was stuck there. Little did I know the painful experience was just beginning.

After a couple hour set the bar owner took us to the apartment where we were going to sleep. It looked like the worst room in a low income brothel. It had no beds, and the window glass was broken allowing the thirty degree night air free access to our room. I slept on that filthy floor that night with a small blanket that allowed me to either cover my feet or my body, but not both. I froze and was miserable all night long.

When I awoke the next morning I had had enough of Montpeliar, the rock band, and anything associated with it. I found an old cardboard 12-pack beer box, wrote Salt Lake City or Bust on one side, and walked out to the highway. I was ready to catch a ride with anyone to anywhere, to get out of there. It was pretty cold that day probably in the low forties, and I didn’t have a coat. I was freezing but I stood at that spot just outside of town with my thumb outstretched praying for someone to get me the hell out of there. I stood there for nearly ten hours and no one stopped.  I didn’t know what to do. The sun was starting to set and I knew that I couldn’t stand out there when it went dark. I didn’t have the money for a motel room, and the thought of going back to the cowboy bar was unbearable.

This is when I met Mrs. Dilworth. She stopped in front of me in a station wagon that had to be from the early 70’s. It looked like it had 200,000 miles on it. With her were her three children. She explained to me that she had passed me earlier and asked her children, “What would we do if that were Jesus?” The children piped in with kind actions. “We would help him,” another said “we would feed him.” As she explained this to me she invited me to get in her car and she would make me a nice dinner. I was concerned because she lived in a town several miles from Montpeliar. If I accepted her invitation I would be in a smaller town, if that was possible, with no where to stay, in a dark, cold night without a coat. But the thought of staying with the band felt worse, so I got in her car. Imagine a woman with three very small children pulling over to pick up a male hitchhiker and offering to take him to her home for dinner. To this day, just that alone is stunning to me, but my story had just begun.

I learned that Mrs. Dilworth was married but her husband was unable to find work in rural Idaho and had moved to Washington for a job. She was left to care for the children, the home, and several farm animals. Additionally, she was absolutely broke and was barely surviving financially. She started cooking and made a wonderful dinner that would usually be reserved for holidays. It was wonderful. I hadn’t eaten at all that day and that may be one of the best meals I had ever eaten. After the meal had concluded I knew that it was time for me to leave. It was now around 8:30 pm and pitch black outside. As I prepared to leave she said to her children, “now if this were Jesus what would we do? Would we just feed him? No, we would drive him to Salt Lake City.” It has been nearly 30 years since that day and I still remember the feeling that gave me. This person didn’t have nearly enough money to be feeding me, and certainly didn’t have money to take me all the way to Salt Lake City. But her belief that helping someone in time of need was equivalent to helping Jesus, compelled her to do otherwise. That is a person of faith.

She gathered the children, called a neighbor to help feed her animals the next day, and we were off to Salt Lake. It was nearly midnight when we arrived at my apartment. I was exhausted by one of the longest two days of my life. I thanked her for her kindness, and she left to go stay at a family member’s house just outside of Salt Lake.

I staggered to my apartment door fiddling with my keys trying to get my apartment door key out. The porch light wasn’t on and I couldn’t see so I methodically went through my keys hoping one of them would fit in the lock. I would slide one in the key hole, twist, and move on to the next key, until I finally had the right one. As I swung open the door my roommate was standing there with a gun pointed straight at my head. He was ready to shoot when I yelled, “It’s me, it’s me, it’s me.” You see, he knew that I was supposed to be in Idaho until Sunday afternoon. It was Saturday night. As I was shaking the door knob to get in the apartment he thought someone was breaking in. At that point I wouldn’t have minded him pulling the trigger and putting me out of my misery.

If the story were to end there it would be an amazing story of kindness extended to me by a stranger. But it doesn’t end there. Early the next morning I decided to attend church. I wasn’t planning on going because I was supposed to be in Idaho. I considered sleeping in and not worrying about attending. The previous two days had been exhausting. However, I felt compelled to get up early and attend the meeting.

While sitting in a Sunday school classroom, I saw the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. She was visiting from California. I don’t know if she knew that I was completely attracted to her, but in between church meetings she walked up to me, introduced herself, and asked me for directions to another church sermon later that night. I have never been real good at knowing women and when they are interested in me. To this day, I can’t read a woman. So after she continued to hint that she wanted me to ask her out, I finally got the message. That night, I learned that she was only there for a few days and had I not come home from Idaho early I would have never met my lovely wife, and the mother of my beautiful three daughters. Had Mrs. Dilworth not asked her children what Jesus would do if he saw a man on the side of the road, and acted upon it, I would have never met my beloved Kameo. That single decision changed my life forever. Mrs. Dilworth was a domino in my life. We are all dominos in many lives.

The goal of this book is to help you develop your life to be fulfilled and joyous in times of adversity. Loving others is one of the best ways to find that joy. No other subject has been explored, written, or sang about more than love of others. Take that as a sign of its importance.

Love is not a passive emotion. Like Mrs. Dilworth, love may require sacrifice and commitment. Regardless of the capacity it is in, it requires us to give more than we receive. In some cases we give love only to have it rebuffed. But give it we must. It does not matter how our love is received, only that it was given.

Obviously learning to love others is a life long pursuit and your success with it will ebb and flow. It is simple to love those who love you. It is even easy to love those who like you. The challenge is learning to love those who have offended you or even hurt you. For me, I need a system to try and help me develop love for the people who are difficult to love. I do this by adopting what I call the Circle of Love.

Whether it is towards someone frequently in your life, or someone who simply passes through your world, the further you go in the Circle of Love, the more love flows from you, and the happier and more fulfilled your life will be. Love generates happiness in both the giver and receiver.

Remember, The Circle of Love is a great way to help you develop love for those you find difficult to love.


Circle of Love


Circle of love small

Step 1 – Perception


The first step is to not take the actions or words of another person too seriously. Often times misunderstandings occur and then are followed up with words of anger, which are escalated by more words of anger, ultimately leaving two people believing that the other person is a jerk. Really it all started with your accepting what another person said as reality. When truthfully anything another person says to you is simply their perception only. They may tell you are a jerk, but are you? No, that is simply their perception of you. Their perception only matters if you allow it to matter. Imagine simply rebuffing someone’s negative comments as of no importance to you. You don’t get angry, and more importantly, you don’t accept their perception as true. You simply allow them their belief and you move on.

Equally of importance is to also realize that when someone tells you that you are a genius, this too, is a perception. It is no more true than when someone tells you something negative about yourself. But in the spirit of trying to love a person, it is much easier to love someone who doesn’t like you if you neither accept or reject their thoughts, and set them aside simply as their perception. That allows you to move on to the next step of Kindness, because anger hasn’t escalated in the Perception Stage. If anger does accelerate in this stage, the relationship with that person is doomed to fail and that negative energy will reduce the joy in your life.


Step 2 – Kindness


Keep in mind each step in The Circle of Love is meant to deepen love towards a person, which enhances your happiness. Once you are able to accept a person, regardless of their actions towards you, you are in a position to show kindness. Look for opportunity to show this person some sign of kindness. It may simply be complimenting a person’s outfit, telling them you like their smile, or thank them for something. I realize this seems a little trite, but it starts to build in you a habit of being proactively kind despite what other people are doing. Do this as many times as you need until you are comfortable moving to the next step.


Step 3 – Service


By now you should start feeling some connection with a person. That person may now be showing you some kindness as well, and showing parts of their personality you didn’t know existed. If this is not happening you may really never get beyond Step 2 – Kindness with them, but keep trying. The deeper you can take this person in the Circle of Love, the more joy that you will find in your life. Service is not kindness, it is reaching out and doing something you see this person needs that requires time and effort. It requires sacrifice from you. Mrs. Dilworth served me which forced a significant sacrifice from her. It disrupted her children’s and her own life, which is what service needs to do to be effective.


Step 4 – Trust


To truly have love for someone demands that you be vulnerable. Think about it, every deep relationship you have, or have had, the other person has known things about you that “no one else knows.” This trust in the other person is a tremendously bonding experience, and if reciprocated can lead to a life long relationship experienced only a few times in a persons’ life. By allowing one’s self to be vulnerable one is taking a greater risk. Just like in investing in stocks, the greater the risk the greater return. You can put your money under your mattress and never risk losing any of it, or you can invest it wisely and potentially grow it, but have the chance of losing it. In matters of love, if you never allow yourself to take risk and allow for the chance to be betrayed by another, you will really never have deep relationships. This is true in both romantic and platonic relationships.

As we know, betrayal in such a relationship is devastating, but always remember we heal, and the depth of love trusting relationships generate is well worth the loss and pain felt by some of those relationships.

I have been blessed in my life to have a handful of life long friends. These friendships go back decades and will continue for the duration of my life. In one case a friend has known me every day of my life and either I will be speaking at his funeral or he will be speaking at mine. I have a very different relationship with each of these friends, but in every case they know very personal things about me. Things that may be embarrassing, painful, or misunderstood if other people knew them. But in their hands, it has allowed them to give me love and support that only they could give. By the way, I know personal things about them also.

It is obvious that a book that is providing guidance on how to find happiness during times of adversity, would include a chapter on loving others. We are taught in the bible, and I in virtually every other religious text, the “golden rule.” Love thy neighbor as thyself. Or in other words, treat others as you would have them treat you. Notice it doesn’t say treat others as they treat you, but “as you would have them treat you.” In my life I have found that by using the incremental steps of the Circle of Love, I can be a more loving person to others, particularly those who may have wronged me, or those who have negative feelings for me. Instead of telling myself I need to “love them.” I can tell myself that they have their own perception of me, I am going to do something kind for them. After I have done something kind, I can encourage myself to do service for them. Remember, with each step around the Circle of Love, and with each person in it, your life will become increasingly filled with joy.

You are a domino in other people’s lives, regardless of whether you want to be or not. The decision you need to make is what type of domino you wish to be. If you truly want to be happy, be a domino like Mrs. Dilworth.