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Love Is In The Air

It's February...and love is in the air. So are two other words with four letters -- 'cold' and 'snow.' Back in early February, downstate Michigan got hammered with both. Places like Battle Creek and Kalamazoo received over a foot-and-a-half of snow in a matter of hours, along with bitter cold winds. While schools by the hundreds were shut down, and states of emergency were being declared all over Southern Lower Michigan back then, those of us in the north were calmly going about our business in beautiful sunshine (albeit with below-zero and single digit temps), having been spared the latest blizzard to hit the state. All the more reason to love living in the north! As the month progresses, we're all feeling the effects of near-record cold temperatures; it's downright dangerous to be out for any length of time unless well-protected from the elements.

February is also a month of transition. The days are getting longer, and the sun can be seen with greater regularity than with the past couple of months of winter. Even though our days and nights are still pretty cold, spring isn't really all that far off. With that in mind, we bide our time by the fire with our family, and talk. And laugh. And share stories. And enjoy each other's company.

I am reminded of a commentary I read recently of a successful businessman who had traveled to a small island destination in the South Pacific with his wife for some R&R. He was surprised when he stepped off the plane to be greeted by signage that alluded to the island's having a WiFi network; even bus schedules were available via the travelers' iPhones. Somehow, he said he instantly felt connected; he felt 'in control.' His iPhone was such a part of his work life, he wasn't sure how he'd handle time away in a place that potentially wasn't "connected."

Desiring to head to the other side of the island, he pulled up the bus schedule on his iPhone, found the nearest bus stop, and waited. And waited. And waited some more. Pretty soon, he said he found himself growing impatient, even angry that the bus driver would be so late. After all, there was a schedule to follow. Looking around, he said he noticed a number of other people who had gathered to wait for the same bus, so he knew he had the right spot. Oddly, he said that none of them seemed bothered by the lateness of the bus. They were engaged in casual conversation with each other, even punctuated by spirited laughter; they were happy.

The man knew enough French to ask one of the other islanders, a native Aboriginal, as to why the bus was so late...didn't they adhere to any kind of schedule? Pointing repeatedly to his watch, he asked the man why it was taking the bus driver so long to reach the bus stop. The native islander's answer was telling. "Ah yes, the bus; yes, it runs on a schedule. But you see, the bus driver may have stopped to talk to a friend he hasn't seen in some time, or perhaps he stopped by the seashore to show his riders a beautiful sight. Don't worry, he will be here. You see, my friend, you in the West have it all may have the watch, but we have the time." I had to stop and re-read his answer, thinking to myself what a wonderful outlook he had on life.

Popular, and one of our own Traverse City physicians and pediatrician, Dr. Meg Meeker, has a great outlook on the subject of 'time' in general, and how we can make the most of it in particular in a recent article she wrote called: Making Small Changes Mean Big Changes. In it, she encourages us to put down (in this case) our portable electronic devices long enough to purposefully make time (not excuses) to interact in genuine, meaningful ways with those we love...and who love us.

That meaning of her message was driven home by an experience we had at a local (Traverse City) restaurant one Sunday afternoon. We had just been seated around a large round table surrounded by smaller booths, having replaced another family who had just left. All the booths were full. Right away, Shannon and the boys and I began talking about the day, the week, and anything else that came to mind. At one point, our conversation turned humorous, and we were all laughing. Not loudly so as to disrupt the others around us, but we were genuinely having fun in each other's company.

Soon, I became aware that a couple next to us in one of the booths kept looking in our direction. Finally, they got up and even approached our table. I thought I might get scolded for laughing too loudly. Instead, they thanked us for talking to, and laughing with, each other! They thanked our boys for not playing with iPods " the other family before us did." It seems the family we replaced were engaged in their portable electronic devices throughout the whole meal, to the exclusion of their own kids (who also had their iPods out). Mom, dad, and the kids each had one, but apparently no one talked to each other the whole time they were there (except to place their order when the waitress came 'round). We thanked the couple for their kind words, but it was a reminder to us that we have a gift: each other. Soon, our boys will be grown and gone; why waste that precious time engaged in some other activity that doesn't help draw our family closer together.

Yes, February is a season of love. Why not take time to make time for those you love...Up North.
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