Time to Paddle

“Everything changes and nothing stands still.” – Heraclitus

When I was a teenager, my family would often drive up to the northeast corner of Oklahoma to go canoeing.  It was always early in the morning when the dew was thick on the leaves.  The cool crisp air would be slowly warming to the rising sun.  We would grab our paddles and slide our boat into the river.  I should probably put quotes around “river” as there were times during the hot and dry springs that these were more like tiny creeks or streams.  In any case, you never knew what you would find.  Parts of the journey would be peaceful, quiet and serene. The water would become still like a mirror.  You could hear your own breathing and the birds chirping in the distance.  There was very little effort needed to keep going forward.  You could sit back and rest, soaking in the quiet peacefulness as the canoe glided by itself through the smooth silvery surface of the deep.  

Then it would happen.  A distant roar would begin to break the silence.  “Rapids ahead!” someone would yell to wake up the crew.  The growing growl soon was accompanied by the sound of churning and splashing water.  The noise became real. The white mist and foam of the rapids was upon us. My heart began to beat faster as the speed of the canoe accelerated toward the sound.  Scrape!  The shallowing speeding water suddenly exposed rocks and gravel that grabbed at the bottom of the canoe.  It would veer to the left, then to the right as it collided with the relentless currents and moss covered rocks.  “Paddle!”  Adrenaline was high as we paddled to steer clear of the obstacles that would quickly flip or split the canoe.  About the time we navigated the last biggest challenge we would round the bend to see a fallen tree blocking our passage.  What do you do?!  Around it, over it or under it?   Most of the time we managed to go around it with vigorous paddling, but there was a time or two where we decided to see how much of the river we could fit in the canoe to ride with us.  In any case, it would soon be over.  Down the stream we would go.  Soon the sound of the rapids would begin to fade behind us as the river smoothed out again.  Breathe.  Relax.  We made it!   

Change is the current of life.  We never know what we will encounter.  There will be unexpected events.  Moments of bliss and joy will land on us like dew.  At other times, the noise of the rapids will demand our fast action.  We will encounter obstacles, scrapes, opportunities, turns and bends that may even tip us over at times. Don’t fear, we can do this!  Grab your oar and begin to navigate the stream.  The future is just up ahead!  Let’s make it what we want it to be.  Keep moving forward!  It’s time to paddle.


Words are amazing.  They can be written, thought, spoken or signed.  They are the concrete structures of our abstract thoughts.  Through words, we represent our world, our feelings and our actions.  Sewn together, words mobilize concepts into story and unfold a connection between the author and the reader.  Through words, I can step into your life and you, mine.  I can feel.  I can relate.  I can sense the flow of my own cognitive energy as well as yours.  Words allow me to grasp and challenge the clarity of the moment, the importance of the thought and the landscape on which our relationships are formed.  Through my words, you can see me.  Through your words, I can see you.

Communication is intimate.  When we speak or write words we become vulnerable.  Part of who we are is made accessible to others.  When those words we send are loving and kind, we feel those warm connections and our brain triggers a neurochemical response making us feel more included, connected and wanted.  When those words are cruel, attacking, or demeaning, we feel a surge of anger, exclusion, insecurity or apprehension.  The words we use and how we respond to them can have a profound impact on our health and the health of others.  They form or they destroy our relationships.  They can build bridges or they can declare war.  But worse than harsh words are no words at all.  When there is a lack of communication it sends a signal of detachment, alienation and separation.  Without words, we distance ourselves from others and sever the chance for connection. 

Communication is vital.  I think we often fail to appreciate the gravity of communication and its role in building and maintaining healthy relationships.  Understanding and connecting to each other is paramount to living a rewarding life and accomplishing our business and personal goals.  We all seem to intuitively know that.  Yet surprisingly, we often fail at communicating, or at least, communicating well.  Have you ever been in a situation where it was clear that there was a misunderstanding but you failed to speak up?  Have you ever thought to yourself that you should reach out to someone to encourage them, but you didn’t follow through?  Or perhaps, you knew there was a difficult conversation that you needed to have, but you just didn’t have the time or courage to do it?  I can relate to those situations and more.  It is vital to communicate, but it doesn’t mean it is easy.

Communication is an investment.  It takes time and energy.  Yes, it is even risky, after all, because it means we become vulnerable.  But it is worth it.  Words are powerful and the dividends are healthy, vibrant and growing relationships.  As my friend, Jeff Gallimore always says, “Sharing is caring!”  Spend some time this week caring for others by communicating.  Share some feedback with kindness.  Make someone’s day by giving some encouragement.  Make the investment.  Connect with others through this miracle we call words.