My Personal Success

Beginning year six in East Africa. From an inauspicious start, I’ve managed to take root here, make friends, learn languages, find success.

What is success? Making a long putt for par? Closing a deal with a sought-after client? Raising upstanding children? Before we can answer the contemporary question of “what does success look like?” we must first define it.

Personal or professional

I’ve had a lifelong conflict trying to balance my personal life with my professional goals. My first career as a TV sportscaster-producer took me to more (TV) markets than Joe Carcione (The Green Grocer)! I was chasing the dream I had since pre-teens. The multiple daily deadlines, ever-changing challenges. It was exhilarating and exhausting. I moved a lot in nine years, bouncing from here and there to move up the ladder, in prestige and pay, until I ran out of gas.

After a transition period of about 18 months, I was selected for a state civil service job in San Francisco. I was plucked out of an overnight cable news shift in Los Angeles–300 miles from my home–and never looked back.

That first year I began to achieve a professional-personal balance in my life. I commuted to The City from my mother’s East Bay home. Took public transit every single day, without fail. Made friends, had fun, started my run as a public information officer. After a year I was back in the state capital, sleeping at home, commuting to work on Light Rail, and training for my first of four marathons.

Spiritual success

After my son was born it was time to get him baptized, as generations of forebears did with their young progeny. A Christian community was found with activities, suppers and prayers. I had grown up a generation earlier in the church rectory where we hosted such events. This was a back-to-the-future moment. It felt familiar. And friendly.

More state jobs meant more pay and responsibilities. Soon I was cycling 25 miles to work, achieving fitness while sharpening my sword. We found a new church which was about to undertake a profound step in faith to embrace debt and build a wonderful worship center for the community. I was all-in.

As my career and family grew, so did my spiritual gifts. I became a regular worship leader as a member of the choir, a performing sketch artist on designated Sundays and a participant and contributor in an ecumenical revival movement. I found time–no, made time–to enjoy God’s great outdoors with a cadre of friends on our cool road bikes.

From where I sit now those were the greatest of days. My son completed university and was focused on his next steps. I was climbing some of the great hills and mountains from the coastal range to the Sierra Nevada.

Yet that still, small voice inside me said it was time for more.

Across the pond

From my days in the rectory and hours in the pews, I always had this sense of a higher calling. Summoning me from child’s play, from the cubicle farm, the rat race. An opportunity was born in the fall of 2011, just weeks after I retired from my state career. I could visit a secondary school in South Sudan with my video cameras. That meant making critical connections, getting a passport, and crossing the Atlantic Ocean for the first time. I didn’t have far to go. The school was founded by retired educators and friends at my church in Cameron Park. A new door was opened, a new life beckoned.

This journey has not been difficult. Traveling 10,000 miles to Africa has unfolded naturally, easily. Almost as if it was preordained. I first arrived on this continent without knowing a single person. In Christian communities where I landed in South Sudan, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, I was welcomed by brothers and sisters who knew the Lord as I did. They grew up in strong communities where hospitality is a cultural norm.

I have stepped toward them, learning their languages, sharing my faith and humor and wealth. I have been rewarded with their friendships, smiles and love.

Answer the question!

So what is success? I’ve missed more par putts than I’ve made, but I’ve cycled and traveled a road few peers have followed. While I worked. While I worshipped. While I helped raise an outstanding young man.

Success is a balanced life: Love and laughter, pain and forgiveness, selfishness and selflessness. It is making money and making amends. Structure and spontaneity. Climbing the challenging peaks and coasting home. Remembering friends and loved ones, and making new ones on the other side of the world.

Joy to the World

Joy to the World the Lord has come. Let earth receive her king!

One of the things that has transformed me in recent years is the feeling of joy. In the past I felt inadequate or not worthy of such an expression. As I have grown, walking forward faithfully, I have experienced authentic joy.

For a season in my life, I was a very good mountain cyclist. There was a lot of joy descending Sierra passes that my buddies and I just climbed. I would shout to the Lord my joy and happiness. How great that feeling. And that was mine. I worked hard. I earned every bit of that.

As I found my work in Africa, a joy resonated from within me that has been impossible to contain. Being in the presence of God and beautiful people has given me a glimpse of heaven. There is joy and happiness, punctuated by poverty and pain, almost every day.

Today, with Evelyn in my life, there is a feeling of an everlasting joy with the most unlikely but perfect life mate.

I am happy. I feel joy. The Lord lives here.

May you experience the joy that comes from fellowship with the Lord and others.

Scoring in Stresa

One of the highlights of our Eurotour was a weekend in Stresa, on the shores of Lago Maggiore, in Northern Italy.

My first order of business when I got off train was, “where’s the bike store?” Second cousin, Graziella, picked us up and I made my intentions known.

Checked into hotel and asked about bike shops. I recalled sending an email in early May to a store in the region asking about rentals, and got an affirmative response, but could remember nothing more from that exchange.

The front desk clerk suggested a store, but Graziella rejected that and said that she knew someone in town. Since she brought a pickup truck to gather us, this looked promising. We’d  go to this store, get me a bike, and I could ride for the first time in >4 weeks. Dinner would have to wait.

stresa bike

Her English is pretty good, despite her complaints, so we could communicate well. We drove to a neighboring town of Omegna and to her friend’s store. It was a small store, with nice road and mountain bikes. As I walked in, he rolled out a DeRosa aluminum frame bike, with Campy shifters like I have.

While in Paris, we walked by a number of Tour de France vendors with black and yellow jerseys and stuff. I had one in my hand before we hit the Louvre but put it down. I decided to wait until I reached Italy and get a jersey there.

As Massimo fixed the bike, I asked to see jerseys. He showed me a Scott jersey, from the bike company. I told him I wanted one from a local club. Actually, I don’t know how we got this far since he spoke no English and I know even less Italian. He nodded his understanding took me behind the register to show me a picture of his club, wearing their blue kits.

“Yes,” I told him. “That’s what I want!” So he sized he up, gave me the gear, and pointed to a changing room.

While I fumbled with the clothing, Massimo told Graziella about an email he got back in May from an American who was coming to the area to ride. He asked her my name, then found my email from May 1.

I came out of the room with the kit clinging to me and they both said, “molto bene!” and shared the story–I had contacted Massimo and he was fulfilling my cycling destiny in Italy. I was so thrilled I could hardly stand still. I bought the kit, then showed him my YouTube page with all the cycling and South Sudan videos. We took a picture together outside underneath his sign.

On the drive back to Stresa, Graziella and I excitedly recounted this event. I gave thanks to God for blessing me yet again on this trip and she shared this news with her friends on the phone.

After the bike pick up, we went to a restaurant where Graziella knew the chef. Had a wonderful meal, starting with the antipasti, fish, salad, great Bacan red wine, dessert.
Nice fueling for the next day’s ride.