Just a minute here!

Just a Minute


Life is so crazy – how one day, one minute, even one split second, and one interaction can change everything. Over the weekend a friend told me about a guy he’s befriended who’s hoping for parole. This prisoner was a good athlete, student, kid and had a manager’s job in his early 20s when he made one crazy stupid decision.  Someone was killed as a result, and he’s now been in prison for over half his life, with no end in sight.

In a minute’s time, back in 1999, my wife made the decision to mentor Britney, an 8-year old girl.  Brit’s parents had perhaps faced two or three of those split second decisions of their own – only they chose poorly.  Britney ended up first homeless, then in foster care, motherless, and finally adopted by Sheila – a step-sister in Georgia whom she hardly knew. Sheila rose up heroically in her own moment of fate.  Last week Jennifer flew to Atlanta and drove hours  on the back roads of rural Georgia; and the three women – Jen, Sheila, and Britney – shared a celebratory moment, savoring Britney’s graduation from high school and enrollment in college.

My troika of stories ends with Bert and Monique – he a full-time lawyer and longtime little league coach and board member for the utterly awesome non-profit Think Detroit PAL, and she the executive director of  a great eastside community service center called Franklin Wright Settlement. Parents themselves, with full-time and extra-curricular commitments to kids, for the last year or so they’ve been doing the real life version of The Blind Side. They welcomed a young man on the edge into their own home, treating him like their own.

“Just a minute, ” we say, often adding, “I’m busy here.”  Just a minute. And just a minute can change everything: news of an accident, a doctor’s sober tone, a phone call from your kids or the school.  I took a minute to visit a young friend in the Ingham County juvenile detention facility yesterday.  I left with Michelle Obama’s words ringing in my head. I’ve heard her say about youth who are spiritually, socially, and emotionally needy: They didn’t choose to be born in dangerous neighborhoods, to have broken schools and a lack of role models.  It’s up to us, she says, adults – not children- to make the difference in their lives.

I’ve always been fond of two lines from scripture.  The first, often sung between readings, says: “If today you hear God’s voice, harden not your hearts.”  And it comes together with the other in which Jesus rests his hands on the shoulders of a small child before him and says, “Whoever welcomes a child like this one, in my name, welcomes me.”  Busy as we all are, when we are awake to this kind of moment, we may find the most life(s)-changing opportunity to truly

Lead with your best self,


If you’re thinking this might be your moment, check out : Mentor Michigan, or if you’re outside Michigan, go to Mentoring.org.

  • Yes
    When I open up my life, I never known how I will touch all the other people, but on occassion one returns and says something I never thought happened, but for them it did.

  • Dan,
    You described heroic decisions in your text today. No one takes these on with the idea that the ride will be easy, but because they feel obliged to TRY to help.
    I’ve seen pain that comes from some of these interactions – calls from jail or from the police, and disappointing setbacks along the way. But I’ve also seen what I call blessings in those interactions – gratitude from the recipients, and knowledge that you tried to do ‘the right thing.’

  • Thanks Dan for sharing once again simple, eternal truths that call us toward right action rather than political rhetoric and wrangling…

  • Hey Dan!

    Excellent article as usual. It moved me to tell you something I think about quite often…
    In a sermon once…I heard a priest say,”Pay attention to those people whom God sends you. He has reasons for sending them to you.” It also prompted me to think about the people that I am sent to…… I realized that in both cases; there are people who I can help…and people who can help me……

    • Mike,
      You put it so well – the reciprocity or mutuality, the way that giver and receiver tend to be partial truths. When it’s genuine – honest and caring – both parties give as they receive, receive as they give.

      • Yes, practicing the Law of Love (www.LawofLove.com) and the Law of Reciprocity (www.LawofReciprocity.com) flows through all religions and should be practiced more by leaders in government and business.

  • Hello,
    This was beautiful to read this morning. I have tried hard to move through life, listening to those that pass through my day, and wonder what I am supposed to learn from them. It can even be those that say nothing to me, that leave an impression on me that moves me, and reminds me of what is important in life. To this day, I am convinced that there is a lady who works at Meijers, who has the job of moving the carts and bagging groceries…that must be some sort of an angel. She has never said anything to me directly, but radiates with happiness and peace. She reminds me that she must have what many people search for all their lives.

    I agree, children can teach us many lessons. It is up to us to listen with our hearts and ears, and be there, giving them our time.

    Thank you for reminding me to listen.

  • Dan,
    You just brought tears to my eyes. This is the best article ever. Friday nite after graduation I had a person come up to me and comment, that they noticed how many graduates gave me a hug as they crossed the stage. They said, you must have been someone special to them. I’ve always said kids are going to get attention one way or another, I will continue to give them hugs as long as I’m able to. I had the opportunity to represent MASB along with one of our students when Michelle Engler put together the Michigan Youth Force. I’m a firm believer in volunteering to help kids. I’m proud to say I’ve been doing it over 40 years. Keep up the good work!

    • Marty,
      How great that those kids have you. As they separate from parents it’s so vital that they have worthy, caring models to attach to. I had a student I taught when I was 23 hire me 20 years later to work with the firm he ran. He told me I was his favorite teacher. Yet I never would have known at the time. Goes to show you that you just don’t know how important a role you may be playing.

  • Dan,

    Just what I needed to hear today as I stuggle to find just a minute with my own family and friends. In our lives where there is always so much to do every minute does count, but some more than others.

    Thank you,

  • Thanks for the reminder Dan. We get so busy and caught up in our lives that it is hard to hear God’s call to us for to be of service to others. As our pastor asks; what is the most important sign in church? Half jokingly he says it’s the exit sign since that is where you take put the message into action! Keep up the good work.

  • Hi Dan –

    Thanks – great reminder and prodding to us all to live out our faith. Perhaps you should have slightly reworded the statement “…doing the real life version of The Blind Side” I believe the Blind Side, was itself a real live version.


    – Rick

  • Just imagine if today our society’s culture developed a plan of “just a minute,” as a way of life to help a person at life’s cross roads of right and wrong?

    While we are not certain our future turns out improved, we do know how badly things turned out in the past when we didn’t merely relying on hope as we remember the names of James Earl Ray, Sirhan Sirhan, and Lee Harvey Oswald. Let alone the decades, perhaps centuries of loss to improving humanity because of the actions of John Wilkes Booth.

    Sadly, our system as a whole doesn’t get the obvious truth soon enough, but while we have the opportunity we can not stop trying to give “just a minute,” and help good win the day for a future King, Kennedy or Lincoln and not leave chance for evil tomorrow.

    • I work in a “system”. I am what is called an “Intensive Probation Officer” for kids. I work with precious human beings who need and deserve more than they have been given so far. They need people who notice them, people who include them, people who teach them by example (probably more than words), people who show them things they can hope for, people who persist in connecting with them, people who are kind. Their parents, grandparents, and guardians need the same things. I find it so heartening to read what the First Gentleman and others have written this week. Hearing what Sheila did for Brit made me smile and get teary all at the same time. I hope Sheila knows the hugeness of her gift to Brit. Often “my” kids need Sheilas. Always “my” kids need all of us.

  • Hello Dan,

    I am pleased that you have shared this story; I know this message will help raise the awareness on saving our youth. From the First lady of the United States to the First Gentleman of the great state of Michigan, I love the show of concern this has for our youth.

    Thomas K. Burke – Mentor

  • This reminds me of a bumper sticker I have up on a bulletin board to remind me as to where and what my priorities should be:

    “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” -Frederick Douglass

    Thank you for sharing.

  • “If today you hear God’s voice, harden not your heart.” –those were a favorite refrain of Frank Canfield, often added to early-morning mass. Thanks for a great reminder.

  • Dan,

    What a timely article. I have been a volunteer in an after school art therapy program for children for the last three years. Although the program takes place on two consecutive days my participation has been on one. The drive is across town and the journey begins at the onset of rush hour and ends at the tail end. The ride can take up to 45 minutes or more each way and can be a challenge during the winter months. Needless to say, I do not enjoy the ride. I was just asked to come back in the Fall but to come back for both days. As a result of this article, the many comments contributed by your readers, and clarity of purpose, I will be there on both nights come Fall. And I have found a way there that will avoid the freeway.

    God speaks in many ways.

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