We own a home on the island of Puerto Rico nestled high in the mountains against the backdrop of the United States’ only national rainforest, The Yunque. To say that the trees, faunas and wildlife are incredible is an understatement.
Where we live there are only a few handful of houses spaced apart enough to enjoy one’s own privacy. One of my neighbors is a wonderful retiree name Emilio. When you look at Emilio he reminds you of that favorite grandfather who would probably play pranks on you. Emilio’s humor and energy, if you’re around him long enough, is contagious.
About six months ago as I was pulling up to our house, I saw huge piles of cement powder, boards and tools scattered about Emilio’s front yard. I went over to see what he was up to. Emilio had decided to build his own cement patio. “Incredible”, I thought. I asked him if he was going to do it himself and he said, “Yeah, why?” When I returned to Puerto Rico a month or so later he had finished the patio which extended wonderfully off a small dip in the valley giving him an even more spectacular view of the rainforest.
The next time I went to the island, I remember while sitting on my porch enjoying a cup of coffee and the view of the valley, I heard someone yelling my name, “Victor, Victor”. When I came done the road by Emilio’s house I saw him sitting on the roof of his house with his feet dangling over the edge and laughing. Apparently, while repairing some shingles on his roof, the wind came by and blew the ladder away and he had no way of getting down. After a few moments of laughter, on my part, I put the ladder back in place so Emilio could get down.
Last week we went up to the house in Puerto Rico again to find Emilio finishing up the installation of a hot water heater powered by a couple of solar panels he had installed. Apparently technology didn’t scare this old guy either.
That night we sat down and chatted while sipping on a few cold ones. Emilio’s story of how he was raised and the adversities he’s had to overcome made him even more amazing. One of the most recent challenges was the loss of his wife to cancer 10 years ago after 42 years of marriage. She died before their dream house there in Puerto Rico was finished. Emilio can’t go for more than 10 minutes in a conversation without bringing up her name. To hear him speak of his wife, you think she’s in the next room. A beautiful black and white photo of their wedding sits alone atop a desk and is the first thing you notice when you step inside his home.
Emilio still takes care of his house and continues to improve on it. I suspect that in his mind he’s not building it alone. No. Whatever new task Emilio takes on, his wife is right there beside him in spirit. His vision for their dream house continues to motivate him on to the next project.
Unlike Emilio, many of us have lost our motivation. We’ve lost that drive to bring about the life we once thought of having. We’ve surrendered it to the past and have become apathetic in reclaiming it. Our will to pursue our passion, our dream, our vision has atrophied.
Many of us complain that it’s too late to start a career or learn a new skill. We think we’re too old to learn anything new. Think of Emilio. He learned how to build the patio as he went…at 78!
Many of us stop dreaming because of some tragedy or misfortunate event. Think of Emilio. He taught me to work through the pain, push on and give your life new purpose, new meaning.
And, many of us are afraid to fail or look stupid in the process of building our dream. Failure scares us. Think of Emilio sitting on the roof when the ladder was blown out from under him. I didn’t find him on the roof depressed or belittling himself. Instead I found a big kid laughing at himself and the situation. From Emilio I learned that fallen ladders (i.e., things don’t go the way we planned them) don’t matter and it’s OK to ask (or in Emilio’s case yell) for help.
Emilio shows no sign of letting up. He’s a human Energizer bunny still going strong, still building on his dream, still holding steady to a shared vision.
Are you still holding steady to your vision of happiness?!
Are you still building?!
Remember to laugh when the winds of misfortune blows your ladder out from under you. And, don’t be afraid to ask (or yell) for help. You may be surprised at who shows up to help support your vision.
Please forward this article; share it with a friend who may need words of inspiration to pursue their dream.