On March 13, 2020, COVID-19 was declared a national emergency. Lockdowns followed, and the world seemed to change overnight.
Trying to stay safe forced us to “draw a smaller circle.” We limited travel, social interaction, and the things that made life fun and adventurous.
Now here we are, fifteen months later. COVID is subsiding.
With that in mind and Father’s Day coming this weekend, I am reminded of a story I wrote with my oldest son back in 2013. It appeared in a book we published, How Fathers Change Lives, a collection of 52 stories of remarkable dads and the lessons they taught, as told by their daughters and sons.
One young lady, Lori Holden, shared a story of particular relevance today, as we get back to living. It’s called Draw a Wider Circle.
Lori had the typical fears most children experience growing up. Fear of meeting other kids. Fear of speaking in front of her class. Fear of trying new things.
Lori’s fears were the same fears my dad, Chubby, warned would hold me back in life…fear of embarrassment, failure, and rejection…what I now call “mental bruises.”
Lori’s dad taught her that when she felt afraid, to assess whether it was a “healthy” fear or a “paralyzing” fear.
Healthy fears protect us from being foolish. Paralyzing fears prevent us from living life.
For example, healthy fears keep us from driving too fast, gambling money we can’t afford to lose, or walking deep into the woods unprepared.
On the other hand, paralyzing fears keep us from giving speeches, starting businesses, or taking a controversial stance on something we believe in because we don’t want to be criticized.
Lori’s dad taught her to know the difference, and when faced with paralyzing fears, to “draw a wider circle.”
* * *
In her own words:
I grew up with two sisters. Sometimes we came home whining, “The other kids won’t play with me!” or “Nobody likes me!”
Dad always responded simply, “Draw a wider circle.”
He warned us about making assumptions, reminding us that other kids were scared of making new friends too.
He constantly urged us to be fiercely proactive in meeting new people and participating in new activities.
I didn’t comprehend the full impact this lesson would have until later in life.
When I was the nervous newbie at work, Dad’s voice would whisper, “Draw a wider circle.”
When I’d rather hug the wall than walk over to a group at parties, his voice echoed, “Draw a wider circle.”
And I did. I made friends. I was included. I can’t remember a time when it didn’t work.
I do remember it being difficult each and every time…but always worth it.
It was the greatest gift my dad gave me.
I soon realized that when you force yourself to draw a wider circle (as uncomfortable as it may be) you enrich your life with two things that really matter – people and experiences.
* * *
For the past fifteen months COVID forced most of us to draw a smaller circle. The danger is letting that become a habit.
It’s easy to stay at home, relax, and watch TV. But when you look back in a few years, will that be what you wanted your life to be?
A friend once told me that “Discomfort is adventure remembered.” Get up. Get out. Take trips. Take chances. It may not be “comfortable,” but it makes memories.
As you get back to life and start drawing a wider circle, let memories of the smaller circle inspire you to wake up every day looking for a way to…
“Draw your widest circle.”