Outside the wall of windows and the double doors that lead to our backyard is what appears to be an indomitable task – a mountain of brittle leaves, fallen from the half dozen trees that dot the yard. In the summer months those trees provide wonderful cover and a refuge from the hot sun. In the fall and winter those trees are a menace. It takes weeks to clear out leaves and fruit.

I love them and I hate them.

In my driveway are two vehicles. One a full-size van that has carried us on road trips to the mountains, to the beaches and to several national parks. The other is a commuter car that is reliable, economical and fun to dart in and out of traffic in. Both vehicles have road-rash and battle scars that can attest to their durability and reliability. They have been a blessing to my family. But every time I get into one of those cars I moan and start it up I have a laundry list of complaints from the dings in the doors, that squeaking noise one makes when I take a corner or the drum roll the other makes when I make the same turn.

We are fickle things.

This seems to be the plight of the modern man and woman. We have a love-hate relationship with every noun and every facet in life. Or is it just me? Point at something, any random thing and I can immediately tell you what I love and hate about it with just a few exceptions. I’m so good at the love-hate game that Super Mom came up with a game of her own.

We were getting ready to head out on a date when she walked up to me with a rubber band.

“Gimme your hand,” she demanded.

“Huh?”

“Your hand – any hand, give it to me,” to which I extended my left hand in response.

She slipped the rubber band over my hand onto my wrist and said, “There. From now on, any time you say something negative about something or someone, you have to switch the rubber band from one hand to the other.”

“Huh?” was all I seemed to be able to utter during this strange, brief exchange.

“Yeah, it’s ridiculous and so are all of your complaints.

“Ooookay!”

And so began the little game of Hate-O-Meter, where I measure the positive versus the negative in my daily interactions with the world in my perpetual search for happiness and becoming the perfect man. The happiness part is a constant, the perfect man part – still striving.

Strange things have been happening since I started that little game. I’m more conscious of the things I say or even how it’s said because that little rubber band around my wrist weighs heavily on my mind knowing that having to switch it from one wrist to the other is a constant reminder that I failed yet again in what ultimately is a simple endeavor: watch what you say!

Years ago, someone sent this tome with a challenge to think of the words each morning before starting the day:

Watch your THOUGHTS, for they become WORDS.
Watch your WORDS, for they become ACTIONS.
Watch your ACTIONS, for they become HABITS.
Watch your HABITS, for they become CHARACTER.
Watch your CHARACTER, for it becomes your DESTINY.

Occasionally I remember these words and pause because it really starts with a thought and by knowing the chain by which each thought can eventually become reality I can either be a blessing to someone in need, or I can add to another person’s burdens.

Just like those trees and that pile of leaves outside my house, knowing and doing are two very separate and distinct things but it is my reaction to the challenge that determines my destiny.

“Decisions determine destiny” (Thomas S. Monson)

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