July 12, 2023-Bixler-
Part 2 of the Lesson
Meet Tom and His Neighbors:
So, what’s the lesson? Theoretically, it’s simple. Without nurturing and caring for ourselves, we’ll
collapse under the debris of what we built. Contrary to what I used to believe, it’s not selfish or a luxury
to care for myself, it’s imperative. While on the road chasing proverbial sainthood, I drove my life off a
10,000 foot cliff. Through persistence and resilience throughout my life, I’d overcome obstacles and
conquered the mountain. However, in time, I began ignoring the detour and dead-end road signs that
were placed there to protect me. I can only blame myself.
Like most of us do when we screw up, I replay the past over and over in my mind. As if I can wish my
way into the past and get a Do Over to get it right this time. Maybe with enough brainpower, I can find a
reasonable explanation for why someone like me went from a law-abiding citizen to a federal felon.
After nearly four years of living through this introspective process, I’ve identified when and where I
began to go wrong. That’s a necessary step to prevent repeating the same lesson. At this point, I spend
less time ruminating about how I landed myself here and more time manifesting a bright future. My
energy is devoted to making amends, reconciling, and rebuilding trust as a law-abiding, taxpaying
In providing further understanding, I ask you to patiently venture through a psychological journey with
me. Imagine a man named Tom who had nothing. Tom hit hard times and found himself homeless. He
owned nothing more than what he could carry all at once. He needed a home but couldn’t afford to buy,
rent or build one. He couldn’t purchase tools or supplies. He lacked skills and experience; and couldn’t
afford labor costs. You, on the other hand, had the tools, some money and experience building houses.
Naturally, you wanted to share your skills and resources to help this guy. You feel blessed and show
gratitude through giving. After all, isn’t that what most of us are taught to do? You know it will cost a
little money, but it is only money, right?
You were working long hours, skipping meals, and canceling plans to get the house done asap. While
you’re home one day, you noticed that your kitchen sink was leaking, and the toilet was continuously
running. You shrugged it off and thought “Hey, at least I have a home. Those are minor problems
compared to what Tom’s life is like.” While you and Tom are building his house, neighbors notice and
began asking for your help with a few repairs. You hadn’t realized that his neighbor’s roof was really
damaged, but you wanted to help. You decided that once Tom’s house was complete enough that he
could safely move in, then you’d fix his neighbor’s roof. You’d get back to Tom’s house later to complete
the finishing touches. Those could wait.
While fixing the neighbor’s roof, you noticed problems at other nearby houses. Word about you spread
and before you realized it, dozens of people asked for your help. Not being good at setting limitations,
your immediate response was, “Of course I’ll help!” You later realized that you’d overcommitted
yourself. You didn’t want to disappoint people, but you weren’t sure what to do. You’d heard that a few
paid contractors left people with unfinished work, and you felt bad. You didn’t want to be another
person who walked out on these homeowners. You knew how fortunate you were and perceived their
circumstances to be much worse than yours; it seemed wrong not to help. Really, it’s only a few houses
and it would really help. You were advancing your own money here and there to buy supplies but
minimize the importance because – “Hey, it’s only money and Tom’s neighbors need a decent place to
While home one day, you noticed the water heater was leaking. The sink was still dripping, and the toilet
was still running almost non-stop. You think, “Hey, at least I have a nice house. A few minor nuisances
won’t take priority over the more important work that I’m doing to help those less fortunate.
It’s slowly, yet quickly, happening. You look at the calendar and wonder where time has gone. You’ve
been so distracted helping strangers who you’d grown to care about and relied upon you, that you
hadn’t seen your parents, called your aunt or even taken a day for yourself. You’d ignored your own
projects and problems for far too long. However, you reminded yourself, “My family is doing okay
without my help right now. We still have it much better than Tom and his neighbors.”
While you ignored your own needs and those of other special people in your life, you became the hero
in Tom’s neighborhood. Yay! You achieved Hero status. There were a few complainers, but overall,
people were overflowing with gratitude, and it felt really damn good. After all, that’s what kindness and
humanity are all about, right? Priceless intrinsic value.
Feeling exhausted and overwhelmed, you felt needed and had purpose. Sadly, when you got home, you
saw the red and blue lights reflecting off nearby homes. A firetruck was in front of your house and the
roof was gone! Under unsafe pressure, the hot water heater exploded, blowing the roof off. Your house
was unlivable. Additionally, you’d accumulated so much debt in helping Tom and his neighbors that you
couldn’t afford your homeowner’s insurance deductible to begin repairs on your home.
But, hey it’s only money, right? At least you have a nice…
“One of the most important things you can do on this earth is to let people know they are not alone.”
—Shannon L. Adler—