We Define Ourselves by Our Words

I walked into the lobby of the ATDC, and a Valentine meet and greet was going on. Aubrey, the receptionist and startup gatekeeper, was running the show as usual. He saw me and said, “Take this Valentine’s Day card. On the back is the letter A. Find the other person in the lobby with a letter A card, and get to know him by asking the questions on the card.”

An Unexpected Encounter

“You know I hate this kind of thing,” I said as I took the card, never intending to use it.

Aubrey must have been watching. He quickly surmised I was not going to participate. He grabbed my arm and walked me over to a stranger and said, “Get to know each other.”

He was a tall, thin man with closely cropped hair, black on the sides and gray on the top. He introduced himself, “Hi. I’m Alex.”

“I’m Charlie Paparelli. Nice to meet you,” I said.

Aubrey jumped back in and told Alex, “Ask Charlie the questions on the card.”

“If you could come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?” he asked.

A Thoughtful Question

I thought for a moment and then said, “I don’t do this stuff. I don’t need conversation starters. Let’s just talk.”

“Ok,” he said. “How about this question? What is your motto?”

“Who has a motto?” I asked.

“I do,” he replied.

“Really? What is it?” I asked.

“Learn from your mistakes,” he said without hesitating.

“Where did you get that?” I asked.

“I heard it the first time I got in trouble for something as a kid. It was a warning not to make the same mistake twice. So now I live by it. It’s my motto.”

Taking the Challenge

I turned to look at the food on the serving table, turned back around and Alex was almost gone. He was walking away from the party and was about to head around the hallway corner.

I yelled, “Nice meeting you.”

He yelled back, “You need a motto.” And he was gone.

As I was leaving, I made a point of telling Aubrey what happened. “He asked me for my motto. I couldn’t think of anything. Do you have a motto?”

“I’m not sure,” he said. “But if I do have a motto, it is live and let live.”

Here is the definition of a motto: a short sentence or phrase that encapsulates the beliefs guiding a person, family or organization.

I haven’t stopped thinking about this since I left the Valentine’s Day party. I keep saying to myself, “I don’t have a motto! I need a motto.”

Here are some mottos that came to mind for me.

  • Jesus Saves.
  • Just take the next step.
  • Life is hard.
  • Winners never quit, and quitters never win.
  • Persistence and focus always pay off.
  • The family is all that counts.
  • Be practical. Practical always works.

When I walked into the ATDC that morning, I was greeted by Ivey Towns. She was leaning over the reception desk talking to Aubrey. As I approached, she turned, opened her arms wide and gave me a big hug and said, “Welcome to love day at the ATDC.”

My Eureka Moment

I went around the desk and hugged Aubrey who first pulled away and then gave in. Then I turned to my appointment, Justin, and hugged him. He said, “I was wondering why I was being left out!”

When I remembered this experience, I suddenly realized my motto, “Love never fails.”

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8 thoughts on “We Define Ourselves by Our Words

  1. It didn’t make your list, but to this day I can still remember you telling me as a child, “If you aren’t learning, you’re dying.” I think that is a good runner up.

  2. Charlie – I thought I was the only person in the world but I have a motto too: “Persistence and Determination are Omnipotent.”

    I first encountered those words by Calvin Coolidge in college but I’ve lived them all my life. Went to 11 schools from K through University and lived in 10 different places. Always the new kid, always new challenges and new opportunities. The only way was forward.

    I have a theme song too. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2H5uWRjFsGc

    • That’s the name of Michael Youssef’s book on the history of Church of the Apostles! If you have two then you have to decide. When people hear it from you, do they say “That’s you!”

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