First grade. Kernsville Elementary School. Orefield, PA. Construction paper hangs from the white-tiled ceiling in colorful patches, begging an intrepid student to test its tensile strength. Mrs. Zellner has decorated the four corners of the classroom according to each season and asked the students to stand by their favorite time of year. I look around at my classmates sprinting toward summer, but I instead turn toward fall.
The smell of dried leaves as they crackle underfoot; slow, puffy white clouds drifting across a sapphire sky as I warm up for soccer practice; coming home from church with my family to catch the Eagles pre-game show; new backpacks, new shoes, new friends. Autumn has always held a special place in my heart.
Three decades later, I gaze outside the window of our home in West Chester, PA, and the same scents and sounds bring me back to the autumns of my youth. But now my three-year-old daughter joins in on the leaf crunching and Fly-Eagles-Flying; she asks to go to Coffee and Donuts after church; and my wife snaps the Sunday is for Football with Daddy onesie onto our three-month-old son. I make a mental note that it’s time to bring chili back into the recipe rotation.
It’s been a busy and wonderful year – I hung up my uniform and separated from the Air Force; we moved to Pennsylvania and bought a new home; I started my own business; and we welcomed a son to our family. But amidst all the stress and excitement, I try to take small moments to be present and grateful.
For me, fall has always been a time for reflection. I find extra clarity as the days shorten, temperatures drop, and foliage thins. Breathing helps. Deep, slow breaths ground me in the now. And what is clear to me now on this postcard-worthy autumn day are the following truths:
1. Life is short.
2. Laugher really is the best medicine.
3. True friends are like diamonds: rare, beautiful, and forever.
4. If you ask for help, you will receive it, but often in unexpected ways.
5. As much as we try, we can’t control the world around us. We can only control ourselves.
6. Parenting is the most difficult profession—and the most rewarding.
7. Love is a flame, needing fuel, time, attention, and space to breathe.
8. Gratitude is the root of all happiness.
9. Life is beautiful.
If you are reading this, please take a peaceful moment to reflect on your truths. I think we’ll find that after the last leaf has fallen, there is Truth that connects us all.