Howdy. I'm Matt Todd. My wife and I have four kids and a dog,. I'm passionate about orphan care. I'm a die-hard fan of the Evansville Aces, the Indiana Hoosiers, and Star Wars. I'm trying to live life by the Todd family motto: "It behooves us to live!"

Life lessons from preschool

3 life lessons from preschool

When I was little, my mom saw an ad in the local paper about a new preschool starting at Willow Road Baptist Church. Mom believed it was time for me to start my preschool career, so she picked up our rotary phone and called the church office. Mom talked to the preacher’s wife, who was directing this new endeavor, and signed me up for preschool. Apparently, I was the first child to enroll with the preschool at Willow Road Baptist Church. Ever.

I don’t remember many details about the other students who were in that inaugural preschool class. I remember one boy. His name was Toby. I think. He liked pretending he was the Hulk. And whenever he was the Hulk, I would pretend to be Spider-Man. He would do his “Hulk smash” thing and I’d be busy shooting pretend spider webs from my wrists, keeping the girls and their cooties away.

Me and Vader
I think I’m a little older than preschool here, but you get the idea. I was adorable.

While I don’t remember many details, I do remember some key life lessons from my preschool experience. This wasn’t a preschool like many are today. You know the ones I”m talking about. They’re meant to prepare a child for the rigors of elementary school. That wasn’t the purpose of this preschool. The caring adults at the preschool at Willow Road Baptist Church helped me be a kid. They helped me learn how to have healthy relationships with adults, other children, and the Divine.

Everything I needed to know…?

A few decades ago, the book Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten made a big splash. I get the premise behind it, but my education about life didn’t start with Kindergarten (it didn’t end there, either, but that’s another post for another day). It started in preschool. And while I certainly didn’t learn everything I needed to know about life while I was in preschool, I certainly learned some valuable life lessons.

preschool supplies

Now, some 35+ years later, I look back fondly on my experience at Willow Road Baptist Church Preschool. The preschool is no more. The congregation has dissolved, too. A new church has sprung up in its place. If you know anything about my longtime desire to see new churches doing new things in my hometown, you know this makes me very happy. Although Willow Road Baptist Church is no longer here, I can tell you that I’m still living by some of the lessons I learned in that tiny community.

3 Life Lessons From Preschool

1.) It’s possible to resolve conflict peacefully.

Our indoor play area was relatively small. And although our preschool class was also relatively small (there might have been eight of us – I honestly don’t remember), preschoolers can get wound up pretty quickly. Inevitably, two kids were going to want to play with the same toy.

You know, like a green truck. One that I really loved. That’s what my mom has told me, anyway.

As a preschool aged kid, what would my reaction be if I was playing with this favorite green truck and someone like Toby came over and tried to take that toy because he wanted to do his whole Hulk Smash thing with it?

Hypothetically, of course.

There would naturally be much shouting. Weeping. Gnashing of teeth. There’d be an endless cycle of “Mine!” “No! Mine!” shouted on repetitive repeat over and over and over again. There’d be pulling and pushing and shoving and hair pulling and more shouting and crying. Oh, the crying. Things would just spiral out of control from there, leading to hurt feelings, a bruised ego or two, and maybe a few handfuls of hair scattered throughout the room. And did I mention the tears?

It's a preschool fight

It doesn’t have to be this way, though.

You can share. You can take turns. Shoot, you can even consider playing together. Disagreements don’t always have to end in violence. It is possible to disagree without trying to hurt the other person. I know. In the age of hyperpartisanship, parent shaming, and cyberbullying. We live in an age when a simple comment on a facebook post can lead to a person getting doxxed. But it really doesn’t have to be this way.

Imagine what would happen if you chose to show a little bit of kindness instead of firing off that nasty tweet about someone who hurt you. What would happen if you chose not to give in to your selfish impulses and actually shared something instead of hoarding it? Imagine what would happen if we could have a passionate debate about something, laying out all the facts and actually listening to the other side without getting nasty and personal.

It’s possible to resolve conflict peacefully. Choose kindness, friends. It’s hard to do sometimes. But it helps make the world a little bit less harsh. We don’t have to fight all the time.

Be kind, y’all.

2.) Keep your hands to yourself.

If we’re going to be kind to one another, that means we’re going to have to keep our hands to ourselves. No hitting. No unwelcome touching. Hair pulling? Nope. And no pinching, either. I can’t believe I have to say this, but no groping or any other type of grabbing other people’s body parts. And you can’t just walk up to people and kiss them, either.

It’s not OK.

Keep your hands to yourself in preschool

It’s not OK in preschool. And it’s not OK for adults, either. “Boys will be boys” is not acceptable. “It was meant to be a joke” is not an excuse. How hard is this concept? Keep your hands to yourself. I don’t care how powerful you are.

Wait. I take that back.

do care about how powerful you are. Because it matters how we treat people in private. And this is especially true when it comes to people in power. How you treat people who are less powerful than you reveals a whole lot about your character. Please. Use your power for good, not to abuse people who can’t do anything about it.

Keep your hands to yourself. Is it really that hard? If so, maybe you need to spend some time in the corner.

3.) Keep your clothes on.

Seriously. Is it really that difficult? Nobody needs to see that. Not even scary monsters.

screaming preschool monsters

Seriously.

These lessons I learned in preschool are pretty basic. You can basically boil them down to one main rule:

Treat others the way you want to be treated.

I didn’t think this lesson was that hard to learn. But watching the news makes me think it’s a lot more difficult of a lesson to learn than I thought.

Or maybe it’s a sign that a lot of people just need to go back to preschool.

 

 

Living life and arriving safely at death

*This post contains affiliate links. You can read more in my Disclosure Policy. Thank you for your ongoing support.*

Quit living as if the purpose of life is to arrive safely at death. Mark Batterson

“Be careful.”

“Stay safe.”

I say these phrases a lot. It’s habit. And I don’t really think that’s a bad thing. Safety is important – especially when it comes to our children. Unfortunately, we’ve become so concerned about safety that we act like it’s the only reason to live. We act like safety is the purpose of life. At least, I have acted like that from time to time. Mark Batterson has helped change my perspective about safety and the purpose of life.

His book, In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day, is one of the books that changed my life when I first read it. It’s a relatively short read, but it’s packed with some powerful words. One of the quotes that hit me square between the eyes is this one:

Quit living as if the purpose of life is to arrive safely at death.

It’s the first point in his Lion Chaser Manifesto. If we live our lives concerned with safely arriving at the end of life, we set ourselves up for a life guided by fear. And a life dominated by fear leads to a lot of regrets. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to look back and wonder what might have been.

We’re not going to change the world by sitting idly by. We’re not going to change the world by allowing safety to be our only guiding force. If we’re going to change the world, we’re going to have to take risks. We might even have to live dangerously on occasion.

Yes, safety is something to consider. But it cannot be the driving force of our lives. It cannot be the purpose of our lives. Because when we use safety as our guiding force, we allow fear to creep in. We allow fear to control us.

And we all know that LOVE drives out fear.

When we live our lives full of fear, we miss out on the great adventure we were created to live. We live a less-than-full life. That not only impacts our lives, but the lives of the world around us.

No more fear. Live dangerously.

So live dangerously, my friends. Take a risk. It might be something as simple as walking next door and getting to know you neighbor. Or it might mean flying halfway around the world to stand in the gap for the voiceless, powerless, and oppressed. It might mean opening your home to a family of refugees. I don’t know where your journey will take you. But we cannot allow the idol of safety paralyze us. There is too much work to do. We have too much life to live.

So get up. Get moving. And change the world. That’s what love compels us to do.

That’s what we were made for. It’s what it means to live. And it behooves us to live.


If you’re interested in more about the Lion Chaser Manifesto, I recommend you check out these books. Let me warn you: they might change your life.

in-a-pit-with-a-lion-on-a-snowy-day chase-the-lion

 

Unpacking our Family Motto

Todd Family Crest

Todd Family Motto: It behooves us to live!

Does your family have a motto?

I recently asked this on social media and here are some of the responses I received:

Those are some pretty good responses. If your family doesn’t have a motto, you might consider stealing borrowing one of these. Family mottos are kind of like mission statements. They can be a guiding force, helping to direct your family along the way. Even the House of El has a family motto (“Stronger Together,” according to the Supergirl TV series).

Apparently, the Todd family has had a motto for decades. Maybe even for centuries. I don’t really know how long it has been the Todd Family Motto or if it even has a direct connection with my family. Either way, I’ve come to claim it as our own.

“It behooves us to live.”

Sounds familiar. Right? I mean, you see it right up there in the header.

It behooves us to live

It’s only five words long. But those five words say a lot, don’t they? With so much packed into so few words, I plan on spending some time unpacking the message of our family motto. This statement isn’t just our family motto. It has also become the underlying force behind this site. In many ways, it’s become this blog’s mission statement.

So here’s the deal: once a week for the next few weeks (or maybe the whole year – I haven’t decided yet), I’m going to share thoughts about what “It behooves us to live!” means in our everyday lives. It might be a quote. It might be a word or a definition or even a long essay or a short video. I’m not entirely sure how it will manifest itself as the weeks unfold. But it will be a journey. An encouraging, inspiring, and challenging journey. And there might be a little bit of fun thrown in from time to time, too.

Who knows? Maybe you have something to say about our family motto. What does “It behooves us to live!” mean to you? Maybe you’d like to share your thoughts in a guest post? I’m certainly open to that. Shoot me an email and let’s get to work!

For today, I leave you with the same question I asked at the beginning of this post. Do you have a family motto? If so, what is it? Please share it in the comments below!

You don’t want to miss this series. So why not go ahead and sign up for the weekly newsletter or “Like” my page on facebook?


You can sign up for the newsletter here.

Remembering Rich Mullins

"It's not gonna matter if you have a few scars. It will matter if you didn't live." Rich Mullins

You might remember that I mentioned back in April that I announced to the entire Ichthus Christian Music Festival that Christy was not, in fact my girlfriend. Of course, we all know she really was my girlfriend by this point. We just hadn’t admitted it to each other. If you don’t remember that post, or have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about, you can go to this post and catch up. Don’t worry. I’ll wait for you. It won’t take that long to read.

That was also the last time I heard Rich Mullins perform. I did get to meet him about a year later, but I missed out on hearing him sing. If you don’t remember that story, you really should read it.  It’s OK. I promise I’ll wait for you.

There are a few things I remember about that concert, even though it was twenty years ago. I remember he was barefoot onstage. At least, I’m pretty sure he was barefoot onstage. I also remember he sang a song that he had written that Amy Grant had originally made famous. When he introduced it, he jokingly said that she had screwed it up. Or maybe he wasn’t joking? I guess you can decide for yourself.

I spent some time listening to Rich today. I’m not gonna lie. I wept when I heard some of his songs. In some ways, I think his music speaks to me today more than it did when i first heard him. A few musicians have taken up his mantle, but there will never be another Rich.

Next year marks the twentieth anniversary of the crash that took his life. I think it would be great to put together some kind of tribute to him, celebrating the impact he made on countless lives in the past as well as the present. I’m not sure what it will be, but I think it should include some form of audience participation. I don’t know. Maybe some kind of crowdsourced video or something?

We have a few months to think about it. I’m sure we can come up with something. Right? Who’s with me?

 

Happy New Year! In September. Seriously.

Remember 9/11

September 11 is a strange day for our family. I have a friend whose son was born on September 11, 2001. They named him Isaac, which I think is the perfect name for a child born in the midst of a national event like that. I’d imagine they feel a certain amount of emotional conflict every day 9/11 comes around.

That’s how things roll in our house on 9/11. But it’s not because of a birthday. It’s because of something else.

“Never forget…”

I remember. I always will. Like so many people who watched those horrific events the morning of Tuesday, September 11, I swore I would never forget where I was, what I was doing, and how I felt that day.

And I haven’t.

We remember that day every year. And I have to admit, I still struggle with how I should respond to these terrible acts, especially when I think about how messy it is when you respond to hatred with love and compassion.

Happy New Year!

But today is not only about remembering. Thanks to our family’s connection with Ethiopia, 9/11 has also become a day of celebrating. You might remember during the A to Z Challenge, I mentioned how Ethiopia has their own calendar. And based on that calendar, today, September 11, is the beginning of the New Year.

So today, we remember. We reflect. And we contemplate. But we also celebrate, dream, and eat lots of Ethiopian food. We’ve been told that Doro Wat (spicy chicken stew with boiled eggs) is a traditional dish for the New Year. So we happily had some today.

Doro wat for Ethiopian New Year today! Melkam Addis Amet! #EthiopianNewYear #MelkamAddisAmet

A photo posted by Matt Todd (@mattdantodd) on

So we look back. But we also look forward. And we’ll probably hug our kids a little tighter as we spend this day remembering, reflecting, and celebrating as we encounter the whole gauntlet of emotions on this sobering anniversary/day of anticipation, celebration, and renewal in the New Year.

But that’s kind of how life goes sometimes, isn’t it? It’s a mixture of excitement and heartache, overwhelming joy and the deepest of sorrows, it’s the celebration of life and the mourning of death. It’s the good times and the bad times all wrapped up into one package that is hardly ever topped with a nice little bow. The plot is full of twists and turns and event taking place on top of event taking place on top of event. It’s ecstasy followed by unspeakable sadness followed by unsurpassed joy.

Such is the roller coaster we call the human experience.

So it may seem strange that on a day like today, I wish you a happy new year. But in many ways, it makes complete sense. Doesn’t it? Because when you look ahead at a new year, you can’t help but dream. You can’t help but work towards a better future. So in the midst of the sorrow of remembering the events of 9/11, I’m also reminded that there is hope. So. much. hope. And in the midst of the darkness that surrounds us, there is a light at the end of this tunnel. Because we’re going to make tomorrow better than today. We’re going to change the world.

Happy Ethiopian New Year September 11
A banner that was hanging in the hotel when we visited Ethiopia in September, 2009. It says “Happy New Year,” in case you can’t read what it says.

So I hope you understand what I mean when I tell you that I remember. Oh, I remember. I will never forget. Ever. And in the same breath, I wish you a happy new year full of joy, happiness, and a better tomorrow.

Meklam Addis Amet, y’all!

From the bottom of my heart.

 

Go after your dreams

"Nothing worthwhile was ever accomplished without the will to start, the enthusiasm to continue and, regardless of temporary obstacles, the persistence to complete" - Waite Phillips

Is there really anything else that needs to be said about this quote from Waite Phillips?

“Nothing worthwhile was ever accomplished without the will to start, the enthusiasm to continue and, regardless of temporary obstacles, the persistence to complete”

Waite Phillips should know. The oil tycoon turned philanthropist is the benefactor of Philmont Scout Ranch and his generosity has impacted millions of young men and women around the world. And I’m one of them. I learned a lot about life, leadership, and perseverance during my Philmont experiences. These lessons set a foundation for the rest of my life.

Thanks to the generosity of Waite Phillips, I have several dreams. And I’m not going to give up pursuing those dreams – even when it seems impossible. Because sometimes things are supposed to be hard. Life is hard. Obstacles can be difficult. That’s what makes them worth pursuing. And that’s what makes the achievement even more rewarding. Right?

I’ve got this. We’ve got this.

What are you dreaming about? Do you have any big, hairy, audacious goals?

Feel free to share your dreams and goals in the comments below. Let’sl work together to encourage, challenge, and support each other as we pursue our dreams. Because the dreams might be yours, and they might seem impossible, but you know what they say…

teamwork makes the dream work.

We’ve got this. No dream is too big. No dream is too silly, either. Let’s work together to accomplish our dreams. That’s how we’re going to make the world a better place. And it’s through this process that we discover what we were made to do, what we were made to be. And when we’ve discovered that, it’s when we truly start living.

So no more excuses. No more delay. It doesn’t matter how difficult things are. Let’s start working together to see our dreams become a reality.

Z is for Zare

Z is for Zare - today #AtoZChallengeZare is an Amharic word. It means “today.” As we come to the end of this year’s A to Z Challenge (more than a month late), I think it’s altogether fitting that we conclude this series with this word. Because this is the only day we can control. Yesterday is already passed. We don’t know what tomorrow will bring.

Don’t get me wrong. We can learn from the past. We can remember the past. We can even celebrate the past. But we cannot live in the past.

The same is true about the future. We can look forward to things to come. We can dream. We can plan. We can chart out where we’d like to be in 5, 10, or 25 years. We can dream some more. And hope for a better future. But the only way we can change the future is by changing how we live right now. Today. Because that’s the only time we can change anything.

Yesterday is finished. We cannot carry around any grudges or hard feelings. They don’t do us any good. Believe me. I learned the hard way.

Tomorrow has its own set of troubles. We cannot accomplish anything by taking on tomorrow’s worries today. It just bogs us down and keeps us from making the most out of today. So let tomorrow take care of itself.

With a firm footing in the past and our eyes looking ahead to what could be, what should be, what will be…let’s make the most of every opportunity and seize the day.

That’s right. I went all Dead Poets Society on you.

“Carpe Diem,” y’all.

Grab today by the horns. Wrestle it to the ground. Suck the marrow out of life. Live deep. Love unconditionally. Forgive freely. If you’ve offended someone, make amends. Find the proverbial hatchet and bury it. Bury it so deep that it’ll never see the light of day again.

Laugh often. Say “I love you.” Walk by faith with reckless abandon. Give generously. Show compassion. People are messy. Embrace the mess. Admire the everyday beauty that’s around you. Celebrate even the tiniest of wins. Give hugs. Lots of hugs.

The first of many hugs to be had.

A photo posted by Matt Todd (@mattdantodd) on

Go ahead and dream big dreams. Set audacious goals. And don’t let them go. Walt Disney has some good advice: “Get a good idea and stay with it. Dog it, and work at it until it’s done, and done right…All our dreams can come true – if we have the courage to pursue them.”

Walt Disney quote about dreaming

Don’t put it off. Don’t wait until tomorrow. Don’t hesitate. We can’t wait around until the circumstances are absolutely perfect. Because they won’t be. And so you’ll just keep putting off to tomorrow what you could be…no, should be doing today. Stop waiting. Enter the race. Say what needs to be said. Write that book. Sing that song. Make that phone call. I don’t know what you’ve been putting off, but it’s time to get the show on the road.

Because here’s the deal: tomorrow never gets here. There is no tomorrow.

You know this. Once tomorrow gets here, it actually becomes “today.” I’m not saying this to create some existential crisis. It’s the truth. When you really look at it and all is said and done: All we have is today. So get started today. Yes, remember the past. Plan for tomorrow. Keep working for a better tomorrow. But live today. Because that’s what we have. Today. Tomorrow will take care of itself.

It behooves us to live. It’s what we’re made to do. We can’t sit around and wait for life to come our way. Yes, there’s a time for reflection. Yes, there’s a time for planning. Yes, there’s a time to rest. Yes, there’s a time to wait. But even in the midst of that waiting? There are opportunities to live life to its fullest. In the midst of our planning, we cannot allow life to pass us by. That’s how we wind up with a life of regrets. I don’t know about you, but I want a life full of memories. I want to be able to look back and see how I helped change the world. I don’t want a life full of even the tiniest of regrets.

Is that what you want, too?

Then let’s get started. What are you waiting for? Start living.

Today. Zare.

W is for Water

Less than half of the population of Ethiopia has access to clean drinking water (source). This is not a good thing. We take water for granted here – even in our rural areas. Yes, there are some outliers, like the water crisis in Michigan. But very few people in the States worry that the water they’re drinking could actually kill them.

When  you throw in the fact that many more people in Ethiopia lack access to proper sanitation, I think you can see the potentially disastrous situation here.

There are many fine ministries and organizations that are working to help end this problem. I saw some of them with my own eyes. They’re making a difference. And if you join me in partnering with World Vision, we can help them change communities, too.

R is for Rainy Season

nature-plant-leaf-rain

Here in Indiana and the majority of the continental United States (except maybe the southwest and southeastern corners), you can generally expect to experience four seasons throughout the year. Summer, Fall, Winter, Spring. That’s how it goes.

OK, considering the fact that it’s the middle of May and we’ve had several days that were 15 degrees colder than an average day, one could argue that Spring hasn’t been much of a season this year. But you get the point. As a rule, there are four seasons. And Winter is drastically different from Summer.

In Ethiopia? Sure, there’s Summer, Fall, Winter, Spring, but there’s another season that makes a huge impact on people’s lives.

Rainy season.

I haven’t been in-country during the rainy season. We were there shortly after the rainy season when we first visited Ethiopia in September of 2009. And Christy happened to be there at the beginning of the rainy season last year. She said some of the roads were already starting to wash out and the serious raining hadn’t even happened yet.

The heaviest rains apparently happen in August and sometimes into September (in Addis, anyway). The rains are so heavy that the Ethiopian government traditionally shuts down during the month of August. And sometimes this even goes into September. The roads are that unreliable during this time.

It happens like clockwork. And the people of Ethiopia have adapted to it. Because that’s what we do. When we can’t change the situation, we find the pattern and adapt to it.

Perhaps this is what the Teacher meant in the book of Ecclesiastes. And if Solomon was really the author,* wouldn’t it be interesting if he had the Queen of Sheba and the seasons of her kingdom in the back of his mind when he composed this poem. It’s unlikely (or maybe even impossible), I know. But the point remains. There’s a time for everything and everything has its time. It’s up to us to make the most of the time that we’ve been given so we can live life for the purpose we were created to fulfill.

To every thing there is a season

So what season is your life in right now? What can I do to encourage you?

*I know tradition says that Ecclesiastes was penned by Solomon. Many scholars dispute that claim. Does it really matter who wrote it? No. Its message is still inspired and profitable. Let’s focus on more important things.

Here’s the first line of my autobiography…

Writing hand

I am just a poor boy, though my story’s seldom told.
Simon & Garfunkel, The Boxer

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
– Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…
– George Lucas, Star Wars

Great stories start with great opening lines. They grab you, pull you in, and don’t let go until the final word on the final page.

I’m not going to be writing an autobiography any time soon. I have three other books I need to write before even considering sitting down and writing anything close to an autobiography. Besides, I’ve got some more living to do before putting pen to paper for anything that would sound something remotely like an autobiography that anyone would be interested in reading.

But if I ever do write that autobiography, I think I’ve got the opening line. It’s based on the motto that has apparently been connected with the Todd family for generations. While I hadn’t heard this motto until a few years ago, it has certainly resonated with me. So I took it and ran with it. Because I believe it’s a great motto to have. And I think it would be a great opening line to a great introduction to an autobiography.

It behooves us to live.

It would establish the tone of the rest of the book – my pursuit of living life to the fullest, changing the world by sharing light and life everywhere I go.

So there’s my hypothetical autobiography’s hypothetical opening line. What do you think? What would your opening line be?

*************************************************

This post is part of Think Kit by SmallBox

Today’s Prompt
Pretend you’re writing your autobiography. Give us your first line, a first chapter, or even just an image. What’s the story of you?

I’ve participated in the ThinkKit project before. I really enjoyed it. Thought I’d try it again since they moved it from December to January.  You know what happened? I totally missed the first day. Not the best way to start off a 30-day blogging challenge, amIright? Fortunately, today’s prompt is to look back at 2015. Good thing I already did that. So after posting today, that puts me right back on track.

Right?