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  • Writer's pictureNeal Hagberg

Claiming Today

A picture of Steve teaching the Three Crowns Philosophy.

Steve Wilkinson, meet Sasha.  Sasha, meet Steve.  The two of you would have gotten along beautifully.

Six years ago today, Steve died.  He lived as full a life as anyone I’ve known, but it was still too short.  He didn’t decide to go, terminal cancer decided for him.  The thing he continued to learn (and teach) in his time with cancer was today is all you’ve got.

But it’s not just Steve who faced the uncertainty of tomorrow.  Can you predict how your day is going to play out tomorrow?  Write it down.  Everything.  And see how much of what you predict comes true.  Maybe 50%.  Maybe 10%.  Maybe 0%.  Maybe 90%.  But I guarantee you it will not be 100%.

Let me put it another way.  How many of you in March 2020 were rolling along, stock market riding high, life is good, economy good, kids in school, sports as normal, March Madness playoffs about to start.  How many of you believed that in one week, our country and the whole world would be brought to its knees?

In the span of a few days, all of our lives were taken away in one shape or another.  Schools closed.  Businesses dark.  Restaurants shuttered.  Sports cancelled.  People dying. Stock market plunging.  Families hunkered down in isolation from the world and, sometimes, from each other.

There was yesterday.  There was today.  And we had thought we knew what tomorrow would bring.

Yesterday and today, “tomorrow” looked certain.  Was it?  No.  Is it?  No.

The whole world lost “tomorrow “at the same time.  And you know why?  Because tomorrow was never there.

Steve’s book. Let Love Serve.

Steve’s simple message of the Three Crowns (Positive Attitude, Full Effort, Good Sportsmanship) and Serenity Prayer, (Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference) boiled down to this: focus on what you can control and let go of the rest.

With the inspiration of his friend Arthur Ashe and the wisdom of another person with terminal cancer, Karen Gibbs, Steve had already been preparing and working at this his whole life.   When terminal cancer numbered his days, he said, “Well, I’d better get writing that book I’ve always intended before I die.”  And through days of great pain and days of less pain, he wrote.  And wrote.  It took over two years.  And we have the good fortune of having that wisdom in his book, Let Love Serve (If you do not have a copy, you can order one here, it contains the entire TLC Philosophy and his life’s work in one place).

He always wrote in the moment that is “today”, because he knew tomorrow may not come, and knew that others could benefit from practicing this, too.

So, let me leave you with Sasha, the 8th grade TLC camper from Iowa, who recently wrote:

“Last year, during one of TLC’s talks, I remember you asking us which of the Three Crowns we struggled with the most. This was an easy question for me. I’ve never been a very positive person, and I have trouble finding the good in things when they don’t go as planned. For example, when I heard TLC was canceled for the 2020 year, I was very disappointed as I was already feeling discouraged by the series of events that had been happening.

Camper Sasha, her story and photo was used with permission.

I was angry for awhile. And I was angry at the people who weren’t taking COVID seriously. I then realized that both camp being cancelled and people’s actions are out of my control. No matter how sad or mad I was, it wasn’t going to change the outcome. So, I realized I had two choices. I could waste my time sulking around, or I could go search for “Serenity” (TLC’s theme song) and listen to the music and let it go. Instead of looking at camp being canceled as a sad thing, I realized that it also meant next year I could go two times in one summer! This was the first time in a while I got myself to be optimistic. Now, if camp gets canceled again (fingers crossed it doesn’t!!), I will say to myself, “Oh that kinda sucks. Well…in 2022 I can go three times!) 🙂

Thank you, TLC, for teaching me the Three Crowns and Serenity Prayer and carrying out Steve’s legacy. I wish I could’ve met him myself, and thank him, too.”

Well, Sasha and Steve.  Though you never met in person, I believe you know each other pretty well, so, in a powerful way, you have “met”.  And all of us will continue to meet, each time we focus on what we can control.

There is no tomorrow.  But there is today.  Knowing this at our core, what is one, positive step you can take “today”?  There is a good chance it will make tomorrow a better “today” if it arrives, no matter which way the world turns.


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