some dark (and some light)

Sometimes the dark is scary in the morning.

When you’re alone though, a lot of things feel more scary than they need to be.
I wake up early on so many mornings to open the shop. My hand stumbles around a glass of water half perched on a wad of grocery store receipts and loose change to turn on my lamp.

Sometimes the light stings and I wiggle around for a moment and think to myself, “I am totally taking a nap after work today.”

But it doesn’t matter. Waking up before 6am has always been rough. Perks of working in the coffee and breakfast industry. Maybe it’ll get easier the older I get. Or maybe I’ll finally go to bed before midnight. Something I haven’t been able to do since college.

I often wander into a dark morning. It’s quiet. Unseasonably warm, this time of year, so I don’t have to sit in an ice cold car before my small commute to work. Some days, when I feel like I need more assurance, I turn on my cell phone light, just to make sure I don’t stumble on roots that have decided to lay a home in my front yard for the past 80 years or so.

I don’t mind them.

I fumble around a few spider webs that hang their threads in between the same branches — they inevitably get destroyed by my large frame every day. Those who know me know that I don’t like spiders, and I don’t know any one who likes walking into a spiderweb. But, it’s something I’ve gotten used to with these low hanging branches and vines.

I often get tangled in things I don’t understand.

light-in-darkness

I once met a guy in an anarchist community while living in Portland. He said something to me I’ll never forget.

“I embrace the dark as much as I embrace the light.”

I’m sure it meant something more substantial to him — but I was taken back a bit. Aren’t we supposed to run away from darkness? Isn’t light what we’re always striving to walk towards?

There is a lot of truth in that statement. The yin and the yang.

There is always dark, and there is always light. If you’re any type of human being, you have lived in both and if you’re reading this, have survived some of the darkest moments of your life.

I’ve learned about some of my greatest depths in the dark when I couldn’t see much further than the speck upon the horizon. But, life brings you there.

The guy I met in the anarchist community then invited me to strip naked and join their group in their homemade sauna to welcome the new moon, but I politely declined and took it as a sign that I needed to go home.

There is so much to notice, in the light and in the dark. You learn lessons in both, and often times the light is big, and other times it is small. But still, you move through it and wake up to another day and another world that’s always blending light and dark.

Sometimes, you just have to get tangled and know that even in the great depths of your soul, there is always a light on the horizon.

So get up. (Get tangled.) And get moving.

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stuck.

I have been stuck on this awful and violent week.

I feel as though I owe some sort of apology to my co-workers, who over the past couple of days have had to walk on egg shells around my fragile and angry state. I am not even close to the ones who were affected even more personally by the things that have happened.

It is still something I, and many of you, have felt tremendously this week. I am an overly-sensitive dude and have always been.

Unfortunately, I cannot hide behind the legs of my mother anymore. Instead we are pushed into little rooms full of videos of men being killed and we are supposed to handle it like adults.

I was stuck on the video of the son pulling his shirt over his face to wipe his tears and prayers to God, denying her partner getting shot. Those moans are so haunting that I wonder if it’s even possible to get them out of my head anymore.

Really, all I’ve wanted to do since Tuesday is bury my head in the cool sand, like we used to do with watermelons when we were kids at the creek. Quiet. Mumbled. Cold and tranquil. We aren’t ever promised that space to heal ourselves, though.

Sometimes we have to work through it all. Sometimes that’s having to move through anger non-violently, and non aggressively with a super person’s amount of compassion and grace.

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With so much violence and grief, the smallest amount of love and goodness feels like cold water after recess.

That small relief fills your belly with some peace.

This world and its growing pains. We are all here for it, right now. It is the most messy and heartbreaking thing we will see in our lives, but in all of these things we learn and our hearts grow and mend.

My eyes have been watery on and off the past week. Yours too, probably. Hopefully.

Hopefully we have all felt broken, and put back together with a few pieces missing. Pieces of us that were hanging on to hate and injustice and complacency. And gaining something new, maybe.

Maybe our love is stronger now.
Maybe we our stronger now.

Regardless, we are stuck with carrying each other’s pain, now.

So let’s do that. And let’s be wounded healers and cook food together,
or mow someone’s grass, or just have a little grace on someone who’s having a hard day.

We need you here with us, okay?

Okay.

noticed.

There are moments where I miss it. 

Having a good person to come home to is one of them joys of life, I suppose. I never grew up with pets, so I reckon’ it is similar. Though I believe people are a little more complex. Even more so than cats.

When I take some time and settle into myself, I do miss it. And I miss her and I find myself so curious as to how we forgive and move on from hard things. I haven’t cried much at all the past couple of years. I think I got a lot of it out of my system back in that time and to be honest, the waterworks are on hiatus.

I still get sad, for the overwhelming things we see and have to deal with every day. I get angry. I fight. I argue.

I submit, too.

I laugh, and then do this thing where I choke up. Like when I found out I won this really cool award for my work — because it is often times, such thankless work. I laughed because I thought it was funny for a cook to win such a thing, and then I choked up because this work is so hard and I was so thankful to be noticed.

I would like to think she would have been proud. After all, I spent most of our marriage hustling around different cafes and restaurants in hopes that something would stick. And some things did, and sometimes I would lay on her lap exhausted and wake myself up snoring.

When you get noticed, like I find myself from time to time, there is a moment of pure joy where you know you are doing good work — and then the moment comes where you remember all the things you missed getting what you wanted.

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Mississippi, man.

I suppose I find myself thinking about those things. Not much these days. But you always remember your best friends. Best partners. The people who pushed you forward and made sure you got home safe when you accidentally got (hanging out the window at Popeyes) drunk from a work party.

That safety though…is something you will always remember in your belly. The safety of being loved and thought about and cared for. You have those things when you’re single too. It just looks different. And you learn to love yourself in such a different way.

I suppose that is what I miss about companionship — what I crave when the nights get late and I drift away to the sound of my heater.

There are too many frustrations. Things I wished I would’ve done a million times. And then, there is now.

And now is bigger and wilder than I ever imagined. And it’s in Mississippi of all places.

A new home. A platform. A place to grow what my mind has sewn.

Things are never going to be the same. It is all new, all of this that I’m going through and often times it is hard to get out of bed and on to that next thing. But I’m always so thankful that I did…and that I do.

Here’s to our seasons of growth and struggles and lessons — In hopes that you approach them all with goodness deep down in there,

and remember that not everything you lose, you necessarily need back.

 

 

 

green hope.

People are right.

It didn’t feel like Christmas, for the most part.
Then again, a Christmas hasn’t felt like it did when I was a kid since, well, when I was a kid.

But isn’t that the point?

What I want to grab people by the shoulders and say, “This isn’t about you, anymore!”

Let me expand a bit.

It was, to be fair, 80 degrees on Christmas Day where I live. Not exactly close to being a White Christmas, not that I’ve ever had one. Don’t get me wrong. I get it. I get the season and joy and cheer.

I spent most of it catering to other people’s parties and emptying garbages in the dumpster at 1am. That is my new festive holiday cheer. Hustling. Working. Feeding people and cleaning up after them. Decembers are now a blur to me. They are so busy with parties and travel and catching up, we all get a little twinge in our stomachs after Thanksgiving. At least I do.

Maybe I’m part of the problem. Maybe I’m the Scrooge and my bah-humbugs come a little quieter — maybe with some passive aggression and disdain towards eggnog.

I think that maybe I have lost chasing that feeling. I don’t think a tree would help, or if I was in another industry. Christmas is changing not just for me, but for everyone.

So what do we do?

More so, what do I do? Where do I start?

six seedlings growing from soil

six seedlings growing from soil

2015 has been one of the biggest years of my life. Which is actually very, very tiny, considering we are a pale blue dot falling endlessly in some galaxy and in some form of space time. In that sense, I am barely atomic.

But I have a little breath and a big heart and am at times angry with little things and often kind and have a lot going on in my head, always.
This year has been a little about rage. Not that I’ve been jumping up and down on top of cars, but of survival and moving forward. It’s knowing that if you don’t care, then your business is going to fail. It’s knowing you are now responsible not only to people, but to a place and its people and its future.

I’ve been taking and taking my young adult life. Learning and figuring out what the hell I wanted to do. Right? Yes. Many of us got that luxury of learning and exploring. Reading Donald Miller or Mere Christianity for the sixth time and talking about God for hours and why this world is so damn difficult. Those were some sweet, luxurious times.

Now, though, we have to start giving back. And I’m not talking about two weeks on a mission trip — I’m talking about loving people fiercely and selflessly and investing your heart into a place and its people.

We aren’t super great at that. I’m not super great at that. But this is the shift that’s happening in my heart.

Let the kids have Christmas. Give them good memories and cherish deeply your own, but it’s not about you anymore. It’s about the little, more innocent people. It always has been because they’ve always been our best hope.

I think about that book “The Giver” and what it would be like on both ends. I do believe our responsibility is to remind our world of its history — of how we fight and kill but also thrive and move forward. A world void any of this would surely bring us to our knees begging to choose to feel again.

It is incredible and it is so absolutely painful at times.

I guess I’m adulting. I’m working to make some changes as I do so, and as we all must do when becoming older. Maybe I’m still naive to say such things, but we gotta a lot of life left. You have so much power in you, and if I knew you personally I would tell you that all the time.

I would tell about all the power you have to do the hard things and come out on the other side and to talk about how being married is really rough sometimes and how having kids puts so many stresses on everything. Everything. Everything requires loads of attention and it is impossible to control everything at the same time.

That is grace and effervescence — the stuff that lifts and refreshes.

You are allowed to think deep about your dark places where maybe only you and another walk, and maybe walk alone. I have been in those places and have lost the people I’ve walked with — but you find others there, too.

That is the best thing to know. People are hitchhikers in this wonky way, you pick them up and they do the same to you — and sometimes you step back and say, “How did I do this without you?”

Though I’ve drifted away from the Christmas theme, I’ve ended up where I’ve wanted in writing this final post for 2015.

Thank God for people.
And thank you for the graces they give and that we give.

Let’s keep it up. And let’s give our new hopes some good things; let’s give them the best of us and show them mercy when they see our worst.

After all, Love is a great Green Hope.

 

metamorphosis

Today is a day I feel I don’t quite belong to —
but hopefully the next.

Missed cues,
dropped plates,
small insults
and a bed with too much space.

I lay there, now, with a book on my chest,
full of people who have said it better.
(And to be honest, didn’t have the luxury of choice)

But I do.
I have so many choices.
So many ideas of change and movement,
like some impatient larvae anticipating
the metamorphosis.

I cry out,
and shake my head
and pull a bit on my shirt.

What is this thing I’m doing?
What on Earth am I learning about being lonely,
except maybe being a little scared from time to time.

I’ve never been a fan of scared.
In the deep recesses of my mind,
I come across a tiny ruin.
It is there, I imagine a person like Job,
picking his scabs with broken pieces of pottery,
but singing, “G-d is great!”

Oh, I am a fool for so many things.

When I close my eyes,
I see a tree on the horizon.

It is a silhouette against a big red sun.
I am there, again,
pulling slightly on my shirt,
explaining,
“I don’t know how else to be…”

Like some form of confession.
Like these things don’t already know.

I crumble. I melt away.

I come back.

I let whatever it was hanging on my hips,
return to where it came,
which just so happens to be a place I left long ago.

The place where dead things live.
The place where I shed a ghost or two.
The place of the old shells and skins and
skeletons.

I lean forward into the horizon
and allow myself to float free
of the old wineskins.

I close my eyes,
and fall asleep to the rain outside of my window.

the sun will meet you

I’ve been feeling like a borderline train wreck.

It seems the universe, in its ways of placing things before me, continues to teach me about pain and small disasters and patience.

If I can be honest for a minute, let me explore this.

A few days ago, I had written another piece for this “end of the year” thing. It was about the things I usually ramble on about. Food things. Love. Forward motion. Pimento cheese and sweet tea. It was about cooking, to be honest. Being off my feet and out of the kitchen for a whole week made me crave even more to be back in a kitchen cooking real food. I felt rested and inspired.

Then, I came home at midnight to find that the tenant above my apartment had a busted hot water heater that flooded his apartment for two days. Only, his apartment made it through just fine, where I did not fare as well.

I came home to the smell of mildew and was confused. My landlords did not get my memo that I had a new phone number and couldn’t get in touch with me. So, as I stumble in dead tired and smelling of campfire smoke, excited to take a shower — the roof and walls of my bathroom had collapsed. My kitchen walls were warped and the photographs on my refrigerator were curled and faded.

I took a few deep breaths and decided that this could wait until morning. I brushed my teeth in my kitchen sink, turned on my gas heater and fell asleep with the smell of fire still fresh on my body.

The next day at work we had record sales for our lunch rush.

I was losing ground, quickly, with about a billion things on my mind. Do I need to move again? Can I afford this transition? Where? Where? WHERE?

How? WHY?

Can the universe give me a second to settle down? My foot, still a bit stingy at times from my fracture in November. Then a busy Christmas catering season, a stomach flu and trying to pay my bills on time.

On top of all of this, I reflect on my year,

Of traveling back to Mississippi from the Pacific Northwest, and fitting back into a life and a community I had been away from for so long.
Not a day goes by that I don’t think of my marriage, and how much I have missed that comfort of being in love and cooking dinner and having a best friend I could talk to every day, and fall asleep with at night.

Divorce is devastating. And people move through it at different speeds.

Today though, this is where my heart rests.

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This stuff takes courage. It takes all of your heart to move and to keep moving. No one can prepare you enough for the weight this world can place on your shoulders.

I found myself, as I do from time to time, saying, “Dude, you’re doing so well! Look at you go!”

And the pendulum swings back where I want to sit at the end of my bed and spend the day exploring the things I have failed at and eating an entire box of Little Debbie Christmas tree cakes. I reach down and feel the pain in my legs and the ache in my back. Patting my holiday belly, hoping to get my stuff together enough to eat like a normal human being again.

It is easy to let yourself live in doubt and fear. Lord knows this year hasn’t been easy for me. It hasn’t been easy for a lot of people.

A poem I love says to not move the way fear makes you move.

And I listen to that voice.

Because what I feel today, is strength. I feel my legs getting stronger.

Every day fills with a new hope for those small victories.

Life is all about small celebrations. Overcoming a season of pain with an abundance of joy. My heart is so full of both and I am stronger because of it.

My hope for you, as you have perhaps read this in its entirety, is to keep moving this next year.

Keep trudging through the muck and know that sadness and pain are not your last feelings. They will move along just as you do, and you will feel the warm on your face again.

Because as it goes,

the sun rises. 

You will meet it with your feet firmly on the ground,

and you will breathe in deep, its light and grace.

dark and light.

I consider myself a spiritual person —
to the point of chills when I stumble upon a stained glass portrait of a Mother wearing
holy colors, fearing for the lives of her family.

My upbringing was very traditional, yet in my most recent years, untraditional.

While a shaky faith is a thing we all come to terms with in different seasons, I find myself on days like today, with a good song in hand, reaching deep to reconcile my weighty ghosts.

This week has flown by. (As they say.)

Tuesday I found myself hunched by a toilet emptying my sick belly, and luckily found some chicken stock in my freezer to sip down before I went to bed that night. I’ve cooked for a few hundred in the span of this week and my body is a bit worn down. I’m tired. Bone tired.

Last night, as I do when I need comfort, ate fried catfish and watched Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.  I propped up my swollen foot and indulged in maybe another Christmas tree cake, because I can afford it after losing a few pounds from that rogue stomach flu.

There is a scene at the end where a father is crying over the loss of his son, and a very violent loss at that. Being tired, I assume, makes me more emotional. It’s usually a hard scene, but I lost it again. It wasn’t quite just about the movie, but more so a culmination of some dark, dark times we have all recently been aware of in our world.

People all over are experiencing trauma through these things. I don’t think we realize it. We see a video of a man getting killed and it haunts us and then we move on nibbling on our ham sandwiches. But it sticks with us. At least it does me.

I think in that moment when I heard the father moan in sadness and pain, I was reminded of the mothers and fathers who have to bury their sons and daughters. I think about the dark injustice that plagues our world and our apathy because we are afraid to dialogue. Afraid to disagree with our families and friends.

I heard someone say that advent is a very dark time where hope emerges.

I love that.

light-in-darkness

My religious beliefs aren’t anything to write home about anymore. I do have what I have. I believe in my bones what feels right and I have the stories and memories of growing up in a world that I still cling to from time to time.

I am not here writing to defend myself or my beliefs. To be honest, I don’t care too much about my beliefs. Those who know me, and love me, understand that I love a person for their heart, not for what they believe. I have seen too much damage over beliefs, as I find they change like the tide.

But love, I can work with. Love gives me something to hang on to.

So I take this time that many churches and communities call Advent and I mourn. I am weighed down with the loss of both innocent and guilty lives. I think about the racial and political and religious climates that have driven millions and millions of people into different places of the world. Like the two who fled to have a baby in a trough, fearing they would be murdered. And as it goes, that same woman, holding the ripped flesh of her own son.

I sit here today, with a deep hope in my belly. Deeper than the dark stuff that finds its way down there.

None of this stuff is easy, but it’s important.

Here’s to this season of darkness, but also great light.

Wishing all who read this wonderful times with their loved ones, or who are away from home or who don’t celebrate or who eat Chinese food out on Christmas day (which sounds pretty awesome actually.)

Sending you love and light and the space to dwell in them both.

-Josh

 

 

concrete

Heavy world, dear one.

I hear this phrase in my head. I hear it when I discover again and again my heart resting in the place it’s always been.
I suppose resting isn’t quite the right word, considering it has a history of beating and beating particularly faster when it is challenged or excited or broken.

I spent some time with this heart of mine. There wasn’t much that could stop me from letting it go where it was needing to go. In the safety of my walls, I lost it. Heavy with all sorts of big and small things, each substantial and having no particular order of deserving more attention than the other.

I thought about my loneliness. How hard it is to go about doing this thing again. I thought about my heart and that if I’m not careful, I’m going to keep it in a cement box.

Keeping my heart surrounded by this cement box is dangerous. I do it because I’m just so afraid to hurt like that again. I’m afraid of rejection. Not being good enough. You know, the usual.

Today, I thought about the times my heart ached just too much. How silly I felt because heartbreak can feel so cliche sometimes. I’m a hot mess just like that person over there. Welcome to the world of wounded healers, I sometimes say to myself.

I live less and less in this deep sadness, but some things trigger me to head down deep again. There, bubbling like a soup, is a lot of that old stuff. Anger. Frustration. Physical want. Confusion. Exhaustion.

My empty walls remind me of the places I’ve called home, and that it takes time to build one. I wish the smell in my apartment wasn’t so old all the time. But it’s really not so bad. I guess if I roast enough chickens it will submit to the sage and rosemary and thyme.

Repairing-Outdoor-Concrete

I love those moments when I find myself lost in my own spirit. It’s rare to have a moment when I feel that safe.

There, I think about God and why it is my heart and mind are conflicted on so many levels. I think about what I’ve lost and gained over the years and what things have stuck to my ribs. I choose to give those things more life, or at least a bigger say as to what my future might look like.

There are days when I know I will devote my life to cooking food for other people. But then, I often dream about being a person who can be present to a family, and not have to choose all the time between work and relationship. We are all more alike than we are different, and I can only assume I am in a much larger boat.

So I will take today and rest my bones after a long, frustrating, and emotionally charged week, and see if I can wander around in my own spirit.

There, I will learn to love myself over and over again, because if I don’t, I can’t properly love my neighbor.

I will nurse the burns on my hands and the ache in my heart.

I will make myself dinner. I will sit down and I will eat it.
All the while, looking at these walls…the ones that guard my heart, and I will tear them down. I will do so as long as I need to.

The world needs my heart, as it need yours.

It’s dangerous I know!

But at this moment,

there is nothing more necessary.

 

living in death (living in life)

{It might seem as though I am writing about the death of a loved one. And this piece could very much be about the same thing. I am, however, associating death to the loss of a relationship. More so because it is how I associate at times with love, and love lost. No one close to me has passed away, but what I wanted to portray was the loss of an important presence in my life.}

We go through great depths to mourn those we love.

More specifically, the ones we have lost.

Let me be clear in saying, I have mourned a great loss. More so than I ever thought I would. You know this when someone you loves passes away, or leaves you too soon. The clouds roll in and all you see is dark. You wonder, “How will I ever rise above these dark things…when will the weight of their presence leave and set me free again?”

Right now, I am drained and exhausted. Talking till I can’t keep my eyes open. Angry. Sad. Alone.

But within my depths I see that horizon, and I am drawn to it like a lighthouse welcoming the weary.

I have been thinking of the incredible depths of human beings. I cannot escape the mystery of our redemption. Of our resilience. Of our fight to keep moving in the midst of great storms.

We are all full of such a deep, wonderful and terrifying brilliance. The fact that we are capable of love means we are also aware of the dangers that it brings. There is nothing more brilliant than being in love. It is crazy. It has to be crazy.

I reach down deep into myself and pull out this beautiful and fragile mystery. I examine it to see that it has scars. Residue of pain. Reach in to any heart and you will see this. For we have all loved and have been damaged.

But what I want to say is that we are endlessly human. That means, we have these pieces that make our hearts beat and that shoot millions upon million of electrons through tiny tunnels in our brain that allow me to type or make bread. It allows me to connect memories and to build experience and to learn and accept love.

It allows my soul to be endless.

What a journey it is to fight for this. To build upon it as though you are Noah constructing an Ark, in doubt of what the world is telling you to feel.

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You are endless and full of goodness.

And you can only live in death for so long.

As with everything, there is a time. The great thing about time is that it moves regardless of whether or not you want it to. Sometimes you want it to stop to recognize your pain. Sometimes you want it to go back, but it will not.

The clouds will lift and the fog will clear.

You will be met with life.

It will flow from your depths. You will find a great joy in your healing. Time will be your friend and you will feel so very strong, my loves.

Live in death to mourn.

Live in life to fight and be good and to make things better.

Your cup will run over, and there will be people needing what you have to offer. Give them what you can, but always, always, always, fill yourself.

Live in your depth.

because you

and you

and You,

are endless.

Tom Hanks (And What ‘Cast Away’ Taught Me About Hope and Fear)

I really like the movie Cast Away.

I guess I just like Tom Hanks. (Though I’m not super stoked about his mustache right now.)

There is a scene at the very end, where he’s at a crossroads.

He had set out to deliver a package, one that he had kept the entire time he was stranded on the island. On the front, was an image that gave him the idea to build a sail onto his raft. It saved his life.

We see a woman and her dog pull up in a truck. She gives him options as to where he could go next. She turns out to be the owner of said package, but in the movie, we don’t know what happens. He delivers it to her home, but she isn’t there. Yadda yadda yadda. I’d like to think they lived happily ever after, but I don’t think they did. I think her role in his life had already run its course. (But then again, this is me watching Cast Away at one in the morning.)

In his passenger seat, is a volleyball, that I assume will take the character of Wilson (again), his past volleyball friend. Also, about three jugs of water.

In the back of my mind, I think, “Dang, he must be like, super healthy…eating nothing but raw fish and water and coconut.”

So he leans on his car, and eventually drives away, but we don’t know where.

castaway2_1850514i

I’m not sure why this image is in my head. I suppose you have to be in the moment, and not reading this as randomly as I’m writing about it. Because for five years he stayed on that island. He accepted death, and was able to leave only by the means of a random piece of garbage that washed ashore.

I guess the moral, near the end, was that you never know what the tide will bring.

And I think about his seclusion, his loneliness and anger. His needing to survive. I think about desperation, and the point at which you give up.

I wonder, at which point does hope become greater than fear. I believe both are big driving factors.

Some days, I feel as though I live more in fear, than I do hope. But there is something much deeper in hope. There is nothing to gain from fear, except maybe protecting yourself temporarily from something harmful, which isn’t always the best way to handle it.

So I don’t really know if this is about Tom Hanks surviving on a big island.

That one scene though, where he has all the options in the world, is really liberating. Not because I have a million options, but because sometimes life takes a turn, and you are presented with them, like a gift. Though what it took to have those options, could’ve been a nightmare, or simply, a change of heart.

To his name, he had a map. Some water. A volleyball, and Elvis. (And I’m sure a lot of FedEx money.)

So I guess you can’t really give up.

It’s too easy.

And you can’t move in the way fear makes you move. (Unless you are being attacked by a flock of geese, or something.)

I’m talking about the expectation of fear. Fear of reaction, fear of disappointment.

 

Move along, though.

There is plenty to see. Plenty to do.

In fact, the world relies on you to do it.

And hey, if Tom Hanks can do it,

 

so can you.