Beyond Good Intentions

By David Gudgel

I’M FEELING REALLY GOOD today because I finally followed through on some good intentions. For ten years I kept saying “I really need to get my act together and do this thing.” But I kept putting it off, waiting for a better time. The Land of Good Intentions is an okay place to live temporarily. But for ten years? Not good. But that’s where I was.

Bernice and I live a beautiful 2 ½ hour drive away from Merced, where most of our kids and grandkids live. We go over there a lot. Once we get out of the Bay Area, the drive is through rolling hills and by a lake and then farm land. The few towns along the drive are the kind of places you could miss altogether if you blink your eyes. And right about half way to Merced is the itty bitty town of Santa Nella.

We’ve never been tempted to live in Santa Nella. It’s never even crossed our minds. But we love going through there. Partly because of where we’re heading, but also because there’s a Starbucks and an In-N-Out. Perfect timing on the trip for a quick stop and then moving on.

Now there are a few people who actually live in Santa Nella. And they may love it there. But for most of us, Santa Nella is like the Land of Good Intentions. It’s a nice place to stop for bit and regroup, get a Frappuccino from Starbucks or some Animal Fries from In-N-Out, and then move on to wherever we’re going. But unfortunately, when it comes to the Land of Good Intentions, a lot of us can easily move in and stick around way too long.

It’s populated by moms and dads, young and old, couples and singles. Each person unique but at the same time all sharing one thing in common – unrealized good intentions. They were heading somewhere. They had a great idea. In fact, they still have it, but somehow they ended up stuck in Santa Nella sipping on mocha lattes and thinking, “Yeah, one of these days I should get back in the car and head on to Merced.”

Conversations in the Land of Good Intentions are often punctuated with should. “Yea, I should have spent more time with my kids while they were growing up” or “I should have actually lived out my faith with my family instead of leaving that up to the church.”

As a dad of three children I had a lot of shoulds while my kids were growing up – a lot of good intentions. And thankfully I followed through on a lot of them. But some of them moved in to Santa Nella and never got past simply being good intentions.

One should that I did make good on came to mind the last year or two that my oldest child was still living at home. When Brent was a junior in high school I decided that I should spend some quality time hanging out with him over the next two years just to be together and to make sure Bernice and I had done all we could to prepare him for leaving home. And that time I passed right through Santa Nella and followed through on my good intentions!

Brent & I had a great time going out to breakfast on a bunch of Saturday mornings and talking about different topics that I wanted to make sure we had covered throughout the years and that Brent had actually gotten it. I worked really hard to make sure they weren’t lectures, but conversations. And it was a great time for both of us. In fact, I went on and used the same list of topics as conversations over breakfast with my other two kids when they were in their last years of high school too.

But the good intention that is making me feel really good today is a different one. This one spent ten years in Santa Nella. Ten years ago I was told I should put the information I used with my kids into a book so others could use it with their kids too. And I finally followed through and did it.

It’s called Just One More Thing: Before You Leave Home and it just came out this week. I’m thrilled that this project finally got out of the Land of Good Intentions. And I’m hopeful that Just One More Thing will help many sons and daughters, moms and dads, spend some last minute quality time together talking about things that are going to come up when the kids leave home. In our case those conversations happened over pancakes – because our kids really like pancakes. You can find the book on Amazon.com.

So what are you waiting for? Is there a should in your life that’s stuck in the Land of Good Intentions? Isn’t it about time you translated that good intention into reality? After all, Santa Nella is probably not the place you want to stay for very long.

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