April 11, 2018

I won’t go into all of the details, but I was working towards a major life decision years ago. I had a deep desire to return to my hometown and work from the place my heart could not stop desiring. I did make the move.

Years have passed since we moved from my work in Dallas to where we live today, and I can look backward and see the blessings. The decision to follow the passion within me and apply myself to the unfolding of a vision was no mistake, but I certainly did not know that result at the time. Back then, and even now, too, I was moving about in the things that are intangibles until we make them real with action. Things like hope, faith, love, passion, vision, and risk.

At the time of coming to decision, however, I had no clue what the future held, except that I was going to move into it. I was leaving guaranteed and proven success in Dallas for a place in which I didn’t even know what I would do exactly.

Over a period of months, I dismantled my practice in Dallas, and sought to find a way to carve out a future with Sonya and our two young children. I made numerous phone calls, sent out resumes, followed leads, continued to throw my hook in the water over and over again, only to reel it in empty, planned and prayed. My income was dwindling, my home wasn’t selling, and I had no job to move to yet.

On one particular day, I had become very doubtful and discouraged about what I was doing. I needed courage, and it came by being in need of help—either to let go of my quest, or move on in spite of my fears.

Down the hall from my work was a huge consulting firm. I walked over to their offices, looking for one of the two men who had started it, having gotten to know them a bit over the years. They weren’t in their office that day.

They had recently brought in a new VP of operations, to bring new blood to the business. His name was John. I walked past John’s open door after finding out that the people I wanted to talk to were not in the office. After walking past the door, I turned back around on a search for something, some wisdom, some kind of confirmation. I had heard John speak for ten minutes on the day he had been introduced to the firm. I only knew those ten minutes about him, but I dared to ask if I could speak to him for a moment. He kindly invited me to sit down to have what became the final conversation about taking risks and following a passion. He gave me invisible gold.

John waited calmly for me to speak. His gaze was clear. He had some age on his face and some heaviness in the lines around his eyes and mouth. His eyes were brown and rich like freshly turned dirt prepared for planting. Then, like a child, I plowed into my story.

I told him about my love for Sonya and our sons, my hopes and dreams, my fears of failure and what failure could look like. I even told him that if I stayed in Dallas, I had this picture of my tombstone saying, “Here lies Chip Dodd,” with an inscription below the dates of birth and death that says, “He worked.” That I didn’t want to live or die like that. I wanted my tombstone to say, “Loving husband, Loving father, Loving man.”

I finished my downpour of words quickly, knowing how valuable his time was. He, however, looked like he had all the time in the world. He didn’t raise an eyebrow or look away. Then he said quietly, “Chip, my son would be seventeen next month.” I heard the “would be” spoken gently, and yet in my mind’s eye, I heard wood cracking and something breaking, as if I had broken into a sacred territory.

He said, “My son died of leukemia almost two years ago. If you think I would allow fear of failure or pride stop me from moving toward that dream you describe, you would be very mistaken. Don’t let fear or pride stop you from moving into your own life.”

But for God’s grace, I would have felt overwhelming shame in the midst of him blessing me. His tragedy he used to give me an amazing gift in few words. He blessed me, a stranger, who came to him in true need.

I left his office. I never looked back again. The quest was sealed. I was going. John’s courage in my fear, John’s risk in my discouragement, moved me to risk all, knowing I could only appear to lose all while attempting to gain what mattered most. He let me know that I couldn’t lose, unless I didn’t follow the intangibles and move in them with action.

His words mattered to the rest of my life. I’m so thankful for his words, and their courage that encouraged me. And I never even knew John’s last name. Words matter. Words of the heart’s truths matter. They can change lives.