Warfield to Double T: Five (of many) Life Lessons

Today I mourn the loss of my brother and friend. I am saddened that my mentor and laughing buddy is no longer here physically.  And though I am heartbroken and saddened, about is his leaving;  I am so thankful that he came. Chuck Warfield has impacted my life in ways that writing could never encompass. I am a better man, a better leader and a better human being to the people I love due in no small part to his influence. To try to express all that he has meant to me and my life is a task I may never complete, however I’d like to share with you the five lessons that are swimming around in my head immediately following saying goodbye to my good friend.

  1. “If you don’t allow others to DEfine you, they cannot CONfine you.” While sitting on the porch with Chuck, he was encouraging me to not allow other people to define who I am. He used to tell me how important it was for me to get a very clear picture about who I am and what I bring to the world. If I didn’t have that sense, people would attempt to add their definitions of me and my future to my life. And in his many years of experience as a leader, educator, advocate and family man, he knew that for me to have a chance at leading in a way that really could bring impact to the community, I had to have the first definition of who I was.  He knew in his heart that if I let that happen, I would subsequently let people and negativity confine me. Over his time, he had seen how confining passion, love and our unique gifts and talents had done nothing to help the world. So my challenge to myself, and to you today (in honor of our friend) is for us to get really clear about who we are as individuals. That clarity will help us define who we are to the world and the impact we want to have.  And if you can’t do it for Chuck, do it because you can’t afford to have your gifts and talents confined.
  2. Love matters. I have seen love in my life. I am so thankful for the examples of love that have become my life’s story.  I believe, like Corey Booker that I am a part of a “grand conspiracy of love.”  God shows me His love everyday. I am not a stranger to the power of Love.  And I have come to see love in action on the planet earth in the life of Charles Warfield. Chuck loved his family. He, even until the last moment loved his wife, Martha. He loved Kalamazoo. And his love was not in word alone, it was a verb.  His entire life’s work in this community has one common theme, love. He loved young people and their potential. And he solidified that love with the numerous scholarships and opportunities that he and Dr. Martha provided to the community. He loved people of every shade and hue. He showed this love at every meeting he attended, every church service he sat through, every community program he attended, every game he observed. Everywhere Chuck Warfield went, love was with him. My friend showed me a great example that loving people, loving yourself, loving God and loving your community can bring good success. And at the end of your life, people will remember the LOVE.
  3. Two dimes and a nickel (if you have one). Warfield and  I would often talk about money. He would give me tidbits of wisdom about how to be financially sound. He would push me to think about finances as a part of my leadership. He had a real simple equation for financial success. Here it is: “if you have a dollar in your pocket; give a dime to God, a dime to yourself, and a nickel for the community, if you have one.” That is it. It was just that simple to him. He put a premium on giving money and resources to God’s work. Now, just in case you don’t believe in giving to God or you have different beliefs than Charles Warfield did about God, I would encourage you to take the wisdom from the strategy. It is important for all of us to give our first fruit to doing work that will last longer than us. For Chuck Warfield that was giving through the local church and helping people who are downtrodden; an action that he believed was very God-like. He continued with the wisdom.  He’d say that after I gave a dime to God, I should give a dime to myself for the future.  Now this principle is as old as time, yet Warfield continuously impressed this idea on me because he wanted me to have financial security. The third priority in the equation is the community. Warfield thought it was important to give back to the places who have given to you. He and Dr. Martha have made it a priority to donate their time, talent and treasure back into the community and Warfield saw this as a critical part of the equation. In the end, he claimed that all it takes is ‘two dimes and a nickel’ to get to financial success. I got the idea Warfield. And I’ll continue to try to follow in your footsteps!
  4. Take some time to laugh and lie. One of my favorite places to be in the world is sitting on the porch laughing and lying with Warfield. I would always be excited when I saw his name pop up on my phone. I knew that either we were going to have a great conversation and/or we would laugh until we nearly passed out. Warfield made it a priority in his life to laugh and have fun. The concept of laughing and lying was about having an opportunity and space where you could just banter with someone you trusted. As a matter of fact, he and I would periodically take trips to Chicago on the train. We would purposefully take the train so that we would be guaranteed several hours of laughter, jive talking, crying, laughing some more, telling each other tales (short and tall) and solving some of the world’s biggest problems. I learned that this time in life is really important and precious. I’m thankful for the time I had with my friend to laugh and lie. And I will attempt to make more time for that in my life. Admittedly, it will be really tough to (re)create that time without him.
  5. Live the highest life you can live.  This final lesson came very late in our relationship. As a matter of fact, this lesson came during our last conversation just eight days before his passing. Chuck was not well at all, his energy was very low and I came to visit he and Martha and the family at the hospital. Chuck and I had a 45 minute conversation there int he room. The precious nature of that conversation I will hold dear for the rest of my life. I will never forget that final conversation with my friend. And now, I don’t even know what to do with his request of me. He said on five different occasions in that 45 minute conversation “Double T, live the highest life you can. I mean it man, live the highest life you can!” I don’t quite know what that meant. But I’m starting to think that he was speaking of my fullest potential. He wants me to maximize opportunities as they come. He wants me to bring my full self to my family, my work and my service to other human beings. I’ll probably spend the remainder of my days trying to figure out what the highest life is. But I can tell you this, if I can see higher or farther than others now, it is because I’m standing on the shoulders of giants like Charles Warfield. And when you have shoulders like his to stand on, you are well on your way to the highest life possible.

Thanks for these lessons and so many more.  Rest in peace my friend. I’ll see you on the other side.

Double T.

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