Preparation. How much of it have you done or are you doing? 

The dictionary describes preparation as, “The action or process of making ready or being made ready for use or consideration.” 

Some do it to ensure they can perform their roles at a moment’s notice; think military personnel and first responders. Others do it to be ready to execute a predicted task, like an account executive to make a presentation or a sales call, or in the case of a surgeon or attorney, to conduct an operation or make a closing statement to the jury.

Whether we do it consciously or it’s part of our everyday routine, we don’t fully appreciate its importance until the time comes when that preparation pays off.

Most of us are always in a state of preparation for one thing or another, but what about the time that something happens for which you didn’t knowingly prepare but your strengths, skills or talents were built and ready to take on the challenge? I have a story that relates to this; something I’d been preparing for, even though I didn’t know it was coming.

On a recent Sunday morning, I volunteered to help The Children’s Hunger Project, with a “Packing Day.”

This incredible organization assembles and distributes thousands of packages of high-nutrition food to elementary schools across Brevard County, Florida during the school year. These are given to children who qualify for free or reduced-fee meal programs and may not have anything to eat from their afternoon lunch on Friday, until their school-provided breakfast or lunch on Monday.

Many businesses and charitable organizations donate the funds to purchase quantities of the food and their employees or members assemble hundreds or even thousands of these meal packages. It’s truly wonderful to see so many people filling the bags and putting a “smiley face” sticker on the finished package, knowing they’ve helped a hungry child. The bags are then put into boxes to be loaded onto TCHP’s truck for their weekly deliveries. 

While many of these packing days are held at the TCHP’s storage and distribution center, this one was held at a large church where several hundred of the congregation would be assembling packages at different locations outside the building.

That’s the first back-story to set the scene about what preparation, even if not clear in the beginning or while doing it, can mean to being successful or accomplishing that “something” when it comes time.

Here’s the second.

For most of my adult life, I’ve had a gym membership. Some years I was consistent in my training, some I wavered and some I downright failed at keeping up the habit. It was the same for my diet, and for the last few I had kept up on the former but really slacked on the latter, and it was showing. While I was physically strong, I was also overweight by about 40 lbs.

I told my doctor it was mostly muscle weight, but she wasn’t having any of that. She wanted me to shoot for getting at least 30 of it off, and soon. My blood pressure was high, my cholesterol, lipids and all the other things they track were off the charts and I was, as she put, headed for a heart attack. Yeah, yeah, what does she know; we Roperts don’t die from heart attacks, we die from cancer. Take that, you marathon-running, natural-food-eating, picture-of-health, knows-better-than-me, medically-trained professional!

In the fall of last year, I finally had enough of the way I looked and felt, and of her harping on me. I was tired of clothes that didn’t fit and I was loathe to buy the next sizes up, although I had to lest I split a seam or not fit in those I had at all. I knew that “guy” was still in me, the one with the slim waist and big shoulders, arms and legs that had definition, and the one that people asked for help to lift the heavy stuff.

So, I got serious. I started making better food choices and reducing portion sizes , which was tough because I love food, especially steak, pizza, pasta, sauces and bread – and lots of it at a time! I hit the weights harder and heavier, and added multiple days of cardio (man, I hate cardio!).

It started paying off and by the Holidays I had dropped the 30 and could actually see “me” again. Motivated by the progress I was making and the changes I was experiencing, I kept it up. Now I’m in the gym six, if not seven, days a week. I look and feel better, I don’t have the pain in my back and knees that the extra weight was causing, and my self-confidence and self-worth are markedly higher.

So that’s the second back-story. It’s not one of braggadocio but to put into context what happened that Sunday.

Each of those food packages weighs in at just 2.5 lbs. each, but 20 are put into a box so each box weighs 50 lbs. The church members put together 1,400 meal packages that day. Because the assembly stations were spread throughout the church’s campus, each box had to be picked up and loaded onto a cart, then transported and stacked onto pallets in TCHP’s delivery truck. The volunteers working for TCHP that day were mostly older women and young children, neither of whom should or could be slinging boxes of that weight.

Guess who got the job?

I did the work; and the math. 50 lbs. X 70 boxes = 3,500 lbs. Each box had to be lifted and moved twice for a total of 7,000 lbs. or 3 ½ tons, one by one. By the end, yes I was running on empty but was still standing.

The following Monday I was talking to one of my crew as I started my workout (my “crew” is a group of five regulars who support or dog each other, depending on if we’re there or miss a day) and of course, being in the testosterone-filled environment of the gym, I told him of the “Herculean task” I had completed. Ok, here I was bragging a bit, but I was proud of making it through the day and not tearing a muscle or afterwards walking half hunched-over from the bending, twisting and lifting.

And here’s where it all comes together. He said, “You know you couldn’t have done that if you hadn’t been in here all this time, working hard and getting stronger every day. That’s what it’s all about, being ready and able to do something like that, and then being here the next day to keep up the pace!”

I thought about that. All those hours, all those thousands of pounds and miles of cardio got me into the shape that, at almost 55 years of age, I could do that kind of work for almost three hours straight and get up the next day to be in the gym for another round.

Without knowing, I had prepared for something I didn’t know was coming and was able to take on the challenge when it arrived.

Now it’s got me thinking, what else have I been preparing for? What else can I take on that unexpectedly comes my way because of what I’ve been doing, learning or experiencing? Or better yet, if I can do that, what else can I set my sights on and achieve?

I believe I can do anything. I’m ready for it.

Ask yourself the same questions I did and get ready to rock the world! The moment will come when you’ll be asked to call upon your strengths and talents, those that you’ve developed through time and commitment.

You can do it!