As most of you know, with ‘Dad or Alive’, I usually lead with humor and comedy generally reigns supreme.
I was having dinner with a good friend in Los Angeles a few weeks ago that implored me to share more of my serious side.
I believe his exact words were “What I love is that you share 99% of yourself online, but I think that 1% you hold back represents 99% of your story, and that’s what I’m waiting to see.”
He may not know it, but that was a powerful moment for me, to hear him say that.
I truly do have a serious side that I rarely show my readers, and I hope, by the rarity of this, that you’re willing to set that aside and take a bit of an emotional journey with me.
For many of you who have been following my blog from the beginning, you can likely deduce that I’ve lived a pretty lucky life—between my childhood upbringing and now, my beautiful wife and three healthy kids that I’m able to be home with every day, plus a strongly united extended family. It’s really all that I could have asked for.
And if you really follow me, you’re likely aware of the fact that on September 17, 2011, my baby niece was tragically killed.
She was only 1 year, 1 month and 1 day old.
She was hit and killed in her stroller in the parking lot of an athletic field by a careless and reckless driver who wasn’t paying attention to what she was doing.
I recognize that I’m ‘just the uncle’ in this situation.
I can only share with you the pain, anger, grief, heartache and sadness that our family endured and continues to experience, every single day of our lives.
I can share with you the way that tragedy changes people on a cellular level… how the strength of the bonds of relationships are tested… how you can begin to heal, but you are never the same.
And the worst part of all of this is that it was completely avoidable.
I have to be honest… when I was younger, I was certainly a more aggressive driver. I had my share of speeding tickets, unnecessary risks and aggressive actions. I was known to zip in and out of traffic and parking lots.
I’ve learned the error of my ways and am determined to pass on better habits to my children.
No one should have to suffer a loss like this and when I had heard about a safe driving initiative being promoted by Progressive in the month of September, I felt like it was an opportunity to share Olivia’s story again and potentially inspire some conversation about how we can do better behind the wheel and possibly save another family from having to face the same tragic reality.
On September 3rd, I encourage you to join thousands of people across the country in taking a pledge to drive safer.
I came up with at least five things that I keep in mind every time I start my engine.
- Be Patient. If there’s one thing I’ve learned as a stay-at-home dad for three kids under the age of five, it’s patience. Rushing and being in a hurry never seems to work out well.
- Stop Using Your Phone. This is a tough one, especially if you’re as addicted to social media as me, but the reality is that once you take your eyes off the road, anything can happen.
- Quit Being Aggro. There’s no reason for me to tailgate or get lit up when someone isn’t driving the way I think they should.
- Watch the Speed. It’s easy to forget how fast you can get moving. Luckily for me, the state of Maryland loves to take pictures of your car and send them to you with a hefty fine.
- My Niece. Her memory. There’s a very human element behind my desire to keep Olivia’s name alive… her story can save lives, and that is that single most important message I can share.
Please, take a moment to read and share Olivia’s story.
What could you do differently behind the wheel to cause others less stress and to avoid the potential for tragedy?
Join Progressive and myself to take the pledge to Drive Safely this September 3rd – maybe it will save a life. But it will definitely change yours.
Disclosure: I’ve teamed up with Progressive for their Drive Safe Today Day initiative. Although I’ve been compensated for my post, the thoughts and ideas are my own.