Two years ago I was walking to the mailbox with my son Elijah. Checking the mail was one of his favorite things to do. After collecting our mail, we heard a voice say, “Cleveland Browns fan?” I turned around to see a smiling face. I didn’t notice, but Elijah was wearing orange and brown. I looked at the stranger and responded, “Browns? Are you from Cleveland?” He responded, “Yes!” That’s how my friendship with John Klein began.
You never know when and how a friendship will begin. My relationship with John began with a conversation over our Ohio roots. During our conversation, I learned that John was a man of god, husband, father, life coach, author and sports fan. I thought it was great that I had a neighbor who was in a similar field as me. I had someone with a passion for working with people to network with.
John is one of the most positive people I know. He’s always smiling and always encouraging people to be their best. Last year, John asked me to proofread his new book. I was honored. His book told his life story and the trials he has experienced. After reading about his battles with health issues, job loss, natural disasters, childhood hardships and the loss of his wife; his positive spirit AMAZES me.
Ladies and gentlemen, my interview with “The Encourager,” John Klein.
Why do people call you the Encourager?
Former Major league pitcher Dave Dravecky inspired me to take the name. Dave lost his arm to cancer. I had the same doctor as Dave and was introduced to him. I was coaching a little league team in Ohio and we dedicated our season to Dave after he lost his arm. He had a newsletter called The Encourager and Dave told me, “That’s who you are!” and he gave me the name. He is a very modest man. I’ve been known as the Encourager ever since.
Why did you write your book "A Victory March?"
Other than the obvious cathartic effect, I wrote "A Victory March" so others might identify with my journey from their own experiences, Thusly, one doesn't feel alone during challenging times.
How long did it take to write?
It took me 18 months to write, rewrite and rewrite my book. So much had been archived in my mind for so long, the words and ideas flowed relatively fast.
What did you learn about yourself when you wrote the book?
What I learned about myself was that I could stop apologizing for myself. I had earned the right to share this story. Before the book, I'd feel self-conscious at times when qualifying myself to others. The book gave me a well-deserved peace and purpose, knowing it was not an I-am-a-victim or woe is me story. At times, I felt God's presence unlike anything else I ever experienced, knowing the story was other-centered, not just about me: that its purpose was serving Him.
I was honored that you asked me to read an early draft of your book? You've overcome many a trial in your life...Cancer, the death of your wife, growing up in the foster care system and losing your career. How have you managed to stay so positive in the face of all your life trials?
I've stayed positive through trials by God's grace! It's nearly inexplicable. I do my best to explain this in the book, which takes more space than a concise, one or two sentences. Somehow - even without knowing the Lord, studied in His Word or sanctified by learning - His presence has always been there for me, revealed by circumstances beyond coincidence. So, I see EVERY experience in life as a lesson. Never do I fail to ask myself - good or bad - what is this experience teaching me? If I am to be a dynamic disciple it means facing adversity with a sense of equanimity. I can present to others a sense of defeat or I can share my march to victory.
You are a semi - retired life coach/ Full Time encourager. Why are you so passionate about helping people?
It’s part of my spiritual DNA. I am passionate about encouraging others because I could not live with myself unless I walked the talk. It goes to the saying, "that when you hold a torch to light another's path, it only brightens your own."
Your smile brightens the day of me and my family? Why do you smile so much?
Even though I’ve had hardships in my life, there are reasons for it. It’s a learning experience. It’s something that I choose. It takes less energy to trust.
I smile either naturally or deliberately because it beats frowning. No one enjoys a sour puss. A comedian once said that a smile is a curve that sets everything straight. Well, my first book, "Your Pathway," was inspired from Proverbs 3:5-6, which speaks to things that are crooked being made straight. So, a simple smile for me, whether divinely inspired, taken from a quote or a classic Chaplin song points people to a better day, ever so cheerfully without saying a word.
Why was it so important to show your sense of humor during not so good times?
It’s the best medicine of all. I’ve been treated with a lot of medicines, but when you laugh it takes your mind away from your troubles. It’s not an escape path. It’s another pathway to a better place.
Would you call yourself self medicated?
Yes (Followed by a series of laughs)
Your book has many life lessons. Can you share your recipe for living a positive and productive life?
My recipe is brief: It's an acronym: J.O.Y. (Jesus first, his teaching and my personal relationship with Him; serving Others next, and putting Yourself last).When we serve Him first and serve others before ourselves, good people and opportunities come into our lives in positive ways.
You're a voracious reader. Do you have any recommendations for people reading this?
Sticking to the Rule of Three, generally speaking with a few specific examples I'd say:
- Obviously, the Book of Life (Holy Bible). Make it personal, not to fit in with what you perceive others expect to hear from you.
- Read about American History and World History. We are woefully ignorant about our heritage and civic responsibility. David McCullough has written extensively about our history and that of other countries. A fave of mine was Robert Kennedy's To Seek A Newer World.
- Read novels - old or new - and humor (especially satire). We all need diversions. Another fave for me is anything by Dave Barry.
I know you love playing golf. Many people compare golf to life. Why do you love the game?
I love golf because holding a golf club was the first thing I did for physical therapy on my resectioned right arm to gain and maintain vascular function. (John had a rare form of cancer that affected his right arm.) Also, it's a metaphor on life...we must learn to manage our misses.
Where can people find your book?
My book(s) are available on Amazon.com. I also invite people to visit my website www.avictorymarch.com
John, thank you for making time to share your story with the people reading this interview. Can you share one last piece of encouragement or advice with my readers about life?
Have humility. Always consider (weigh) the possibility that another person might be right. Be open to learn new things. Be true to yourself. Have personal, financial and spiritual goals. Don’t try to be someone you're not. Be a good provider to the people who depend on you.
Strive for excellence. Strive to fulfill your full potential and open to all that god created you to be.