Perhaps the two most memorable lessons my father taught me as a child were never to buy bottled water when you can drink tap water for free, and always to take a few moments out of the day just for yourself.
With the exception of a summer vacation in Mexico, I have practiced both these lessons religiously.
Four years ago, I moved to a beautiful suburb of Dallas, where the suburban sprawl of the dotcom '90s erected a number of plush neighborhoods spilling over with modern architecture. With their avant-garde features of circular roofs and elliptical doors, they seemed closer to the product of a Picasso Cubist painting than an actual home.
Among the tangle of domes and polygons was a four-mile stretch of green grass, stately oaks, and patches of wild yellow roses called (appropriately) Pleasant Valley Park.
I loved the park's scenery, and so I began taking a few moments out of my day to jog down the park trail. Jogging in the early hours of the morning, when the twilight slowly brightened to daybreak and revealed flocks of ducks waddling from the nearby pond, gave me a Rockwellian sense of comfort. It was the only hour in the day when I really felt connected.
Two weeks into this morning routine, my quiet meditation was suddenly interrupted.
Bill was a new neighbor who had just moved into the Southern plantation-style house across the street. He was a short and pudgy man with graying hair and a pair of small black-rimmed glasses that made him look more like a professor of mathematics than an attorney.
Bill's voice was soft and meek, but he had an animated way of speaking that betrayed his humble veneer and suggested that his reputation as a brilliant lawyer was no accident.
After moving in, Bill began jogging with me every morning, and my quiet meditation was soon replaced with lively conversations. Suddenly, my solitary connection with the nature of Pleasant Valley Park was turned into a partnership.