Tampa Bless: 2020: The Inaugural Year in Review
Updated: May 21, 2021
I founded Tampa Bless in March 2020 and the first Team Do Good feature was published in April. Since then, Tampa Bless has had the opportunity to celebrate and honor nineteen additional members of Team Do Good, positive forces in your neighborhood. It has been a wonderful experience for me to connect with and be inspired by these amazing people that live right here in the Tampa Bay and Greater Tampa Bay area. I have had meaningful takeaways (things that affected me in a positive way that I can apply to my own life) from each and every one of them.
I periodically go back and read past interviews and am always in awe. Thank you all so much and keep in mind that I would like to circle back to each of you in order to shoot a short video focused on question 12 (What are you working on now and how can people get involved?) of The Tampa Bless 12. I would also like to organize a group pic if possible. More on that later via text or email. Additionally, you are always welcome to send me any updates you would like me to note in your already published pieces.
Being that the most recent Team Do Good feature was #20 for the year 2020, I decided I will wrap up the year with an annual review and plan to publish the next feature in 2021. I would also like to thank any and all of you out there reading this that have supported Tampa Bless in any way; whether it be socially (subscribe, share, follow, references, and/or spread the word), or financially (merch) or both. Speaking of references, I want to give an extra special shout out to both my brother Rob Reynolds and Ana Stooks for connecting me with so many referrals. I really would've been up you know what creek without y'all. Muchas gracias!
And now, without further ado haha... Here are your Tampa Bless 2020 Team Do Good members and honorees in order of appearance:
Col. Joe Doenges
Dr. Mariana Giron
Talk about a solid group of people (players haha). Team Do Good is strong! There are so many things I could focus on in this year in review but narrowed it down in order to avoid being too lengthy and will highlight responses from question 6 (Three activities or routines you would highly recommend?) of The Tampa Bless 12. Don't get me wrong, this will be much longer than your typical Team Do Good feature. It will consist of sixty highly recommended activities or routines. The format: Team Do Good member's name in bold followed by the three activities or routines he/she recommended. My hope is that this will serve as a quick reference or manual of sorts for some practical information. Of course, you can always easily access any of these 20 for 2020 Team Do Good features and further review them as you please.
Some activities may be recommended more than once. To me, that just stresses their importance. Let's begin...
1. Daily Silent Prayer Time. Not just praying daily. Having a scheduled time slot for it each day which you commit to like you would a meeting at work. It’s your “appointment with God.” We’re all concerned with the meaning and purpose of life and whether we’re on the right track. No one better to consult than God on that. He speaks in the silence, often through our own thoughts and in our own narrative voice, yet we can’t hear it if we don’t stop and listen in silence. #1, by far.
2. Wake Early, not when you “have to” wake, and keep alarm away from your bed. I think it’s so critical to wake well before you have to be at work. There’s more to life than work, and it’s hard to keep that perspective when you wake just in time to race off to work. Gives your body and mind time to transition and take in a new day, and makes available that time slot for that silent prayer I mentioned (which, having tried many things early morning such as exercising and reading, has definitely won out as the best way to start the day).
3. Nightly Family Dinner. Non-negotiable. I rarely miss. It’s part of my schedule as much (and more) as an important meeting for business. Most would say that family is their priority, yet does the way we spend our time support that. Our spouse and kids want our time more than the finer things that optional extra time at work provides. Life consists of a series of trade-offs -- opportunity costs. My career as a worker will undoubtedly last longer than my children growing up and living at home. So many great exchanges occur at the dinner table.
4. Finding time to feed yourself, spiritually, mentally, and physically is important. But it cannot come at the expense of your duties. So, I rise early to exercise, read, and pray before any of my children are awake. If I have to choose between myself, my children, my wife, and my other obligations, I will always be last on my list. So, I arrange my day to allow space to prepare, grow, and worship.
5. It seems cliche to point out the importance of spending time investing in the relationships that define your life. But, in an era where online interaction has replaced the human touch, it is important to deliberately spend personal time serving the people you love. For me, that means an intentional effort to spend individual time with my wife daily, and with each of my children every week.
6. I love to learn new things. My grandfather was a true renaissance man. He went to work before finishing high school but still managed to have a career in advertising, own his own business, become an incredible craftsman, baker, and artist. I try to read broadly and learn new skills. I think it’s important to pursue a life as a generalist, especially in an era that seems to encourage specialization.
7. Make prayer/reading the Gospels a habit. It keeps us honest and close to our creator. Very easy to kill off our God consciousness and live in self-deception.
8. Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live. So many of our healthcare problems today come from the fact that we overeat and underexercise.
9. Write down your goals frequently and visualize them daily. If you don't consistently know/refine where you are going you won’t reach your desired result.
10. Starting your morning with the daily mass readings. The Catholic faith has a rich history and teachings. If you want to live it, you have to read about it. You start your day this way and see where God intervenes with His grace throughout it!
11. Exercise--a healthy mind and a healthy soul start with a healthy body. Gym, body-weight training, cardio, it doesn’t matter the format just make time for it.
12. St. John Bosco had a good night routine that ended with saying three Hail Mary’s before going to bed, asking for Mary’s prayers and intervention. This is a great way to end the day and teach us humility by asking for help from others.
13. Prayer. I honestly don’t think anyone in my 16 years of Catholic education ever told me that I should pray daily. Although it’s possible someone did, and I didn’t have ears to hear it. Three years ago, Dan Burke gave a talk at Christ the King and encouraged all attending to make a commitment to daily prayer and set up a sacred place in your house to do it. It took me a while to get my sacred space situated, but now I pray daily. I do it first thing in the morning before anyone gets up. I find this is the best time to hear God’s voice especially in a busy household. Opening up that conversation with God was life-changing. He continues to draw me deeper. If you are looking to build your relationship with God, daily prayer is essential.
Along the lines of prayer… I would encourage parents to bless their children at bedtime. Every night, I give each child his own special blessing. I make the sign of the cross on their foreheads and ask Jesus to help each one become a man with a love and a fire after His own heart. A father’s blessing is a powerful gift.
14. WEEKLY DATE NIGHT. I wish I could take credit for this idea, but like most of my good ideas, it was my bride’s. Boy has it paid dividends in our relationship. I remember at “Reboot Live” Chris Stefanick said, “Date night is a lot cheaper than counseling.” Having a weekly standing babysitter has provided that time for Emily and I to connect as husband and wife when it can be easy to just feel like co-partners in running a household and raising children. We go on a weeknight, eat early, and come home just after the kids are in bed. Then the weekend is free for family time and other events. It is great knowing that we are going to have that quality time together every week.
15. Fraternity. Having men that can push you to grow your relationship with God and hold you accountable in your spiritual life is priceless. Also, being able to talk about “real stuff” with other men such as fatherhood, leading your family in prayer, honoring your wedding vows, etc. motivates you to become a better man. This is why the Society of St. Joseph is such a great ministry. For the past two years, I’ve also helped organize a group of men to complete Exodus 90. It’s a 90-day program based on prayer, asceticism, and fraternity. It has been amazing to see men develop and deepen their prayer lives, sacrifice a long list of daily comforts like hot showers and social media, and grow in brotherhood-- all to become the men God has designed them to be.
16. Every day I start in prayer - in the Word. I ask God to put people in my life to make me closer to Him. Every person that comes into our clinic is a “divine appointment.” It is an opportunity for me to share God’s unconditional love with them and for me to be blessed by their presence.
17. Highly, highly recommend having frequent family game nights. We play cards and board games for hours. It is such a great way to connect and stay close.
18. Regardless of what time we end up eating, we have always sat down for dinner together as a family. If that’s the only thing you can do as a family daily, it is by far the best thing you will ever do!
19. Make time for God. For me, that means going to weekly Mass and reading the daily Mass readings. I could certainly be doing more. I started making a concerted effort in high school to read a chapter a day from the Bible, with the goal of reading the whole thing, but also without wanting to change anything in my life. However, I did change and have growth in my life. My recommendation would be to open the door to knowing God a little bit more than you do now and see where it goes.
20. Take care of your body. I do not like working out. I like playing sports and competing, but I have never experienced a runner's high and don’t love going to the gym. However, I do feel better when I make exercise part of my routine and eat healthier. A quote a friend introduced to me is “eat food like it’s medicine or you will have to eat medicine like it’s food.”
21. Finish the day with family prayer - As a family every night we say the Our Father, Hail Mary, everyone says personal intentions, followed by the Guardian Angel prayer.
22. Pray every day sometime before noon. In order to get in my holy hour or any amount of prayer, it has to happen in the morning for me. Once it hits the afternoon, the day flies and it’s over before I know it.
23. Go to confession once every two to three weeks. I find that when I get in a funk or I am not being as charitable as I could be, it is usually towards the end of that two to three week time period. The stain of sin and selfishness infects all aspects of life. When I start to notice that, I know I need to go be made clean again by the mercy of Christ.
24. Call your friends. I make it a point to call at least one friend a week, even if it is a short call. It is worth it every time. We need community and friends who will love us well and hold us accountable to living authentic lives of heroic virtue.
25. Tell your wife and your kids you love them, often. Walking out the door. Coming home from work. Kids leaving to go hang out with friends, “See you later, I love you.” Talking to them on the phone, I think this is the way to end all calls. I think this is an important routine all husbands and dads need to do.
26. Pray. Saying basic prayers or just talking to God about personal problems, thanking God, and asking God to help the world. Having a relationship with God through prayer is very important. There are a lot of issues going on right now in the world. I have no idea how to solve them. But, I am pretty sure that they will not be solved without our prayers. You have to make time each day to pray.
27. Spiritual reading and service to others. I am always amazed when I meet highly educated people, who have graduated from very elite universities but have absolutely no knowledge of scripture, much less the writings of Saints, Church Fathers, Doctors of the Church, and other men and women of faith. I feel having a routine of reading the writings of these holy people and then putting these words into action is a very important element of my life.
28. Attending daily mass. Mass brings peace to my life, it reminds me of what is important, and it helps me prioritize and/or refocus my plans trying to do God’s work.
29. Meals with family. Now that my sons are older, we all enjoy cooking together. Our family enjoys watching cooking shows so we like to try new recipes and make improvements. After dinner, we often sit for an hour talking about our days and memories of times when the boys were younger. Also, finding out some things we didn’t know about!
30. Ask God to help you with your mission in life… it may change as you get older (more mature). It may surprise you to realize the talents and skills God has been providing you with to give you the strength to say ‘yes’ to something you never thought you could do. As my sons were preparing to graduate from high school, I asked God what He wanted me to do next with my life. He told me, “Be patient. I will let you know.” Two and a half years later one of my sons developed a severe Rx drug addiction. Although my dad was an alcoholic, I still was not prepared for what we needed to do… I started doing research, making phone calls, and developing a game plan. I also began a website to help others (and to organize myself). And I asked people to pray for our family and told them why. God put on my heart I needed to be a voice for families to hear to help prevent the spread of addiction.
31. Nutrition & Exercise - I believe you have to take care of your body in order to operate and be your best self. If I don’t feel my best then it is very hard for me to perform my best. I believe that in order to fulfill the commitments I have to my family, my team at work, friends, and myself I am obligated to do my best and if I try to start without feeling my best then it puts me in a bad spot from the start. What you eat is even more important and putting yourself on a consistent food and nutrition program that is designed for you is one of the most important things you can do every day. If you think about food like it is a drug that will either help you or hurt you, it is a lot easier to make food choices each day as to what you will eat for each meal. This is not a “diet” but more of a consistent food choice or program that you follow all the time. This doesn’t mean you can’t eat “bad” foods or have dessert - it just means there is a program you follow that you know will help you feel your best which in turn will allow you to be your best self and provide you the most energy all the time.
32. Set Specific Goals - I believe you need to know what you want and where you are going in order to be truly happy. If you set goals and understand where you want to go then you can be fulfilled each day knowing what you are working towards. It is impossible to remove “time” from where you want to ultimately end up. Often times you can be miserable or feel defeated every day because you are not where you want to be or believe you should be. By setting goals you can then see a path toward that outcome, align your daily activities with what will produce that outcome, and know that if you just keep repeating day after day you will achieve those goals and you are making strides closer each and every day. To me, it is a much better way to feel great and happy then defeated because you aren’t across the finish line yet and therefore feel like you have failed.
33. Faith - Find it, maintain it, work at it, let it be the lead guide in your life. The hope, structure, peace, and guidance your faith can provide to you is so powerful. If all of us just followed the 10 basic commandments and allowed those 10 rules alone to guide our decisions the world would be in a better place and people would be much happier. It is not easy - it’s even hard, however accomplishing the hard things in life is what I believe truly makes a person happy. I believe most people don’t walk away from a situation they put only half their effort into and feel their best. It’s the times they worked very hard at something they felt they may not be able to accomplish and when they did it made them happy. Helping others allows you to feel the best you can and having a strong faith guide you will bring your thoughts and actions in line with what is most important for you!
34. Prayer - a daily routine that keeps us walking with Jesus in our everyday activities.
35. Sincere conversations with friends over the meaning of life and faith and offering each other encouragement.
36. Play of some sort to keep perspective. In my case at this later time in my life, it is often playing with my beloved dog Star.
37. Walking as it not only is good for your cardiovascular system it is a good way to pray and prepare for your day.
38. Keep an ongoing list... I recommend that you keep an ongoing list of items that you need to accomplish and check them off as you go. If you do not have a method of tracking and organizing items that come up daily, then how will you ever achieve and accomplish all of the things you may commit to? Keep a notebook with you at all times or use the note section on your phone.
39. Thank Jesus each day. We take for granted what we have… I make a point each morning and evening and when I am walking to “talk” to Jesus and “thank” Him for what He has blessed me with and ask Him to give me the wisdom to help others.
40. Prayer and adoration - I make it a habit to start my day with prayer and it is so important to include quiet - stay silent and learn to LISTEN to the voice of the Holy Spirit.
41. Coffee every morning - I don’t know how anyone functions without their morning joe :)
42. Appreciate your family… husband, children, parents, and encourage them daily. Do more than just say, “I love you.” Tell them the “why” daily with a word of encouragement. Compliment, don’t flatter. That means acknowledge a character quality or a behavior that they chose to exemplify, not just “you’re pretty, or you have beautiful eyes.”
43. Praying with Scripture every morning. It reminds us and reassures us of the love of God and we walk joyfully and confidently into our day ready to be a positive influence on others.
44. Hugging your spouse and family and saying “I love you” often. We all need love and we need to express our love to one another to keep our marriages and families healthy and strong. Don’t take each other for granted!
45. Meals with family and friends. I find that sharing meals with others breaks down barriers and builds love, understanding, trust, and intimacy.
46. Prayer (by yourself and with your family) is the oxygen for our souls, it is what keeps my family and I on the narrow path despite the constant temptations to stray. My wife and I have prayed the Rosary every night for the last 10 years and I attribute this prayer to the constant strengthening of our marriage through the highs and lows of life.
47. I have been blessed to attend daily Mass since May of 2008. Even though I have a very busy daily schedule, my 12 noon meeting with God is something that is essential for my sustenance in this life...
48. Do something good today for SOMEONE ELSE… Whether it is a couple of dollars for the person on the street corner, or a kind word to the teller at the bank, or a large contribution to an organization in need… go out of your way to help someone else in need today… it could change their life.
49. Develop a real faith life. There will come times when you really need it. Even better, develop a real faith life with your spouse. When you realize there is a higher power to serve and you grow in your faith together, it cannot help but strengthen your marriage.
50. Spend time with people who will help you to be a better version of yourself. Who you spend your time with influences your beliefs, your outlook, etc... Choose wisely.
51. Develop discipline. Whether it be in regards to working out, avoiding poor food choices, praying more, turning off the electronics to spend time with your family, or going to bed at a decent hour, improving your self-mastery is key to living a better life. Being in the military, discipline is a part of my daily life. My parents taught me to sacrifice to get better and achieve your goals. I took that lesson to heart and have tried to continuously improve. For us Catholics, Lent is an opportunity to work on discipline and has benefited me in giving me motivation to do things that I normally would not do on my own.
52. Walking, because it’s an exercise you can do forever and gives you time to think.
53. No matter how much money you give to charity, pick at least one charitable activity where you get to interact with the people you help. It’s more for you than for them.
54. Write handwritten notes to those you love, just to thank them for something or give them a word of encouragement. We all need it.
55. Daily Mass. You can receive the Eucharist daily!!! Go receive Jesus!
56. Daily Holy Hour. You can talk to God daily! Go talk and LISTEN to Him speak to you in the silence! Do you feel an hour is too much? Well, start with praying the Rosary, which takes 10-15 minutes. Start there. Just make it a daily goal to pray the Rosary. Connect the Rosary habit to another habit that already currently exists. You WILL be able to do this! Mother Teresa had a daily Holy Hour. When her popularity began to skyrocket and her schedule would get overbooked, always remember what she did... she prayed for 2 hours on those particular days. Devout! True role model!
57. Do something active (walking, biking, swimming, etc.). By the way, I’m a real hypocrite on this point, because I haven’t worked out in close to a month. Truth be told, I walked/ran about 5 miles this past weekend. Couldn’t believe I did a full 5 miles. Then, everything started hurting, so I had a couple of rootbeer floats and that only helped temporarily, and then I felt guilty on top of everything hurting.
58. Daily mass. The most joyful times of my life have been when I have made a commitment to go to daily mass. These are also the times when I have experienced the most clarity about God’s plans for my life.
59. Exercise. As a physician, I have to tell you that the one intervention that has been shown to prolong life is regular, moderate-intensity exercise. It is also a great way to maintain a healthy mind.
60. Backpacking. It takes a lot of preparation and you need to have some training in outdoor skills (such as knowing how to purify your own water and use portable gas stoves), but it is so worth it. There is nothing like spending entire days hiking in the mountains, cooking your own food, making your own shelter, and carrying everything you need on your back. Sleeping under the stars is a truly unique experience.
And there you have it. It will be here whenever you may want a reminder. Once again, thank you so much and I wish each and every one of you and your families a Merry Christmas and a Happy and Healthy New Year! God willing, onwards and upwards. Peace.
Thomas "T-Bless" Reynolds
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