PUT it down. Now. Yes, you—the one who’s scanning emails and posting photographs on Facebook while ignoring everybody at your dinner table.

Research has shown that smartphones are actually damaging our interpersonal relationships, even though many of us believe we’ve never been more connected to people.

Even if you don’t believe the research, take a tip from Major Dan Rooney: You might just be missing a moment that could change your life.

He’s a big proponent of the word synchronicity. He defines it as “chance with a purpose—you’re at that exact place at that exact time, and your life is altered.”

“I like to think of it as God’s message—the signposts along the highway of our lives, God’s messengers,” he said. “Those moments as you look back, you could have gone left but you went right. It’s difficult, though, especially because this world we live in is in constant motion. It’s is a frenetic pace we’re dealing with. I would challenge everybody to slow down a little bit, first of all. You have to look away from your electronic device to see them. But even if you recognize those moments of synchronicity, they’re meaningless if you don’t have the courage or the faith to take action.”

Rooney, a veteran F-16 fighter pilot with three combat tours in Iraq, recognized his moment in 2007 after returning home from his second tour of duty in Iraq. As his flight landed, the pilot announced that the plane was carrying the remains of Corporal Brock Bucklin on board and asked all passengers to respectfully remain seated while his casket was taken off.

Rooney watched as Bucklin’s twin brother, Brad, left his first-class seat, went outside and walked somberly alongside the flag-covered casket to meet his family, including Brock’s young son, Jacob. Rooney wiped away the tears, looked toward the back of the plane, and noticed that over half of the passengers had disregarded the pilot’s request and deboarded.

 Rooney decided he had to do something. So when he reached his house, he went to his office and began creating what would ultimately be his tribute to American soldiers and their families. He started the Folds of Honor Foundation, a 501C-3 nonprofit organization dedicated to providing educational opportunities to the spouses and children of military service members disabled or killed in action.

Since its founding, the organization has raised over $70 million and awarded nearly 8000 scholarships to the family members KIA or disabled in combat.

A major in the Air Force Reserve and a decorated military aviator, he is a two-time recipient of the Top Gun award and was honored with the Spirit of Attack award as a top graduate of F-16 training. He has received many decorations, including the Air Force Commendation Medal, Air Medal, Anti-terrorism Medal, Combat Readiness Medal and Air Expeditionary Medal.

For his service and patriotism, Rooney was presented the White House’s “Presidential Volunteer Service Award” by President George W Bush, the Air National Guard’s “Distinguished Service Medal,” the Air National Guard’s “Directors Service Award,” and the Ellis Island “Medal of Honor.”

Rooney is the author of the moving life story, A Patriot’s Calling: Living Life Between Fear and Faith. Much of the book is based on his views on synchronicity, and he uses his story in the book as the basis for much of the speaking he does. He was the only motivational team speaker for the US Ryder Cup team’s 2010 match against Europe in Wales.

Rooney stressed to his audience the importance of all company leaders taking the time during the day to say thank you to all the people who help the operation run. He said it’s all about making the world a better place.

And avoiding those who try to dash our dreams and tell us we can’t do what we feel called to do.

“There’s a group of people out there we all deal with every day,” he said. “I call them ‘The Experts.’ They will never have the faith and courage to pursue the fire in their heart. They will want to keep you from doing the exact same thing.

“God puts a fire in everybody’s heart, and you have to live wild and open to see Him and recognize it. He gives us all unique talents to whatever our mission is in life. Our obligation as human beings is to get in touch with that.”

He used the metaphor of a candle. The wind comes along and will blow out the candle, but a fire right next to it will be stoked. He said we need to be that fire in life. When we put our head on the pillow at night, ask: Did I really give everything to be the best person I could be?

So put down that smartphone and look around. ♦

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