Saturday, April 12, 2014

60 Years is a GREAT Thing!

Note: I wrote this blog over 5 years ago.  James passed away several years ago. His wife, Juanita, passed away this morning.  In honor of their life, I am republishing.

If you ever make it to Granbury, you need to stop in at the Firehouse Café for breakfast during your visit. The breakfast special during the week consists of eggs cooked to order, toast or biscuit, and bacon and hash browns as well. I generally make in there on Mondays to eat with the DPS troopers and on Friday to discuss theology with the Firehouse Theologians.

The clientele at the Firehouse is pretty diverse. There are men in there making gas well deals. Several small church groups meet weekly. There are couples of all ages enjoying an early morning date. Last fall I saw James and Juanita having breakfast in there. James and Juanita had been married almost 60 years that point, but they were enjoying themselves like a couple of newlyweds. James passed away not long after I saw them that morning. I think of them every time I pass that table.

Angela and her family own the place. She rarely calls me John. I am warmly referred to as “sweetie”. Melissa has been waiting on me in there for about four years. She always greets me with a hug. Robert has been for about three years. I know about their children, and hear about their life issues occasionally. I always get them a Starbucks card for Christmas.

The eggs have never been cold, but if they ever are, I won’t stop eating there. I will be back in there in a few days. Melissa knows that I drink coffee, and Robert asks me if I am going to have the usual. It would take several major infractions to cause me to take my business down the street. I feel pretty loyal to my friends at the Firehouse. You know loyalty is a good thing.

In Granbury, we have the option of driving to Ft. Worth to the IHOP or to the Cracker Barrel. Those are good places to eat breakfast too. Their menu selections are far more extensive than the Firehouse. But Melissa is not there to provide colorful commentary, as she refills the coffee. Robert is not there for me to practice my Spanish skills with. If an employee of the IHOP calls me “sweetie,” I am running for cover! If the waitress at the Cracker Barrel hugs me, I am making a fast exit. I feel pretty loyal to my friends at the Firehouse. You know loyalty is a good thing.

I suppose mom and pop restaurants may someday be swept away the large chains. That will indeed be a sad moment, in my estimation. I think it is important to develop meaningful relationships everywhere we interact with people. The family that owns the dry cleaning business where my suits are pressed are friends. I buy my gas from a family owned store that continually extends hospitality to our police officers. They too are friends. It is hard to take your business elsewhere when you learn to love and appreciate those individuals. I feel pretty loyal to all the friends that I meet where I do business. I am not just a consumer. I am a loyal friend, and loyalty is a good thing…

Loyalty is just an important trait. People are going to make mistakes and disappoint us. That is human nature.  It is easy to overlook the mistakes of those whom we hold in high esteem. At least, I think that is true… I could be wrong…

People sometimes abandon the most significant relationships in their life. People walk out on their spouses. Children are abandoned every single day. People leave churches that they have been a part of for years. It really is sad. I know there are very legitimate reasons to bail out of the ship, but it is still sad.
Perhaps I need to take the sentiments I have toward the Firehouse Restaurant and translate them to every important relationship in my life? No…I could be wrong again. I need to imitate the example of James and Juanita, because loyalty is a good thing. In fact, nearly 60 years of loyalty is a great thing. I will be back at the Firehouse after camp next week. I wonder who will be in there…There is really no telling. And there is no telling what I might learn from them. But for now, I know…loyalty is a good thing.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Lady in the Gray Dress and Yellow Sweater...

I just read a letter that  is displayed in the museum in New York that pays tribute both to those that served and those that lost their lives on September 11, 2001.  In the letter, a lady describes a police officer “literally picking her up off the sidewalk” during the mayhem near the World Trade Center.  She said he “lifted her off the ground.”   And then he told her to run with him to safety.  When she thought she could no longer run, he assured her that he "would carry her, if necessary."

As I reflect on the image of that officer coming to her rescue when she was desperate, I see a lot of symbolism in his heroic act.  There are times when friends and strangers alike need someone to “pick them up.”  And then are also times when those closest to need us to run with them.  And finally, there are moments when we need to pick up our friends and carry them.
I have been picked up before. I have been picked up when I could have been trampled by the challenges of life.  When I was a confused 18 year old starting my undergraduate studies, my employer picked me up and ran with me.  He gave me confidence and reassurance. And in his own way, he communicated that he would carry me if I fell.

I have had people run with me.  No one has had better mentors in the chosen profession that I have had.  No one. I have been blessed. My mentors have run the professional course with me even when things were heated and unpleasant.

And I have had people carry me when I could no longer go another inch. You don’t ever forget such individuals, even though those are not the kinds of life experiences that you are eager to share with everyone. As I picture that New York officer reassuring the lady in the gray dress and yellow sweater on that fateful September morning, I am particularly grateful for those that have carried me over the years.  Most of you probably don’t even know who you are, but I do…And I am thankful.

Tomorrow I am going to get up and be more mindful of those that have fallen. I need to be alert, so I can eagerly pick them up. There will be people I can run with.  I will try to stay in good emotional condition, so I can run a marathon if needed.  And then there might even be someone I need to carry.  I will keep the image of the New York officer in my mind as I pick that person up ever so gently. 

Saturday, April 5, 2014

You blew it.  You said something that was really out of line.  You deeply offended a friend or a family member.  Perhaps you falsely accused someone of something they never did.  You assigned motives to their actions that you created in your own vivid imagination.  It happens to the best of us.

Apologies are a good thing.  It is good for us to simply say that we are sorry.  Confession of wrongdoing is even better than just a mere apology.  If we spell out what we did wrong to the person we offended, it can’t help but foster healing and goodwill. Statements like:  I misread your motives and I am really sorry.  I failed to call you back when I said I would.  Please forgive my tardy response.  I failed to express my gratitude for what you did for me.  I do appreciate you.  Such confessions of wrongdoing should be expressed from the heart in a spirit of sincerity.

Apologies with added information are not a good thing.  If I issue an apology and proceed to justify my actions I have nullified the gesture.  If I confess an infraction, and proceed to give a dissertation on why it occurred, I have done more damage than good. Statements like: I misread your motives.  It seemed like you conveyed a real dislike for me by what you said, but I realize now I was wrong.  I failed to call you back.  I have been so busy with so many important things.  I failed to express my gratitude for what you did for me.  I really did not  see your actions as a really big deal, but I recognize that I should have had said thank you.

Relationships are so fragile.  Deep friendship is rare and profoundly needed. Families are far too fragmented.  Heartfelt apologies and genuine confessions are foster reconciliation.  Reconciliation is deeply needed in a world broken by careless words and thoughtless actions.
I am grateful for my family.  But I find the need to confess wrongdoing even to my children on a fairly regular basis.  I have the most amazing friends you can imagine.  But I find that I can be really offensive at times. And I don’t tell them “sorry” nearly enough. Apologies are a good thing.  I don’t anticipate ever finding a time when I won’t be offering them on a very regular basis!