Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Who Will YOU Take to Lunch?

Who are you going to invite to lunch?   I saw an image and accompanying article a few days ago about a fire station in New York.  The firefighters at that station have a tradition of invited a wounded veteran to join them for lunch. Their hospitality spoke to my heart. My first reaction was: Who am I going to invite to lunch?

I like to eat with my friends.  We like the same eating establishments. We have things in common. We enjoy each other’s company. It’s just plain fun.  But the question remains. Who will I invite to lunch?

I could bridge some generational gaps.  I know some elderly people that need to get out more.  That is a starting place.  But I also know some teenagers and 20 somethings that could use some attention as well.  Who will I invite to lunch?

Suddenly the process became much easier.  I thought about people that have taken me to lunch over the years.  I had an annual tradition with my mother.  We ate at Furr’s Cafeteria a week or two before school started every year after a morning of shopping for clothes to start a new academic year.  Those are treasured memories.  I will take my boys to lunch…

About 6 years ago, the police asked me if I could assist a homeless man to get a meal. I took him to one of my favorite eating places.  He had not eaten in several days. I had quite the intellectual interchange with this highly intelligent, but homeless man.  I am so thankful I was honored to take him to lunch that day.  I will be alert to more opportunities like that.

A colleague in a neighboring city paid me one of the nicest compliments I have ever received. He told me several years ago that I was the only person that called him to go to lunch that did not  have an agenda.   Everyone else that asked him to lunch wanted something from him.  I have some colleagues I will take to lunch.

I have friends that live in other cities or states.  Having lunch with them is a rare and treasured event.  I relish every moment.  I will do some traveling and take some friends to lunch.

Who will you take to lunch?

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

I Love You Fool

Last week I heard about two friends that were exchanging text messages.   As the conversation was about to end, one of the friends affectionately texted: “I love you.”   Now the other half of this friendship intended to text back: “I love you too.”     But predictive texting is what it is… The response ended up being: “I love you fool.”   A seed was planted for a major rift in that friendship, but thankfully both of them got a great laugh out of the experience.  

Texting is convenient.  It allows us to think through the content of a message before sending, so it can have some advantages over a verbal conversation.   It is also fun to send pictures of what is occurring at the moment.  And of course the person on the receiving end can respond as they have time.  Those are the advantages.

Despite all of the advantages of this medium of electronic communication I have strong words for the wise.   Are you ready?  As a general rule, texting is a poor way to communicate when you are conflicted with the person you are texting with.  Again, this is a general rule.  I would add that texting is not a good idea if you are communicating about a potentially sensitive issue.  Why?

  • You cannot process nonverbal communication such as tone of voice, facial expressions, and the list goes on…
  • You tend to communicate things in a text that you would be far less likely to verbalize in a face to face dialogue.  Enough said. 
  • The intensity of a conflict tends to rise much quicker as texts are exchanged. 
  • The entire content of your text message can be misconstrued.  It’s more difficult to correct such perceptions when a face to face interaction is not occurring. 

It’s tempting to hide behind the relational wall that the medium of texting creates.   It’s easier to express feelings via text than it is to look someone in the eye.  At least that is true in many cases.  Are you conflicted with someone?  Do you have a sensitive topic to explore with someone you care about?   Seek them face to face.  Or….believe it or not you can still call that person and have a verbal conversation.  That feature on your phone still works.

Communication is tricky at best.   Let’s be thoughtful and choose the best way to share our thoughts and listen carefully to others.  If you are not careful, you will call someone you love a fool. 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Randall: Where IS Your Pencil?

Randall, where is your pencil?  When my oldest son was in the first grade, he was frequently not prepared for writing assignments.  It was actually a simple problem. He could not keep up with his pencil.  He had a seasoned teacher that year.  I think she recognized that he really was bright, but she noticed that his mind was often in a world far removed from the daily rigors of the first grade.

By the time he reached the fourth grade, writing assignments were longer.  The teacher expected some degree of neatness.  On the days he could keep up with his pen, it sat idle on his desk.  His teacher would catch him daydreaming.  His mother constantly stayed on him, but he made it clear that he HATED writing!  And neatness was of course out of the question.

Today Randall is a professional writer.  You might call him a starving artist.  He writes for a website in order to keep groceries on the table and a roof above his head. He is actually attempting to break into the film industry as a screen writer.  Such an endeavor requires a level of patience and tenacity that I do not possess. 

This week was a professional turning point.  He has been hired along with two writing partners to write a movie script.  It is the real deal. He is getting paid to use his creative energies. I should say: he is getting paid to daydream.  When he called to share the news I was tempted to tell him to keep with his pencil, but I refrained.

Randall’s life experience provides a learning curve for those of us that teach, instruct, or mentor others.  Don’t make premature assumptions about a student.  Refuse to consider them as failures, even if all the evidence points in that direction. Invest in your students.  Believe in their capacity to excel. 

After failing miserably in delivering a speech in the 7th grade, I concluded that public speaking was not going to be in my professional future.  40 years later I do public speaking several times a week.  Randall could not find his pencil in the first grade and hated writing in the 4th grade. But I am assuming his teachers never told him that was destined for failure.  Today I am grateful for teachers that refused to make premature assumptions about my son.  He really is bright.  And I am proud of him. 

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Called to a Moment of Generosity

There are consequences to being generous.  I am well aware that generosity is a character thing.  For many people it just comes naturally. It’s just a part of their identity.  A need arises and they are called to the moment. Called to a moment of generosity…Such giving individuals give little thought to the consequences of their kindness at the time.

My friend, Leah, played the cello in high school.  I know nothing about the cello.  If the truth be known, I am just not musically inclined.  I learned today that cello strings are not replaced in a matter of minutes.  They must be stretched and broken in. Leah was at an important high school contest when one the strings on her cello broke just before it was time for her to play a solo. 

At this point, our mutual friend Julie entered the picture. Julie loaned Leah her cello, so the opportunity to compete in the solo contest would not be lost.  Leah played. And apparently she played quite well, because she qualified for state competition.

Several thoughts come to mind.  I think of the mentality: “that’s your tough luck.”  There is no shortage of that mindset.  And I think of those that would be inclined to laugh at such misfortune. They are in the minority, but they are lurking around…And of course there is always the choice to just ignore another person's misfortune.  

Julie chose generosity.  And as a result there were immediate consequences.  Leah was able to qualify for state.  But there were also other consequences. Over 35 years later, Leah still remembers her misfortune at contest. And she still recalls that someone came to her rescue.  Do you think she forgot that it was Julie?  Of course not. 

I am going to spend some time this week thinking about people that have been generous with me over the years.  It is not a short list.  And I am reminded that the consequences of such kindnesses are far reaching.  May I eradicate every stingy and uncharitable thought from my mind…There are consequences to being generous.  

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Forming Connections

I have a friend that lives over 900 miles away.  Consequently, we don’t see each other much.  But when we do converse, the dialogue always ends with the following phrase.  “I hope we can connect soon.”  I have always liked that.  But I never gave much thought to the meaning behind what was being said.

I read an excellent article today regarding the correlation between healthy relationships and addictive behavior.  The writer made two significant points. The first one is no big surprise.  Human beings have a deep need to connect and form meaningful interpersonal bonds.  He goes on to make the point that addictive behavior can be the result of an inability to experience this level of friendship and intimacy. (I have a reaction to that, but it should be the basis for another blog on another day!)

As I reflected on his conclusions, it occurred to me that socializing is relatively easy.  That’s especially true for those of us that have leanings toward extraversion. But connecting is not so easy… Bonding with another person is another story. 

Socializing is fun.  I love to hang out and cut up.  I can even have leanings toward being a prankster as I socialize.  I plan to continue to socialize on a very regular basis.
But I have some work to do when it comes to connecting and forming bonds.  Connections are formed when there is a foundation of trust.  Such foundations are not constructed overnight.  Bonds are solidified when there is a commitment to the relationship.  And that takes time and energy. And we cannot fully bond as long as we allow emotional walls to break the links in the process of connecting.

I think my friend is right.  “I hope we can connect soon.”  If that were stated in a different way, it could be said: “I hope we can pick up our process of bonding next time we talk.”  I think it’s time to stop taking the path of least resistance by socializing only and move toward more lifelong connections.