Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Go On and Park in that Handicapped Only Parking Space...

I am a part of a very entitled generation.  We feel eligible for every benefit that life has to offer. Go on and it give it to us, because we have it coming.  There is no doubt that we are qualified to be on the receiving end of all good things.  I would like to think that I live above the fray.  I would like to conclude that I am an oddity among Baby Boomers.  This whole entitlement thing never infected my attitude.  But that is not true…It would serve me well to pay attention to those that comprise the previous generation.  Entitlement is not a part of their generational makeup. In fact, that is understatement….

Last summer one of my professors made frequent treks from the Lubbock to the small Texas Panhandle town where she grew up to care for her father, as his health continued to deteriorate. How I could relate. I made trips from Wichita Falls to Lubbock for the same reason in 1991, as my mother was cared for by hospice.  By the end of the summer, her father was also entrusted to the able care of hospice. My heart went out to her. The pain still feels very familiar.

I never knew her father, but she shared something about him that made an impression.  Dr. Robinson told us that her father had some significant physical disabilities.  There was no shortage of hardware in his knees.  It was difficult for him to get around.  Consequently, he had a handicap sign he could place on his rear-view mirror and enjoy parking privileges that would make his life a little easier.  He was truly “entitled” to such a privilege.  But he refused to park in one of those spots.  It wasn’t a pride issue…He told his daughter: “Someone else probably needs that space far more than I do.”  Wow…

Dr. Robinson’s father passed away at the end of the summer. I think all of us could have learned some life lessons from him that cannot be discovered in the classroom.  I hope we are paying attention to men and women  like him, because they have a lot to offer. They are common sense, no nonsense people, who know how to put the needs of others above their own.

The kind of entitlement my generation has become accustomed to cannot be reconciled with the mindset my professor’s father exemplified.  We need to do some serious self-examination.  We need to become increasingly aware of the privilege we have come to expect.  Are we willing to yield our “rights” to others for their benefit?  After reading this story about her father, I have reached a conclusion.  Students need to get out of the classroom (online or face-to-face) and spend some time hanging out with elderly gentlemen and women. And I am including older students like myself in that suggestion.  It would do all of us good to have a “Tuesday’s with Mori” sort of experience.  I never knew Dr. Robinson’s father, but I intuitively know he was a good man.  And I am grateful for the legacy of unselfishness he leaves. 

Monday, October 26, 2015

Receiving a Beating with Any old Stick!

Why am I being criticized for THAT?  It doesn’t seem to be an issue of any consequence at all…Why is someone SO angry over THAT?  It seems to be a matter of such little consequence. We have all been there.  We have been on the other end of another’s person anger or irrational behavior.  When they tell us what set it off, we are stunned.

I serve with a volunteer leader at church who has figured such seemingly irrational behavior out.  He says: when a person is upset he will “beat you with any old stick.” What he means is: the presenting problem is not the primary issue.  When a person decides they are angry with you, they will beat you with any old stick.  It becomes a matter of which beating stick is handy at the moment.

What is the moral of this story?  I am convinced we should ignore the weapon of choice and focus instead on the person wielding it.  They are angry. They are frustrated.  The question to ask is: why?   Anger is a secondary emotion. Something is driving it.

I find when I take the time to listen things go better. When I choose to overlook the beating I took with the stick of choice, reconciliation is more likely. The stick wielding person is hurting for some unknown reason.  If I am able to determine the source of the pain, the stick is dropped. 

Has someone picked up any old stick and beaten you lately?  Get your blood pressure down.  Calm down. Lick your wounds.  Don’t take revenge. Choose not to judge.  Embrace that person and hear their pain. 

Saturday, October 17, 2015

My Mentors are Getting Younger: A Tribute to Lt. Cliff Andrews

I had an old school world history teacher in the 9th grade that frequently told her students to “wake up and smell the coffee.”  It irritated me at the time, but now I find myself embracing the very idea she was trying to get across.  I have been more fortunate than most.  I’ve been surrounded my entire adult life by really good mentors. I have been able to observe, interact, and become personally acquainted with exceptional leaders.  Many of those individuals are deceased now. That has been quite an adjustment.  But in recent years, new advisers have entered the scene.  And as it is turning out, they are younger than me.  A lot younger in some cases…. It’s hard to wrap my mind around. But it’s happening more all of the time.  Maybe I just need to “wake up and smell the coffee.”

Thursday evening I attended the retirement reception at the Granbury Police Dept. for Lt. Cliff Andrews.  Cliff is almost ten years younger than me, but he has enough combined military and police service to go on and retire from his present position as patrol lieutenant for GPD.  Cliff has been one of those mentors for me. 

Cliff is one of those rare and exceptional leaders that you encounter in your lifetime.  I have watched him model strong, fair-minded, well-thought out leadership. He is the consummate non-anxious presence during tense situations.  In a crisis, he knows how to deploy the troops and get things done in a way that is beneficial to all.  I can’t count how many times I have marveled at his ability to navigate all of us through difficult and fluid situations.

As I have served with Cliff for nearly ten years, his love for his family has continue to inspire me.  He is honest about his faults as a husband and a father, but I can’t help but see commitment and dedication. He expects those under his command to honor their family commitments as well.

A man 10 years younger than me is retiring? “Wake up and smell the coffee.”  Thankfully he is staying in this area, because I have not exhausted what his mentorship has to offer.  Most importantly, I am grateful for his friendship.  We have been through a lot together.  And I do mean a lot…Thank you Cliff.  You are amazing.  I am looking forward to the future.  And…I think I will go pour myself a cup of coffee.  I have been smelling it for nearly ten years now…

Monday, October 12, 2015

Feeling Lost and Helpless

It’s been 34 years now…I dropped out of school 34 years ago this month.  I was right in the middle of my sophomore year at Texas Tech.  One day in October of 1981 I just stopped going to class.  I suspect you are already forming assumptions. Most likely your assumptions are correct.  Yes….a girl was involved.  I was seeing an “older woman.”  I was 19 and she was approaching 21.  She had a job in a bank.   And she dressed up to go to work every day. I was impressed.  I was so wrapped up in my relationship with the older woman that I lost interest in accounting principles and business calculus.  And if the truth be known, I hated being a marketing major anyhow.

Not long after I stopped making regular appearances in my classes the relationship with the older woman came to a screeching halt. She continued to work at the bank and I found myself feeling lost.  I concluded that I was not “college material.”  I took on a second job at an auto parts wholesale distributorship.  I loved tinkering with cars, so it was a good fit.  Every single day without exception my co-workers urged me to figure out a way to get back in school.  They were old guys in their 40’s…What did they know?

The weeks went by quickly.  As the leaves fell from the trees that fall, I wondered what my future held.  And then one brisk day my mother inquired about my future.  Now mothers have to step lightly with their 19 year old sons, when it comes to such matters.  She proceeded to gently inquire about my plans.  I told her I hated marketing!  Her response: “that’s ok.”  Now that threw me off balance.  My former 2nd grade teacher mother was all about academics.  And then she asked me a key question: “what do you think you are good at?”  I started to say: “meeting girls that work in banks.”  But I quickly thought better of it. My mother was also a descendant of Attila the Hun.  I told her I was pretty good at public speaking. I was an accomplished debater in high school.  (I was hoping she was not bring up the fact that I had been kicked off the debate team my senior year for disciplinary reasons.)  She actually chose to overlook that fact!   She told me to return to school and major in one of the communications degrees.  I replied: “what can you do with such a degree?” And she then said: “who cares?”  My MOTHER said “who cares!”   She went on to say…“Do something you like!”

That conversation changed the direction my life took.  It’s that simple.  Do I think that there was divine intervention in that dialogue?  I really do believe that to be the case. I was back in school when the spring semester began in January of 1982. I went to class like clockwork and avoided banks.
As the leaves fall off the trees and the weather starts to turn cooler, my mind wonders back to October of 1981. 

  I still remember what it felt like to be unsettled and without direction.  And I feel the weight of responsibility as a parent.  How can I possibly imitate my amazing mother?  She died almost exactly ten years after that interchange in 1981.  On this October day, I am wondering how I can emulate what she did for me nearly 34 years ago…Someone is feeling discouraged, lost, and without direction today.  Someone broke up with a girl that works at a bank.  What will you contribute to their life, as the leaves continues to fall?