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Friday, May 22, 2015

Perfection



I grew up in Wisconsin and lived there most of my life.  As you might already know, Wisconsin is “America’s Dairyland” and it is known for its cheese (Colby, Kaukauna, and Land O’ Lakes, among others), milk, and butter.  It’s a farming state with some industry and manufacturing thrown in for balance and because of that, farmers are heavily dependent upon the weather.  These farmers have the weather and seasons down to a science.  They know when to plant and when to harvest.  Cows even know when it’s milking and feeding time.

When I lived in Wyoming, the ranchers were similarly dependent upon the weather as their Wisconsin brethren.  They would look up at the sky and wonder what the day might hold, but pretty much had it down to a science.  When to time calving, harvesting of wheat, and when to brand.  They knew because most of them watched their fathers and grandfathers do it all way before they had their own children.

Kim watches the weather each night before heading to bed.  She wants to know if it will be raining, or too cold, or too warm for her to run.  There are times when she gets up only to come back to bed grumbling that, “The weatherman got it wrong again!”

There is a common joke about weathermen.

People will laughingly state that they wish to have a weatherman’s job, because it seems they get the weather wrong about fifty percent of the time and yet still get to keep their job.

A baseball player is kind of like a weatherman.

In 2013, Dee Gordon of Miami led the majors with a .386 batting average.  In 2014, Jose Altuve of Houston led the league with a .341 average.

Gang, I know I’m not a mathematician, but those averages mean that the batter who led the major league hits the ball only one-third of the time.  The other two-thirds of the time, the batter makes an out.

And yet, if a major leaguer is hitting .300 that is quite the achievement!  It’s celebrated!  If the batter does that on a routine basis year to year, he’ll end up in the hall of fame, which is the pinnacle of the major leagues.  The Mt. Olympus of Major League Baseball, if you will.

But if a weatherman is wrong some of the time, and if a major league batting champ only hits the ball one in every three at bats, what does that say about Perfection?

Got me thinking . . .

You know, we’re human.  We take chances and we make mistakes.  We say things that we’d rather not have said.  We do things that are embarrassing to ourselves and others, perhaps even mean.  We fall down.  Sometimes, we give up.  We might set a goal, but never quite make it or just barely reach it or perhaps fail miserably.

Human beings are seldom perfect.  Seldom if ever perfect.

And while I subscribe to the idea and ideal of Perfection, always in the back of my mind is effort.  I believe that effort supersedes and is more important than Perfection.  I believe it is the willingness to try, to strive, to struggle and overcome that means so much more than Perfection.  Because ultimately, while Perfection might not ever be achieved, effort is always present if one pursues Perfection.  And while it is wonderful to achieve Perfection . . . should that actually ever happen . . . the real celebration should be of the effort that goes into the pursuit of Perfection.  What should be celebrated is the effort that goes into living one’s life.  Now that’s something to celebrate!  Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Intolerant of Intolerance



Most everyone has heard of and knows about Matthew Shepard, but for those of you who don’t, Matthew, or “Matt” for short, was a 21 year old student at the University of Wyoming who was beaten, tortured, and tied to a barbed-wire fence and left to die near Laramie, Wyoming on the night of October 6, 1998.  Matt was found by a cyclist who thought Matt was a scarecrow.  He died six days later in a Hospital in Fort Collins, Colorado, on October 12, from severe head injuries.  Shepard was gay, so this was considered a hate crime.

One of the two men convicted of the murder said it wasn’t a hate crime, but that they “just wanted to rob him and beat him up.”  Coincidentally, after leaving Shepard to die, these two men went back into town and beat up two Hispanic men.  I suppose that wasn’t a hate crime either.

But I ask you, how is this okay?

Kim and I lived in Southern California during the Rodney King riots.  One of the graduates in my counseling caseload, a young lady, came home from her shift at a fast food restaurant and told her parents that she was going to sit on the front porch and eat her dinner before she went to bed.  Her parents found her beaten body on the front porch steps the following morning.  She had died and no one knows why.  No one knows who did it.  Her parents are left with many questions and precious few answers.

To be very clear, I’m not taking any sides other than to say that we have a growing problem in our society where people are attacked and hurt . . . sometimes killed . . . because he or she is somehow different from us, or because he or she has different beliefs than we do, or because he or she looks different than we do.

I’m worried that we’ve “accepted” that people aren’t worthy of respect because of these differences.  And how is that even possible?  How is it that individuals or groups of individuals are not worthy of respect?

I'm fully aware that there are groups who espouse hate simply because of differences in race, in religion, in politics, in just about anything that isn't equal to or the same as their own race or religion or political belief.  I don't understand them and I don't know that anyone does.  I kind of shake my head in wonder at them, perhaps shake my head in equal parts of disbelief and disgust.

But, I think I’ve become Intolerant of Intolerance.  I sincerely hope I’m not the only one.

There is no excuse for unkindness.  There is no excuse for disrespect.  None.

I think there are many teachable moments where we can help kids . . . and each other . . . to understand that sometimes our words and our actions hurt others.  I think it is important to teach each other that it is simply unacceptable to be disrespectful of another or to withhold acceptance of an individual or a group simply because he or she or they is somehow different from us.  If we ignore these teachable moments, if we accept the ugliness of others and if we ignore acts of unkindness and disrespect, we become just as unkind and just as disrespectful because we ignore it. 

Ignoring and doing nothing, saying nothing is passive acceptance.  Is that what we want?  Is that how we want to be measured?  Is that how we want to be seen and be judged?  I’m hoping that you and I, each of us, grow to be Intolerant of Intolerance.  Otherwise, we really have no future.  None.  Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

Friday, May 8, 2015

To Be Chosen



We just had the National Football League Draft a week or so ago and I have to admit I watched it, wondering who my favorite team would pick.  I also have to admit that it wasn’t all that thrilling to watch and because of that, I did a lot of writing or worked around the house only coming back to the TV when my team was on the clock.

I tried to put myself in the shoes of those players.  I’m sure it was nerve-wracking for them.  I’m sure it was wearisome for them.  And I’m sure that even though some professed “not caring” as to who might draft them, they probably cared a great deal.  And not only about who might draft them, but when they might be drafted.

When I worked as an assistant basketball coach at the collegiate level, my job was to evaluate talent based upon our upcoming needs.  If I needed one point guard, I never just recruited one point guard.  I actually recruited five, hoping that we’d be able to sign Number One or Number Two.  The problem for me, and what actually drove me out of collegiate coaching, was that after signing Number One or Number Two, I’d have to inform Numbers Three, Four and Five that we were no longer interested in them.  Very tough for me to do: dash a kid’s dream, see the look on their face, hear the hurt in their voice.  It tore me up and as I said, that’s what drove me out of collegiate coaching.

Remember back in the good old days of having kids pick teams in PE class?  Remember the agony of having to stand there wishing, hoping someone would pick you?  I think of two guys I went through elementary with, Robert and Jim, who were always picked last.  It didn’t matter what game it was, Robert and Jim were always picked last.  Talk about dehumanizing and humiliating!

And now we’re in Prom Season.

I feel so very badly for those kids who want so very much to go to Prom, but no one asks them to go.  They don’t want to go by themselves, not when all their friends are going “with someone.”  Many of them hope, as do their parents, that someone would pick them.  They hope, perhaps long for, just one night to put on a pretty dress and dance.  To be one of the chosen.  To be included.  To be one of them.

I get the fact that not everyone will be chosen.  Really, I get that.  Probably many reasons for not getting chosen.  It doesn’t lessen the pain of not getting chosen, to be on the outside looking in.  It doesn’t lessen the hurt, the feeling of “I’m not worthy” and “I’m not good enough and perhaps even, “No one likes me” and “I’m not pretty.”

I also get the fact that there are differences in the NFL Draft and signing a letter of intent to play at a college and being asked to go to Prom.  But there are some similarities too.

A dream ends.  There is sadness and hurt.  There is exclusion rather than inclusion.  There is the feeling of “less than” and “not as good as” and probably a whole lot of other feelings that kids and adults have.

I guess we can chalk it up to, “That’s life!”  I guess we can shrug our shoulders and say, “Sorry, but that’s what happens sometimes.”  We might even say, “Life isn’t always fair!” or say, “That’s the reality of it.”

But it sounds far too cold to me.  I don’t like it when kids get hurt.  Not even a little bit.  All kids need to be chosen.  Sometime, anytime, they need to be chosen.  Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!