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Reflection … a day late?

Martin Luther KingSince yesterday (January 21) actually served as only an observance of Martin Luther King’s birthday and did not reflect the true day of his birth (January 15, 1929), I figured I could be late as well in mentioning one of his quotes.

This champion for African-American civil rights and Nobel Prize winner said many outstanding things throughout his life and nonviolent campaigns for freedom, but in review, this one popped out at me. He had to have said it at least 45 years ago (could have been longer), but see if you don’t think it still speaks volumes.

Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think. Martin Luther King, Jr.

As one who gained my college degree later in life, I saw a new philosophy propagated that emphasized telling students what to think as opposed to teaching them how to think and evaluate situations in order to come up with a viable plan of action. Mirroring King’s description, many of the  students settled for the easy answers and half-baked solutions, i.e. what was the teacher looking for. And this to me is scary as young people, enamored with their professors credentials, listened attentively and soaked in some of the most illogical and irresponsible philosophies this country has ever heard. They engaged quickly and employed their boundless energies without considering the impact or influence on the future. With their lack of knowledge and real-life experience, these teachers could easily lead the next generation down a path to bondage and destruction both personally and nationally.

But rather than end on a negative note … Check it out for yourself and look at the verbiage below taken from posted signs and headlines. You’ll see just how the quality of thought (or at least proofreading skills) has deteriorated. If you take these words at face value and don’t engage in hard solid thinking, you’ll likely find your reflection will cause a chuckle and brighten your day. (Thanks to my son for sharing.)

Outside a restroom:

TOILET OUT OF ORDER. PLEASE USE FLOOR BELOW — yuk, what a mess

In a Laundromat:

AUTOMATIC WASHING MACHINES: PLEASE REMOVE ALL YOUR CLOTHES WHEN THE LIGHT GOES OUT — I hope the heat stays on, it could get chilly

Message on a leaflet:

IF YOU CANNOT READ, THIS LEAFLET WILL TELL YOU HOW TO GET LESSONS — wonder if it is like the audio greeting cards

On a repair shop door:

WE CAN REPAIR ANYTHING. (PLEASE KNOCK HARD ON THE DOOR – THE BELL DOESN’T WORK) — anything except doorbells

And these published headlines:

MAN KILLS SELF BEFORE SHOOTING WIFE AND DAUGHTER – This guy had talent he did not know about.

SOMETHING WENT WRONG IN JET CRASH, EXPERT SAYS – Really?

POLICE BEGIN CAMPAIGN TO RUN DOWN JAYWALKERS – Sounds like King nailed it here – a half-baked solution.

Is it just your job?

How-to-keep-communication-flowing-in-the-workforceHave you ever worked for a company that gave you a job description when you hired on, continued to add responsibilities but rarely let you know how you were doing unless, of course, you made a huge mistake? In other words, if the job got done, no one said anything. They expected you to do it. After all, it’s your job.

Although most businesses are moving to correct this lack of communication with performance evaluations and other forms of recognition, most managers haven’t bought into the simple concept that regularly affirming good behavior means it will be repeated. It’s not rocket science, but they must figure they don’t have time to do anything but get widgets out the door. Maybe it’s a more difficult idea to grasp than you think because so few practice it or at least do it well.  Many think this warm and fuzzy stuff does not belong in the workplace, but the funny thing is that affirming another person, even for regularly performed tasks, belongs everywhere. It builds relationships, and people from all walks of life will respond – though some to a higher degree than others. It will work at home with your spouse and kids, at school or work and even with strangers at the market.

Think about it. Most people don’t wake up in the morning planning to sabotage their day with misdemeanors. They like it when things go well, so they apply their energies in that direction. But if no one notices a job well done, some feel they have no reason to continue and will begin to slack off. It takes integrity to keep doing your best when no one seems to care, and honestly, you don’t see as much of this character quality as you used to. On the other side of the coin, if no one says that you’re doing something incorrectly, you’ll keep on doing it the same way as you have always done and again, quality will decline. Honest communication is necessary.

So how can you sincerely and genuinely affirm someone and make a difference? Catch them doing the right thing well – even if it is on their job description – and tell them so. Make sure to avoid generic sentiments like “way to go,” “good job,” or even “love, love, love it.” If they have done something outstanding, tell them specifically what it is you like and how it affected you. “Thanks so much for staying after hours to finish up that report so that it would be ready for the meeting in the morning. It calmed my jitters to know you had everything read,” means a lot more than “Thanks for the effort.” And guess what, the next time you have a project requiring a little extra effort, you know who will be willing to go the extra mile.

At home, cooking meals, doing the laundry, mowing the grass and repairing broken fixtures don’t just happen. A little appreciation and affirmation will go a long way with family members too. Again, be specific and explain how the effort added value. It’s also a great way to teach your kids without a long lecture. Ever wonder why they behave so well at someone else’s house – likely because someone there affirmed their good behavior.

Oops! I think I forgot to mention there might be a little side effect – no small print or hushed voice necessary. When you see the positive response in the other person, it will do something in your heart as well. You’ll feel good, deep down inside. You’re creating endorphins, and they’re an excellent remedy for stress. Give it a try and let me know how it works for you.

Life’s too short to sweat the small stuff

RowhomesinPhila_sh-231x239I read my friend Jane’s blog this morning and had to chuckle at the situation which triggered fear and trepidation in her heart. She had been playing with her cousins and ran into the wrong house to escape their capture. It reminded me of a similar experience I had.

Growing up, we lived in the suburbs of Philadelphia, but all of our relatives continued to live in Roxborough. Though on the fringes, Roxborough is still considered part of the city. Though only around age 4 or 5, I loved going out front to play because in this row-homed community, they had sidewalks. Evidently it was quite safe in those days because my mother let me out there by myself. That said, all of the houses looked alike. I did not think that I had traveled far, but evidently I lost my bearings because when nature called, I went to the front door of what I thought was my relative’s house and tried to get in. Though the screen door was open and you could see the people inside, the door was locked. When I asked to be let in, they emphatically said, “No.”

These people did not look familiar to me, but neither did some of my family members because we did not see them often, so I did not think that part strange.  Thinking they wanted me to go to the back door because I was a kid, I told them my need and insisted they let me in due to the urgent nature of my business. Their response was the same. Realizing I had made a mistake in going to the wrong house, I promptly returned to the sidewalk and cried for my mother. She came out of the house next door and expressed her disdain for my carrying on. I was mortified. I, like Jane, was also afraid the people would call the police, but evidently they chalked it up to a mere annoyance.

Today, I look back to the situation and laugh. I cannot believe how naïve I was to think I would end up in jail for a minor mistake. It makes me wonder how in years to come I will view circumstances that I now perceive to be horrendous. As I look back, I may not find them humorous, but this I do know. I will have realized that they had limits. The situation was much smaller than I had initially imagined, and an end came to the problem. Something else soon moved into it’s place. Hopefully too, I will have learned some valuable lesson or experienced a measure of growth. If nothing else, I can realize that there is always hope, and life’s too short to sweat the small stuff.

Moving on with cars, drugs and toilet paper

The election is over and the political ads will cease, at least for a little while. Whew! Now we can move on to ads with higher value.

Venturing into the holiday season, we won’t skip a beat to move from flags, stars and stripes to bows, Santa and snowflakes. These ads are innocuous. In fact, they just ask me to picture myself driving through a snow covered mountain road flanked in white dusted pines at the wheel of their new Escalade. They’re so anxious to see me in their car, they play their ad frequently. I agree. I would look good in it, so I don’t take offense.

Oh, and if I my cholesterol rises, no worries. I just need to ask my doctor if one of the statin drugs advertised is right for me. I don’t need to concern myself with the probable side effects that they list in their auditory fine print. They’ll likely not impact me. They happen to other people. But, I cannot forget the import of the brand of toilet paper I choose. Yes, I’m “talking about what happens in the bathroom.” After all, “everyone goes” – remind me again why I discouraged my children from potty humor?

Rarely do I consider these TV ads aggressive or arrogant. They’re just part of doing business. I want my favorite programs to remain on the air, and that requires money. I understand they need me and others to buy-into their brands so that when it’s time to make our choice, we’ll purchase their products. Program sponsors often play their ads back to back, yet they evoke little passion. In fact, many times I find them entertaining and adopt their slogans into my daily jargon. Whatever happened to, “You deserve a break today?” I could use one.

Why should political ads be considered anything but a necessary evil like those of other branded goods? Some product claims are true and some have been proven to be hype. We don’t take offense with them, yet many do when it comes to political ads. Some link politics and religion together as taboo topics for discussion. Why is that? Likely there are personal preferences on both sides, and we don’t like these challenged. Yet truth will stand and prove itself, regardless of who wins an election. So what’s the deal?

I like these ads because I understand the stakes are higher than the toilet paper I select. They make a difference beyond me and have potential to impact generations to come. And if I think through their message and question what they say, it helps me to confirm what I believe or reveal holes in my perspective. I lean toward naivety, but understand its dangers, so these ads are good for me.

Will I enjoy the respite from the political rhetoric? Sure, but in the meantime, I will thank God we still have the freedom to promote our views whether political, religious or other personal preferences. In some countries, they don’t have this privilege.

History is about to change. Are you ready?

While waiting in a doctor’s office, I picked up a copy of the local newspaper. I’m always interested in people and their viewpoints, so I headed to the “Opinion” column. One person wrote in about a TV ad that obviously went against his candidate. Perhaps you’ve seen it also. This person opined the depiction of a young mom running to vent her frustration at her 2008 vote for Obama’s slogan of “Change.”

Rather than listen to the content of the message, the writer criticized the quality of this mom’s jogging stroller and the clothing of both her running attire and that of her little girl. Has this man never heard of grandparents or eBay? He also noted that he’d watched the ad several times to see if the woman was actually wearing a wedding ring. He carefully noted that he did not detect one meaning that he could not see it, but he did not offer a reason why. Were his eyes too dim? Did she not have one on? And if that was the case was it because she had just finished washing dishes and forgot, she needed to hock it for cash, the financial pressures of her husband being out of work caused a riff in their marriage resulting in divorce; etc.? Were her hands hidden? Was the picture too small to see it even if it were there? We don’t know and neither did he, but you can guess his implication.

Here’s my point. If you have nothing better to do than rip campaign ads to shreds, and you have an analytical or critical spirit, go for it. Right now you’ve got plenty to look at on both sides of the spectrum. But if you’re trying to persuade voters to choose your candidate, you have certainly lost my vote.

Let’s deal with the real issues facing us today and determine if we’re better off before or after the Obama administration.

  • How about our economy?
  • Are you doing better or worse, are you richer or poorer? (Sounds like wedding vows, but we’re not married to Obama.)
  • What do you think about the increase in the national debt?
  • Why are many medical professionals throwing in the towel because of Obamacare?
  • How do the candidates stand on issues that impact your personal values?

Do you know?

I heard about a young man who was not sure if he would vote in this election. This would be his first opportunity. He said he wanted to be an informed voter, and as of the Sunday prior to the election, he did not know where the candidates stood. Fair enough. As we saw from the above comments on TV ads, the sound bites may not be clear. If that’s your stand, then check out FRC Action’s (Family Research Council) voter’s guide. It’s downloadable so that you can share it or carry it with you on Election Day.

History is about to change, but we all need to do our part and vote. Are you ready?

Debatable results

Last night we viewed the last of the election debates between President Obama and Governor Romney, and the winner was – one more time – the candidate of your choice before you turned on the TV or watched online. Did either of the candidates change anyone’s mind? I think that one’s debatable.

One thing I observed this time is that Mr. Obama may have gained a measure of respect for the debate process as he curbed his tendency toward interruptions. How can interested citizens possibly hear through the name calling and comments sufficiently to discern which plan makes sense when one candidate can’t control his tongue long enough for his opponent to explain his version? Maybe that’s the plan. Because time is short, grab all the minutes you can. That way, no one will be able to hear anything but your side. Hmmm, didn’t we get bad marks for this in elementary school?

Evidently Rachel Martin of NPR did her homework and found out that indeed there are rules for these debates – lots of them. In her article, Turns Out There are Rules for the Debates. Lots, she tells us there are 21 pages of rules. Maybe that’s the problem. There are just too many regulations and not enough time to read and understand all of them let alone follow them. I guess it’s just easier to ignore them.  Does that go along with the line elementary school students use? You know the one, “the dog ate my homework.”

It seems to me, the Presidential debates, rather than being an opportunity to hear a clear, concise presentation of each side’s viewpoints and perspectives, have become an extension of the negative ad campaigns that have been frequenting the airwaves, tweets and other social media.  It appears it’s much easier to point your finger at someone else instead of intelligently explaining your position. Didn’t we learn that in elementary school, too? I think it was in detention not history class.

I’m beginning to think that perhaps Presidential debates have outlived their usefulness. They are more of an embarrassment than enlightenment. Maybe they should go the way of the cassette, typewriter and other outdated technology. I guess that’s debatable, too.

Christopher Columbus … who knew?

In a past post I mentioned that I had relocated an old history book, copyright 1885, on my book shelf. Since today we celebrate Christopher Columbus Day, I thought it fitting to see if there was anything of interest in this timeworn volume about this renowned explorer.

According to Barnes Historical Stories, Columbus entered the world in 1435, the first of four children and the son of a poor wool-comber.  He assumed responsibility to contribute to the family to educate his young brothers and support his aged father from the savings of his meager wages. Did you know that his hair was totally white by age 30? Supposedly due to trouble and anxiety, it makes you wonder why it is included in this history text. Can you imagine today’s kids even caring about the color of his hair let alone what might have caused it?

Yet Columbus had a dream that was 18 years in the making. Determined, shrewd and intensely religious, Columbus believed his mission came from the Lord to carry the true faith to the uttermost parts of the earth. He deemed this cause his purpose and pursued it with courage and devotion.

You would think that with the acclaim Ferdinand and Isabella received from sponsoring Columbus’ travels, they would have treated him exceptionally well. Evidently that is not the case. Columbus made four voyages for the Spanish royals, yet evil men slandered Columbus, and they disregarded their promise to him that he should become governor-general over the lands he had discovered. Instead, they appointed another governor, who promptly returned Columbus to Spain in chains. Spain’s general population was outraged, and Ferdinand and Isabella tried to ease the wrong done to Columbus although they never permitted him to be governor. Eventually they neglected him altogether. Columbus died a grieved and disappointed man and requested that he be buried with his chains, a symbol of the Spanish ingratitude.

Here we are 506 years after his death celebrating his discovery with a holiday, yet in this age of global travel and communications, few of us even think about the cost of his investment let alone the man himself. So, take a minute today, just for fun, and quiz your family and friends to see if they can remember any details of Columbus or his voyage to discover a new world. He changed history. As you share what you have learned about him, it might become a conversation starter leading to discoveries of your own about their dreams, goals and purpose in life. Hmmm, Christopher Columbus. Who knows? He might still impact lives to encourage a new world.