Month: August 2015

Looking Down and Looking Up

When I meet people in the hallway where I work, most of them make eye contact and speak. I like this, because it keeps us in contact and meets some basic courtesy requirements. Greeting each other by name, it also keeps us together as a community of co-workers on the same side helping people. A few however look down and don’t speak. Some are just shy, and others may be socially awkward. This doesn’t make them bad, just uncomfortable.

When I go downs steps, I look down to see where I’m going. (Some of this is due to added years.) This is wise when such a  challenge presents itself. Missing a step could mean much trouble. Then, when that challenge is past, it is also necessary to look up to see what’s coming ahead. It’s good to make eye contact with the next challenge to plan how to encounter it, and not be shy in the process.

Looking away will not make the problem go away. Looking down for too long will only allow it to get bigger. Then, we want to look away even more. This is a bad cycle to be in, and extremely difficult to unravel. Trustworthy people will look down when necessary, but will then look ahead to see what’s coming as far as possible, so not to be caught off guard and tumble into trouble.

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Politics

Politics is a rough business. I used to think I wanted to try it, but change my mind. When I was in college, I asked my dad if he thought I could run for office in a state level up to governor and stay completely honest in the process. After thinking for a moment he said no. I still I think I could do it up to county level, but it’s not likely I will try.

Yet, politics is not limited to the political system. Politics takes place in many areas, such as businesses , schools, and churches. It’s a shame that one could go happily along thinking all is well, and there are things going behind the scenes that could affect you and many others. Egos grow large and drive people to work for themselves to the detriment of others, and the ball keeps rolling. Alliances are made, favors are done, and a system emerges that tends to rot things from the inside. Like a wound that will not heal, it needs healing from the inside out, and a new start.

Look for honesty and trustworthiness. I’m convinced there still both.

Just Run

Growing up, playing baseball was one of my greatest joys. For some reason it was less intense than basketball and football, without having to do wind sprints and bleachers. One of my friends didn’t play as much but was fun watching.

Once in little league my friend was at the plate, and actually hit the ball. It looked like an infield grounder and he would likely be out at first. The infielder bobbled the ball, and was just too late to get my friend out at first. Instead of continuing straight down the line after stepping on first, he never even slowed down and made the turn heading for second. We yelled at him to stop, but he kept going. Startled at this crazy runner, the first basemen hesitated and made a bad throw to second. Again, my friend kept running at full speed, oblivious to all the efforts to get him out. Not breaking stride, he headed for third and beat the throw there. Again he rounded third and sprinted for home. Another error and he crossed home plate.

I was stunned. How could he be so silly as to just keep running? I was pretty sure he simply didn’t know better, but it was the most fun I had in a long time. On a routine infield hit, he got an inside-the-park home run, all because he would not stop running. There are times when we need to take a little while, take a swing, and just run. Let them try to catch us, and we might be surprised at the result.

Character Pollution

Sometimes it’s painful just to look around. We see too much ignorance of integrity. By that I mean willfully ignoring something people know about, but choose to ignore. This thinking goes something like this. Integrity is something for those who don’t care whether they are “successful” or not. It’s for religious people or those who can’t seem to do anything big, so they simply rely on something that makes them feel better.

What doesn’t come across in this way of thinking is its temporary nature. I have known people who looked good for a while, but later looked very bad, and we wonder why. It’s often because they were cutting corners or people just to make a mark or look good for the moment. While this is sad, it’s part of a bigger trend in our land today. It’s part of an effort to fix all the problems in a week’s (or election cycle’s) time. It is one promise after another, with not only little results, but a depleted character in the process.

It would be refreshing to hear a person say, “I can’t guaranteed anything, but I will do my best.” People know deep down that is a realistic statement, but it’s not what they want to hear. We easily get caught up in the problem-solving promises and operated from emotion rather than reason. Character takes a while, and tells the truth.

Watching

My favorite way to judge character is to watch. Although words can mean something, they must eventually translate into deeds. Action can be observed. Realizing that even the best intentions of action do not always get the results because variable exist we cannot anticipate; we can still admire action in the right direction. There is a vital key: direction over time. There seems to too much heat, and not enough light.

There will always be winds blowing somewhere, and much of it does no damage. Hearing about potential good, bad and ugly doesn’t make them happen. It only makes us worry they will. So, I believe, it is best to watch, and wait. These two are hard, but if we do we may see just the opening and time for us to take action, and we will likely actually get something done.

Shifting Sands

An ancient story is told about two men. One built his house on a rock, and the other built his on sand. When the rains came tumbling down, you can guess which house stood firm, and which one went “splash”.

The shifting sands of our time make it tempting to look for a good sand pile and put up a quick shelter as a solution for the country’s ills. Just use this design, or that material, and all the problems will be solved. Yet, the rains will come, and some of them will be harder, longer, and windier than we anticipate. In addition, humans cannot resist continuing to fool with the house. We keep modifying it and trying to improve it when we are really making it weaker, and more expensive with each square foot added.

Wouldn’t it be better to rely on more solid plans, better materials, tried and true builders for our house? It may not be as quickly done, but it will last longer and still be around after the storm. So, as the wind (mostly hot air) blows around us, remember our plans can be solid and perfectly built, if we have patience to wait for it.

Few Words

I’m taking an online course in connection with my work. It is what is called a collaborative style. We are asked to write about something, and reply to at least two of our “classmates” writings. That’s the easy part. The challenge is that our original narrative has to be between 500 and 750 words. Our replies to others are to be between 100 and 300 words.

When in college and writing an essay type answer to a question, the less I knew, the more I could write. Most of it was “blowing smoke”, and I’m sure I wasn’t fooling any instructors. Since my published writings have been more like booklets than books, and I’d rather be concise than wordy, I am resisting this because the instructor is a stickler for the word count, to the point we have to include the count at the end of our writings. A couple of times when she asked, Phil can yo elaborate on that?” I wanted to answer, “No.” I didn’t, because this is a course for chaplains, and I must be “chaplain-like”, which means polite.

After this course is over, I plan to go back to as few words as possible, and be more comfortable. I still believe the most trustworthy people let actions speak for themselves, and they usually speak louder.

Neighbors Form a Community

When we get together on Thursday nights with our neighbors (within a few square miles in the country), it’s obvious we have our own little community. One of our neighbors asked me once when one of them was sick, “What are we going to do about our family here?” That’s how she felt about our little group. I know those of a previous generation had this feeling about those on adjoining farms or in the neighborhood, but I had never experienced it in the country before. There is a feeling that we belong to something outside our immediate family.

This group began before we moved to the country, when one lady called the others and said, “Why don’t you bring what you are having for dinner, Erma and Chleo will bring theirs, Stan will bring his, and we’ll have it together at my house.” That’s been about 12 years ago, and it’s been going ever since. Whose chickens were caught by a possum (opossum never seemed right) the other night, how many do they have left, and how to trap that possum are some of the subjects discussed. Also there is some scoop on the other neighbors who are not present.

There is lots of laughter. Our hostess is funnier telling the story than the story itself. She tells about routine daily activities as if it is an adventure. With her and her sister, it often is! There is nothing like these little country neighborhoods to give us a solid perspective on the rest of the world as it hurries by.

Being and Doing

We as humans are defined primarily by two basic things: who we are, and what we do. This is the same in all cultures and geographical locations. In the past, the primary characteristic of the two was who we are. This part of us helped determine the other characteristic, what we do.

Yet, there has been a shift over the years, which has turned this thinking around. We now tend to be defined primarily by what we do, and then decide from that who we are. If you read obituaries, most people are defined by their work, or what things in which they were involved. Seldom do we see listed who they were. Maybe it is obvious, such as husband, wife, brother, sister, grandfather, grandmother, etc. Those things have to do with who they were rather than professor, mechanic, CEO, or taxi driver.

Being defined first by who we are also requires asking the question, “Who am I”? This is more difficult to answer, and is a good thing to keep in mind when making selections about who leads an organization or who gets elected to office. Listing degrees or accomplishments should be secondary to who the person is, in terms of character and deeper beliefs. This takes more careful thought and listening to content.

When the Lights Go Out

Our power was off last night during a storm, for about 5 or 6 hours. It was tough, not so much because we didn’t have lights, but because we didn’t have internet.

Something has happened to us in the last 40 years, and even more in the last ten. Our parents wouldn’t have thought anything about no power, because that was the norm when they were young. Have we softened to the point where we can’t have a face-to-face conversation! Fortunately our son always wants to play a board game by candlelight. That’s help keep us in perspective.

If we can hardly survive a short interruption in our lives, we should read more history and think again about our blessings.