Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Suffer The Children

No, it should be, Suffer Not The Children!

Already this morning, I had a young lady in my office whose last day is Friday.  She’s being pulled out of school to live with a relative in Mississippi.  Already this morning, I had a lawyer in my office who was appointed by the judge to act as Guardian Ad Litem for a different young lady and her younger brother.  Already this morning, I saw a young man walking in the hallway by himself with his head down.  He raised it when he saw me, smiled and said, “Hello.”  It took six months to get him to smile and say hello to me.  Two weeks ago, I was in a room with kids who talked about having to steal food in order to eat.  A young lady, an honor’s student, talked about having to place rubber bands on sleeves and pant cuffs to keep cockroaches out of her clothing while she sleeps. A girl talked about not knowing where she will sleep that evening because they lost their home and they don’t have enough money for a motel.

Suffer Not The Children!

It has been a month or so since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.  I had to wait this long in order to comment on it because it still brings tears to my eyes: the teacher who died, but saved her children by hiding them in a closet; the little boy who was wrapped in an aide’s arms as they comforted each other before they both died.  That image in particular will stay with me forever.  It is permanently etched in my memory.  I cannot fathom, cannot imagine the loss, the sadness, the devastation. And yes, I still get choked up when thinking about it.  More sad than anger, but I assure you, the anger is there bubbling just below the surface.

Suffer Not The Children!

Like many of you who read this and have children of your own, you would do anything you could to protect them.  If possible, you’d give them the sun, moon and stars as gifts, and move mountains out of their way so their journey through life is smooth.  Like many of you who read this and have children, you can picture their smiles, know their laughter from a crowd of other kids, know exactly what they’re thinking as they hear a particular song or watch a scene on TV or in a movie.  Going to a book store, you already know the kind of book they’ll gravitate to, their favorite flavor of ice cream, their favorite meal, what and who hurts their feelings.  Especially what and who hurts their feelings.

Suffer Not The Children!

My daughter, Emily, loves happy endings.  When I tell her that life is not a Disney movie, she states matter-of-factly, “Well, it ought to be!”  And she’s right.  It’s up to us to at least try to help our children grow intelligently, smartly, make wise and good decisions, to grow in grace and wisdom and have enough- more if possible, but at least enough.  To know that there are those of us who care about them, who love them, and who hurt so very much more than they do when they are hurt.  We can’t take away all the sorrow and pain from them, their struggle.  We can teach them that getting knocked down isn’t a big deal unless they don’t get back up.  And, we can be there with a hand to help them to get back on their feet, help dust them off and with a pat on the back, help them move along their path in life.  We can love them, and hold them, and listen to them, and be silent with them.  We can be there for them.

Suffer Not The Children!

Dear God, please, no more!  Not again!  Never again!  Please, Suffer Not The Children!

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

Friday, February 22, 2013

If I Coulda-Woulda-Shoulda

I know we’ve played this game before- each of us, and I have serious doubts if anyone ever won, yet we play it over and over and over . . .

As a former coach, I watched game film and would beat myself up for not calling this time out, or not substituting this player for that player, for keeping this player in too long, for not changing this defense or that offense, for . . . As a teacher, I’d review test or quiz scores and think, if I had taught it this way, or in talking to a student who ended up hurt or disappointed, if I would have said this or not said that . . .  As a parent, I shake my head at some of the things I’ve said or have done with my children.  As a principal, as a person, as . . .  I think you get the picture.

No one wins this game.  No one.  Not the best of us, not the worst of us, not Joe-Average.  No one wins.  Hindsight is 20-20.  The problem is if we continually look backward and question each and every decision, each and every mistake, that’s all we end up doing in life.  We never progress, we never grow, we never become.

I don’t know who said this or I would attribute it correctly, but it goes like this:  “Never regret anything that has happened in your life; it cannot be changed, undone or forgotten.  So take it as a lesson learned and move on.”  What a great message!  It frees us from the never-ending cycle of “If I Coulda-Woulda-Shoulda”.  Yet, how difficult it is to quit that game.  In an earlier post, I wrote that “meditation and self-reflection can be hell on those of us who are perfectionists, even though we realize we are human”.  The self-reflective person naturally begins to play this game because we sincerely want to change, to do better and to not make the same mistake over and over again.  Self-reflection is a wonderful thing.  It is how we get better.  Yet, the never-ending game of “If I Coulda-Woulda-Shoulda” is a losing proposition because it doesn’t allow us to grow or to change.

There is an African Proverb that tells us, “When there is no enemy within, the enemies outside cannot hurt you.” 

If we play “If I Coulda-Woulda-Shoulda”, we will always develop the enemy within us.  For your sake, for the sake of those around you, please stop playing this destructive game.  Instead, “. . . take it as a lesson learned and move on.”  Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


Ever notice when you go to a pool or beach there are those brave souls who take a running start and sprint into the water and dive right in?  Then there are those, and I include me in this category, who wade in.  We first walk in getting our feet wet, then our legs up to our knees, then (heaven forbid!) our waist, then chest and shoulders and eventually, our head.  We do it slowly, carefully.  It takes time.  We get annoyed at those who splash around us. I mean, can’t they see we’re carefully preparing ourselves for the great submerge?

Relationships are often approached the same way.  There are those who dive right in, while there are those who take their time.  The reasons, the circumstances, the situations vary.  There isn’t a right or wrong way to approach relationships.  It comes down to comfort level.  I believe past experiences come into play.  Perhaps there are those who have been ‘burned’ in the past and as a result, are cautious.  There are those who are bold and no matter the time or place, they enter into relationships easily.

I admire those sprinters who take the rapid plunge, but no matter how much I might admire them, I tend to go slowly.

Whether or not one takes the plunge or moves at the rate of a glacier, I believe depth is the key.  The shallow end isn’t as interesting.  Standing in water up to one’s knee is okay, but a breeze comes up or the aggressive one near you plunges in and splashes you.  There is more to do in the deep end of the pool.  It is more satisfying.

The depth of the relationship is the key.  The more one is willing to share, to experience is the key.  The more one is willing to be receptive, to accept is important.  Take a look at those who are meaningful in your life, those who are so important to you that you long for their voice, a word or laugh from them, or those who are important just to be near even though no word is spoken.  I’m willing to bet you have more depth with them than with others.  The relationships you have in the deep end of the pool are the ones that are most satisfying to you.

No matter if you wade in or take a running start, getting to the deep end of the pool is the key.  Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

Friday, February 15, 2013


There are times when each of us gets down.  There are times when each of us gets frustrated, upset and angry.  There are times when we are faced with obstacles that seem absolutely insurmountable.  There are times . . .

My wife had just delivered Hannah, our firstborn.  I can’t begin to describe for you the joy I felt.  Unless you’re a parent, you just cannot understand.  I was holding her and the nurse had to ask me to give Hannah to her because she needed to clean her up. The nurse gave her back to me and then my wife, Kim, politely asked, “Can I hold her now?”  Embarrassed, I gently laid Hannah into Kim’s arms.  Peace and joy!  The way it is meant to be.

I left Kim and Hannah so I could go home, grab a few items and get cleaned up.  I stood in the elevator when an elderly man and his son entered.  Heck, I was excited and grinning ear to ear and the older man noticed and asked, “What is the occasion that you’re here this morning?”  I answered, “My wife just gave birth to our daughter, Hannah.  Our first.”  He nodded, looked down at the floor, and when he looked back at me there were tears in his eyes.  He said, “I just lost my wife and my best friend.  The Lord gives, and He takes away.  That’s life.” I apologized, and I didn’t know what to say.  In my absolute joy, this man just lost his wife and best friend, and the young man lost his mother.  The older man wiped a tear and shook his head, smiled and said, “It’s life.” My joy, his sorrow.

I think sometimes we forget the rhythm that life takes.  There is a song out right now that has a lyric, “Even storms run out of rain.”  And they do.  In the midst of disappointment, pain and sorrow, we forget that there will be success, relief and joy.  There will be low tides, just as there will be high.  There will be darkness, but the dark gives way to light.  There will be failure, but in failure comes success.  Mountains will give way to valleys and eventually to the plain.  Believe that!

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!   

Tuesday, February 12, 2013


My wife claims that I’m a pack rat and I have to agree with her.  There are things I have trouble parting with.  My record collection from middle and high school.  My teddy bear collection (Yeah, I know  . . . I know).  My antique iron collection. 

My oldest daughter is in college, but I have her red and white striped jumper she wore as a baby in a dresser drawer in the spare bedroom.  My wife and I called it her “Russian Sailor Suit”.  I just can’t give it away or throw it out.  My youngest daughter had her Polly Pockets collection and the various houses and buildings that went with them.  Every Saturday after breakfast for the longest time, Hannah and Emily would disappear into Emily’s bedroom and play for hours.  We would hear them talking in various voices, laughing and giggling, and Kim and I would laugh along with them without their knowledge.  I think Kim and I enjoyed it as much as they did.  When Emily decided she wanted to give them away, a piece of my heart went with them. 

I could go on and on.  There is the yearly tug and tussle with my wife who likes to throw out, clean out and make room.  But there are some things that are just too painful for me to get rid of or give away.  At some point, I’ll reluctantly give in and give away, perhaps throw away.  That’s the reality of it.  I might not like it, but I know there is only so much space and honestly, I’m the type of guy who can find meaning and purpose in just about anything, so . . .

I think there is such a thing as emotional clutter. 

Feelings and thoughts we hoard and hold onto.  Sometimes this clutter gets in the way of the acceptance of others.  Sometimes this clutter gets in the way of growing and the acceptance of ourselves. The old, tried and tested patterns of thought and reaction prevents us from giving others a chance, an opportunity to change- at least in our own eyes.  Sometimes the way we think of ourselves is in itself a handicap preventing us from growing, preventing us from changing. 

Each day we have the opportunity to change.  Therefore, why would we continue to think and do in the same pattern that we’ve always thought and acted, especially if those thoughts and behaviors are destructive to us?  Why would we continue to think and do in the same pattern that we’ve always thought and acted if these thoughts and behaviors are somehow stilting us from growing? If I act and think now as I did as a twenty-something, I’m denying the opportunity for me to grow, to change, to become.    

Masahide, a 17th century Japanese poet and samurai once said, "Barn's burnt down - now I can see the moon."

Perhaps it’s time to burn a barn or two.  We might not like it.  It might cause some pain.  But in the end, we will see a bit clearer.  That way, we’re a bit freer.  That way, we can move on, grow.  And, get rid of a bit of clutter, emotional or otherwise.  That might make us, and others, happier in the long run.  Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!