Friday, October 30, 2015

Why all of the #ranting?

Is the world really to going to hell in a hand basket as my dad would joke at times when I was a teen in the 60’s? I’m someone that is passionate about seeing racism, classism, age discrimination and gender inequality addressed in a practical fashion that sees definitive progress happen over time. The challenge today is that everyone on all sides of the issues are so quick to cry foul to the other side. Everyone is an expert in statistics, race and now police brutality. Yet, the sad reality is that the lives of anyone who is injured or killed is a true tragedy that needs to be mourned and the issue of why what happened has to be brought into the light! Justice means we have to discover the truth and see tangible consequences for ongoing acts of hatred, violence and injustice.
I was listening to a radio host rant about a local incident where a Black man was pulled over by a Tucson police supposedly and his post about what happened had gone viral. The conclusion of the radio star, after looking at his Facebook page, was that this Black man who is in the National Guard and has a permit to carry a concealed weapon must be a ‘cop lover’ that had obviously fabricated his story. The individual was clearly someone who couldn’t relate to the usual White cop attacking a Black man that came out of poverty because he gave the Tucson Police high marks for their being fair to him regardless of whether he should have been cited for a broken tail lamp and not having the most current registration in his possession.
The point of the ranting talk show host was that this incident regardless of it’s veracity didn’t have any relevance to the latest outrage on social media of a Black teen gal being man handled by a White security officer at a high school. The talk show host continued to make the point that police, teachers and security officers don’t have to be rewarded or given accolades when they are doing their jobs correctly. Then another battle erupted between the two celebrity talk show hosts and a variety of callers that expressed the point that all of the bad press that comes out about the police or Black men makes it so easy to make assumptions and generalizations that are so far from the truth. Yes there are a few bad police officers and a few bad people of all races that ultimately will face some type of law enforcement person whether that is in the classroom, on the freeway, on the street or in the courtroom.
Is it possible to address serious issues in such a fashion that the truth can be discovered and the majority of people understand what really happened? Yes there is a serious issue about police brutality that appears to be pandemic much as there seems to be an issue in our society about understanding how to relate back to those in authority whether that is in court with a judge, a classroom with a teacher or a police officer in your neighborhood. I know when I grew up there wasn’t an Internet or social media that could bring the news of some unfortunate occurrence to the attention of millions literally in an hour.
I had a text from a friend who is totally exasperated over the ongoing inability for any groups of people, whether that is in the church, racial groups or social groups to show much interest in dialoguing in a fashion that shows resolve and change of heart on all sides. There are clearly many barriers between racial groups, socio-economic groups and religious groups to see much hope for our future according to my young friend. I recently attended a conference a week ago that talked a little about how mercy and grace can help social injustice in our society from the church’s perspective. Yet, in the midst of this conference I had various conversations between people of Hispanic, African American and Anglo backgrounds that seemed to still be in the ‘dark’ about how their actions or lack of interest contributes to the problem.
The talk show host is purposely being a cynic who wants to provoke a reaction to anyone that truly cares or is capable of discerning what is really happening presently in our society. The difficulty is that all of the cynics in the world, like this talk show host, tend to just talk about the issues and throw out suggestions, yet they themselves choose to take few steps to see healing and understanding be promoted through their media platform. 
So it’s ok to continue ranting to see justice come as along as you are willing to do something in a positive fashion to bring change. I know that thanking someone for doing a job well done is a flash from the past but maybe it’s worth trying! I can’t fathom how many teachers face discipline issues everyday and could potentially lose it and be the next viral video or what about the police officer or fireman/woman that sees the tragedy first hand of someone dying without cause lose it when someone does something crazy and they over react.
Bottom line it’s time to intentionally make friends across racial groups, socio-economic groups and professions. Just maybe you would be more understanding and less quick to criticize or attack and hopefully the same would happen to you as your friendship groups expand!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Why the ongoing violence in our communities?

I had a good friend send me a link to a High School classroom video that recently had gone viral. It showed a police officer attempting to take a student out of the classroom for being disrespectful. The video taken by one of the students shows the officer’s attempt to get her to cooperate turns into his throwing her to the ground in a rather violent fashion. Clearly the officer has used too extreme of force to remove the student but why didn’t the student comply with the teacher, administrator and now the officer? Now the school, the officer and student are featured on all social media, the news and soon in court.

I recently did a community service project where 140 volunteers partnered with me to paint the exterior of houses of low-income seniors. What strikes me as I contrast how it was possible in a tough neighborhood to have that many volunteers do something rather amazing; help someone in real need. After a few hours of painting the houses were finished, cleaned up and everyone from volunteer to grandmas and grandpas could step back to see the power of working together. The amazing picture that stands out in my mind is that of two little girls playing together as their parents painted grandma Sophie’s house.

What happened that caused a classroom to turn into strong-armed attack by a police officer with a student? What happened that orchestrated the painting of 5 houses with 140 volunteers that ended in a rather peaceful fashion with everyone walking away sensing something good had happened and the community was better? It’s amazing the difference between the clash and abuse of authority; contrasted to the proper use of someone’s gifts and time to do something positive and beneficial to the community.

I totally understand looking back as a teen growing up in the 60’s how I balked at any form of authority that told me what to do especially if it was contrary to my own will. I can also remember the quickness of many to distrust and disrespect those that were older. Looking back I must admit that I was wrong regardless of whether I had a bad teacher, had an unfortunate experience with a law officer or didn’t always agree with my parent’s dictates because of my unwillingness to listen. The opportunity is for all to stop assuming that their rights and authority in any situation gives them license to harm anyone or destroy property. What would have happened in that classroom if that student had listened to their teacher that day and behaved? What might have happened if the police officer instead of attempting to physically restrain the girl had called her parent(s) and allowed them to take their daughter home?

What if a person’s rights took the back seat to having a heart of compassion and understanding in this type of situation? Maybe the student had the day from hell and had a meltdown? It is possible that the officer also had a bad morning but unfortunately took out his anger on the student instead of dealing with his own personal feelings.  The opportunity is for all involved ultimately to do what is right and work through personal differences that then help the rest of us see that it is possible to resolve differences without using violence. 

I know personally it is very difficult to confess to my part in loosing my temper or making a poor judgment call. The reality that is unfortunate to admit is that at times our poor choices will require a response that requires ‘special help’ whether that’s my willful disobedience to an authority figure or the extreme misuse of someone’s authority to stop a bad situation from getting worse.

Why can’t we be like the two little kids that played together as their family and friends painted a house?

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Is it possible to look beyond stereotypes?

I will be the first to admit that racial or any type of profiling and stereotyping has become a part of our culture that is difficult to overcome. I know that the fact that I’m white and an old guy means that many that I work around make the erroneous assumption that I must be rich. I have many memories of visiting my parent’s hometown, St. Louis MO, as a kid growing up. I can remember on that historic day when JFK was assassinated my grandma Dotson set out to enlighten me about how bad all ‘Black’ people happen to be. She used the ‘N’ word and I will always remember my dad’s explosive reaction to her and then his explanation to me about how horrible racism and prejudice were.  Clearly that day has stuck in my mind over the last 52 years and impacted my way of viewing ‘Black’ people thanks to my dad’s response to my racist grandma.

This last weekend I had an incredible experience working with a group of Muslim college students that participated in a community project where we painted 5 houses with 140 volunteers. I was so impressed with the leaders of this group, Samur and Muai, that I want them to continue to partner with us and also help train some of my leaders about what it means to be true servant leaders. I have to confess to the fact that I had my doubts whether other faith based groups or non-faith based groups would really choose to work with us.  I understand that Muslim, Jews, Atheist, secularists, the LGBTQ community and Christians typically are viewed as being so diametrically different that it would be almost impossible to work together.  This last Saturday showed me that there is hope that synergism and partnership works and that groups from very different faith backgrounds can impact the world together!

A few weeks ago I had a long discussion with a new friend who is gay and could be a Muslim on one day or a Christian on another day. We had mutually blogged together about whether it was possible for people of different life expressions to work together for the common good of a specific cause. Our conclusion was of course it is possible but unfortunately for many we allow stereotypes to stop us from making the effort to at least try. This new friend was helping another close friend with doing a business plan for a new nonprofit. We needed his wisdom and fresh approach that had nothing to do with his being gay and not being a clone of us!

I was invited to a dinner party recently where I was the ‘true guest’ that didn’t know anyone. I was intrigued by a comment the host made about how police had become too obsessed with using deadly force. What stuck out and broke my stereotype was that this individual was White, affluent and very involved in helping undocumented families at a local clinic. I have a few Black friends involved in doing community work that are quick to make the assumption that any police action involving deadly force is inappropriate. What helped me at this dinner was to see that any type of stereotyping gets me into trouble. So why do I still do it?

I walked into a Starbucks in Dallas this morning; I’m from Phoenix, dressed like I was back home wearing shorts, T-shirt with my rainbow sandals on my feet. The majority of the people getting their caffeine fix were dressed with real business attire. What hurt me was that there was another older guy dressed like me and he automatically gave me a thumbs up sign.  I initially avoided looking at this guy because I wanted to write a little and blend in with the crowd. Dumb me I stuck out big time and it was perfectly understandable why the business crowd might frown at me as this other fellow aging hippie assumed we were brothers.

I appreciate this picture I’ve used with this post that has a serious of images of different types of people from a hippie, farmer, cheerleader, Native American, homeboy, grandma, sports guy, Arab and a space guy. The caption says look beyond the stereotypes! The bottom line is whether we are willing to deconstruct, discuss and then educate ourselves about the dangers of stereotyping and profiling!

Thanks dad for helping me understand that life must be defined by a person’s character and life choices and not by what they are wearing or the color of their skin or hair!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Why does it take a tragedy to bring old friend together?

One of the more difficult lessons in life is that I’ve become too busy and consumed with the normal routine and forget to take the time on occasion to connect with old friends. Last night we had one of those unbelievable incidents occur to us. We get a text from my brother in-law about a close friend tragically killed in a mountain biking accident. All of a sudden memories of thirty years ago pop up and to be honest also a little guilt from not really connecting in the last twenty years.
I just recently reconnected with a friend from my college days who was significant in helping me discover my life passion. It again reminded me of how easy it is today to find someone and reach back over the years. So today I began a Facebook messaging campaign to find most of our friends from a youth group that we led in the 80’s where our friend was at the center. I was amazed how easy the list grew from a few to now over 50 friends from the 80’s. What’s fascinating is that we are the old people that led the group and these kids now are aging adults in their 40’s and 50’s.
What’s amazing is while listening to all of these friends share stories and pictures it made me homesick for this crazy group of then teens and now middle aged moms, dads and grandparents. I echoed the feeling of loss and the shedding of many tears today that everyone shared in their various posts. It was a wake up call that we’re all mortal and actually anything can happen to my loved ones including myself. So what lesson are we all going to take away from this sad news reunion? 
I know that most of us growing up as little kids always dreaded the yearly or bi-annual family gatherings, especially if it meant traveling far away. Yet, what stands out is this amazing group of people who share so much in common but between careers, moves, families and just the nuts and bolts of life we have all dropped the proverbial ball. So why not step back and think about different groups of friends you have had over the years and consider finding them and asking the rather simple question about how they are really doing. It’s so easy today to send pictures and video clips online. You will get a great laugh as you look at yourself from years past and hopefully renew a friendship.
It’s also a reminder to take a self-inventory and see if there are a few friends who you have left behind with broken relationships. Maybe today is a good time to seek amends or at least start the process. I will be the first to confess that it’s so funny and refreshing to see the past come back to life. So our friend’s wit, intellectual pursuits, crazy passion for saying weird things in Spanish and heart for life will stand tall in all of our memories.
We love you George and truly miss you! Our prayers go out for your Susan, mom and brother!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Show kindness! Don't let someone rob you of joy!

Each day present lots of opportunity to either show kindness to everyone regardless of how they treat you or live with a rather critical mindset where you analyze everyone’s actions. I will be totally honest about getting bent out of shape at times with people who won’t left a finger to help or show kindness. I get it that I don’t have to clean up someone else’s mess, open the door for a senior or attempt to help a mom pick up the contents of her diaper bag when it empties out. Yet, maybe we should be willing to interrupt our busy schedule to show kindness.
I have been fortunate to be around a few amazing people who have greatly shown kindness to me! My mom was someone that was always quick to say we are a family so we care about each other which translated into clean up your brother’s mess, feed the dog or take out the trash without being told. My mom’s real point was to help those who need an extra hand. I was always touched by how she went out of her way to love and help those that were hurting and alone.
My greatest gift in life has been that of my wife and life partner, Anne! She has totally shown me the meaning of self-sacrifice and how kindness can go a long ways to impact an individual, a family and a community. She is the one who will clean up after someone and never say anything or be quick to help someone who doesn’t really deserve to be helped. The real issue is that being kind to someone who is your friend or is nice is so easy! The real opportunity is to be kind to a stranger and surprise them. Yes, that person you don’t know but can see is struggling with something is the one you can give five minutes of relief and help.
Yes kindness is something that the blind can see and the deaf can hear! Show kindness today and see how much better your day will go!

Timing is everything?

Today I had a lunch with a good friend. I arrived about 10 minutes early. I will be the first to admit that being on time is something I see as a core value. The challenge is not everyone shares my set of values. I usually wait around 10-15 minutes before I text depending upon the circumstance. I decided after 10 minutes to do a ‘I arrived at the Mexican hole in the wall’ type of text. The response was;‘ I’m running 20-25 minutes late’. The thought went through my brain why didn’t he just text that he was running behind schedule. I know if I hadn’t texted I probably would have left after 20 minutes upset and would have considered my friend something not mentionable.

Now let’s flip to a party we had been invited to attend of a young friend who was turning 10. We had been to another party for her baby nephew and arrived about 30 minutes early to help with setup. What was crazy is that we waited; get this, almost 2 hours before the entire family made their appearance. What hit me was that none of the family was bothered and didn’t consider this rude or tacky.  So I was actually shocked when we showed up 30 minutes tardy for our 10-year-old friend’s party and the majority of the family had already arrived!

So why do some of us make timing a life or death matter? I agree that it is difficult to run a business or a family if you don’t operate on the same time scheduling. I know that it is polite to be a little late to some things and then a kiss of death or doom if you are 5 minutes late to a business meeting or to your in-laws.  I can definitely see some advantage to the cultures where timing isn’t a big thing. So you don’t get stressed, get into a car accident or wreck your day rushing around. Yet, I also get how frustrating it can be when you plan for 30 people for a birthday party and only a handful show up. The late comers or no show types act as if it’s not a big deal even though you worked your ‘rear’ off getting ready and spent a small fortune for the event.

Common sense should prevail and help you realize whether you are attending an open house where timing doesn’t matter or an expensive meal where being late is noticed and an insult to your family or business associates. The flip side is sometimes you just have to ask your friend, family member or business partner, who might be of a totally different cultural background, what is appropriate for arrival time and also for your exit.

I can laugh at myself at times because I’ll make a big deal about being on time when no one else has appeared. Then I think how totally crazy stupid that I’ve been stressing. Yet, on the flipside I admit that I would be mad if my family and friends choose to be two hours late intentionally. So what’s it going to be for your timing core value? Let the surrounding climate influence you or will you see the need to be more organized and willing to come early knowing that you might be the first at the party or event.

The bigger issue is that time is a gift that we can’t return and get a refund! So use your time wisely and benefit from helping those you love develop timing as a core life skill. Otherwise you can have ongoing marital or family timing blowups.