Friday, October 28, 2016

One size doesn’t fit all!!

One of the more frustrating aspects of life is attempting to find clothes or shoes that fit! I was blessed or cursed depending upon your perspective to be average size so most stores where I shop typically have everything I would ever want. Now on the other hand my wife is someone you typically say that good things come in small packages. Her challenge is that anyone who is less than 5’ tall has difficult time finding clothes that fit. So why isn’t it possible for the various companies to create clothing lines that are for all types and sizes?

The real issue at hand today is that the educational system continues to use the one size fits all for their approach to learning. What happens when you are someone that has anxiety attacks when you take any type of test? I have memories of friends that had to give presentations for both entry-level classes to defending their doctoral dissertation that would break out in hives because of their nervous tension. The difficult reality today is that a person who is very qualified for a position can be passed over because they don’t fit into the one-size fits all categories.

One of the determining factors in someone being able to succeed in life is their ability to read and write! Yes, this is rather old fashion but the truth is that communication skills determine where you can go in life! I have a few friends who are functional illiterates that are not capable of filling out an online application for neither work nor pass a written driving exam to get their license. The sad fact is that these are all great people both teens, adult and seniors. What has to happen for our approach to learning to shift from the standardized model to a more multi-faceted model that gives more opportunities for individuals who struggle with being able to sit still for more than fifteen minutes at a time or needs someone to read the test to them to better understand it?

It’s a fascinating study to see that most of the movers and shakers in the scientific arena would have failed miserably if they had stayed in the typical college or grad school setting. Imagine what would have happened if the Steve Jobs, Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerburgs of the world had been forced to stay in school, get their degrees and be ‘beaten up’ for thinking outside the box? I wouldn’t be using my 12-inch MacBook to write this post.

One of the more fascinating professors I had in grad school purposely taught outside the box. His goal wasn’t to strive for a test grade but for a working understanding of philosophy and religious studies. He was a firm believer that too often tests don’t really show the working competence level of most. He taught us how to think critically and how to express that critical thinking in verbal and written form. Most of our tests were a discussion in a small group. His passion was to teach us how to think, interact with others and then be able to write. What’s amazing was that this was in the early 80’s before computers; power point, the Internet and social media existed.

So is it possible that sometimes an F could be an A and an A could be an F? What happened to the merging of both brain smarts and also common sense smarts? I have always been fascinated to watch someone that hasn’t graduated from High School tear apart my car engine and resurrect it from the dead. If my friend were asked to write down everything he did it would be in broken English without much grammar. Yet, my engine didn’t need a grammatically gifted spokesperson but a hands on type that wasn’t afraid to fail in order to learn.

What happens when your family that has multiple kids all have different aptitudes and learning curves? Do you force all of them to fit into your box or do you become creative and allow each kid to learn in his or her own context at their own speed? Fortunately today there are more options with different types of schools that range from STEM, culinary, mechanics, art and literature.  I’m thrilled that job corps are now nation wide to help those that are great at doing hands on type of work but would struggle or fail in the traditional school setting.

I have to admit that I too often push for people to fit into by box or way of thinking and slowly have come to the awareness that what makes life so exciting, different and meaningful is the fact that we’re all different!

I’m so glad that one size doesn’t fit everyone!!

Sunday, October 23, 2016

The end is before us regardless of who wins??

One of the classic scenes from the original Planet of the Apes Movie is where Charlton Heston is on the ocean edge and sees what appears to be the Statute of Liberty’s torch sticking out of the ground. What had caused this apocalyptic scene? Did it have anything to do with a national election gone bad? Did fact checking; campaign hype or ongoing media attacks bring about the end, as we know it? 
What would cause anyone to blow up a political campaign headquarters? How is it possible that a newspaper’s choice to go against history and endorse a candidate that is outside of their paper’s party line now receive death threats? Why have close friends now become online enemies? Initially I chuckled at how many of my friends on Facebook where taking a hiatus from online life because of politics. Yet, the vitriol has truly become hatred that is like an epidemic type of disease that is ravaging our land. 
The question that stands out is WHY? Has America truly become that much of a waste land? Has the political machine truly taken over and forgotten the average or not so average person? Isn’t it still possible for the voice of the forgotten to still be heard? Haven’t we witnessed first hand various revolutions before our eyes between BLM, immigration movement and the refuge movement in our own country? Doesn’t it amaze you when you see a gofundme page for people in real need get funded beyond expectation? How is it possible to live in a country where one person paints a picture of gloom and doom, another pretends as if racism, sexism and classism don’t exist and yes most have figured out how to love their lives and manage to rise each day. 
Many have predicted the end of the age over the centuries. I know that November 9 is going to come before we know it. I’m not sure whether I’m prepared for E-Day but it’s before us regardless of race, political persuasion, educational background or socio-economics. I don’t picture there being a mass exodus into Canada or Mexico regardless of the recent rhetoric. The big picture is that our country is so much more than one person, whether that’s the president or manager of your local coffee shop. 
The hope of the world clearly isn’t our political system but our ability to look beyond our differences and choose to intentionally work together. My dream is that it would be possible for Christians, Muslims, Atheists, Secularists, Millennials and aging baby boomers to work together, play together and even at times worship together. As the sun blinds me as I’m sitting at my Starbucks I’m excited to be alive, walk my dogs, love my wife, kids, grandson and those I will encounter today!
The end isn’t before us unless you choose to give up on life and the hope of the ages!

How does boys will be boys = locker room banter?

I will admit, rather embarrassingly, that part of my path to becoming an Eagle Scout at 13 was growing up around older guys and hearing lots of ‘off colored’ remarks. I will always remember our amazing scoutmaster, Ron, who at one point screamed at me for using foul language for the sake of hearing myself sound supposedly cool. Looking back my life was tremendously shaped by this 20 something Airman who lived in the real world but took a stand to help me see the need to be responsible for my actions, my language choices and be a man that didn’t bad mouth anyone, especially girls or women. 
So what has happened in today’s political and celebrity world where it’s ok to be lewd, crude and downright horrible? Why does being rich or in the spotlight give anyone the right to act in a way that has always been WRONG? Why do we continue to make excuses for someone assaulting another person whether that’s physical, sexual or emotional actions that puts another person’s life in huge jeopardy? If anything should be clear is that those who have succeeded in the world of the rich and famous context should rise above and be the ones that are responsible in how they use their wealth to help and not harm another human being! 
I think most guys that played sports in high school or college have memories of guys talking rather off the cuff about girls. The reality is that few truly believed deep down inside that it was ok to be crude and lewd! I hardly believed that this type of talk or boasting was ever ok. So why is it the case today that we allow those in the limelight to get away with making the excuse that this is just the way guys are and I really didn’t do anything wrong? Regardless of whether you are a former president or someone aspiring to the greatest office in the world? 
As I watch my grandson grow up in a social media driven society I don’t want him to grow up believing that woman are just objects to use, abuse and then discard. Yet, as long as the business community continues to pay women less for the same job as her male counterpart then the assumption is that women are less important. It’s true that society and the role of women have changed dramatically over the last generation. It’s true that my parents were part of a generation where the majority of women stayed at home to raise their kids while their husbands worked to provide. The reality today is that women do triple duty as being moms, breadwinners and typically the house cleaner too. So if anything men should be in awe of how capable their wives are in contrast to their willingness to watch too often instead of doing their fare share. 
So no more excuses or blame shifting with saying that boys will be boys or you know this is just how most men act. Instead wouldn’t it be amazing if men would stand up to protect their wives, daughters, sisters and moms by standing against such outright demeaning behavior. Imagine what would happen if it were men that fought for equal pay for their female counterparts in the marketplace? The HR director would go crazy if men were the ones making complaints about how other men were harassing the women in the office!
My mom would always reminded me that the best lesson I could teach my kids as they grew up was to respect their mom, my incredible wife. Sadly in today’s society too often its dad’s that teach their sons to behave in the boys will be boys’ fashion. It’s time for a revolution where dads will stand up for their wives and be the example to the up and coming generation. 
What would happen if locker room banter became talking about respecting women and choosing to make a difference in all people’s lives? 

The Struggle is Real!

After this presidential campaign season the old adage that the two things everyone must face in life is death and taxes will change. So the common ground for all is facing our own mortality and those who we love. This last week has been rather difficult for me as I remember the lives of my mom and dad who died in the same week in October but separated by six years. I know that time is supposedly going to help make life’s tragedy easier to handle but the reality is it doesn’t.

I have attempted over the last nine years of my life to do something special to remember my mom and dad. I do this not as an old man but as a kid and teen who grew up with some amazing stories with exceptional parents who taught me so much about life! It was my mom’s decade long struggle and journey with cancer that gave such me such a window into facing suffering. My dad’s journey with Dementia taught me so much about how important the simple things in life should be!

As I relate back to a close friend who recently lost his daughter I know that the shock and heartache will continue for a lifetime. The question is whether I can purposely come to grips with the beauty and mystery of life in death! The premature birth of our first daughter brought use very close to a daily struggle as to whether she would live another day. Late night calls from her primary doctor or nurse in the ICU about our daughter’s near death episodes left us on an emotional roller coaster for a year plus.

Suffering is different for everyone but becomes a window into our souls and how we value our life and relationships with family, friends and even strangers. My dad’s journey with slowly losing his ability to remember taught me the importance of reassuring him that I would always return and that my good-bye was never final. I learned over time that the details for him weren’t important but choosing to sit with him or share something as simple as a milkshake made his day. The rich memories I cherish come back to just watching my dad who becomes like a kid in the final leg of his journey.

As I’m sitting in a coffee shop taking in the story that is showcased by a group of pictures taken by my brother while in Rio that highlight the story of kids that have grown up in the Favelas (dump cities) I realize how fortunate I have been in my life. I can’t fathom what it would be like to live and die as a homeless youth that has figured how to make life happen in the midst of a real struggle to exist! Yet, the message behind these photos is that life can transcend any setting and be rich, meaningful and exciting. The challenge and obstacle is that too often we allow materials things or wants to distract us from what’s really important in life.

As I talked to my good friend who had just lost his daughter to a very tragic death I understood that words don’t help when it comes to comforting someone! It’s best to listen and affirm. The last thing one should ever do is to make some bizarre statement like God needed your kid, spouse or grandparent in heaven to help. I know that it’s also easy to say that now they’re not suffering anymore and doing oh so much better. Yet, the truth of the matter is that you can’t lessen the heartache or struggle with these types of platitudes!

The truth of the matter is that the struggle is real and at times bad things do happen to good people and at times it appears that bad people seem to escape from tragedy and heartache.  The most reassuring fact for my friend and myself is that we have an amazing God who is more than able to comfort and help with the big questions in life.

Yes! I miss my mom and dad who played such a crucial part of my life, yet I know that ultimately one day my son and daughters might be caring for their father who might also have Dementia. So choose to be kind and understanding and most all learn how to become a good listener!

Monday, October 3, 2016

Fact Check – why do we continue to watch injustice and do little or nothing?

 I’m not sure whether the notion of fact checking was a reality when I was in college or grad school. We live in a world where being honest and transparent is no longer the expected norm but one’s ability to skirt the truth or avoid being exposed for some foolish choices twenty years ago is applauded. So the great opportunity today as we face ongoing racial clashes, police misusing their authority, ongoing sexism, classism and discrimination is to intentionally do something instead of watching the world go by.

Clearly Mr. Trump’s unwillingness to reveal his tax records for the last 20 plus years might have something to do with fact checking how charitable he truly happens to be and the implications that has for someone to be president. It’s so easy for everyone to jump on various bandwagons to judge and point the finger. Yet, the truth happens to be that I’m not that generous or caring when it comes to how far I choose to go in seeking real solutions to the injustices that happen around me all of the time.

One of my heroes when it comes to facing injustice and tyranny is Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  Here was a young pastor that was living in the midst of the 3rd Reich seeking to rule the world and eradicate a race of people. The fact that most Christians and Pastors in the United States didn’t have the means we have today via the Internet or real fact checking so sadly too many stood by and pretended that waiting to see what was happening was all right. The reality is that the silence of millions in the face of this type of injustice saw tragically millions of Jews slaughtered by a leader that believed he was totally invincible.

Pastor Bonhoeffer was a gifted and prolific author that had a passion for ethics and living in such a way that God was truly honored by our life choices. As he faced the downfall of the church in Germany he came to a stark conclusion that he had to do something to stop the atrocities from continuing.  He understood that to not speak out or take action was equal with being part of the war and eradication of the Jewish Race.  So Pastor Bonhoeffer chose to be part of a group that planned the assignation of Adolf Hitler.  Dietrich was willing to risk his own life for the sake of his Church and his country.

I know that many today would say that our country has lost the ability to see clearly when it comes to racial discrimination or racial profiling both in the African American or Hispanic Communities. We have become a country where too often fear and hatred drive us to either ignore the pandemic issues or seek unlawful means to express our views that sees more violence and hatred instead of pursuing a path that can see understanding and reconciliation as the goal.

Just like high blood pressure can be the silent killer amongst many the assumption that your choice not to enter the dialogue about race, classism, and immigration is acceptable also becomes the threat to seeing injustice continue in our communities and country. There has to be a path to open dialogue and positive actions that can bring justice where there has been real discrimination, hatred and misunderstanding for too long.  Sadly we have become the silent majority that have watched the loud voices of the minority act out on the key issues that face our communities today.

Don’t misunderstand me because all voices need to be heard, appreciated and considered! We live in a pluralistic society where we have the freedom to pursue our various faiths or non-faith based life views. The difficulty is that too often we have become totally isolated in our settings where we don’t see the real world around us. We can live in a vacuum or bubble that is unable to see the injustices around us.

The real choice is to stand up, speak out and do something! Clearly there may not be unanimity amongst everyone but I truly believe that we can discover a path where all lives do have value and can be given opportunities to make their lives special regardless of who is president!