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Magic wanding

If you exhaust all of your options for fun or challenging mental exercises, I have one that may be educational as well as entertaining. It occurred to me that it might be quite an experience to have one minute, no more and no less, with every person whom you have known. In order to make it more meaningful, the list would not include chance meetings on a train or bus. They would be people with whom you had spent a year or more.

The presentation can take at least two forms. First, you could do it alphabetically. Anderson would precede Brown and Brown would precede Carmichael, etc. The revisit mechanism that I am envisioning would present all of your contacts, in linear alphabetic order.

Another logical pattern would be chronological. We could begin at kindergarten and allow your minute with every adult whom you encountered from the age of five, to the present.

Now that the logistics are in place, here are a few thoughts to consider. With the advantage of years since you met and shared space with these people, what would you say? Would you want or need the interaction to be positive or illuminating? Or in some cases, would you want to tell this person how you really feel after many years of having considered those feelings?

From my standpoint, a number of outcomes materialize. This would be an opportunity to tell a high school English teacher that his passion and energy resulted in my most important life paths. It would also enable me to tell my first love that I understand why our relationship ended but my feelings never changed. And most profoundly, it would provide a means to tell my cherished mom how much strength I have derived from her wisdom.

Fill in your own blanks. What would you say to someone who wronged you and would it constitute forgiveness or one last epithet? And what expectations do you have of those who now have another minute with you?

Although the likelihood of this magic wand episode is non-existent, it’s a tantalizing thought. A critical component is the one-minute limit. For those who don’t believe in eternal life after death, one-time brief communication could be a golden gift. Shalom.

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Our country’s music

Growing up in Chicago, we had very little affection or appreciation for country music. At that time, peer pressure was enormous and no-one we knew or acknowledged had ever listened to country music, much less complimented it.

Since that time, tastes change, understandings change and only recently (five to ten years?) have I realized how important this genre is to music and our population in general. My appreciation always favors traditional values and doing the right thing. This practice not only generates maximum good to the universe; but also, it provides a center and foundation for everything in which I believe.

While we spent much of our listening time to Beatle adventures in musical experimentation, veneration of popular drugs or mindless repetitive lyrics, much of country music avoids all of these. As compared to other genres, country wants and expects you to listen to the lyrics, many of which espouse very basic (American) values.

For example, most of the songs I hear that reference love also allude to wedding rings, visiting the local preacher and changing the names of ladies who are the targets of that love. Clearly, we have an appreciation for the institution of marriage and living according to plan.

Occasionally, we have digressions that relate to broken hearts, beer bottles and beaches replete with margaritas and senoritas. But for the majority of music that I hear, we respect our mamas, our pasts and all of those lessons that we were taught.

If we are sincere about teaching the difference between right and wrong, it’s everywhere in country music. If we want to hear refrains of patriotism and serving our country, we can tune into Toby Keith, Willie Nelson or George Strait.

Those who are resolute about heavy metal, classical or anything in between, enjoy. But I’m happy that we have a place to visit that sounds like Mom, the flag and apple pie. Life feels pretty good there. Shalom.

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Baseball reality

There’s something about little league that brings out the best and worst in big and little people. For the most part, the kids who are playing in little league are usually supportive, forgiving and encouraging. They are not modeling this behavior from or for the adults in attendance. These are observers who are often rowdy, pouty and totally without softheartedness.

We teach the good lessons and the kids get them. Be good sports. Cheer for your team members. Overcome defeat with grace and class. It’s easy to see how they bolster each other and promise success at the next at bat.

Parents, on the other side of the plate, expect perfection. It was my misfortune to listen to one of them completely destroy his son’s composure. “Your fielding needs work, you’re not paying attention and your swing is pathetic.” In spite of being an absolutely non-violent person, I wanted to punch him.

It would be a promising idea to let kids be kids. He doesn’t bat like an MLB all-star because he’s only 14. And if you spend all that time correcting, where’s the fun for anyone? Don’t forget that it takes courage to get out there and give it your all in the first place.

Happily, the coaches are usually on the plus side of the baseball equation. They predict successes, promote individuals and rarely show disappointment. It’s difficult to believe that they are simultaneously parents and coaches to the little leaguers.

Can it be that this has been little league since the beginning of the sport? Have mothers always yelled at umpires to address their vision impairments? Most of this ancillary baseball behavior from years ago remains undocumented. We can only hope for not taking performance personally and for promoting partnership. Shalom.

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The price for free speech

Those of us who watched the response of a TV network to the unfortunate and irresponsible remarks of Roseanne Barr probably had a wide assortment of feelings about the event. Should she have made the comments that she did? Does freedom of speech allow her to say whatever she feels at the expense of whomever she references?

We can all have our opinions about whether or not Rosanne’s remarks were appropriate or inappropriate. Ultimately, I submit that the accuracy of her statement is not the issue. Most of us learned from an early age, if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

It’s interesting but not germane to the discussion that Rosanne apologized for her remarks. By the time she did and by the time that her show was canceled, many millions of people had read the tweet and she accomplished disseminating the information that she wanted to spread.

Is social media an excuse to distribute ugly remarks? It appears that there is no agency that monitors or censors anything and everything that goes out on social media. If I chose this medium to spout nastiness about someone or something, the chances are reasonably good that no-one would prevent its publication. My guess, however, is that my followers who are accustomed to my positive observations and conclusions would object or check out entirely.

What’s the point of all this, you ask? Let’s talk more about the golden rule than we do the right to free speech or any other constitutional guarantee. Someone recently mentioned to me that we can’t use the term, “golden rule” in the schools any more because of the need to keep religion out of the educational system. My feeling about this is that the mandate is garbage although I will follow the guidelines to the best of my ability while still teaching the concept of treating others as you want to be treated.

Before you suggest that someone resembles an ape, think about how you would feel if were said to you. We all know that opinions are like kidneys – everybody has at least one. Sometimes it’s better to keep opinions and kidney references to yourself. Shalom.

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Events large and small

Flying home within the last few days, I thought of and began to appreciate events that we have experienced on our paths. When we were younger (or much younger), the identities of “big events” were quite different from what they are now.

For example, I remember looking forward to the first big freeze so that I could try out my cousin’s hand-me-down ice skates. Having socks stuffed in the toes didn’t matter at all – being on ice was a special yearly ritual.

The same was true for snowmen, hopscotch, hula hoop contests and spelling bees. We eagerly anticipated new spiral notebooks for the school year, covering our textbooks with brown bags and waiting to see which of our friends were in our classes.

Right now, many of these sound pretty mundane. Big events consist of family reunions, planning for a month-long Europe journey in the far-off future and the steps involved in publishing a book. Somehow it seems rather sad that big events generally become costly, complicated and challenging.

Maybe I’ll buy a few spiral notebooks and a package of number two pencils. It may develop into an occasion to bake cupcakes, after which I can dust them with colored sprinkles.

Redefining happiness will most likely create more occasions for it to materialize. Let’s just call it going to the past in order to enlarge and enhance the present and future. Shalom.

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Pulling and pushing

During the last few days in the classroom, I was witness to some remarkable results with respect to children with special or extra needs. The teachers for whom I was working had left notes in each case that included expectations of my having challenges with these children.

Yesterday was the most striking of my realizations. My student whom I’ll call Brandon was labeled as “severely autistic” and likely to demonstrate behavior that would be a distraction. Brandon entered the room with his classmates and quietly sat down at his desk to color.

This was one of those classes that had an inability to sit still, remain quiet or follow instructions without thirty or more repetitions. Add to that some physical bullying, copious tears and the ubiquitous tattle-tales. (Do we have a more contemporary title for that phenomenon? Could it be peer data reporting?)

Throughout all of this unrest, Brandon stayed completely to himself, at times rolling back and forth on the floor. Eventually he approached my desk and asked if he could join me. Smiling, I welcomed him and continued to speak to him in a very soft voice.

Compared to the teacher in the next room whom I heard all day, bellowing as if in a crowded amphitheater or rodeo, I remained soft-spoken, particularly with Brandon. The students may not have remained in the straight line demanded by my colleague, but listened when necessary, hugged me at the end of the day and generally displayed their hopes to see me again.

Brandon was the least of my concerns, maybe because I pulled him into my field of trust instead of pushing him into any specific behavior. While I experience my share of difficult and troubling classroom management events, I couldn’t help but believe that pulling worked much better than pushing. Maybe our world’s anger issues might also be handled with these strategies. Shalom.

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Social conscience

As we drove by a vacant lot this morning, we noticed a corner of that lot that was filled with trash, including a discarded mattress. The last time we had passed that lot it was filled with cars waiting to be sold but the cars had been removed and some unthinking and socially irresponsible idiot decided to use the lot as a landfill.

It always disturbs me when I see my fellow citizens behaving stupidly or without any concern for the rest of us. These are the unconscious who flick their cigarette butts out of their windows, especially when we are in the middle of a drought. They are the dog walkers who pay no attention to collecting their dogs’ waste. And they are the shoppers who push shopping carts all the way home, leaving them in an alley or nearby park.

For fear of sounding sanctimonious, I continue to wonder how and where these folks were educated relative to good sense and social conscience. It also makes me wonder how these citizens would react to the shopping carts being left on their front lawns or dogs making deposits where their children play.

The golden rule continues to be one of the most important lessons we can practice and promote. Because it is a rule that I teach and observe, I challenge anyone to question its relevance or timeliness.

The most pertinent version is that we are not alone in our world and it’s mandatory to behave in ways that we want for ourselves. When you are in a hurry to check out at your superstore, imagine how it feels to have the person behind you shoving their cart into your back. If you understand that, you might want to refrain from jostling the person ahead of you, no matter where you are. Shalom.

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Promises

No matter our financial condition, age, education or social status, the one immutable gift we can all give to others is our word. This takes infinite forms. If you say that you will be somewhere at a specific time, I believe that you will be there. If you indicate that you will complete a particular task, I am certain that you will do so. And most importantly, if you are my friend, I can rely on your friendship.

Likewise, my word reflects who I am and the values that I live. Somewhere, at least in my world, the imperative to keep promises and fulfill obligations has become compromised.

Promising to pay for services received is a critical obligation. Answering communications on a timely basis is a courtesy not subject to interpretation. And committing to business endeavors and activities must be as binding a decision as a written contract.

Sadly, this is not the world I observe. Didn’t we tell our children not to call each other names? Regardless of the game, it’s critical to play fair and not bully others. Broken promises are exactly like spam. No-one wants or needs them, they don’t serve any purpose and they are worthy of deletion. Shalom.

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Write Your Own Salary Increase

The value that you bring to your organization is measured by your impact on either the company environment as a whole or on the bottom line – or both.

Your employer won’t increase your earnings except on the basis of how you impact his (or her) productivity, image or self-esteem.

If you have done everything that is intrinsic to excellent performance, you will never need to ask for a pay raise – it will be inevitable. What forms does a pay raise take?  Earnings, equity, retirement, management.

How are your accomplishments best measured: internally or externally? Both. What does “write your own pay raise” truly mean?  Is it to define your position within the organization as well as determining your income?  Of course, both.

Why does an organization need someone who is capable of designing his or her own role within that organization? These are the people who initiate change, growth and profitability. What is the alternative (if any) to writing your own pay raise? Waiting and hoping.

What liabilities are implied by the authority to writing your own pay raise? Leadership, ingenuity, loyalty, identity as active participant in organization. What responsibilities are implied? Continued initiative, management potential, product development.

For those who seek to have control over their careers, displaying creativity and initiative in a receptive corporate setting will generally produce better consequences than mediocrity.  Shalom

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Read between the signs

If you are fortunate enough to live in Colorado as I do, you are undoubtedly aware of the majestic Rocky Mountains and the remaining spell-binding scenery that we have available to us. Many have heard me state that every day is one of beauty when I can look at our mountains and see how they change.

On the most recent trip to the less-publicized western part of this state, I (thankfully) became aware of many sights that I had previously not seen. Of course, I have the luxury of observing everything around me as a passenger rather than a driver. And by no means do I suggest that drivers lose focus on the road and road signs.

Everything between the signs constitutes the next dimension of appreciating our surroundings. For example, I saw a sign reading, “Pick ‘Cots – $1.00.” The western slope is full of fruit orchards, including cherries, apricots and peaches. The endless fields are beautiful to me and I received the sign as an invitation to participate in the richness of this fruit-filled world.

Another part of the journey furnished a barnyard comprised of donkeys and goats. While this seemed to be an unusual fraternity, the animals didn’t realize that they were potential adversaries. They grazed and brayed, soaking up the same sunshine that I absorbed. They may have idiosyncrasies that make them less common than cattle or sheep but this farmer created a welcoming domicile.

The road signs aren’t very entertaining but the sights between them definitely are. Find a way to pick some ‘cots. Spend an hour or two sipping regional wine and watching the wind blow through the trees that freckle our mountains. Take some time, wave at the folks in small towns who wave at you and notice the tiny pieces that make our world a treasure. Shalom.