Blog Post # 101 – A Lack of Empathy

When did we lose it?

Compassion for our fellow human beings.

Empathy for the suffering of another.

Sharing some of ours so others can survive.

Anger is the emotion that seems to drive our collective engine these days.

So many angry people running around.

Us versus them has reached new heights.

Let me have mine, but don’t give him or her any.

A hardness of the heart.

A lack of sympathy for our brothers and sisters.

Is there another way?

What if we viewed the suffering of those we know and those we don’t know as our problem too?

What if instead of us versus them, our mindset was “we” and “all of us”?

Idealistic, perhaps.

But the hate and the venom and the anger is eating us from the inside out.

We have so much to be grateful for, if only we can see it.

If only we can turn off our devices, breathe deeply and center ourselves.

Centered around the notion that we have abundance.

We have what we need.

We are safe. And tomorrow will be okay.

Blog Post # 100 – The Streak, and The Day After

Cal Ripken played 2,632 games in a row for the Baltimore Orioles.

The man did not miss a game for 16 years.

In doing so, he demolished the record previously held by baseball’s Iron Horse, Mr. Lou Gehrig.

Gehrig had played 2,130 consecutive games. Many had considered Gehrig’s record to be unbreakable.

And Ripken didn’t just show up. He had 3,184 hits and 431 home runs – very high numbers for historic shortstop.

But Cal will always be remembered for showing up every day ready to go to work.

He may have been playing a boy’s game, but he played it at the highest level through four Presidential cycles.

Consistency.

Determination.

Iron will.

You have to think that Cal Ripken often didn’t feel like going to work.

That his body ached. Yet he kept on coming.

For me, I can put my head down and keep going. My wife has helped me develop that skill.

Fasting during Ramadan has helped me too. Running as well.

My problem is the day after the streak. If I run every day for thirty days and then take a day off, I find it very hard to get back started.

I bring this up on the 100th posting for this blog.

Obviously, sitting at a computer every morning for 100 days is a far cry from playing in 2,632 consecutive baseball games.

Still though, I am glad to have the streak. Interesting to contemplate what would happen if I missed a day.

Blog Post # 99 – What Do You Say …

What do you say …

To the man who gave you everything?

The man who never struck you once despite a childhood of physical abuse from his own father.

The man who enlisted in the Marine Corps at the age of 17 after his father died, yet never wanted you to have to fight in a war.

The man who never finished high school, but is one of the smartest people that you know.

The man who started at the bottom of an engineering firm, lugging survey instruments all over the place so that the engineers could get their measurements, yet rose to be the vice-president of marketing for that firm.

The man who worked a full day at the office and then left the house after dinner to construct decks on the side in order to make extra money to send you and your sisters to excellent high schools.

The man who took his experience in marketing, left his safe VP job and rolled the dice on himself and a business partner that he didn’t really know that well.

The man who helped grow the new architectural and engineering firm from 3 employees to more than 150, who earn good livings doing important work.

The man who married the love of his life and stayed loyal and married to her for now 48 years.

The man who rejected the years of racial hatred that his father tried to beat into him, instead becoming a brother to his business partner, who happens to be African-American.

The man who continued loving you even after you left the religion that he had helped raise you in.

The man who suffered a massive heart attack when he was 40 years old, yet soldiered on – giving up cigarettes and changing his eating and his lifestyle – to keep fighting, keep living and to just celebrate his 75th birthday.

What do you say …

I think you start by saying thank you.  But that seems so insufficient.

Actually, it is pretty easy to figure out what to say.  You say, and you pray, that when you grow up, that you get to be just like him.

Your example.  Your true north.  Your dad.

 

Blog Post # 98 – Forget Defeat

Anger flashes.

People disappoint.

Judge denies.

Colleague quits.

Kids yell.

Tire flattens.

Rain falls.

Time expires.

Dream collapses.

All around us, things don’t go our way.

How we respond to adversity is one of the most important determinants of whether we succeed in life or fail.

We must focus, we must press on, we must persevere.

All those things that didn’t happen – all those hopes dashed – so what?

Head held high, we carry on.

We carry on because we are more than the sum of our setbacks.

We are strong.

We are mighty.

We are bigger than all of this.

These setbacks are just minor hurdles as we strive towards our goal.

With confidence that, at the end of the race, we will have given our all.

Forget defeat.  It doesn’t exist.

Blog Post # 97 – Outsiders USA

When I was a senior in college, I was very late to register my second semester classes.

I had to hurry to pick classes right before the registration deadline and I ended up enrolling in a class called Outsiders USA.

I had no idea what I was getting into.

On the first day of class, our professor, Sr. Jean Kolken, gave us the syllabus.

Each week, we would study different minority groups in America.

Her so-called Outsiders USA.

Over the course of the semester, we would study the history of Native Americans, African Americans, homosexuals, Asian Americans, those with disabilities and other Outsiders.

Now the interesting thing about this class for me was that I had spent my whole life with primarily white boys and girls in school.

And the vast majority of my fellow students were Roman Catholic.

I had never been the minority.

Plus, at the time, I considered myself to be a moderate Republican.

In this class, I was a minority ten times over.

I was one of 2 males out of 24.

I was one of the few Catholics.

And I was definitely the only Republican.

Sr. Jean and her Outsiders taught me a tremendous amount about the power imbalance in this country.

I learned, in a very small way, what it was like to be on the outside looking in.

I also came to understand that the whole world was not just white, Catholic and male-dominated.

The class really opened my eyes to be “the Other.” And I really grew.

Blog Post # 96 – Round 2

How do we react when things don’t go as planned?

Checking in on our responses to adversity is a superb way to monitor where we are mentally, physically and spiritually.

When we take the kinds of risk that we discuss on this blog, we are going to have setbacks.

Minor setbacks and major ones too.

What is our mindset when we hit those walls?

Do we throw up our hands and say, “why did I even try this?”

Maybe we have even more negative “tapes” that play in our heads ….

We are worthless.

We are stupid.

We look like an idiot.

These tapes can be deep-seated and debilitating.

But they do us no good.

Setbacks, hurdles, pushback. These are the natural consequences of us trying something new.

The world is not always ready or accepting of the risks that we take.

So what?

If we stumble and fall, we should think not of failure but rather opportunity.

An opportunity to do better the next time, to improve, to gather strength for Round 2.

Every day gives us another Round 2. Another chance.

There’s the bell. Will you answer it?

Blog Post # 95 – Safety is for Suckers

Risk.

Taking a chance.

Moving outside our comfort zone.

Letting go of a result.

This is what we are after. This is what we are called to do.

Sure we can toil along in our little, safe, hermetically-sealed environment.

Chug, chug, chug along to the monotonous beat of repetitive, safe work.

Lead an ordinary life with ordinary results.

Safe over here, scary over there. Way, way scary.

Screw that.

Safety is for suckers.

If we want to lead an extraordinary life, we need to do extraordinary things.

We need to push ourselves. To strive for more. To lean in and push.

Who said this was going to be easy?

Some academic chump who knows little about how the real world works.

Strive for more. Accept nothing less than greatness.

We need you to bring us your best.

Today and everyday.

So that at the end of your days, you can lie in your bed in the full knowledge that you did everything that you possibly could.

To lead the life of your dreams.

The life you were meant to live.

Not this poor man’s substitute, mediocre life you find yourself accepting far too often.

Go!

Blog Post # 94 – Unmasked

How many masks do we use?

A mask at work, a mask at home.

Our disguise, our cloak, our veil.

Clark Kent’s glasses.

The pretty girl with loads of makeup.

A happy face when we are truly defeated.

So many ways to hide our face, to shield our true identity.

What would it feel like to peel off our masks?

To let others know us – to really know us.

Too many of the world’s ills can be traced to folks refusing to be themselves.

Scared of their truth.

Masking it, covering it, hiding from it.

Directing their own self loathing towards others.

Making others pay for the hatred they have for themselves.

What if we just got to be.

To be who we are?

Unfiltered, uncovered, unmasked.

To let the sun shine on our unadorned face.

So that we can be.

Blog Post # 93 – Time is Ticking

Time is ticking.

Ticking on all of us.

Each one of us has a day with destiny.

For some of us, the day is coming soon.

For others, it could be years away.

What if we could know the day that we will take our last breath?

If there was a device or service that would tell us the day that you die?

Would we take advantage of that device or service?

Such an interesting dichotomy because we know that we are going to die.

No escaping it.

Yet we don’t know the precise day that we will leave this planet.

I believe most of us would choose not to know.

To stay unaware of the day of our demise.

Of course, no such device exists. At least not yet anyway.

So, we have to live today as if this is our last day here.

In my faith tradition, the leader often urges us to pray as if it is our final prayer.

Sobering, yes. But it infuses our day and our prayer with focus and urgency.

Focus and urgency is what we need.

Or we could just spend the day screwing around on our phones.

The day with destiny is coming. Perhaps much sooner than we anticipate.

Peace.

Blog Post # 92 – Breathe

When Ibrahim gets on the pitcher’s mound, he forgets to breathe.

My friend Alan and I noticed one time that he had not taken a breath between three or four pitches.

Alan yelled, “Breathe, Ibrahim.”

Ibrahim took a large breath, looked to the sky and threw a strike.

Sometimes, we forget the simple act of breathing.

Of waiting two seconds before responding to an unkind word.

And taking a breath before saying something.

Breathing deeply in through the nose, slowly exhaling through the mouth.

Three deep breaths in a row can alter our outlook a bit.

Our body needs the oxygen, obviously, but the slowing down and the centering that comes are their own benefits.

For today, let us be conscious of our breathing, aware of the miracle that we are able to breathe and to practice breathing and the centering that it provides.