Reflections on Half-a-Century (+)

As I washed up for the weekend and ensured I had my most whitest of my tighties cleaned for whatever might await me on the eve of my biggest day of the year – my birthday – I got to reflecting.

I reflected because I was reminded how lucky I am and how great things are for me. It was a clear moment for me and I thought, “I was money and I didn’t even know it.”  (Swingers) And though I haven’t been feeling so lucky as of late I pontificated about the years gone by and the pretty fabulous life I have lived and what has been bestowed upon me. My conclusion:

I am Blessed.

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My memories swirled through my head like an old 8mm film with the voice of Morgan Freeman narrating (as he always does in my head). My emotions rose like geysers gushing from the Earth  as I sorted through the laundry list of situations and loved ones that made me smile and cry. I peeked in on my sleeping kids and stood in the doorway for a moment – thinking of their futures and the guidance I have given them. And it really finally dawned on me that I am doing okay in life’s fast-paced game.

It isn’t that I don’t have challenges about bills, love, betrayal, or the likes (wait, that sounds like an episode of Empire); but it is the fact that I am still in my right mind to shift. Shift my being to something different. It isn’t a big shift, just a nudge, yet it gives way to those memories that reinforce the good that I have encountered.

So on this eve of me arriving on this planet I reflect on the following:

  • I have a great, supportive family full of love, joy, empathy, and faith.
  • I can smell the fresh summer rain outside my window and take it in like vitamins.
  • I live in a country where I can express my thoughts, feelings, and desires and not be crucified. ‘merica, dammit.
  • I have a nice roof over my head and the heads of my offspring. This blessing should never go unnoticed.
  • I ate a good healthy meal. And even if it wasn’t the healthiest it was still a meal worth eating.
  • I can anticipate the upcoming NFL season – with or without Colin Kaepernick (but I wish him well).

I can give love to my friends and I can receive it in return.

  • I have gained knowledge through education and observation.
  • I am able to work an honest shift and be proud of what I have accomplished.
  • I am can enjoy a great beer or glass of wine or even something harder from time-to-time.
  • And I can write…however I want to, whenever I want to, and to whomever I want to. We can all create something new, every day we are alive.

These few things give me pause as the clock strikes midnight and I go into celebratory mode. I will enjoy those things around me and I will look for the good in life – because I have the power to do so. And for this I am grateful.

Go well and with love good peeps.

And Happy Birthday to me. 🙂

 

If You Ain’t First…Yer Last

Apparently there is a debate brewing regarding participation trophies for kids in sports. I think Rick Bobby of Talladega Nights said it best – “If you ain’t first, yer last.” Or maybe what The Donald has said about losers and winners – “I like people who weren’t captured.” (The Donald on Losers) Or as a former boss of mine declared about people’s work product – “It’s not great it’s just work.”

So if these shining examples surround us how can we feel bad about a parent revoking Participation Trophies from his sons because he feels they should “earn” them?

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Hog wash.

If my child has participated in a sport (or any other activity) I believe they should be recognized for participating. If a child goes to the practice, learns the drills, participates in the plays, and does what is asked of him then why shouldn’t he be rewarded? Just because he may not be the most talented or the winner he should not be shunned for fear of leading him down the path of laziness.

Opponents of the practice to award kids participation trophies might say: a) it teaches kids they don’t have to work for anything in life; b) you have to earn everything in life (hello – this is false!!); c) it doesn’t teach kids about winning and losing; or d) kids will not know life isn’t fair. (Do We All Deserve A Gold? Setting kids up to fail. – Post published by Vivian Diller Ph.D. on Nov 19, 2011 in Face It)

However, I would argue these ideas with the following:

  • Is it wrong to reward a child for trying or is a pat on the back sufficient?
  • Is it so bad to encourage a child to participate in anything by recognizing their efforts to do so?
  • Shouldn’t the parents take the responsibility to tell their child that they just aren’t good enough?
  • And why does a parent have to crush a child’s ego by expressing the child doesn’t have the talent to participate in a given sport?
  • Don’t we reward participation for junior varsity and varsity sports?
  • Will kids really not understand that life isn’t fair? Hello…I’m a Black man living in America…I think it becomes obvious at some point that life is far from fair.
  • Finally, if you look at the very successful people of today they didn’t reach their level of success because of their talent but because of their success to nurture relationships.

These are the reasons why rewarding some kid a medal for participating will not hurt them as they come up in the world. In a way it will hopefully motivate them to become better. Heck, it’s better than the child sitting home all day playing games. And let’s be honest, the ole pat-on-the-back just ain’t cutting it like it used to – then again, in our jobs we would all be so lucky to get that pat-on-the-back.

Go well and with love good peeps.

Deflate-Gate and the American Way

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It’s all good until you get busted. What harm is a lil white lie? What if I just bust Nancy on her kneecap taking her out of the Championship Skating routine? What harm is it if I drive at 60 in a 55?

All the above is what we do to gain an advantage or to discredit another. Ultimately it’s all about us. Therefore, the little lies and cheating we do on a daily basis all in the name of self-preservation are acceptable, right?

Yes, of course they are justified. We all can’t be Mother Theresa.

The truth is, whether the New England Patriots altered the air in the footballs or the footballs were sabotaged, many of us try to push the envelope of honesty and integrity. We all try to find ways to gain a competitive edge in what we do whether it be work, sports, or other things. Most of the time we hope many of these, ahem, questionable practices go unnoticed. We definitely hope not to go to jail or be fined for our discretion. Yet, we continue to do it.

You can’t handle the truth!

Probably not. If there are Aliens walking among us I’m not sure I want to know that truth. Or if I dated a she that used to be a he then I’d rather go to my grave not knowing. But if our actions are purely self-preservation then I think the truth has a more relevant place in our lives than not.

I attempt to carry myself in a way that I can be proud. I have always been wired this way. I try not to judge someone who does not but it remains a challenge. Ultimately, if you are unethical or somewhat dishonest in the decisions you make then you should own up to those things. I do drive over the speed limit. I understand the risk by doing this and I accept it. That does not make it right either. Therefore, shame on me.

Own up to those questionable instances where you are not as forthcoming. Or is this just human nature and we cannot overcome these things unless we lived in a Utopian society? If this is the case then it does sound like a cop-out. And if it is a cop-out who do we have to blame? And who decides what white lies are acceptable?

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Our dilemma as a society is we live in a world where people are less willing to take responsibility, people are constantly pushing the limits to fairness and equality, and many of us are driven by doing things that can be interpreted as ethically questionable. However we choose to live our lives we only have to accept the truth – and that’s how we each decide to live out our own lives. Only God will judge us.

But make sure you just don’t get caught.

Go well and with love good peeps.

The 2003 Cubs Collapse as a Microcosm of Life

I was thinking, as I always do and it usually lands me in hot water, about the 2003 Cubs and how the resulting Steve Bartman interference caused the impending doom of the team to reach the World Series. Everything unraveled in such a way that it was like watching a train wreck – you couldn’t take your eyes off of it and you knew the ending was not going to be pretty. And today is that infamous anniversary of this train wreck.

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However, the biggest issue surrounding this collapse was blaming Bartman for starting the butterfly effect. We’ll never know whether it was Bartman or not but humans are notorious for blaming (me included). And it is a very difficult task to overcome. To refresh your memory; Bartman reaches out for a foul ball as most baseball fans would’ve done – this causes fan interference – runs score and the Cubs lose the game – the next game the Cubs lose again – no World Series. This was further complicated as the Cubs were up 3 games to 2. So close and yet…

So what about life? If an action I take sets some mystical aura in motion that then has an impact on your life am I truly the conduit for the change / impact to your life or am I merely a part of the process? If we were predestined to follow the paths we do in life (unbeknownst to us) then is it really my fault for setting in motion those events that change your life? Or is it just life and your ability to deal with the changes?

Many of us will say it’s our inability to accept the changes that we are dealt and we should be stronger in doing so. Yet, we don’t truly believe this for ourselves because we continue to assert blame in various ways.

We blame the President for a bad economy although the motions for a bad economy were ever looming. Wives blame husbands for their discontent when it might be more to the matter. Children blame parents for the way in which they behave. Nations blame nations for tragic and unfortunate circumstances impacting their individual citizens.

In some cases the responsibility clearly lies with the firestarter – such as Hitler where we can all agree he was the culprit. Yet, life is full of choices. The choice to follow someone like a Hitler. Or another example is slavery. Many blacks were forced to come over on slave ships. And we all agree there is some blame for the African-American’s plight to overcome. Yet, many people feel that by now blacks should’ve already overcome. Take responsibility. Yet, there were so many other elements to add into the history and mix that make this almost an impossible scenario to accept the singularly responsible trigger.

So we stay hypocritical in aspects of life in which we can relate and we stand resolute on our beliefs in other circumstances where we do not comprehend. We are complex individuals no doubt, but ultimately it comes down to choice. And the choices we make can be deadly (to ourselves or families), might be wrong (Sarah Palin as a running mate), or cause more madness about us. But we do have to accept that our responsibility in all this does matter and has unseen consequences.

Are you willing to totally accept your own responsibility and the butterfly effect you have on life or are you still prone to think other individual’s actions are the reason you are where you are in life with mountaining barriers to overcome? The choice is yours, but choose you must. Good luck with that.

Go well and with love good peeps.

Greatness Abounds in All of Us

Derek Jeter’s recent act towards retirement ended in his game winning walk-off homerun. This was an amazing act almost to the script of his career. He will go down as one of the best shortstops in the history of Major League Baseball (MLB). All the while I thought to myself – that’s nice, but each of us has some greatness or great moment within us. Yes we do!

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Whether you had your great moment when you were a teen or you are 80 greatness must be available for everyone. God wouldn’t have it any other way.

I can’t imagine there is no one on this Earth that presumes they don’t have it in them. I would challenge each and every one of us whether this to be true.

I don’t write this just to instill positivity in your day, which is easy to do when you are pumping up individuals concerning greatness, but it is the truth. I want my kids to understand their ability to be great. I want my nieces and nephews to know that they are great. I want my cousins and friends to realize the greatness in them.

Greatness is not reserved just for the likes of Derek Jeter. It is available and recognized for all.

And when you build on that great moment as Jeter has his entire career you come away with greatness beyond measure. A beautiful thing when you are paving your own road of life. But you don’t stop at one moment of greatness, although it is nice to reflect, but you catapult yourself to the next. Then to the next moment, and so on and so on until you look back and you smile at all of the great things you have accomplished. There is nothing wrong with admiring the road you traveled. It was YOUR road and YOU deserve to reflect on how you made. Some might even say, “Glory to God!” for the path they took.

Do not sell yourself short of your greatness. Do not boast about your ability to be great. Do not expect greatness to just appear in your life. You…just do it. (Sorry Nike, the phrase fit well.)

Greatness will follow the hard work you put in. It will show up at your doorsteps when you least expect it. It will follow you in life if you dedicate yourself to doing what is right.

And now, as I prepare my kids for school and life I am reminded of their opportunities for greatness. I am only here to clear the paths and allow them to be. They have already done some great things at their young ages, thus, we can all look back and tie these moments together creating a collective string of greatness. In the end they will appreciate their accomplishments and will hopefully continue to build on them.

Therefore, take this as encouragement for yourself – even if you don’t need it – but go out and be great.

Go well and with love good peeps.

Don’t Rain on my Parade

I admit I’m not the most positive guy in the world, yet I’m not the most cynical, either. However, I recently had a moment of clarity that hit me like a bolt of lightening. It took me by surprise. The conversation started out innocently enough but took a turn for the worse. It didn’t reach a level of animosity or tension just an uncomfortable inward acknowledgement (to myself) that I no longer wanted to be in the conversation. And what was unfolding before my very ears was negative rain on an innocent accomplishment by precious kids – the Little League World Series US team – Jackie Robinson West All-Stars.

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For those of you out of the loop – Chicago’s own JRW team won the right to represent the US in the title game against South Korea. JRW lost in the title game but the story spread for a couple of weeks as the team made an impact on the city of Chicago and presumably across the nation. It was uplifting to see these innocent 13 year olds compete. The city needed a feel-good story given all of the violence surrounding it and the JRW team was comprised of some kids from the same neighborhoods experiencing the violence. There were other positive stories that surfaced in the aftermath and kept the city buzzing. (JRW T-Shirt Sales by Dick’s Sporting Goods) Thus, the jubilation and attention given the story.

However, there were individuals that were not so excited to hear the story. Other individuals just grew tired of the attention. Whatever the case there were people out there that became annoyed with the limelight these kids were experiencing.

And this is when I thought, “Really? We can’t celebrate this great accomplishment from these kids and put a positive meaning behind it?” 

Maybe that’s what’s wrong with the world – the truly magnificent accomplishments get lost because of the commercialization process that takes place. And other not-so-magnificent stories rise to the top because of the sensationalism attached to them. It might be time to right the wrongs.

I for one was pretty happy to see the accomplishment – even as it took off to unprecedented levels here in my fair city. It was refreshing to hear news of this feat and how the kids became temporary celebrities. The smiles on their faces was priceless and the air across the city was captivating.

We should all have moments where we can latch onto the good. Take a look around and observe your surroundings. Eye a good story and cherish it. Focus on those positive situations and relish in their aura. Many of us don’t take the time to do this as much as we should. Some of us will even accentuate the negative before pointing out the positive. If you are one of those type of people do us all a favor and keep your negative thoughts to yourself. Let the rest of us enjoy our parades.