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Friday, March 29, 2013

The value of Life

In today's Americana, we are bombarded with materialism.  So much importance placed on things. If an alien visited our country, he would be led to believe that our stuff is the source of our happiness.  Whether it be TV commercials or peer pressure it's all about the latest and greatest You have to have the best clothes, the best car, the biggest TV, the newest I phone, the trendiest purse, chicest hair do, and on, and on.  We amass mountains of things that once out of style become absolutely worthless.  It seems, according to pop culture, that the only meaningful goal in life is to sit atop the biggest mansion with the most things in it.  All the while we are lonely and hollow on the inside.

Recently, several of my friends faced very dire paths in their lives.  It really brought back many memories of life and death occurrences that I've face over the years.  There was the time that my youngest had contracted meningitis.  He was only six years old.  We spent a week in Children's Hospital and because of the fear of the disease only close family and one couple came to visit.  It was a lot of time to think about what was important.  I assure you we didn't worry about our hair, or clothes, or any popular TV shows.  The bills and well being of our bank account were the farthest things from our minds.  All that mattered was the life of our little boy.  Another time was at Winter Camp.  I received a phone call from the wife that my Grandfather would be taken off of life support. Possibly the lowest point in my parenting career was giving that news to my Sons in the lunch line.  We left camp with their merit badge work only half done, but all that mattered was being with family as my Grandfather left this life. I've also had the privilege of help others in their time of need. When driving a friend to get their child out of jail, the discussion never turned to the newest mall in town. When standing with a fatherless boy that faces censure for breaking school rules, the young man never brought up the coolest band.  Watching a friend bury a child never brings to mind all the gifts purchased for Christmas.

In the end you won't be remembered for the material things you've acquired in this life.  Shortly, after your death whatever Earthly possessions you have will be divided up or sold off.  But it's your intangible relationships that will define your legacy.  Your memory will only be carried on by those you touched at the heart of their being.  Your spirit will live on in the lives of those who see you as someone to emulate.  Which brings up the harsh question, how many people have you impacted in this brief life?  Who have you poured your love, knowledge, spirit, attitude, and very life into?  Hopefully, it's more than just your family.  There's a whole world out there desperate for love. There's a generation desperate for your knowledge.  Thousands of people who need rescue from there depression by your generous spirit.  If you truly value your life you will pour it into others so it can live on long after your mortal body fades. That is a truly valuable life indeed.

"When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, 'I used everything you gave me.'"  Erma Bombeck

Monday, March 25, 2013

To fly with Eagles Wings

In all my ranting about my Son making Eagle and my push of my younger Son, who is now at Star, I didn't realize how many people don't understand the significance of making Eagle Scout. First, a little background noise for you.  Scouting was started in Britain by Robert Baden-Powell, in 1907.  Baden-Powell was a Lieutenant General in the British Army.  When he returned from the Boer Wars, he saw the need to teach young boys the skills needed to survive on their own.  He led a group of boys to Brownsea Island in August of 1907 and Boy Scouting was begun. Then, according to legend, William D. Boyce, an American newspaper man, was lost in the London fog. A young scout helped him find his way, when Boyce turned to tip the boy the young man refused. He said it was his duty as a Scout.  Boyce came back to America and began the Boy Scouts of America in 1910.  In 1912 the BSA awarded it's first Eagle Scout rank to Arthur Rose Eldred.  A few years later it was decided that there should be a program for younger boys.  So Cub Scouting was created based on a very popular book in 1911 called, "Jungle Book" by Rudyard Kipling.

To earn the rank of Eagle a boy must complete a long list of achievements.  Most boys began their Boy Scout career at 11 or 12.  Boys earning their Arrow of Light in Cub Scouting can "cross over" as early as 10 1/2.  Boys are required to move up a system of Ranks.  These ranks all have different requirements and challenge boys at skills.  The ranks in order are; Scout, Tenderfoot, Second Class, First Class, Star, Life, and Eagle. Star, Life, and Eagle require merit badges as well as skills. By the time a boy is ready to make Eagle he must have a total of 21 merit badges, 12 of which are Eagle required.  Once all of these requirements are complete, a boy has to complete an Eagle service project.  The project must benefit the community and the boy has to be the leader of the project.  Once this is done, the boy will then face his final Scoutmaster Conference.  Then his paperwork his sent off, approved, then sent back.  At this point the boy must face his Eagle Board of Review.  This is a review by a panel of Scout leaders.  The boy must prove to this panel that not only has he done all these things mentioned above, but that he is a leader and instills the core values of Scouting.  I've had the privilege of sitting on about a dozen of these boards and it is beyond intense.  All of this must happen before a boy's 18th birthday.  Despite the brisk overview of the requirements, make no mistake, we push these boys to their limits.It takes between 4 and 6 years to complete all these things.  From endless swim tests, to countless miles hiked, to reports on environments, to physical fitness testing, and yes even a little financial and nutrition education.

These requirements are daunting.  Fewer than 4 percent of Boy Scouts will make the full journey to Eagle.  If you add boys that started in Cub Scouts the number falls to 2 percent.  There are huge benefits to making Eagle. Most notably  the Armed Forces place very high value on Eagle. Once a boy passes Boot Camp (no one is exempt from boot camp) the Military will move an Eagle up as many as two ranks.  Colleges look more and more to character and community service in addition to grades.  Nothing speaks character and service more than an Eagle Scout.  Companies that have organized hiring departments also look for the same traits.  Show me a company with a human resources department and I'll show you a company that values Eagle Scouts.

To make Eagle is to put yourself in a rare company.  I can list Presidents, Congressmen, Supreme Court Justices, many Astronauts, leaders of Business and Industry, and the list would never be ending.  Becoming and Eagle Scout is to take on a tried and true proving ground and complete it. In today's world the number one thing we fight is "my Mommy said I don't have to do that".  An older Scout leader once told me, "'Mommy said I don't have to do that' is the leading cause of the wusification of America".You see an Eagle doesn't look for an excuse to get out of things, he looks for a way to complete the task head on.  Something we desperately need in this country.  Being an Eagle Scout means you hold timeless values, commitments to excellence in service to your community, country, and God.  Being an Eagle Scout means you hold true to everything that is good in America.

The wonder to me of all wonders is how some teachers have neglected Nature study, this easy and unfailing means of education, and have struggled to impose Biblical instruction as the first step towards getting a restless, full-spirited boy to think of higher things.
Lord Baden-Powell

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

I've trained him for this!

Last night Penny and I attended another banquet that saluted our 16 year old for making Eagle Scout.  The first banquet was a small district event and had a cozy, family feel to it.  This was the South East Louisiana Council banquet.  There were 115 Eagles in attendance and over 500 total people.  It was held at the Pontchartrain Center in Kenner.  The banquet room was massive enough to hang a fifty foot American flag.  I don't love big crowds but after all, he is my Son and I'm very proud.  So what's the small price of enduring a massive banquet?

The problem started at the registration table.  The lady with the list found our names quickly.  Then stated, "Mr. and Mrs. Bordelon, you will be at table #40 and your Son will be at table #24.  Thank you and enjoy the banquet."  I was shocked by my horrified reaction.  Why, oh why are they taking my Son away.  Surely, this is some mistake.  Obviously, some evil, socialist faction has infiltrated the BSA upper echelon and plotted to harvest our best and brightest!  I was in sheer panic mode.  I quickly found one of the district executives and questioned him.  He explained to me that my Son was one of three Eagles selected to sit at a table with two BSA District Executives, the Vice President of the SELA Executive Council, the Chief Administrator of the Kenner Police Department, and the Scout Executive of SELA.  And for some reason I still was not at ease.

As the night progressed, I watched my Son from my seat at table #40 (boondocks).  He carried on conversations with all these higher ups.  He saluted the flag when others forgot to.  He volunteered to escort a Webelos in receiving his Arrow of Light.  He was a complete success and carried himself with class and dignity all the while I'm sitting out at table #40.  Then it dawned on me, I've trained him for 16 years.  He is ready to take on the whole world. (including the higher ups)  What has been instilled in him can not be removed.  He is the success I've been hoping for, all these years.  But it's hard to take your hand off the wheel.  It's hard to step back and not fret.  So I guess this begins the next step in life? To let your Son be his own Man yet, know that all that is in his foundation was laid there by you.  Apparently, this is one of those, easier said than done things.

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
Proverbs 22:6

PS.  Me and my district executive will be having a conversation about being stuck out at table #40!

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Secret to Friendship

For most of my life I've placed very little value on friendship.  Most of my family members have a bit of a loner streak in them.  I don't know if it's age or life, but lately I've come to a place where friendships are crucial.  Parenting has been the biggest catalyst to seek out others in the same boat of teenage hormonal instability.  Ironically, my own personal faith in God has sent me on a quest to find others who believe in a similar way as me.  And most recently  our flood has taught me the true meaning of friendship.  While in my own head, I still consider myself a loner, I really am becoming more and more needful of friendships.

Before I get to far down the yellow brick road, there are some rules and limitations to friendship. The dictionary says friendship is a relationship between two people that have a mutual affection for one another.  That's more than a little vague.  First, there needs to be a mutual respect for one another.  Without respect a friendship will wither and die.  Respect keeps both people from turning on each other.  It also prevents one from talking behind a friends back.  Next, there needs to be admiration.  While most friends have many things in common, if there is the handful of things that your friend can do that you can't, then you will admire their abilities.  Admiration of those things will help you overlook their short comings in other areas.  Then there is the strange term of endearment.  There needs to be something, usually abstract, that causes your to feel endeared or indebted to that person.  That will create loyalty.  As long as it isn't money, that loyalty will go a long ways to cementing a friendship.  Mostly, there needs to be acceptance.  A friend will accept your short comings.  It takes a friend to look past your flaws.  It takes a friend to forgive you for your mistakes.  A true friend not only accepts you, they also rejoice in the fact that you are just as flawed as them.

While those are all good rules to follow, keeping a friendship requires that you do not keep a score card or tally of all the things required.  My friends don't require repayment for the things they've done for me.  I don't assume a friend is out to hurt me when he has to point out something negative in my life.  While it's great to reminisce with friends about old times, it's best to start every encounter with a clean slate.  Mostly live your life out loud and in front of your friends.  If you hide anything or talk behind your friends back it's because you are lying about something.  Friendships are far to important to live with half truths and half hearts.  Reach out and be a friend to someone. It just might save you in the long run.

“There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends. I have no notion of loving people by halves, it is not my nature.”
― Jane Austen

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

"The Nanny State"

So our all knowing government is now in the business of telling us what we can and cannot eat and drink.  In case you've been hiding under a rock, let me bring you up to speed.  Not only are we not able to be entrusted with firearms, the mayor of New York City has decided he should tell you what to drink.  He is trying to enact a "soda ban".  So as someone who is anti big government, you know this is crossing the line big time in my book.  Then add on top of that, some bloody Brit with a talk show saying he believes we all need "The Nanny State".  I would love to see the faces of our founding fathers when they are presented with the notion that the people of this great democracy need a nanny state.  It would be a real spin on Patrick Henry's statement, "give me liberty or give me death,'whatever the federal government thinks is best'"!  NOT!

But one of Bloomberg's quotes really got me to thinking.  He defended his soda ban with this statement, "We're simply forcing you to understand what's better for you".  So before you dust off your anti Socialist hardware, let's think about that statement for a second.  The key is the forcing you to understand part.  When kids graduate a high school in NYC, only twenty percent of them can read on a twelfth grade level.  Eighty percent of the kids can NOT read proficiently enough to understand the ingredients on the side of the soda can.  So instead of fighting for better education, or education reform, or anything involving teaching, we are just going to have the smart government people make choices for you.  You see fixing the education system and pouring knowledge into our kids is just plain hard.  The ideals of trying to move up in society are now things of folklore. Our society is now so apathetic that we no longer care if a kid has a dream of getting an education and moving out of the projects.  This is the birth of class warfare, which by the way is still in place in the country that the bloody Brit was born.  England still has a house of lords and a house of commons.  You are born with your class sealed on your soul.  When you are prevented from bettering yourself, then apathy sets in so hard "the nanny state" is totally necessary.

But I don't blame the government or the education system.  The apathy starts at home.  When you bring a child into this world and you expect the government to raise it, you are preventing upward mobility.  If you think that your child's ability to read is solely depended on the 1st grade teacher, you are sealing your kid's fate.  It takes time, effort, energy, persistence, caring, love, and a dozen other qualities to pour everything into a kid that is necessary for him to succeed.  At one time in this country seeing your children better themselves was a source of national pride.  Now children are nothing more that a tax deduction or an extra hundred bucks on a welfare check.  So don't be angry at the government for instituting the nanny state, be angry at society for not seeing the true value of a child.

To let a child know you believe in him will empower him more than any school or government system could ever dream.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

I like Gardening, don't judge me!

So it's no big secret that I love to grow vegetables.  I spent the first 8 years of my life living in rural Avoyelles parish.  My grandparents owned 92 acres and it was the ultimate play ground for a young boy.  The school bus would drop me off at their house on Friday afternoon and I would have the run of the place until my parents came to Sunday dinner to pick me up.  In addition to pigs, chickens, and huge fields that were for commercial farming, my grandparents had a personal garden of about an acre.  Some of my fondest memories included following my grandfather's tractor to pick up potatoes and sitting on the back porch with my grandmother to shell peas, shuck corn, and snap beans.  Oh to be eight again, and learn from the members of the greatest generation all over again.

Gardening is really a collection of many different disciplines. The first thing you have to do is break the ground.  Breaking the ground serves a number of purposes.  The soil needs to be loose enough for your  seed to germinate and grow roots that will feed on nutrients in the ground.  Just like in your life, plants need good ground that supports them with both stability and nourishment. Then comes planting.  This discipline requires attention to the seasons and weather.  Plant a cauliflower in summer or okra in winter and failure will surely follow.  As the Bible says, "for everything, there is a season".  The next step is fertilization.  In order to grow, plants and people need the right vitamins, minerals, water, and treatment.  That is followed closely by weeding.  Whenever resources are given out generously the weeds and free loaders are quick to jump in and feast. Weeding is an exhausting discipline that requires constant vigilance.  By this time your plant needs pruning.  In order to produce the most fruit excesses must be removed from the plant.  How much more productive would you be if you removed unnecessary things from your life?  Then comes the harvest.  The weeks and months of hard work have finally paid off.  You now have sustenance, and that's what it's all about.  In the end you have what you need to continue living.  But then you have to plow it all under, because the next season is coming without fail.

As you can probably tell, gardening is a total experience for me that includes body, mind, and spirit.  No doubt that working a garden is good exercise. Personally, with my physical problems, all the bending over is a little much.  But it all balances out and being outdoors does a body good. While gardening does not take massive brain power, it does take thought, planning, and focus. Actually, I find it helps un-clutter my mind from this extremely complicated life we've created. And spiritually, it's one of the things in life that put me most at peace.  To feel the life that God put into the soil.  To realize the brilliance of having bees pollinate flowers.  And to appreciate the concept of rain water falling from the sky after traveling from half a world away.  Well if that doesn't do your soul good, I'm not sure what will.

So after reading all this, you probably think I'm a little off.  But I like to garden, and that makes it all O.K.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

A different kind of Socialism?

There is so much talk on the news about socialist this and socialist that, that it is hard to keep things in context.  Some say that Obama is a Socialist.  Others say we've been a Socialist State ever since FDR introduced Social Security. And the truth is when I was in school these things all fell under the evil term Communism.  So we really didn't learn about this "evil empire" thinking.  So here goes my attempt to understand all this.

You have to start with a man named Karl Marx.  He lived in the 1800's and wrote a book called "The Communist Manifesto".  This book was more or less a road map for a new philosophy of how to handle society, economies, and governments all in one package.  At this time in history, rich people are referred to as "the bourgeoisie".  It was believed that these rich bourgeoisie would use Capitalism and the industrial revolution to enslave working people.  So the first step to helping empower the working class was to introduce Socialism or a Workers State.   But realize in Marx's book, Socialism is an economy that is added on top of Capitalism.  Yes Socialism is about redistributing the wealth of a society, but it needs Capitalism to continue to work for wealth to still exist.  So understand that this was an effort to but power in the hands of the "working class" and take it away from the "bourgeoisie".  The key is the working people.(I'll get back to working people in a minute)  Then once the wealth was redistributed, you could enact Communism.  Communism is a form of government built on a Socialist economy that is built on Capitalism.  In a true Communist society everyone does his or her job and everyone is paid equally.  If you are a Science Fiction fan, Star Trek is the Utopian model of Communism, everyone working to do his best to do his job and all their needs are cared to without need to ask or pay.

Here is the big problem with all this.  No where in Karl Marx philosophy is anyone given a "free ride".  Marx makes the assumption that everyone will continue to work hard and do their fair share. While his full intent was to take money and power away from the rich, he never had any mind to give that money or power to a "non worker".  Some kind of way we've twisted this empower the worker philosophy into enslave the worker to pay for the non worker.  Take a closer look at our nearest Communist neighbor, Cuba.  The poor Cubans with no job don't get freebies.  They don't get equal housing, but that's what we sell as Socialism here in America.  You see when you take away from one to give to another, resentment sets in. When resentment sets in people stop working as hard or stop working altogether.  Why work for something if I can just get it for free. Sooner or later, no one is working and the means to make wealth is vanished.

Again the key is working people.  As a nation we have focused on both ends of the spectrum. Either bail out the giant corporations that are to big to fail or subsidize the lazy that are to apathetic to do anything.  This strange, made up Socialism leaves out the most important part of the puzzle, working people.  People who take pride and ownership in their job, community, and nation.  I fear this new cooked up form of Socialism will squeeze those people out of existence.

True independence and freedom can only exist in doing what's right.
       - Brigham Young

Monday, March 4, 2013


So in today's world we demand excellence from everything and everyone in society.  We expect to have the best food at restaurants. We demand our utility services are unlimited and uninterrupted. We want our kids to have the best education and expect their teachers to be the most knowledgeable in their field. We demand that doctors can pin point our ailment with in five minutes of us walking in the door.  Needless to say, we want the up-most commitment from everyone that is to service us in this life. But do we have the same standards for ourselves? Do we cook our home meals to perfection every time?  Do we arrive at our jobs every day willing to give our best performance?  Do we give our kids our undivided attention, or even try to add to their education by reviewing homework and backing up the teacher's efforts? As a patient can you say that you follow the doctor's orders to the letter?  Sad to say, most will say no to some if not all these things.

There's this little thing in life called commitment.  Commitment is saying you will do things in life in spite of the circumstances that surround life.  If you believe in something strong enough you will commit to that thing without fail.  A life of commitment means that if you give your word to perform a task, you will do so no matter what mood you are in.  Commitment says that you will not only stand with your child when he wins a trophy, but you will give him your shoulder to cry on when he fails to accomplish a goal.  It's easy to be committed to your gorgeous, healthy wife.  Will you stay committed if she falls ill and has to be fed through a tube? Commitment requires you to be the same on the last day of a season as you were on the first.

Truthfully, commitment can only be proven in the hard times.  When things get rough is when some one's commitment is on full display.  There is a horrible cost to commitment.  You must give up your rights to self indulgence.  True commitment doesn't check for weather conditions. It doesn't give into moods.  Peer pressure is a non factor in commitment.  Compromise is the first sign of surrendering your commitment.  But realize this, commitment is a two way street.  If you can stand and deliver your commitments to others despite the storms and circumstances then your commitment will be returned to you.  Standing firm in your commitment earns you the loyalty, integrity, trust, and allegiance to all that see your dedication.

“The quality of a person's life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor.”

*Vince Lambardi

Stand the test of time and keep your commitments my friends.