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Sunday, April 28, 2013

Do I have to!

Every body's looking for a bargain these days.  People buy there meat at one store because it's 6 cents cheaper than another store.  We buy no name brand cleaners cause the real stuff is just to expensive, and who really wants the cleanest house anyway.  Car dealers inflate the prices of their cars because they know the buyer is looking for a big discount just for them.  At garage sales if something is marked for 50 cents we tell the junk collector we only want to pay a quarter.  We want the most we can get for the least we have to put out.  If the lady at the yard sale won't come down to a quarter then her stuff is just junk.  If the clerk at the Best Buy doesn't say we are getting the biggest, baddest, loudest, most advanced TV for the lowest price, then he isn't qualified to sell electronics.

Sadly this philosophy is now being applied to our lives.  It comes in the form of the very childish question, "Do I have to?".  We want to do the least we can in life and still get by.  We sign a mortgage that has payments due on the first, but the first thing we ask is when is the last day I "have to" pay it.  We land our dream job that starts at 7 am but we want to know what is the latest time I "have to" be here.  We bring children into this world and we don't necessarily "have to" pour our lives into them. Little Johnny will learn from the government supplied education system, why should I teach him anything if I don't "have to"?  I've worked all my life to save up and build my dream house that should be good enough.  I shouldn't "have to" clean it!  I don't "have to" clean the floors, but in a short amount of time my carpets are ruined from stains.  I don't "have to" change the oil in my truck, but in a few thousand miles my engine is seized up because the oil is burnt and can no longer keep it cool.  I don't "have to" instill values, integrity  courage, and morals into my Sons, but someone will and I'll be upset by their loyalty to that person.  All I "have to" do is pay my bills.  I don't "have to" save money for a rainy day, but when the flood comes I'll be helpless and at the mercy of others.  I don't "have to" listen to my wife ramble on about all her feelings, but if I don't someone will.  As the head of my house, I don't "have to" take the time to speak encouragement, set goals, or work on uniting my family.  But if I don't they will find something else to be their guiding star.  Kennedy didn't "have to" put a man on the moon.  Edison didn't "have to" invent electricity.  Lenoir didn't "have to" invent the combustion engine.  And Gates didn't "have to" revolutionize software.

It may be rude and ugly of me, but I think people who are always asking for the "have to" of life just as soon carry around a sign saying "I'm lazy and I have no ambition in life".  A life lived by just the bare minimum of "have to"s is a life devoid of purpose.  At the end of this very short life do you really want to be know as the guy that did just enough to survive?  Your success in this life is directly proportional to the amount of effort you do that is above and beyond the "have to".  When your children reminisce about their childhood it will be filled with the memories of the things you did for them that you didn't "have to".  What empty memories await kids raised in a house where only the "have to" was done.  Take the time to do things to the best of your abilities, not just the minimum needed.  Take the time to put forth effort into the lives of your family and your friends. Break the chains of "have to" and be someone who sets the standard for beyond the need.  Don't be defined by the minimalist concept of "have to".  Create your own destiny and legacy that makes you unique in a world of conformity.

When we do the best we can, we never know what miracle is wrought in our life, or in the life of another.   Helen Keller

Sunday, April 21, 2013

More or Less

Lot's of people would call me an old fashion guy.  I like the way it was done back in the day and I love old sayings.  But, every now and again I come across a situation that changes my look on things.  When growing up I often heard the expression, "to whom much is given, much is expected".  It's a simple concept.  Basically, it means that the more you are given in life, the more you are expected to do.  This comes from a time when not everyone had an equal opportunity in life.  There was a time when only the privileged were schooled.  So not everyone had a chance to be educated and thus improve themselves.  Few people qualified for loans to start a business. So if you did you made the most of that opportunity and worked endlessly to succeed.

Apparently in this ultra modern twenty first century world, that concept is now obsolete.  Everyone, in this country at least, is given an equal shot at education.  Yes I know there are failing schools out there, but there is an opportunity for everyone to get an education.  So do we use all this available education to do the most we can with it?  In the advanced year of 2013 it is more popular to speak improper English than read Shakespeare despite the billions of dollars spent annually on education.  Our modern world publishes more books than ever.  Yet the reading of books has declined roughly 15 percent in the last ten years. (that's both traditional and e-books)  Just about every home in America has a computer that's hooked up to the Internet.  With unlimited resources at the touch of a button we most often sit and watch YouTube videos or play a game, what a waste.  Speaking of computers, your I phone has 16 Gigabytes of memory.  The original IBM personal computer in 1981 had 256 Kilobytes.  The weak IBM computer streamlined and revolutionized the business world.  What do we do with our ultra powerful I phones   We launch imaginary birds at little green pigs.  Then there's the whole, "there's an app for that" thing.  Usually when some one says, "I have an app for that" it means they are absolved from having to do that chore anymore.  I can't wait for the breathing app to come out.

You see, today having more means doing less.  The embarrassing amount of resources at our disposal is being squandered by our apathy.  The advancement of our world depends on people who are interested in actually advancing themselves.  If we all just fall back on the apps given to us, what happens when the apps need to be fixed?  Take the time to learn things for yourself.  It's so easy to fall in love with all our modern gadgets, but if you know how things work you will be the master of your own world.  Those that depend on all the conveniences with out the know how are at the mercy of those handing out the short cuts.  So at the end of the day, do you want to be more or less in command of your own destiny?

Destiny is not a matter of chance, but of choice. Not something to wish for, but to attain.
~ William Jennings Bryan

Friday, April 19, 2013

Just because you can, doesn't mean you should.

A solid week of bomb coverage.  A solid week of speculation of who, what, why, etc.  Discussion's ranging from terrorist to how lax our security is in this country.  Then to wake up this morning and see that these thugs are Chechnya nationalist here on some type of student visa.  While I could easily fall into the whole immigration debate, I'll try my best to take the high road.  Just because you have Internet access that teaches you how to build a bomb, doesn't mean you should.  We as a country have the ability to take in millions and give them a free education, but that doesn't necessarily mean we should.  The issue of having "soft targets" or not enough security is part of the ideals of the American dream of a free land.  You don't insure freedom by creating a state of Marshall law.  A price must be paid from time to time for Americans to live out the ideals of our founding fathers.  That price was paid at Pearl Harbor, at 9/11, and obviously at the Boston marathon.  It is the morals of the people that prevent them from flying planes into buildings or putting bombs next to 8 year old children.  No police state or government law can dictate the morals of a man.  The only way to prevent these things is to practice the beliefs of our founding fathers.  All men are equal and have the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  Just because you have the ability to interfere with those ideals doesn't mean you should.

This applies to more than just terrorist.  We should practice restraint in our everyday lives.  We have the right to free speech.  Does that mean we should bad mouth the government 24/7?  Don't get me wrong, you can share your views but surely you can find more than one topic to speak about.  We have the right to pursue happiness but should it come at the expense of others?  Just because you are having a bad day doesn't mean you should ruin everyone else's day.  When you make others pay for something that they had nothing to do with, you are no different that these Chechen terrorist.  They are unhappy with the affairs of their country so they will get revenge by blowing up innocent Americans.  The common thinking of the day is take advantage of everything you can, but does that mean you have to?  You can lie on your resume to make yourself a little more impressive.  Does that mean you should?  You can lie about your marital status to get more welfare assistance.  Should you do that, just because it's easy?  If no one is watching the back door at the appliance store, must you grab a flat-screen and run?  Just because you have the ability to write a hateful letter to someone should you actually send it to them? You can easily lead a double life without your wife and kids knowing about it.  That doesn't mean you should.  Again, a society without restraint is a society that will readily destroy itself.  

Without some moral code we are nothing more than vicious animals.  If we don't have a moral compass we will surely get lost in ourselves and do irrevocable harm to others.  Just because there is an opportunity doesn't necessarily mean you have to take it.  In the end if you are not true to yourself, no one will be true to you.  When you meet your Maker, the conversation will be on your choices not your abilities.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The power of an inanimate Trophy

The past five days I've had the privilege and honor to accompany my Son's band to Disney World. They were invited to perform at Walt Disney World's Festival Disney.  A non-stop, whirlwind of activity.  Have you ever rode 13 hours through the night on a "tour bus" with band kids?  Oh the joy you have missed in your life.  Let's just say band kids are very musical with or without their instruments.  Whether it's 3 pm or 3 am, they are very, very musical!  Teenagers also like to do things that are "cool".  Like ride a roller coaster seventeen times in a row because it's just that "cool".  And don't even get me started on the fact that large buses have to stop at truck stops that have 57 ounce Monster energy drinks!

Our band is well known for it's excellent sound and precise marching.  The opportunity to march through the streets of Disney's Hollywood Studios was the perfect fit.  After two days of non-stop roller coasters, energy drinks, being cool, and creating "music", it was time to perform.  Just like true professionals they strapped on their gear and marched perfectly through the park.  I was able to not only watch them, I also got to watch their competition.  I knew our chances were good.  So after another day of roller coastering, caffeine chugging, and beating on every surface imaginable, it was off to the awards ceremony. I was amaze at the sea of people.  A stadium holding ten thousand people of which at least eight thousand were band kids. Our drum major and captain were sent down to receive their results.  First up was the rating. (drum roll) A Superior rating for the Rebel Band.  This alone is a huge achievement.  A Superior rating or a "1" is the top score.  It means you've scored in the ninety percentile.  Next up is best in class.  Our school is very small so we were in the first class called 1A.  The best in class 1A, is the Rebel Band. (screams, hollers, and joy)  Our little school is on top of the world.  Then finally the best overall awards.  This came in the form of a bronze, silver, or gold Mickey.  And the bronze Mickey goes to, the Rebel Band.  That's a podium finish for a little private school against all sizes from all corners of the nation.  Just to recap, that's a Festival Disney Diamond Award for Superior, a Best in Class Mickey, and a Bronze Mickey for overall competition.

While all three of those trophies are made up of plastic, glass, and metal, they represent something much, much bigger.  They represent countless hours of drills, practice, training, and learning.  These simple trophies represent kids that are willing to put the needs of their band ahead of their own selfish desires.  These kids understand what it means to be a part of something bigger than themselves.  It means that the cliche expression, "you can accomplish anything if you try hard enough" is actually true!  These inanimate objects have the power to galvanize a group of kids together in a way no school activity could ever hope to do.  These kids will never forget who they roomed with on this victorious trip.  They will never forget who helped,  taught, and encouraged them to this point.  And their confidence will be anchored by the fact they did accomplish the unthinkable.

While I am very proud of each and every one of those kids, I'm most proud of the confidence, courage and understanding that this experience has placed in them.


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

A fair shot!

So much rhetoric today about the state of our country.  Things such as the violence that surrounds us.  Or the lack of quality education.  The vicious conversations on the redistribution of wealth. The beliefs that we are headlong into a socialist nation.  All these negative things are causing these fierce philosophical debates.  We've become a nation of polarized debaters.  And we are getting very good at it.  We can quote the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.  We can discuss conspiracy theories till the break of dawn.  All are experts on political parties, debt to citizen ratios, electoral colleges, states rights's, military support,  lobbyist, grass roots movements, and seven other ideological things.  All in the name of America?  Not so fast!

What happened to a land of opportunity?  What happened to a country that prided itself on watching it's children have a better life?  What happened to the believe that everyone was on a playing field that gave a fair shot to our kids?  Does it really benefit our children to have political parties claim that the other is anti family?  I'm thinking if your considering being a leader in this country, kids and family support should be a foregone conclusion.  Does arguing over who supports the military more do an ounce of good for our sons and daughters overseas?  All these arguments, and I mean all, are motivated by selfishness.  If your intention is to gain anything by denying others your are a selfish pig.  If you intend to reroute a school district to benefit some kids but not others, you stand against the principles this nation was founded on.  If you plan to teach your spouse a lesson by packing up and heading out, then you've put your self preservation far, far ahead of your spouse and children's well being.  Would you severe a friendship because it benefited your child an not yourself?  Don't act shocked at the question, with a sixty percent divorce rate, it happens everyday. Do you lie about your income to avoid taxes?  Then you are no friend of this country and don't deserve any of it's liberties.  Do you falsify records to get food stamps?  Then your selfishness takes food out of the mouths of babes.  Do you tell your kids to lie to school officials about your marital status or correct address?  Then you've sacrificed their dignity for your own selfish gain. So right about now is when you take out your, "everybody is doing it" sign?  I suggestion you polish up that sign for the day you stand before your maker.    I know this is controversial, but you must realize we are leaving the well being of our kids in the ideological dust.  

There are so many needs of our future generation just being ignored while we fight head long into our conquest to win some argument or some temporary gain.  And before you scream that you did not get a fair shot, consider the voyage of the founders of this country.  If they would have played the woe is me card where would we be?  (woe is me is just another form of selfishness)  These people left everything behind, crossed a raging ocean, and started from nothing.  All in the name of a better life for their children.  They just wanted for their descendants to have a fair shot at success.  So I ask, are your arguments, party affiliation, marital status, belief system, government handouts, or position on anything more important than your children's future?  If yes to any, then you have made that thing more important than your child's shot at a good life.  The discipline, selflessness, and commitment in your own life will go farther at giving your child a fair shot in life than any argument ever could.

Selfishness is the only real atheism; aspiration, unselfishness, the only real religion.
Franklin D. Roosevelt

Sunday, April 7, 2013

My Mommy Said

I had mentioned in an earlier post about the number one issue we fight in Boy Scouting.  The issue of, my mommy said I don't have to do that.  This is a problem that seems to have taken on an epidemic nature.  I can usually handle a boy that says this and set him on a better course.  The problem is when a mom decides it's her job to harass leaders into giving their son credit for something.  I just don't understand the thinking of a parent that thinks they would be proud of their child earning something their parent whined for.  I'm sure I'm not the only one in this position.  How many parents think they can strong arm a teacher into a good grade.  (all my teacher friends just cleared their throats)  Don't get me wrong, I'm all for bragging on your child.  It's just a matter of bragging on something your child earned on his own.

Last night I was privileged to emcee an Eagle Court of Honor for one of the young men in my Troop.  While his parents are very involved in his life, their approach to their Son's accomplishments are a little different.  The father told me long ago, that while he did not believe in the whole "it takes a village" philosophy, but he does want certain key people speaking directly into his Son's life.  It's not a hands off approach, but it does allow for a young man to face the real world on his own two feet.  I can say because of my unencumbered influence on him, I was just as proud as his parents.  While he will always honor and respect his parents, he will very easily adapt to the real world.  Stand on his own is already built in.  When he goes to college he won't need his mommy to talk some sense into the professors. When he interviews for a job he won't need his mommy to tell the employer what he "really" means.  And when he ask a young lady to marry him, he won't need mommy to convince the girl what a man he is.  Nothing attracts the ladies like a mommy whining!

In the end you have to ask yourself whether or not you want your Son to be proud of himself. Being a good parent means pushing your child even when your parental protection instincts kick in. Trust me, I've seen the look in a kid's eye when pushing him out of his comfort zone.  I can say that despite the brief painful look every time you push a kid it causes him to find faith in himself. There's a time for protection but if you don't find a time to push, you'll end up with a 30 year old mama's boy living in your house.  So let go of the reins and give a solid but gentle kick to the rear and let them go.  Your kid will thank you in the end.

Age alone doesn't make a boy a man.  It takes disciple, choices, fortitude, and maturity.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Be a Neighbor

So we live in this ultra modern world.  We are connected at the speed of light from one end of the globe to the other.  We are bombarded with twenty four hour news channels.  We know every time Iran gets a step closer to building a nuke.  We have constant cameras on every seat of power in the world.  We have apps on our phones that instant message us every time a Kardashian gets arrested.  And we literally know every conniption fit that Kim Jong-un has.(he's the leader of North Korea)  We have pictures blasted at us of starving children in Africa and refugees in Asia.  If you are not careful you can get sucked in to a world wide web of conspiracy, or a humanitarian effort to feed three billion children.

There was I time, not that long ago, that we didn't have all this at our finger tips.  While I would admit the information age has it's up side, there are some things that it has damaged.  Can you name all your neighbors?  Growing up we knew everyone on the street we lived on.  We knew every one's parents and where their dad's worked.  Do you know where your neighbor works?  I didn't need the President of the United States to speak on global television to find out my neighbor lost his job.  Most of the time my friend would tell me his dad lost his job and that meant no vacation for them.  I didn't need some news anchor covered in make up to tell me that gas prices were sky high.  I knew exactly how many cents gas had risen by the number of curse words my grandfather used after a trip to the pump.  War was not a subject that you just tossed around like the weather.  If a country threatened war the conversation quickly turned to who in the neighborhood had a son in the army or had just filled out his selective service card.  Today's talking heads and conspiracy theorists need to realize war is not a chess game.  It is a deadly activity that involves people that belong to a family in your neighborhood.  But I guess if you never leave your cubicle that is not a concern.

I'm not saying it's easy.  I'm just as addicted to my Internet as most.  Taking the first step is always the hardest but trust me, your neighbors are very real and very interesting.  Letting your neighbor talk about the business he's building is more enlightening than watching a so called analyst talk about his new book that preaches the latest conspiracy theory.  Learning that your neighbor's kid made the little league travel team is more encouraging than watching some steroid injected fool make a free throw.  Cutting your neighbor's grass on the week he has knee surgery does so much more for the soul than watching some reality TV show.  So don't try to be the savior of the world, just be there for a neighbor during a difficult time.  Forget all the conspiracies, just offer your experiences on life to a neighbor at a crossroads.

"Won't you be my neighbor?" Fred Rogers