Archive for the ‘Teamwork’ category

Negative Feast or Negative Fast

October 14, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                     October 14, 2018

                          

Years ago an amazing woman named Jeannie Dohner came to our church and talked about “The Negative Fast”. Jeannie had dealt with cancer on two different occasions and in the midst of our struggles she had noticed how negative her viewpoint had become about many things that were really blessings. During that second bout with cancer God impressed upon her the idea of “fasting” from the negative. She would not say that the negative fast cured her, but it did set her mind and attitude in a better direction. 

There are plenty of people in this world who feast on the negative. They can see the bad in anything and anyone. They would have found something to gripe about when Jesus fed the 5,000! They get tired of days that are sunny and 72 degrees. Everything in the world is too expensive, even items in the free pile!

Negative people consume our energy; they dent our zest for life. I’m not sure how they got that way. Perhaps some of life’s problems and struggles pounded them for so long that they could no longer see anything positive. Maybe they’re a spitting image of either their mom or their dad! That is, their negativity is a learned behavior. They may even complain about how negative their dad was!

In our political climate there is a buffet of negativity. How many of us have grown tired of the negative political ads that paint one candidate as being the incarnation of evil and the other candidate as the new messiah? Don’t you just want to grind your teeth when one of those TV ads comes on? 

And yet those ads are effective in changing people’s minds! That’s why there’s a never-ending flow of them! “Negative Nellie” wins more times than “Positive Peter”.

Which points to a sad truth! That we are more effected or influenced by the negative than we are by the positive! We tend to believe negative news more than upbeat stories. 

What if we took a fast from the negative this coming week? What would that do for us? What would that do for the people around us? Perhaps, just perhaps, it might even cause the naysayers to stutter on their thoughts.

Maybe, just maybe.

The Hang Arounders

October 10, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                   October 10, 2018

                                     

At the middle school where I coach and substitute teach there are a few students who are like fertilizer. When you have them in class you can feel the gray hair growing in abundance!

They are the students who don’t function well in a structured classroom situation, or relate well to teachers and authority figures. They are the ones that consume 90% of a teacher’s attention during a class period, but refuse to do more than 50% of the assigned work. 

It’s not that they’re bad kids and prepping to be juvenile delinquents. They just don’t have a problem with being the problems!

When I substitute teach in a class where there is a student who falls into this category I don’t go easy on him or her. I’ve sent a few to the office or had them join me for lunch that day away from their peer group. BUT…I always seek to greet them in the hallway in a welcoming manner. In other words, no matter what their transgression has been they’re still kids to be valued. The educational journey with some students just has a few more bends and curves in it than the rest! Some students don’t slide easily from A all the way to Z!

In the last few weeks I’ve noticed some of these students who scowl each morning as they arrive at school…hanging around after school! When the 80% of the student body who aren’t involved in after-school activities has exited the building and headed quickly away as soon as that dismissal bell sounds, these few students DON’T leave! An hour after school, if they can avoid notice, they’re still roaming the hallways or hanging out somewhere on the building perimeter. For kids who dread entering the building at 7:30 in the morning they seem to have a hard time exiting by 3:00.

They hang around. 

I’ve gotten to know some of them, their histories and stories. The story is never the same. It would make for a good read if all of the personal episodes were combined together. There are students from single-parent families and students who would be going home to an empty house. There are students who live in two different households, one week with dad and one week with mom; and there are students whose parents would prefer that they stay at school for as long as they are allowed so that the parent doesn’t have to deal with them at home. 

School has become their safe place and their place of consistency. In a good way it doesn’t change. It can be counted on when the rest of their lives are in chaos. 

The teachers that they seem to enjoy terrorizing during class periods after 3:00 become the trusted adults that they gravitate to. A teacher that one of the “hang arounders” wouldn’t add two plus two for in class suddenly becomes the teacher the student is willing to run errands for, wipe down classroom tables, and share a snack with.

I don’t have any substantiated research data for this statement, just a feeling…an inkling…that school is where they feel valued and safe, that school is the place they can count on in their worlds where they’ve been disappointed and discarded too many times. 

And so they hang around for an hour, an hour and a half, not wanting to leave and, oddly enough, in a few hours not wanting to come back. 

Well…come back for class, that is! There’s work to do, new gray hairs to create!

Playground With the Granddaughter…Just The Two of Us!

September 30, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                         September 30, 2018

            

Corin Grace Hodges is three and a half with limitless energy! I’m 64 with limited energy! Without calling me a wimp she scolded me into submission last Friday. It was as if she was saying “Keep up with me, Granddad!”

After she met me at the door at 7:30 in the morning ready for action, we had breakfast, and went to her kid’s gym, which is called “My Gym”, went by Grammy’s school and spent some time saying hi to people, and went to Culver’s for lunch, we stopped at a park playground. There was a bench there. It looked appealing, like a cool cup of water in a desert of exhaustion. I went to sit down and watch her play.

“Come on, Granddad!”

“Huh?”

“Come on!” she repeated as she stood at the top of a playground creation. “We’ve got to get the fish!”

“The fish?” asked the clueless aged one.

“Yes, the fish! Get the fish and put them in the bucket!”

I watched her cup her hands together and carry an invisible fish back up the steps to an invisible bucket on a pretend boat. I pulled my weary body up from the comfortable bench to slowly join the rescue effort.

“Come on, Granddad! Get the fish!”

I followed the drill sergeant’s commands, cupped my hands together, and picked up a fish. “What kind of fish are these?”

“Rittle fish!”

“Are we going to have them for dinner?”

She gave me a look of disbelief, like I had said a cuss word in the midst of a silent school assembly. “The bad guys are going to get them! Hurry up!”

I didn’t realize there were bad guys in this playground drama, a playground that we had all to ourselves, which made it an even greater imaginary adventure.

“The bad guys are coming! Come on, Granddad! It’s your turn to steer the boat.”

“Oh, okay!”

“There’s some more fish!” She went down the slide and cupped her hands together again. “Come on, Granddad!”

“Do I have to come down the slide?”

A look of dismay at my stupid question. “Yes!” And she was off to the other playground apparatus twenty feet of sand away. “The bad guys captured me, Granddad!”
“Oh, no! I’ll come and save you!”
“No, you can’t!”

I’m a playground rookie, unfamiliar with a three year old’s rules of imagination, so I’m not sure what I’m suppose to do. “Steer the boat, Granddad!”

“And come and get you?”
“No!” said emphatically. A few seconds of uncertainty. “Okay! I escaped from the bad guys and there’s more fish!”

Back to cupping the hands! I’ve seen this movie before, so I begin to cup my hands. “No, Granddad! You’ve got to steer the boat! I’ll get the fish!”

“Okay!” I answer, confused and dazed.

Thirty minutes of rescuing fish, escaping bad guys, and confusing Granddad later we hop back in the car and head to our house for an afternoon nap. Did I mention that Corin Grace Hodges is competitive, determined, and a bit stubborn? I say to her, “I bet I can fall asleep before you do!”
“No, you can’t!”

And she’s right! After humming one chorus to herself she is…out! She beats me by at least twenty seconds!

Why Would You Put Gum In Your Armpit?

September 22, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                    September 22, 2018

                             

Middle school is a time of discovery as eleven, twelve, and thirteen year olds enter a new land of educational challenges, physical awkwardness, and unwise decisions. Like the frightened character in the horror movie who decides to open the door to the room where the strange sounds are coming from (and the theatre audience is yelling “Don’t do it!”), middle school kids do things and say things that make us shake our heads in dismay.

Like the boy last year who told his teacher, “I’m getting tired of looking at your face!” It did not go well for him!

Or the eighth grader who thought it would be cool to body surf down the concrete wall in the stairwell! He got about five feet into his journey and then fell over the side, landing on the steps in the lower half of the stairway! 

Ands then there was yesterday when a boy decided to put his chewing gum into his armpit…underneath his shirt! Just as gum gets stuck on the underside of desks for eternity this boy’s armpit was stuck with some Dubble Bubble!

As with the actions of many middle school students the first question that comes to an adult’s mind is “Why?” Why would a student who can understand algebra put bubble gum in his armpit? Was he trying to keep it moist? Did he not know where else to store it and his armpit wasn’t doing anything anyway? Was it a class where the teacher doesn’t allow gum and he thought he could sneak a few chews in from time to time?

And what did this boy, who by the way did have some armpit hair to help create a situation that gives new meaning to the term “bubblicious”, tell his parents? Where did he get the idea that putting gum in his armpit was a good idea? Did he see his dad do it once in the midst of an elk hunting trip?

Is an armpit gum crisis a disciplinary problem that requires the security guard to be called; or a medical situation for the school nurse to handle; or a custodial situation with some stain remover; or a wood shop problem solved with a little bit of sawing…kind of like cutting some small trees down!

It happened on Friday afternoon. For some middle schoolers Friday afternoon is when they get a distorted understanding of American freedom and think anything is okay. For teachers and school administrators Friday afternoon is like the end of a marathon race. Energy is low, muscles are cramping, their cardio system in at its max, but the finish line is in sight! They are stretching for the tape just about to break it and throw their arms up in triumph…and someone comes into the room or office and says “Jimmy wanted to see if he could fit in his locker and now he’s stuck inside it!”

There is the urge to respond with “Well…he will still be there on Monday when we come back!”, but…then the teacher or administrator remembers that their job description includes something like “rescues students from themselves!”

Substitute Teacher Day Off

September 18, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                     September 18, 2018

                                    

I did not get a too-early call this morning from Timberview Middle School. No phone ringing at 5:30 with urgency! I get did four phone calls from another school, but I ignored them. It’s gotten to the point where I rarely substitute at any other school besides Timberview. I’m like Andy Griffith in the midst of middle school Mayberry. Everybody knows me there! I coach three sports there, with this being my 18th year of coaching boy’s basketball.

So today is a day off! Yesterday I corralled 7th Grade language arts students the whole day, keeping them focused on verbs, mis-spellings, and the green grass of literature. I’ll giddy up the same herd two days from now. 

Today, however, I’m relaxing…kinda’! When I leave Starbucks this morning I’m going up to the school to take care of a couple of details and surprise a coaching teammate with a cup of Americano with a little bit of cream. She deserves it for having to teach 8th Grade math all day.

Since retiring from being a church pastor close to three years ago (Doesn’t seem possible!) my understanding of “a day off” has been altered. It used to be that Monday was the designated day off after the hyper-speed pace of Sunday. Now it’s whatever day I’m not substitute teaching. 

Could be Monday, could be Thursday, but it’s almost never Friday! 

And what do I do on whatever day it is that I’m off? I think about what’s going on at the school, wondering which students will make unwise decisions and which teachers will be ready to pull their hair out. I’ll wonder what new color of hair will appear in a classroom that day and what 8th Grade girls will look like their jeans were vacuum sealed around them. I’ve noticed- and maybe you have also- that my middle school experiences are filtering more and more into my writing. In the first month of the school year I wrote 7 blog posts related to middle school. Today I’ll write 1,000 to 2,000 words in the third fiction book I’m writing and the story will have been influenced by my recent middle school experiences. One of the two main characters is a 7th Grade boy! That’s what I do on my day off! I write about middle schoolers.

I’ll also eat a more substantial lunch today, maybe a luncheon date with Carol. I won’t need to “wolfe down” a Tupperware bowl containing cottage cheese and cucumber, or a PB&J sandwich while gulping a bottle of water. Today I won’t even have to use a plastic fork!

I’ll be able to talk in a normal voice, use the bathroom when I want to, wear a pair of shorts and a tee shirt, and sit in the swing on our back deck and read Vince Flynn. I’ll be able to enjoy a third cup of coffee on my writing stool- the last stool on the right looking out at Pike’s Peak! I can stop at the supermarket and check out the “day old food” discounted rack and play Words with Friends. I may even run by Penney’s and see if they have underwear on sale!

And in the midst of all those opportunities and “down time” I’ll be thinking about Timberview, like a kid wondering what might happen in the next episode of my favorite action TV series. 

Crazy, I know, but it brings a smile to my face! And I’ll ask myself “Was I that dorky when I was in middle school?” 

Absolutely!

Remembering 9/11 and Other Days

September 11, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                    September 11, 2018

                           

I was part of a foursome playing in a golf benefit tournament for an organization that provides housing and services for homeless families. In fact, we were on a goofy hole where we had to replace our golf ball on the green with a tennis ball and putt it until you hit the flag. And then we received the news!

The plane hitting the World Trade Center wasn’t an accident. It was the first of two planes hitting the twin towers in a terrorist attack. I remember that we made the turn after the ninth hole and went into the clubhouse and watched the news on TV. I can’t remember any of the other golfing events of that day, just that I was there when the events of 9/11 unfolded.

Each one of us has just a few events or moments in life where we can recall what we were doing, who we were talking to, or where we were when an earth-shattering event took place; that is, an occurrence that changed life for us, or changed how we viewed our world. 

And when I say events, I mean in our own lifetime, not in the past centuries before we were alive. For example, as a follower of Jesus the events of his Passion Week…death and resurrection…define who I am now, but it occurred before I was born.

For me, the first event that changed my perspective of life happened when John F. Kennedy was assassinated. I was a fourth grader at Williamstown Elementary in Williamstown, West Virginia. I walked home and threw myself on my bed and bawled. In my simplified view of politics I was grief-stricken by the fact that someone had WANTED to kill my president. The world wasn’t suppose to be like this. It was my “Come to Jesus” moment with the realization that I lived in the world that lacked harmony and goodwill.

Other assassinations were a part of our nation’s path in the years following that, but my view of the world had already been changed by Lee Harvey Oswald.

In July of 1969 another event happened that was pivotal for me. Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. “That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.”

I was sitting in the living room of our neighbors’ house in Zanesville, Ohio. He was a Nazarene pastor, and we sat there and watched the fuzzy images on the TV screen. It changed my view of the possible. A moonwalk was something that had been a part of science fiction movies. It put our world closer to the plot of original Lost In Space TV series that seemed unfathomable. To actually have someone walk on the surface of the moon broadened my idea of the possibilities of what people can achieve. 

From the destructiveness of one person to the inventiveness of a team of achievers to the depravity of an organization committed on causing destruction, these are three events in my lifetime so far that stand out as defining moments.

It’s different for each one of us. I’m not sure what someone who has been born since 9/11 would say is a defining moment for him/her. Just think! There a very few students in high school and younger who were alive when 9/11 happened. It is pre-history for them. They live in a  world transformed by 9/11, and yet don’t quite understand how it changed things for them.

There are numerous moments that slightly change us, but only a few that transform us. There are only a few where we can look back and remember what we were doing, where we were, and who we were talking to when “the moment” happened. 

9/11 is one of those for me. I remember and I never will forget.

Why Am I Confused About Nike?

September 9, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                         September 9, 2018

                          

Civil disobedience has been a subject discussed and conversed about amongst followers of Jesus for a long, long time. It’s also at the core of who we are as a nation, going back to the Sons of Liberty and the Boston Tea Party in 1773. 

In 1849 Henry David Thoreau wrote his essay “Civil Disobedience” because of his disgust over slavery and the Mexican-American War. 

In more recent times Martin Luther King’s civil disobedience displayed in non-violent resistance was instrumental in bringing this nation through a time of granting civil rights to African-Americans. Dr. King knew that getting arrested was one of the risks in protesting the segregation laws of the South. In fact, he was arrested 29 times. Some of those were trumped-up charges as a result of his position as the leader of the Civil Rights Movement. 

In 1955 Rosa Parks refused to move from her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama bus because it was designated for a white person. That show of civil disobedience is still referred to as history teaches about the civil rights years. 

So why does Nike’s decision to make Colin Kaepernick it’s point person in the new “Just Do It!” campaign confuse me? 

Listen! I’m non-judgmental about Kaepernick’s decision to kneel during the national anthem. It came at a time of unrest in our nation. I see both sides of the argument, and whereas I’m not in his corner I’m not in the opposite corner either. It IS possible to be somewhere in the middle, convinced that someone is neither totally right or totally wrong.

My confusion is more with Nike! When a corporation grows a conscience it sounds admirable. When a multi-national corporation grows a conscience it causes me to look a little closer. Is there consistency in how they treat everyone, regardless of nationality, gender, age, or race? And, if there is, great! That’s awesome! And if there isn’t…why the spotty sputtering social conscience? 

Consistency is lacking in Nike’s drive for social justice. For example, as recent as this past June there were major concerns about what Nike and Adidas pay their workers in Indonesia, Vietnam, and Cambodia. Even though the cost of materials to produce a pair of athletic shoes has deceased in the last several years, wages paid to workers has not increased. Only corporate profits have been the beneficiary. Nike has been investigated for its treatment of workers in areas such as demanding its workers labor for long hours. A Nike garment worker in those three countries is 45 to 65% below the so-called “living wage” that would allow a worker to provide the basic needs for his/her family. Nike has filtered funds more into paying athletes and outfitting the Oregon Ducks, who wear nothing but the Nike brand, than they have into paying their workers.

That’s why I’m confused by Nike. They are about as consistent as a pot-holed Michigan street in March!