Posted tagged ‘honesty’

Blue Ribbon Bill

June 30, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                              June 30, 2016

                                      

I was an energetic eight, like a wind-up toy that takes off in unpredictable directions. That was me! Our family was living in Williamstown, West Virginia, home of the Fenton Art Glass Company. My mom and dad worked across the Ohio River in Marietta, Ohio. We were a family of five in a small town that was devoted to kids. One of those devotions was a summer program at the community park. Each morning, Monday through Friday, kids would come to the park for crafts, games, and Kool-Aid.

At the end of the summer was the annual gathering up the river in Vienna of kids from all the park districts in the county for various swimming races and track and field competitions. I had completed a week of decent behavior at home, not setting anything on fire or getting caught in a lie, so Mom and Dad said I could go on the bus to Vienna. I scurried off that morning, brown lunch bag in tow, headed for a day of adventure.

The community park in Vienna had a huge outdoor pool, even a terrifying high dive, which I kept my distance from. Buses filled the parking lot unloading children, most of whom had high-pitched voices like me.

Everyone got settled and the swimming competitions began. I was entered in the 25 yard freestyle for eight year olds, plus the 100 yard freestyle relay. I had my J.C. Penney’s swim trunks on, characterized by their lack of fashion and dullness. I, however, didn’t know that they weren’t in style. My mom worked at Penney’s! Everything I wore was from Penney’s, all the way from my “Chuck Taylor high tops” to my Towncraft “whitie-tighties” to the bow tie I wore on Sundays to church.

The announcement came for all eight year old boys to report to the deep end of the pool. I scooted along the concrete in that direction. Twenty five yards doesn’t seem like very much, but from the deep end of the pool it looked like the whole length of West Virginia. I stood there waiting and in another few moments one other boy arrived. He looked scared. Someone must have told him that he was swimming against an Olympic champion. He looked over the side of the pool into the water, and his eyes got bigger.

A man who looked all official approached us. We stared at him. We knew he was older than eight, plus he had clothes on, so he must not be in the race with us.

“Are you boys here for the eight year old 25 yard freestyle?” We both looked up at him and nodded yes.

And then my competition, while looking once again over the side of the pool, asked him a question. “Is this water over my head?”

“Yes, it is! It’s twelve feet deep.”

His eyebrows rose up to the top of his head, and then in a quivering voice he said to the man, “Well, I can’t swim!”

The man looked at me and said, “Well, I guess that means you win, son!”

I won! I hadn’t even gotten wet! I was the Wood County, West Virginia eight year old 25 yard freestyle swimming champion!

It did not seem like the right time to inform the man that I couldn’t swim either! I figured I could dog paddle at least until I got to the shallow end of the pool. However, I was okay with not having to find out whether to not that was the reality or not.

Honesty and openness had not arrived in my life yet. Those Sunday School lessons probably wouldn’t be taught until I was nine! He pointed me towards a table to the side where I was to go to pick up my blue ribbon.

A little later on our relay team was lined up to swim. Conveniently, we were the only team entered so we were awarded first place. I had won my second blue winner in the swimming competition that I didn’t have to get wet for…and even more bizarre, in the swimming competition that I couldn’t swim in!

In the afternoon, however, I outran about twenty other boys in the 50 yard dash. I moved like a young gazelle in my Chuck Taylor’s. Call me Speedy!

Three blue ribbons! Blue Ribbon Bill! One of them won legally with full disclosure, and two with tight lips, unable to spill the beans.

 

Building and Destroying

June 2, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                      June 2, 2015

                                              

Last week I swung by my insurance agent’s office to get a recommendation on a roofing company to call. As I pulled into the parking lot something was different. The two story building next door to theirs was no longer there.

I mean…gone! A dirt-covered empty lot!

It’s interesting when you become accustomed to something being there…and then it isn’t…you are taken back a little bit! In fact, my insurance agent’s one story building suddenly seemed to look smaller because of the vast empty space that now shadowed it to the east.

I asked Michelle, one of my agents, what was going on next door. She said they were going to build some other structure in the coming year on that spot. And then she made this statement:

“You wouldn’t believe it, but it took them less than a day to tear down the building that was there!”

Less than a day!

Six to eight months to build…less than a day to tear it all down!

A reputation is built over a long period of time, but it can be destroyed quickly.

As I think about that, a photo book of faces flashes through my mind of people who have been evidence of that statement. Well-respected, intelligent, esteemed for their leadership, recognized and followed…and then a weakened moment, or a hidden flaw that suddenly was exposed, or a conversation that went viral…and the structure came tumbling down.

It goes without saying that we all fall and stumble. The lives that we build are filled with pockets of errors…some more like chips of the plaster, but others that threaten the stability of tomorrow.

Writing a blog post about building and destroying won’t solve our tendency to screw up our blessedness, but maybe it will be a wake up moment for someone who is teetering on the edge of the cliff.

What is evident about the empty lot by the insurance office is just that! The emptiness of it…where just a few weeks ago there was life being lived, decisions being made, a structure to protect from the uncertain weather elements…and now having to start over from the ground up.

May today be a day of building just one more solid brick on to the firm foundation…a day where we are solid in our thoughts and actions, anchored even deeper to the Foundation!

The Hushing of Honesty

May 30, 2014

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                          May 31, 2014

 

                                       

 

The media was all over the Donald Sterling story. I’m not saying that they shouldn’t have been, but Rome wasn’t built in a day…and an eighty year old man’s racism wasn’t created in a secretly recorded comment.

The whole situation is sad. Sterling’s interview with Anderson Cooper left me shaking my head. For once Sterling didn’t need to hire someone to dig a hole. He was doing it deeper all by himself.

What disturbed me was actually the criticism that was leveled towards Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, for comments he made that were honest and heart-felt. Cuban who gets as much camera time during games as Jerry Jones does for the Dallas Cowboys, shared how he felt. Unlike some people, I don’t think that Cuban “is all that”, as they say, but in this situation I appreciated his honest sharing. His choice of images might not have been the greatest, but he was admitting that he prejudges certain people by their appearance, or by their appearance in certain situations.

The media was all over his comments like sweat on foreheads of a July afternoon in Georgia. In blasting Cuban’s comments honesty dug a deep hole and disappeared for a while.

In essence, what the situation had taught us is that it is dangerous to be honest. It is easier to be shallow and unrevealing. If I keep my true feelings and thoughts hidden life will be easy, uncomplicated, and…meaningless!

I take this situation into the church, where it is easy…oh so easy…to not be honest! In a place where we talk about the priority of grace and forgiveness it seems that honesty is threatening.

Honesty reveals the deep darknesses of our heart, and we are incredibly uncomfortable with that.

And so we take communion with the saints while we harbor bitterness towards the one who is passing the tray; and we struggle with prejudices while we preach love and acceptance. We shy away from honesty about our struggles because we fear other people of the faith will hold our inner battles against us.

Sadly, it is more convenient for the fellowship of believers to hush the honesty and focus on the irrelevant, to ignore the elephant in the room because there’s a fly on the screen of the window.

                                        

Judging By the Content of Their Character

August 29, 2013

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                       AUGUST 29, 2013

 

 

Yesterday was the fiftieth anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech in Washington, D.C. When I hear that speech I get goosebumps. Perhaps it is the preaching style of an African-American pastor, or the echoes of the thousands listening to him who are urging him on, but it is compelling whatever the reason.

Towards the end of that speech King makes this statement as a part of his vision.

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

     This week four freshmen football players from William Paterson University in New Jersey- three black and one white- made the news for their honesty. They entered into a convenience store to purchase a few items like batteries and what not. The lights were on, the door was unlocked, but there was not a store employee to be found. The four young men found the items they were looking for and put their money on the counter. They even figured out how much the tax would be on the items they were buying and included that in the purchase. The scene was caught on the security cameras.

The four football players were guests on NBC’s Today Show, and were applauded for their honesty.

It seems that it also brings back that sentence from Martin Luther King’s speech, that four “children” would be judged by their character and not by the color of there skin. To have the four from two races that fifty years ago were separated by a multitude of prejudices be together, and make decisions based on strong character is a testimony that is often absent.

In the midst of a self-centered culture it is refreshing to see the rise of character, the relationships of people based on life, and not race. Perhaps we have climbed a mountain in the journey to see each person as a person!