Posted tagged ‘influencers’

The Influence of Mis-fluencers

November 3, 2019

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                              November 3, 2019

 

Freddie Bentley is a 22 year old British reality TV star and social media influencer. That is to say, what he says, for some strange reason, influences the minds and beliefs of others. Freddie stated his belief this past week that World War II shouldn’t be taught in school because it’s too intense for young minds. The Gen Z influencer thinks the past is best left in the past.

He’s a part of a growing number of social media influencers who might better be described with a new title, “mis-fluencers”. 

“Mis-fluencers” are those who have taken advantage of their elevated social media popularity to promote ideas that others buy into simply because of who has said it, even if it is idiotic!

Mis-fluencers are okay with leading the Titanic on full speed towards the iceberg. And let’s face it! Social media is over-populated with mis-fluencers in every age bracket, every political persuasion, and every industry. They are evidence for the troubling trend that more and more people can’t think for themselves, but follow whatever tune the pied piper is playing, bad notes and all.  

Misguided ideas easily accepted by people who can’t process thought patterns lead to a chaos that awaits in the fog of the future. 

Freddie Bentley doesn’t believe that we need to learn about the past because of the challenges of the future. The past, however, is destined to be repeated if we don’t learn from its mistakes. 

I cringe at the “mis-fluencers” of Hollywood, the sports world, Westboro Baptist Church, and the Tea Party. The urgency of convincing the populace knows no boundaries. The pull to gain a following knows no limits, whether it is convincing fans that a wide receiver is worth a boatload more money for being able to catch a football, to a politician making his followers believe that the other side of the political spectrum is over-crowded with idiots.

Most of the responses to Freddie’s mis-fluency were not in his favor…but there were several who were fully in support of what he was saying. It is the wonder and delight in our belief in the freedom of thought, as well as the red flag that says the potential for a fire storm has been raised. 

Reading The Last Half of the Story

October 5, 2019

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                      October 5, 2019

                      

I’ve finished two weeks of a long-term substitute teaching position for a teacher who works with students who have special needs. It’s a day that, in basketball terminology, would be comparable to a motion offense. All the players are moving…and moving…and moving!

The calmest moments of my teaching day come mid-morning when I read for about 20 minutes to a small group of sixth and seventh grade students. They’ve been reading Percy Jackson: The Lightning Thief. 

I picked up the story on page 160, and I entered a world of confusion and cluelessness. That is, trying to figure out what’s going on halfway through a book is about as easy as the prep for a colonoscopy exam. 

Some books are painfully predictable, but Percy Jackson brings in Greek mythology, tour guides turning into monsters at the top of the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, strange dreams, strange characters, and plot twists.

I’m sure that starting at the beginning of the book would clear up much of my confusion, but that option was not available for me. The students had already traveled through those first chapters. 

Two weeks into the reading I’ve been able to figure out why some things are the way they are, but the picture is still cloudy.

Beginning a novel halfway through is comparable to trying to understand people who are halfway through their life journeys. We have a multitude of questions as to why they think the way they do, their lack of emotion or being overly emotional, their addictions and passions, their propensity for making the same mistakes over and over again, their reluctance to talk about their past or their skepticism about the future. 

When we’ve missed the first half of the book we’re confused about the decisions, the unrest, and the attitudes. And let’s be honest! It’s hard for any of us to look at someone’s disrespectful behavior and think to ourselves, “I wonder what happened in his past that brought him to this display of behavior?” 

How someone became so self-centered and arrogant is a question that is usually beyond us. When did Jeffrey Epstein become so arrogant that he felt entitled to any woman he desired? How did he come to that point of committing reprehensible acts whenever he desired? Did his billions end up blinding him to what is moral and right, or did he have those behavior patterns before the billions insulated him?

On the other side- the compassionate side- of the character fence how did Mother Teresa come to the point where her life calling was caring for the “untouchables of” Calcutta? What put her on the path towards mercy? 

As I walk amongst the students, special needs and others, in Timberview Middle School, I try to keep my judgment to a minimum and grace to a maximum. I often shake my head in bewilderment about what I’ve heard or seen. 

On Monday I’ll read another few pages of Percy Jackson. More questions will pop into my head about “what in the world” is happening, but there will be glimpses of understanding. It will be better than the Latin class I took my first term of college. At no time, during that torturous ten week period, did the clouds part for me to the point that I understood! It was all Greek to me…even though it was Latin!

The Following of Influencers

April 7, 2019

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                  April 7, 2019

                              

More than 24 million people follow Huda Kattan on Instagram, and she has 2.2 million subscribers on YouTube. Ever since Kim Kardashian wore a series of false eyelashes that Kattan has created, her cosmetics products have attracted a crowd. 

She is one of the new breed of social media marketing people called “influencers.” An influencer does just that! Influences the opinions and decisions of other people who follow them.

Some influencers are compensated by companies whose products they promote. For example, if an influencer takes a selfie of himself eating an Egg McMuffin he may be compensated in some way by McDonald’s.

Why? Because his followers model their behavior after him. Egg McMuffins may go up a hundred thousand in sales the day after he posts a picture of him biting into one.

It is why athletic footwear companies pay top-level athletes boatloads of money to wear their brand. What did Air Jordan mean before it became the name of a Nike shoe? Suddenly millions of athletes began lacing up Air Jordans because of Michael Jordan and the subtle idea that they would be skying through the air like him. 

Influence is not new term. Kids have been told to stay away from so-and-so because he’s a bad influence. In other words, when a young boy hung around with him he was prone to making stupid decisions. Parents, of course, would also talk about who might be a good influence on their child! 

Coming from a long career as a church pastor, I always felt the tension in people’s lives over who and what influences them the most. There were those who were passionate about Jesus, sought the leading…the influencing, if you will…of the Holy Spirit, and the whisper of God. And then there were those who fluctuated- on fire for the Lord one week and as ho-hum as generic peanut butter the next. Finally, there were those who it didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out were not being influenced by Jesus much at all. 

These days it seems that Sunday church attendance fluctuates according to what time the Denver Bronco’s game kicks off, or how nice the weather is outside, or other Sunday commitments like youth soccer, baseball, volleyball, basketball, or lacrosse.

In other words, “church” has decreasing influence on people’s lives. Each year in the United States between 6,000 and 10,000 churches now close. They’ve become irrelevant in the eyes of much of the populace. Like Amazon has made the locally-owned book store a memory of the past, change has caused many of our places of worship to close up shop.

And yet there’s hope!

Just as people are influenced by the images of Huda Kattan fake eyelashes, the symbols and images of the Christian faith are still strong influencers. The Cross of Christ will always be powerful and meaningful. The image of an empty tomb conveys the possibilities of life in the midst of darkness and death. A broken piece of bread continues to influence me to ponder and think about my identity in Christ.

Granted the influencers of the Christian faith are not fluff and cosmetic, which seem to attract a certain part of our population, but they are deeply significant and rooted in truth.

“Church World” has been rocked in recent times by scandals, pastors who have been worshipped more than Jesus himself, and identifying with the voice of politics as opposed to the politics of Jesus. There are a growing number of people who now identity the church as one of those “bad influences.”

Perhaps there will be a renewal on the horizon of some influences that will lead hurting people back to the source of hope and darkened minds back to the Light! If fake eyelashes can influence millions of people, could a new vision from God influence the multitudes of people whose eyes are weary from the search for something meaningful and enduring?

Coaching Moments and Conversations

November 11, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                 November 11, 2018

                                

I love coaching kids and adolescents! Just love it! Yesterday I finished my 18th year as boy’s basketball coach at Timberview Middle School in Colorado Springs. With a new league this year our season got bumped forward to October and November. (Now I begin high school tryouts tomorrow where I’ll be coaching JV Boys)

I enjoy coaching moments and conversations that leave my players smiling and chuckling. They are spontaneous and sometimes non-sensical! 

Like yesterday! I kneeled in front of one of my players who was sitting in the midst of the bench personnel. We were getting beat by about 15 points by the team that had gone undefeated as 7th graders and now as 8th graders. It was our fifth game of the day, after losing to them in the winner’s bracket final, coming back and winning the loser’s bracket, and now having to play them again in the final game. 

The player I kneeled in front of is a bespectacled 4’10” 8th Grader. I said, “I need you to grow 6 inches…right now!” He stared back at me slightly smiling. “Okay! I guess that’s not going to happen, so just go on in for Josh!” He went to the scorer’s table and I moved to the next player on the bench, a boy about 5’10”. 

“I need you to grow 6 inches…right now!” His eyes darted from side to side considering the possibilities as I paused. “Okay! Guess that’s not going to happen, so go on in for Tyler.”

I moved on to the third player. Kneeling in front of him and looking him in the eye, “I need you to grow six inches right now…okay, just kidding!”

A little later. “You need to be close to him on defense! Pretend it’s your girlfriend!”

“Coach, I don’t have a girlfriend.”

“No wonder! You keep your distance from her! She thinks you don’t like her!”

Confused look!

I channel Coach Don Fackler from time to time. Don mentored me in coaching back…like 25 years ago. I loved that guy! He passed away suddenly about 15 years ago and it’s the one funeral that I flew from Colorado back to Michigan to attend. 

As Don would say I now find myself saying, “You’re all discombobulated! Get organized! I need my point guard to figure out when we’re all discombobulated and pull it back together.”

Here I come again! “There is nothing in that right corner of the court that is worth dribbling towards. You planning on going somewhere?”

“No, Coach!”
“Cause you keep heading for the Exit sign, son!”

Bad shot selection comment! “Hey! Have you hit a three-pointer yet?”

“No, Coach!”

“That’s right! You’re 0 for November! So let’s consider a better shot!”

“Sorry, Coach!”

Left-hand gone missing!

“What’s that thing attached to the left side of your shoulder?”

“My arm?” replies a confused looking player.

“Why not discover that it has a purpose, okay?”

“Yes, Coach!”
“I would rather you miss a left-handed layup than make a right-handed layup that announces to everyone that you don’t have a lefthand!”

And then yesterday I subbed for a player who made a couple of mistakes. I kneeled in front of him and said, “You made some mistakes, okay! But that’s not why I subbed for you! Your body language is spelling defeat. Everyone makes mistakes, but when you start moping on the court…you might as well be sitting here!” I talked to the player’s parents after the game and they thanked me for letting him know that. 

I love these kids! I love coaching them, guiding them, helping them to figure things out not just on the court, but in the situations of life. 

At the end of our tournament yesterday we gathered together with our runner-up trophy and had our team picture taken by parents and our school administrator. I noticed that the 4’10” player was holding the trophy in the midst of the front row. He was smiling from ear-to-ear, but the trophy was hiding his face.

“Paul, would you grow that six inches I asked for so we can see your face over the top of the trophy?”

Eleven players and three managers couldn’t keep from smiling on that one!

Love that kid!

Why I Substitute Teach

August 18, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                    August 18, 2018

                                     

School began again this past Wednesday in our area! At Timberview Middle School four hundred or so sixth graders waited outside the doors that first day. Seventh and eighth graders came back on Thursday.

The school staff waited inside the doors and cheered them on as they entered the building for their first middle school experience.

And I was one of the cheering high five-ing staff members!

I’m a substitute teacher, but had been asked to teach the first three days of school by a teacher back in April because of a family wedding she would be attending out-of-state.

Other staff members asked the question: “Mr. Wolfe, subbing already?” Yes, in fact, out of 13 August school days I’m scheduled to sub 10 of them for 7 different teachers. 

I often have people ask me why I substitute teach? Am I a masochist? Is it the appropriate level for how mature I act? Will no one else hire me? Am I reliving my junior high days?

Truthfully, I substitute teach because I enjoy it! I’m serious! One of the best months of my life was when I was asked to do a long-term 7th Grade Social Studies teaching position. I had to work like crazy that month preparing for each day of instruction and interaction, but I was a bit sad when the new teacher was hired. She’s a great teacher (who I have subbed for several times since!), but I missed the kids who I was privileged enough to teach, challenge, and converse with each day. 

That experience has probably influenced my feelings on substitute teaching more than anything else. It imparted confidence in me and brought me to the point where each school day was seen as being an opportunity to influence and educate, as opposed to enduring and dreading.

I don’t substitute teach because we need the income. We’re okay regardless of whether I decide to take the month off or appear in a classroom every school day of that month. The pay, in my mind, is simply a side benefit for doing something I enjoy doing. 

I substitute teach because of the relationships with staff, parents, and students. A few of my best friends are now teachers, who are on staff at Timberview. One of them has been on two mission trips with me. I officiated at the funeral service for another teacher friend who succumbed to cancer two years ago. 

I substitute teach at middle school because it’s an impressionable time for the children who enter there and three years later exit as teenagers. It’s an uncertain and confusing part of their life journeys. I remember my junior high days. They were not that pleasant. I was the smallest kid in my whole class. Other boys in my eighth grade class were beginning to sport facial hair and armpit hair that was dense and long enough to take a weed whacker to. I didn’t even have peach fuzz! I was still like a facial hair desert, void of signs of adolescence!

As a sub I have the opportunity to give a word of encouragement, bring a class to laughter, and grace students with nicknames. I have the opportunity to make a school day more than just books and study sheets. I’m able to make it an experience.

It’s a bit flattering to hear good things being said about me. I’m scheduled to teach 8th Grade social studies for two weeks at the end of October and beginning of November. The teacher came up to me on Thursday and told me she had shared with her classes that I’d be subbing for her during that time. 

“They were so excited!”

Wow! Putting the pressure on me! But, you know something? I’m also excited! I am a blessed man!

Life Naivety

January 14, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                    January 14, 2018

                                       

This past week a fast food Mexican restaurant chain in Colorado Springs announced it was closing its five stores. There were no protests, no calls to reconsider. Someone or ones had made the unfortunate decision to open each of these establishments in areas where other Mexican restaurants like Taco Bell, Chipotle, and Fuzzy’s Tacos were already established. At least three of the five restaurants were either next to or across the street from Chick-Fil-A establishments. It made me wonder if part of their business plan was to get the overflow business from Chick-Fil-A, which is always crowded!

Each store was new construction. You would think that if one store wasn’t getting business it might tend to make the company think twice before building a second store, let alone four more stores!

It reminds me of a time several years ago when I was picking up my friend, Artie Powers, at the airport. As I walked with him down to baggage claim I noticed several women were giving me looks and smiling. I thought to myself, “I must be looking good today. I am a handsome dude!” My step got a little more strut to it. As we stood by the baggage claim carousel Artie suddenly leaned over and whispered to me, “Your barn door is open!”

“What?”

“Your fly’s open!”

My sense of what was reality had been trumped by my naivety! My infatuation with my mirage of an image had blinded me to the underlying truth.

Stupidity follows closely behind in the shadow of the naive.

Solomon had a lot to say about naive stupidity. He usually summarized the person’s reputation by just calling him/her  a “fool”!

“All who are prudent act with knowledge, but fools expose their folly.” (Proverbs 13:16)

That verse gave new meaning to my walking through an airport unzipped for the world to see!

There’s a difference between wise speculation and foolish schemes! Clueless fools are nearsighted in their perspective and rarely think about what’s on the other side of the hill that they can’t clearly see.

In recent years I’ve adopted a couple of principles to live by. I always check my zipper before walking through airports…and if it sounds too good to be true it probably is!

The World Is Filled With Exceptional People

December 15, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                            December 15, 2017

                     

The Today Show, itself in need of a heartwarming story, told the story about the Olds family from Florida yesterday. DeShoan and Sofia Olds had heard of seven siblings whose biological parents could no longer care for them. The children were being split up into three different foster homes. The Olds, as Sofia explained it, felt “a calling” to adopt all seven. She and her husband, both veterans who’s served overseas in Iraq, were childless. To take on seven children at once was a challenge, but when they decided to pursue it the “calling” was either for all seven or none.

One of the children commented that he had never lived under the same roof with all of his siblings, or in the same home with a mom and dad. Now he is!

The story resonated with many people, especially in a period of time that seems blanketed with discouragement, troubling revelations, and political anger. In a season where we speak of hope their story is a story of hope.

It also reminds us that despite all the bad news we get showered with that there are a number of exceptional people in this world. They are all around us, rub elbows with us everyday, and are influencers who mostly go unnoticed.

My wife is one of those exceptional people. She works with special needs students who she loves, cries tears for, laughs with, and makes them feel important. She’s Grammy to three children who adore her. She’s the sounding board for her youngest daughter about this, that, and the other. She’ll never be on the front of Time, but most exceptional people aren’t. Time front covers are populated with people who make the news, or the issues that are the news.

Ron McKinney, 7th Grade science teacher at Timberview Middle School, is one of those exceptional people. Having taught there ever since Moby Dick was a minnow, he has influenced and impacted countless lives of kids in the weird adolescent year of seventh grade. He’s coached hundreds of kids in cross-country, track, volleyball, basketball, and softball. Last summer he joined eight other men and me in a mission work trip to a camp in British Columbia that ministers to the children of the First Nations tribes, and he loved it.

Kasey Lucero is an exceptional person. I joined her for three years as her JV Girls’ Basketball coach at The Classical Academy in Colorado Springs. She was more than thirty years younger than me, but wise beyond her years. Her consistency in how she treated people was amazing, a person of grace and fairness. Recently I asked another young woman, who coached alongside me this year, who stood out to her as a person of integrity and she didn’t hesitate in saying it was Coach Lucero.

Sylvia Hale is exceptional! Today is her last day of teaching music at DaVinci Elementary. For years she has been a source of encouragement for young kids as they discover the gift of music. Starting next month she’ll be living in the state of Washington with her husband, Bill, as he begins his first pastorate at the age of 63. It is an exciting journey for them, and one that has demanded exceptional faith.

When I think of exceptional my mind automatically filters it through “character.” Exceptional character is the term. DeShoan and Sofia Olds led me back to the community of hope this past week with their story. Today I look around me at all the other people who will allow me to stay there with their ongoing stories of inspiration and encouragement.