Thursday, October 24, 2013

Make a Difference

My e-mail inbox has some really neat things from time to time.  Most of the really cool stuff comes from my father.  He sends all sorts of things out, and as a result people send him lots of neat things.  So giving has a way of receiving.

So here is a story I had in my in box.  I don't know who wrote it, and my google search turned up a lot of other stories but not this one.

In a world so focused on ME, this story is a breath of fresh air.  Part of being productive is taking time away from the hectic part of life.  A slow down and smell the flowers.  To think about others.  Serve.  Help.

I have several more stories I've collected over the years that have touched me in some way. Over the next few weeks I'll share them here with all of you.

Make a Difference.

 At a fundraising dinner for a school that serves children with learning disabilities, the father of one of the students delivered a speech that would never be forgotten by all who attended. After extolling the school and its dedicated staff, he offered a question:

'When not interfered with by outside influences, everything nature does, is done with perfection. Yet my son, Shay, cannot learn things as other children do. He cannot understand things as other children do.

Where is the natural order of things in my son?' The audience was stilled by the query.

The father continued. 'I believe that when a child like Shay, who was mentally and physically disabled comes into the world, an opportunity to realize true human nature presents itself, and it comes in the way other people treat that child.'

Then he told the following story:

Shay and I had walked past a park where some boys Shay knew were playing baseball. Shay asked, 'Do you think they'll let me play?' I knew that most of the boys would not want someone like Shay on their team, but as a father I also understood that if my son were allowed to play, it would give him a much-needed sense of belonging and some confidence to be accepted by others in spite of his handicaps.

I approached one of the boys on the field and asked (not expecting much) if Shay could play. The boy looked around and made a choice, saying, 'We're losing by six runs and the game is in the eighth inning. I guess he can be on our team and we'll try to put him in to bat in the ninth inning..'

Shay struggled over to the team's bench and, with a broad smile, put on a team shirt.. I watched with a small tear in my eye and warmth in my heart. The boys saw my joy at my son being accepted.

In the bottom of the eighth inning, Shay's team scored a few runs but was still behind by three. In the top of the ninth inning, Shay put on a glove and played in the right field. Even though no hits came his way, he was obviously ecstatic just to be in the game and on the field, grinning from ear to ear as I waved to him from the stands.

In the bottom of the ninth inning, Shay's team scored again. Now, with two outs and the bases loaded, the potential winning run was on base and Shay was scheduled to be next at bat. At this juncture, do they let Shay bat and give away their chance to win the game? Surprisingly, Shay was given the bat. Everyone knew that a hit was all but impossible because Shay didn't even know how to hold the bat properly, much less connect with the ball. However, as Shay stepped up to the plate, the pitcher, recognizing that the other team was putting winning aside for this moment in Shay's life, moved in a few steps to lob the ball in softly so Shay could at least make contact.

The first pitch came and Shay swung clumsily and missed. The pitcher again took a few steps forward to toss the ball softly towards Shay. As the pitch came in, Shay swung at the ball and hit a slow ground ball right back to the pitcher.
The game would now be over. The pitcher picked up the soft grounder and could have easily thrown the ball to the first baseman. Shay would have been out and that would have been the end of the game.

Instead, the pitcher threw the ball right over the first baseman's head, out of reach of all team mates. Everyone from the stands and both teams started yelling, 'Shay, run to first! Run to first!' Never in his life had Shay ever run that far, but he made it to first base. He scampered down the baseline, wide-eyed and startled.

Everyone yelled, 'Run to second, run to second!' Catching his breath, Shay awkwardly ran towards second, gleaming and struggling to make it to the base. By the time Shay rounded towards second base, the right fielder had the ball . The smallest guy on their team who now had his first chance to be the hero for his team. He could have thrown the ball to the second-baseman for the tag, but he understood the pitcher's intentions so he, too, intentionally threw the ball high and far over the third-baseman's head.

Shay ran toward third base deliriously as the runners ahead of him circled the bases toward home. All were screaming, 'Shay, Shay, Shay, all the Way Shay.' Shay reached third base because the opposing shortstop ran to help him by turning him in the direction of third base, and shouted, 'Run to third! Shay, run to third!'

As Shay rounded third, the boys from both teams, and the spectators, were on their feet screaming, 'Shay, run home! Run home!' Shay ran to home, stepped on the plate, and was cheered as the hero who hit the grand slam and won the game for his team.  

'That day' , said the father softly with tears now rolling down his face, 'the boys from both teams helped bring a piece of true love and humanity into this world'.

Shay didn't make it to another summer.  He died that winter, having never forgotten being the hero and making me so happy, and coming home and seeing his Mother tearfully embrace her little hero of the day!
I think if we can see how to help, and make things better, and have the courage to do that, our world will be a little better.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Sometimes You Have To Reach Deep Inside

There are so many things to learn, and if your eyes are open, and your mind is engaged, you can find little lessons everywhere.

I have a daughter who is in her High School Marching Band.  As such I go to the football games to watch the band.  It is an interesting phenomena that if the Band is really great, after the half time show the stands empty because the visiting team has so many points the home team has no chance of winning.

Fortunately, the football team is also strong.  So I get to enjoy a great football game and a wonderful halftime show with the band.

Let me set the stage.  The High School is a 6A school.  In the division the ball team competes with the school is ranked No. Two.  Their arch Rivals from across town are ranked Three.  Both teams are undefeated.  They played a few weeks ago.

The game lived up to the hype, and it started off well.  We had a great kick off return, we intercepted a touchdown pass in the end zone.  It was a glorious start.  But as rivalry games go, they are so emotion charged and unpredictable, we lost the game.

Last week we were at home, and the Number One Ranked team came to town to play.  Having come off a loss I wondered how the team would do.  The visiting team received the opening kick and ran 90 yards for the touch down.  8 seconds into the game and it is 0-7. 

I won't give a total recap of the game, however we did pull ahead.  In the forth quarter the visitors were putting together a drive to pull ahead and win. 

To me it looked like the team relized that "hey, we can win this game, we can beat these guys!"  So Number 5 Home team was digging in for a win over the Number One visitors.  The team pulled together and stopped the drive, got the ball back and managed to pull of the win.

So my point is this.  We have set backs from time to time.  Life can get tough on us.  Sales are down, relationships have problems.  I can't find the time to work on my writing.  My project is due, and I am no where near ready.  The room I am painting just won't come together. 

However,  if you reach deep inside you can find what it takes to get what you are after done.  Like the high school team coming off a loss to their arch rival, and then facing the number one ranked team, they found a way to upset all the predictions and stop the drive that gave them the win.

If things are not going totally the way you would like them to go, stop and take stock.  The first thing that will need attention, more than likely, is your own outlook.  Your own motivations.  Your own desires. 

Reach inside and tell yourself that you can do this.  You can make the difference in the outcome.  That core belief is what is needed to keep moving forward, and achieving those things you desire. 

Sometimes you have to reach inside, deep inside to come up with a way to succeed.  What are some of the things you do to help you?

Thursday, October 10, 2013

They Don't Make them Like they Used To

A common phrase used with each generation

"They don't make them like they used to."

Think of cars.  Those autos from the 1950's were huge, metal gas guzzeling cars.  A different time, with gas at .05 cents a gallon, who cared if it only got 10 miles to the gallon?  Beautiful works of art, fenders, tail fins, large bumpers.  No seat belts, no air bags, rolling death traps.

Think of craftsmanship.  Fingered drawers, crown molding around the ceilings.  The meticulous attention to detail.  Now we have press wood furniture you can buy in a box and put together (I was going to put in an hour, but sometimes it takes me much longer to assemble that stuff!)

Books and movies have also evolved.  I was watching an old 80's movie a few weeks ago.  The lines were a bit stiff, the villains smiled and rubbed their hands together when things were going their way.  The music came up when the hero was struggling.  Yea, it was cheezy.  And yet, I kind of miss some of that stuff as well.

The books have gone to show not tell, very very well.  I don't mind thinking about things when I read, but sometimes I miss the hints.  The movies are well put together, fast paced, the villains are the hero in there own right.  A lot of grey area, a lot to give people things to think about.  The quality is very much higher than the older stuff.

And yet....

There is a lot to be said in the classic older stories.  I like great music in the movies.  I love the theme songs.  Those are no longer in.  The conflict is a bit more subtle now.

So, yea, they don't make things like they used to.  In some ways things are better now than then.  Yet there is still a lot of great things on those book shelves, and in the film archives.  Don't sell them short because they are classics.  Classics teach us a lot if we will just take the time to savor them.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Five Things That Steal Time

I have found that too many days end with less accomplished than I wanted to complete.  In other words my to done list is way to short, and the to do list is still too long.  Why can I not get everything done that I want to do?  I start the day with good intentions.  I write down the things I'd like to do, I look at the time needed, and the priorities, and the plan looks feasible.  However somewhere between Getting Up and starting the day and Getting Ready For Bed, something happened to derail my plans.

As I look back over the day I try and figure out what happened.  I've noticed a few things that steal my time.  Some of the things are obvious, while others look so innocent, but they take away from my productivity. 

So I've been giving this some thought, and I've come up with a short list of things that seem to steel my time.  Granted, self discipline is a factor, and there are days when I do give my self permission not to do what I wanted to do that morning. (But the self discipline thing is a post for another day.)  Each of the following five items, in and of themselves don't take much but as a whole, they can wreck your productivity. 


My son Kevin could write a text message with his phone in his pocket.  In fact one of his phones he had worn the letters of the key pad because of his non stop texting.  I cut him some slack because he was 18 and a senior and didn't have much in the way of school work.

Text messages are great.  You can fire off a note and continue with what you are doing.  Your phone beeps, whistles, sings, vibrates...  well what ever it does, you check the phone and there is the answer to your question, or the message that just arrived is a question that will need your attention. 

I do not text very fast.  Sometimes I can click on the microphone icon and say my text, but most of the time the phone puts down something totally different, so I have to delete it and type it in again.  Hit send and go back to doing what I was doing.

Then the phone beeps, whistles, sings, vibrates......   and you can not ignore it.  What is it?  Who sent it?  What do they want?  Gotta answer it.

Pretty soon you've spent a lot of time with the little messages.  A short phone call could handle the whole situation in about two minutes, but you'll spend a lot of time texting back and forth. 

Even the boss sends you text messages. 

So, if it isn't important, or helping you accomplish things, move the messages down on your priority list.  The little cell phone is not supposed to be running your life, so don't let it.  The text message can wait.


I had a boss who used e-mail to send out all of his communications.  He would get upset if you didn't respond quickly to his e-mail.  So I had his e-mails sent to my phone so I could be alerted when they came in.  It kept the boss happy, but it ruined my productivity on the things I was trying to do.  Because my phone would beep, whistle, sing, vibrate....  I would have to stop what I was doing, onlock the screen, click on the e-mail button and read the message.  Decide if I needed to do something then, or if it could wait.

Most of the time the thing could wait.  It was a bad idea to have e-mail sent to my phone. 

The best thing to do is have a time of day when you open your e-mail, read them, and sort them out and put things on your list to work on, and get on with things.

Stopping to check the e-mail every 20 min or so will bog you down and put a huge damper on your productivity.  So give e-mail the time it needs to keep communication flowing, add things to your work load, answer questions that need your attention, and then shut it down and keep going on what you need to do. 

You rule, not your e-mail.


I love new things, and I love the electronic world.  All sorts of neat gizmos to make life easier, and more fun, for the most part.  So the tablet/iPad is supposed to help you be more productive, it is also filled with things that distract you.  Sorting play lists, playing a quick game....

10 to 20 minutes can zip right by and suddenly you are in a hurry to catch up on things.  So use the tools wisely.

Checking Status on Facebook/Twitter

I keep hearing that Facebook is addictive.  In fact I've heard that there are people who have a fear of missing an update from someone.  I also understand that the younger generation is really hooked on the facebook/social media thing. 

It is true, I do have a facebook account, but I get on about once or twice a week, and spend about a half hour with it.  I like to know what my friends are doing, but I would rather talk with them and hear it from them, not reading about it on some computer screen.  I feel less conected with my friends with facebook.  I want them to tell me what they are doing, not checking their account to see what they are up to. 

I do like the photo memes and the wit and jokes.  I can see how you can get lost in all of that.  However, decide how long you want to spend on it and set a timer and get out.  You'll find you'll spend the whole night looking at facebook.

Current Events

It is good to be informed.  I like to know what is going on.  The internet gives you instant updates and lots of links, and a lot of folks have a lot of things to say about a lot of issues.  I've worked hard, I want to take a break, and I'll check on the news.

Well with all the ease of getting things, again you can find yourself spending more time in the arena than you had originally intended.

 * * *

So all these things that save time, and make things easier, can, and often do, take up more time than you realize.  Remember, you are the master.  You decide how much time to allot to these things.  Do not allow them to run you, and suck up all your time. 

Moderation is the key.  Texting, e-mail, electronics, facebook/social media, and current events are all good, and if used with a little self control, can help your productivity.  Just don't let all the gizmos and fun distract you from your own list of things that need your attention and need to be done.