Archive for August, 2010

This is MY City!

August 30, 2010


A lesson not found in textbooks

It was a scene straight out of a western movie, but with a motorcycle, not a horse.  Seven young men, not to be mistaken for the Magnificent Seven, rolled out of a nearby pub at 2:00 a.m.  An eyewitness reported they were pretty lubricated.  Walking up the street, they exercised their lack of inhibition [and possibly the fact that they all had left with whom they had arrived] by toppling over a couple of big-barrel trashcans and yucking it up as the trash littered the street.

They were described by our eyewitness, who slipped this story over my transom, as “students at a nearby college” –- all over 21.  That would probably make them seniors or grad students or struggling underclassmen on the five-year plan.  Whatever, they had a lot to learn and were about to be schooled…

A local resident and business owner had just ended his night and ridden off on his motorcycle, wearing the appropriate headgear.  Suddenly, he appeared on the scene of the crime in progress…

Before I tell you what transpired next, let’s be clear that this citizen [hint: Semper Fi] looms large.  He is 6’ 6” tall, carries the requisite weight on his huge frame, and when he wants to, can double as a drill sergeant. Yup, John Wayne starring as our local hero in this western set in a small southern town.

Back at the scene, school was in session. Our hero stopped his bike, stood on the street [helmet on], pointed at the trash barrels, and bellowed into the night air: “Clean this @#$%^! up!  This is my city and you won’t mess with it!”  [Or words to that effect.]

Our eyewitness reports that he never knew that one’s eyeballs can grow; he always thought they were a fixed size for all of one’s adult life.  But suddenly, his doubled in size. The Impotent Seven had a similar physical transformation.  Our witness also reported an odor that made him look around for the local horse and carriage ride, which was nowhere to be found at 2 a.m.

Like defeated cowboys facing the gallows, the seven men dutifully reset the trash barrels.  Upon further orders from our hero, they picked up the trash.  Pleased with the results, he dismissed them, said hello to our eyewitness, and rode off into the [dang, I want to write “sunset” but it was 2 a.m.]… night.

Yes, young men, this is his city.  And mine.  And so many others’ who care and live and work here.  Someday it will be yours –- if you earn it.  It comes with no diploma but with a permanent patch of pride and passion.  It’s what makes a community click.


Accept Yourself

August 30, 2010

With school back in session, I’m focusing on our children’s search for positive self-identity.  I speak from firsthand knowledge.  As a high schooler, I was quite the dork.  Truth be told, my clothes did not match.  I was shy and lacked confidence.  I kept secret journals. I had no clue.  No only did I not accept myself, I did not even know myself.  But then, a teacher’s comment about an essay I wrote, a neighbor’s compliment on my yard work, and my experiences in college changed all that.  I was on my way to knowing and growing.

Decades later, and here I am pondering the angst and psyches of our younger people.  Recently, I spoke by phone with a client on a business call, but since she and I have known each other’s children since they were pre-schoolers together, we talked first about them and how they are becoming young women.  We commented on what they experience, not just from nature and nurture but from their peer environment as well, and how they emerge with unique personalities all their own. 

It’s that self-emergence that is critical to how they’ll lead their adult lives.  It reappears when we fully grow up and may still be at work truly accepting ourselves, perhaps reinventing ourselves, even as we age –- or especially then.  I remember turning 50 and feeling totally liberated.  I couldn’t care less what anyone thought of me.  It wasn’t arrogance talking; it was self-assurance and that point in life when you know what counts and what doesn’t.  A lot of people reach that point sooner, but even they get the booster shot at the big 5 – 0.  Now as I approach sixty [penciled in for June 16, 2012], I am more likely to ponder the self-acceptance of others much younger than me, whose self-identities are still works-in-progress. 

It is important to recognize the impact we have on them.  What we say, what they observe in us, what we write -– all of our messages mean something.  Recently, I “autographed” a column for a friend who I had mentioned in the column.  It was not what she wanted. Sensing her disappointment, I sat thoughtfully about her in context. I rewrote my note by hand on the news-printed column and dropped it in her mailbox.  It meant a lot to her, a simple but thought-out message of encouragement and insight into her emergence as an adult. 

The new school year has begun, and each of us has a role to play with every student we come into contact with, whether as parents, teachers or by chance encounter.  We are here to help them accept themselves, grow themselves and achieve their self-identities.

My wife and I tell our daughter that self-respect and self-knowledge precede one’s ability to truly accept and respect others.  Accepting oneself is the beginning of a greater good that benefits entire communities.  Our schools can help do that, but it is paramount at home.  So cheers to all of us –- educators, mentors and simply good citizens.  Let the school year unfold!