Sunday, August 19, 2012

Pep Talk: "Our Reaction to Irritants"

Ever had to deal with difficult people? Sure, we all have been in that boat before - home, work and elsewhere, right? The question becomes, how do we deal with a family member, boss, co-worker, neighbor, fellow volunteer or whomever seems an irritant.

I was thinking about this the other day while overhearing the conversation of a young lady who had just learned she had made, as a sophomore, the starting unit of her high school’s varsity volleyball team. It was quite an accomplishment, an example of hard work paying off, but there are repercussions already emerging. In this example, older girls, two seniors, not happy a youngster will be taking precious playing time from them once the season begins in a few weeks. The icy stares and cold shoulders are chilling.

Listening to the young lady describe the issue took me back almost four decades to a time the writer of this Pep Talk was in a similar situation. It also, once again, reminded me of the good fortune I have had over the years to have incredible mentors to show me the way.

It was the fall of 1973 and I was an incoming sophomore - high school was sophomore through senior back then - at Raytown South High School in suburban Kansas City, Missouri. In those days, athletics were all that really interested me. Well, sports and girls to be honest with you. Anyway, I was a pretty good athlete and had been named the starting quarterback over another player who was heading into his senior year and had been the starting junior varsity quarterback the year before. He was not happy and neither was a group of buddies who had played alongside him for many years.

But I was lucky to have a coach who prepared me for the adversity. He mentored me in how to handle the scorn and stay focused on the important task at hand: leading the team’s offense and working to improve daily. Most of the abuse was petty and, in hindsight, somewhat amusing but was ever-present in reminding a youngster that a few upperclassmen were not thrilled with the coach’s decision to move a popular senior to another backfield position. For the record, the older athlete ended up excelling in that role and set a school record for most single-game receptions in the season’s final game.

A high-school football coach, Vance Morris, showed me the way to deal with difficult people. It’s a lesson that has stuck through the years. Today I’m blessed to have a platoon of men who challenge me weekly to “never look for justice in this world but never cease to give it.” Just my opinion, but that seems a good way to deal with difficult people, love them.

The daydreaming stopped when I heard the young lady mention, “My coach has told me she has my back.” Good for the coach! When life gets challenging we need to have each others’ backs. This week, if we find ourselves in a tough spot with others, it’s a part of life after all, let’s rise above the fray and try like heck to remember “this too shall pass.” Let’s focus on what we do control: our reaction to irritants.

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