Sunday, November 2, 2014

Pep Talk: "Provoke Good Works!"

One of my favorite pals, an ol’ college buddy named Chester, once muttered something that permeated deep within the marrow. It’s been a philosophy that has driven quite a successful life as a businessman, husband, father and friend. Here it is:

“Hang out with the Positrons, avoid the Negatoids and recruit the Tweeners!”

That powerful truth was bouncing around in my brain recently as I sat in the audience and listened to a man share his testimony with New Life Program candidates at the Denver Rescue Mission. Each Thursday, I lead the chapel services there. But this day, this simple dude from Missouri was listening and learning, not speaking and encouraging.

The man being real with the dudes is an employee of Phoenix MultiSport. A cherished partner in providing transformational services, through Victory’s “A Stronger Cord” project, to sub-populations of men suffering substance abuse, criminal record and military fatigue experiences. We have too many of them in America today. Isolated. Struggling.

As a country, we’ve reached a crossroads. We have a choice to make. We have to decide to reach down and try to lift them up or allow their challenges to drag us down. All involved with ASC are proclaiming, “Let’s try like heck to lift ‘em up!”

Anyway, this great guy, originally from the Boston area, was sharing about struggles with addiction. They started early, with drinking beer and smoking pot at 11 years of age. About 30 men were present in the room. All could relate. Through more than a decade of abuse, the downward spiral ended with incarceration for drug trafficking offenses. But time in the Grey Bar Motel brought an unexpected blessing. Because of a leg injury, the skilled craftsman was forced to attend physical therapy, which led to working out, which led to a devotion to fitness, which led to associating with a different group of folks, which led to Phoenix, a sober active community with a special spirit and commitment to fitness being a critical piece of recovery.

Which leads to the question for all of us. Who are we hanging out with? Are they raising us up? Or dragging us down? We can flip the questions around too. Who are we raising up? Dragging down? I think it was the legendary Earl Nightingale who once bellowed, “We become what we think about.” We also, usually, adopt behaviors and attitudes of those we associate with and vice versa.

Another cherished friend has a family situation that is a good illustration. An aging parent and a grown child have struggled for years to establish a peaceful co-existence. It has been a roller coaster ride. Most families - “We put the fun in dysfunction” - have such a tale to tell, right? From what is described, each party has suffered considerable emotional damage. Why do we cling to relationships, behaviors and beliefs we know are counterproductive? We’re human.

As I sat in admiration while listening to a man describe his past and the lessons learned from it, my eyes wandered around the room. Was the message permeating?

The struggles in life come in many forms. They might be physical, emotional or financial. Where they originate is unexpected. This much we know. Those “What the heck is going on around here?” moments will appear. We’re gonna get knocked down, kicked in the teeth, call if whatever you want. The journey rarely goes as WE plan. Anybody who tries to convince you otherwise is lying. Victim or student of life? Our choice.

The ability to effectively deal with life’s lemons is greatly enhanced if we have a solid support base. It gets us back to the question, “Who are we hanging out with?”

Life a struggle right now? Illness? Addiction? Relationship breakdown? Employment woes? Perhaps the smartest thing we can do is to understand a few realities: we have a choice about attitude, we’re not alone in suffering and the best darn thing we can do is seek, with a vengeance, like-minded folks. Rally with them. Become a team. My mind wanders to long ago, college undergrad days. Bummed about the loss of athletic dreams and a relationship breakup, I filled the void with lots of booze and bad decisions. Dark times. Working out with buddies on the Mizzou track team - thanks Chris Tremblay - helped lift my spirits! Encourage one another. Give hope and confidence to one another to prevail against what ails.

Who are we hanging out with? Go find the Positrons, be a Positron. If you’re really gutsy, or maybe crazy, dive into the Negatoid pool and spread some goodwill. Who knows, it might be infectious. As a buddy at Platoon said profoundly the other day, “Go provoke someone to good works.”

Amen buddy. Let’s charge from the foxhole united and do it this week!

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