Sunday, December 28, 2014
Darling wife had waded into the sea of shoppers on the final Sunday before Christmas. NFL football’s in the background, crooner Aaron Neville’s singing and this knucklehead starts thinking about three men.
Each has bored into my marrow with their passion for team. They come from different walks of life but share a similar spirit. They understand the importance of being on the same page with others. One Heart Beat. Yoked. United. Call if whatever the heck you wanna call it. There are exceptions to every rule, but most of the time when speaking of successful teams from athletics, business, non-profit, civic or wherever, folks talk about a bond. A cord that is not easily broken. These three men exude that belief. It’s infectious. Just my opinion, but, admirable. Wise to emulate. From baseball, when talking about these dudes, the announcer might suggest, “Here’s the batting order.”
Leading off? John Ware. What a guy. He’s a chaplain at the Denver Rescue Mission. He works with the same guys as the “A Stronger Cord” project works with. Fellow knuckleheads trying to overcome life’s challenges. A graduate of the Mission’s New Life Program (NLP), the 63-year-old dove right into ASC’s warm up, workout and hang out philosophy. Good dude. Makes things happen. The kind of guy buddy Billy Mac from Hackensack likes to bellow, “Would charge from the fox hole with ya!” Got your back.
Batting second is Lester Fisher. Not surprisingly, I was introduced to the church deacon through Ware. A fellow NLP graduate encouraged Denver’s oldest African-American church to throw open its gym for ASC. The workouts at the Crossing, a nearby Mission facility where Ware works, had outgrown space reserved for indoor exercise during cold weather. Union Baptist said, “Come on over, boys.”
Next year, in partnership with the church, ASC is launching a neighborhood outreach campaign targeted at isolated men and fatherless boys. There are plenty of each. Les Fisher is yoked in trying to reduce their numbers. A valued comrade.
Batting third is Denver Police Chief Robert White. Along with a fellow knucklehead, your scribe attended the city of Denver’s recent gathering on race. It was held at the Colorado History Museum. It was productive. Obviously, residents of the Mile High City - I’m one of them - have room for improvement. We all do, right? There’s always room for improvement. Every time I’ve heard Chief White speak the message has focused on the importance of community and police force being yoked. It requires everybody to check egos and agendas at the door and work for something greater than ourselves. Simple, not easy. Home. Work. Elsewhere. The three-year chief gets that and, at least when I’ve been present, implores others, “We gotta work together.”
All these men get that elusive quest. Right on.
It’s amazing what can be accomplished when nobody cares who gets the credit. The question becomes, will we believe it? Three wise men do. I hope you do, too.
Sunday, December 21, 2014
Patsy Sue was in a pickle. A predicament.
With a moving date drawing near and prior obligations precluding family members from assisting, the almost-octogenarian needed help packing beloved belongings for the next frontier.
What follows could spark a debate between divine intervention enthusiasts and those who believe in random luck. One thing is indisputable: we control our destiny, including the necessity to ask for what we need. The irony? Often, when least expected, we reap a harvest more plentiful than originally thought or desired.
Mom was looking for a moving assistant. However, in one of the greatest holidays gifts ever, was presented with far more. My feisty mother had reached out to an employee at the assisted living facility she was departing. “Know anybody looking for work helping an old lady pack?” The concerned worker did. Her sister. Here’s where the debate begins. Blind luck or a God thing?
Born in Tupelo, Mississippi, birth place of Elvis Presley, the magnificence that is Mable moved north to the Midwest with family, eventually settling into a long career working for Pepsi Cola at one of its bottling plants in Kansas City, Missouri. “Missed less than two weeks of work because of illness in more than 28 years.” Mable is dependable.
What started innocently with helping Patsy Sue pack for yet another move has turned into a modern-day version of “Thelma and Louise.” Mom’s original destination suddenly was not available. What to do? In less than 48 hours the grandma to eight had to vacate her current residence. Moving is tough on anybody, regardless of age, but this was the second move in less than a year for a woman nearing her eighth decade of life. Those caring for aging parents know the drill. Stress was high. “Where is mom going to go?”
Mable is resourceful. A long-time resident of Kansas City, Kansas, the mother of a military man knew of another nearby senior-living facility. The crisis passed. Mom had a new home, providing comfort and safety, not too far from her former nesting ground.
Two women thrown together. One who had somewhat grudgingly asked for help. The other, it would be later discovered, who in retirement, had been seeking a chance to help. Mable has a special spirit. A servant’s heart.
The dynamic duo now spend many hours a week together. They run errands, shop, attend church, pour love toward others, converse about life and, yes, bicker on occasion. Companions. We all need companions, right? This roller coaster we call life was not meant to be traveled solo. It’s too hard. We need to connect.
Kudos to mom. She asked and received. Mable. The best Christmas gift possible for children concerned about the welfare of an aging, but still quite able mother. This week, don’t hesitate to bury pride, anger, resentment or whatever stuff is preventing you from asking for what you need.
Mom asked for a moving assistant. An entire family got a miracle. You might too. Ask!
Sunday, December 14, 2014
The black man who’s like a brother bellowed, “We have got to figure out a way to come together!” Your scribe was sitting right next to this passionate man in a room full of knuckleheads.
The conversation this Friday morning had turned to Ferguson and New York City. Men killing one another for what most would suggest are silly and insane reasons. What the heck is going on around here?
With fire in his eyes and saliva on his lips, the man boomed a question deep into the hearts and souls of those gathered. “Come on dudes, what are we afraid of?” To that, my fox hole buddy, I shout to the mountaintops, “Damn good question!”
What are we afraid of? Is anybody else tired of the status quo? Protests in the streets, isolated men and women on the streets and a widening inequality on the financial sheets. Just three of many ailments hampering American society today.
I go back to my buddy’s first question, about figuring out a way to come together. Victory’s got one. A Stronger Cord. Yep. How about “Figuring out a way to come together“ starts with a workout? Warm up. Work out. Hang out. Sweat. Bond. Grow. We challenge one another to become more fitness-minded, dependable and productive human beings because we believe it will help us build a stronger cord to families, jobs and communities?
Could it be that if we convene, lather up a bit, kick the ol’ endorphins into motion and THEN hang out it could provide a glimmer of hope? Work the body then the brain in the quest to prevail against what ails? We have an obesity problem in this country too. At the very least, those who participate in ASC workouts get in better physical shape. Who knows, with a little luck, we might make progress growing closer in mind and spirit as well. It’s just an idea. Why not give it a shot? Any other ideas? Fire away!
This much I do know: this aging jock is grateful for the men and women sharing a similar passion for ASC. Thanks to all showing up for workouts, hang outs, community meetings and other stuff associated with ASC’s rollout. We’re on a mission to reduce isolation and obesity. We have far too much of each. They’re dragging us down physically, emotionally and financially.
So ASC is our dream. What’s yours? To steal my buddy’s words, “What will it take to bring folks together in support of those dreams? What are you afraid of?”
At the end of the day, perhaps, it comes down to this: What do we want those responsible, if pressured to decide, to write on our tombstones? Do we want someone to carve into granite that we lived powered by the destructive duo of fear and self doubt? Or the dynamic duo of courage and wonderment?
This week, if talk ever turns to tombstones, make the latter come alive!
Sunday, December 7, 2014
The man sitting next to me in the noisy room leaned close, smiled wide and pronounced, “I am so proud of her.”
What a difference a few months make. It speaks to the power of a group to influence thoughts, words and actions. It can be incredibly productive or destructive. In this man’s case, association with a team helped keep him sane during an insane moment. A teenage daughter, legally an adult, had met a man online, fallen in love and moved across the country to live with the fellow young adult and his family.
Every Friday morning, this gentle soul would not hold back the anguish felt for a wayward child. Who meets a dude on the Internet, forgoes college, packs bags and ventures into a future fraught with peril? Crazy.
Many of us are certainly guilty of similar stupidity, right? Each week this man would seek strength and guidance from a bunch of knuckleheads, many with similar tales of woe concerning a child’s illogical thinking. Veterans of such harrowing moments implored the health-care worker to persevere, pray and believe, “This too shall pass.”
It did. To no one’s surprise the relationship soured. The child moved back to Colorado, is now enrolled in college, paying for it and living independently. A brain-cramp moment has led a young woman to march forward on the maturity meter. It has brought peace to a father’s soul, and a smile to his face.
Challenges. We all have ‘em, right? Don’t face them alone. Teamwork is the key to success!
My mind wanders to our nation’s turmoil. Racial and social justice protests in the streets, mostly peaceful, but some violent and tragic. Will the demonstrations bring about positive change? How can we harness this energy, tension and frustration in an attempt to build bridges over barriers dividing us?
It’s one of the attributes of Victory’s “A Stronger Cord” project. Barriers are removed. Interested folks stare at a picture of sweaty dudes. “Who are the homeless, and who are the lawyers, doctors, salesmen and trainers?” It’s difficult to correctly identify, via the labels offered, the pictured men.
Exercise is an equalizer. A connector. It provides an opportunity to build the bridges and span the divides. All ASC asks of others is to gather. Warm up. Work out. Hang out. Sweat. Bond. Grow.
At the very least, in a country plagued by obesity, ASC participants will become more physically fit. Who knows? With some luck, given the project’s emphasis on becoming fitness-minded, dependable and productive, we can build a stronger cord to families, jobs and communities.
It starts with uniting. It helps us ride out the storms. A wayward child, an addiction, illness, divorce, job loss or whatever. It helps create solutions where, before, there was conflict. Teamwork. It requires sacrifice of self.
This week, dive into a group determined to make a difference. One heart beat. It will make you proud and us better. Let’s give it a shot!