Sunday, April 26, 2015

Pep Talk: "Flight Delay Delight!"

When was the last time you were stuck on an airplane, ready to depart when, suddenly,  a solemn voice offers. “We have a mechanical issue.” It’s a bummer ain’t it? Folks, deplaning to change flights, others staying on board wondering if they can make connections. Stuck. It sucks.

What to do? Well, this aging jock bore deeper in the the morning newspaper. What to wandering eyes appeared? A story that served as a powerful reminder to a simple, but very difficult, truth to embrace. The importance of forgiveness. Nobody wins when we carry a grudge, especially us.

The wonderful reminder came from a Denver Post story read while darling wife and your humble scribe were trying to get to Florida. A much anticipated weekend of celebrating birthdays for this knucklehead and younger brother’s amazing bride. It was one tick closer to six decades for me and a milestone moment for Susan. I’ll let her share the number.

Anyway, I’m sitting on an airplane, waiting and reading. Many remaining on board are yakking away on mobile phones. The woman in the seat directly ahead tells her two boys: “You start school 90-minutes late today. Tell your dad.”

A story in the “Denver & The West” section catches the eye and bores into soul. Ladies and gentlemen, children of all ages, say hi to Eva Mozes Kor. The 81-year-old Auschwitz survivor had spoken the night before at an event in Denver. The keynote speaker, at the Anti-Defamation League’s 34th annual Governor’s Holocaust Remembrance Program, talked about a decision made 20 years ago that transformed her life.

Mozes Kor and her family were detained at Auschwitz. Nazi doctors performed experiments on her and other family members. A half decade later, in 1995, Mozes Kor returned to the site. Surprising even herself, the founder of CANDLES: Children of Auschwitz Nazi Deadly Lab Experiments Survivors, asked to speak with one of the still-living doctors who performed the tests. The two met.

“I discovered I had a power; no one could take it away from me, and no one could stop it.” said the auburn-haired warrior. It was the power of forgiveness. In retrospect, the also-founder of  the Indiana-based Holocaust and Education Center, says she just “stumbled upon it” and wishes the restorative spirit would have appeared sooner.

Mozes Kor lectures occasionally but the message remains constant. She implores  audience members to embrace the choice made 20 years ago, forgive. In Hebrew, “teshura” is a word used to describe the difficult but necessary mindest.

“You can say anything you wish in a letter, but at the end you have to say, ‘I forgive you’ and you have to mean it,” stated Mozes Kor. “That is what sets you free.”

Amen sister.

An amazing woman figures out a way to let go. To say “teshura” and refuse to be stuck in anger, resentment and rage against perpetrators, or self, for the atrocities endured.

What a flight-delay delight. This week, follow Mozes Kor example. Teshura!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Pep Talk: "Push The Up Button!"

I was minding my own business while reading the sports page of the Denver Post - paper edition - one recent morning. The big news? Broncos’ mini-camp was underway and everybody was pontificating. Many angles and stories that seemed to eventually return to Peyton Manning. Does the certain Hall of Famer have enough gas left in the tank? Can he, new head coach Gary Kubiak and their supporting cast get past last year’s disappointment and become superior to their former selves?

A quote from a quotable guy, Emmanuel Sanders, stood out. When the talented wide out answered a question about the team moving forward after a frustrating first-round playoff knockout last season, this was offered: “It stinks that one game kind of defines our season. But that’s one thing we have to learn from, and that is one thing that we will.”

I love Sanders’ perspective and share it. When we have those “What the heck is going on around here?” moments, we have a choice when it comes to dealing effectively with unexpected and unwanted crap. Student or victim?

The Pro Bowl standout seems a great interview along the likes of Shannon Sharpe and Rod Smith, who I always enjoyed bantering with during their playing days and my sportscasting days covering the Broncos. Those dudes always had something to say. As a journalist, you appreciate those “go-to” guys in the clubhouse. They usually tell you something you don’t know. Fresh content for viewers, listeners or readers. Sanders is like that, too.

The former SMU collegiate star is reminding us of something we know. Stuff rarely goes as planned. The Broncos lose 24-13 at home to, of all teams, Indianapolis? Are you kidding me? That was not the plan.

Monday night A Stronger Cord workouts have become quite powerful. After the fun workout it’s time for the “Hang Out” portion of the evening. We warm up, work out and hang out on Mondays and Thursday evenings, while it’s warm up, work out and help out on Saturday mornings. Better fitness, relationships and communities.

Anyway, after endorphins kicked in with a good sweat, we bonded recently while listening to a Knucklehead’s powerful testimony. What a past she has endured. Unconscionable and unimaginable for all gathered. A family’s lack of love and nurturing set this dynamo up for a rough ride. That was not the plan.

We all have stories of disappointment, anger, and sorrow to name just a few. Some stories are heinous. It’s just a part of life we need to accept as reality. What becomes fascinating to watch unfold is the reaction. We’re gonna get knocked down. But can we find a way to eventually rise and continue the journey? It’s what ASC’s all about.

Experiences of life. Easy to discuss. Sometimes, hard to handle. It boils down to; will we become a student, or victim of them? Elevate or descend? 

Push the up button on the lobby elevator this week!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Pep Talk: "We Gotta Wake Up The Neighborhood"

“Come on everybody, let’s wake up the neighborhood!”

That’s often the battle cry from A Stronger Cord’s head trainer Drew Peterson as he exhorts those gathered for the free workout. The Colorado native implores others to “Push yourself, don’t hurt yourself” during a 30-minute sweat-inducing session heavy on calisthenics. ASC’s Knuckleheads focus on endorphin-producing sweat, friendship-building conversations and a harmony-building spirit encouraging better fitness, relationships and communities.

The excellent trainer wants participants to “Raise the roof” of the gym. Get into it. No daffy ducking. 

Anyway, the devoted husband and father of two darling daughters is great at inspiring those sweating away to bark out the counts with gusto. At least for me, that’s very cool. The spirit in the gym oozes with unity. One Heart Beat. Elevated for our physical and mental well being.

“Come on everybody, let’s wake up the neighborhood.” While it’s a great rallying cry for a movement designed to reduce the damage homelessness brings to Denver, it’s also an alarming truth to life in America today.

We gotta wake up.

At the usual Friday morning Platoon meeting your scribe attends with a bunch of knuckleheads trying to grow stronger in faith, a man asked for prayers for his son’s high school. “We’ve had several suicides this year. My son knew a young man who recently took his life.” Tragic. Kids are too stressed these days.

We gotta wake up the neighborhood.

Over coffee a few days ago, a leader in the fight against Denver’s homeless challenge shared that, in recent years, the cost of taking someone from homeless to housing has increased four-fold. A big part of the alarming increase? The Mile High City’s runaway costs to rent a home or apartment.

Reporting from the front lines, most on the comeback trail from homelessness start in jobs that don’t pay much. Low pay and high rent. Rock and a hard place. We gotta figure out ways to get homeless folks into housing with a decent job and a good support network. It’s what A Stronger Cord is trying to do. We just happen to start with a workout. 

A respected man employed at a major non profit player in this area is sounding the alarm that costs are onerous. The program’s future is in doubt. An already dire situation possibly made worse if an excellent provider of such services backs away because of the costs?

We gotta wake up the neighborhood.

A random passerby flips open his mobile device and records a South Carolina policeman shooting a man eight times in the back. Cop is white, man running from the law is black and it appears, from the videos, the officer was never threatened. Unconscionable.

Hey folks, we gotta wake up the neighborhood, come together and figure this out. Too many teen suicides, too many homeless people and too little respect for one another.

A Stronger Cord’s trying to lead the comeback. We could use your voice at the workouts.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Pep Talk: "Into The Batter's Box"

Spring has sprung. Renewal's in full bloom. Easter, Passover and their calls for renewal and thanks. The boys of summer preparing for a baseball marathon. Hope springs eternal. Even for naive Colorado Rockies fans like your scribe.
"Aaahaaachoooo!" Oh yea, sneezing like crazy too. Anybody else get that tickling feeling inside the nose this time of year? Wow, I move from the normal three-sneeze staccato to chortling convulsions of a half dozen or more. The rebirth of trees and flowers swells eyes, triggers sneezes and has darling wife suggest, "Take some medicine!"
A new season, when many take inventory. What to give up? What to cherish and be grateful for its presence? A person, place or thing?
Transformation. Defined as "To make a great change in appearance or character." For whatever reason, the cranium of this simple dude from Missouri wanders to a story read recently about a man in Boston who had a vision. The time was 1902, and the New York native had tried his hand at law and newspaper publishing but found each unfulfilling.
Through studies at Boston University's Theological School, the aspiring minister was assigned work in a struggling mission on the city's South End. He was struck by the appalling conditions facing immigrants who found themselves in a new country with no jobs and often desperate for food, clothing and shelter. Considering today's immigration issues, it could be suggested a century later, "The more things change the more they stay the same."
Edgar James Helms challenged the status quo. Using burlap bags, he went door-to-door in Boston's wealthiest districts asking for donations of clothing and household goods. What's the old saying? One man's trash is another's treasure?
Goodwill Industries was born. It differed from many charities of the day, emphasizing that donated goods could be sold for profit with the proceeds used to pay the workers who helped refurbish those goods. Clothing and household goods of the fortunate recycled, and lives of the poor transformed through learning how to repair and sell the discarded stuff.
More than 110 years have passed. Helms' vision has expanded into a four-billion-dollar nonprofit organization that continues to sell gently used goods and hires people of limited employability. Awesome. It started with a dude having a vision. A thinking shift. Let's allow it to be a wonderful lesson for us. Where in our lives is it time for a similar shift?
Spring has sprung with a call for spiritual renewal and giving thanks. The exodus from a season of winter, certainly environmentally and, why not, personally? The sacred sports hymn of "Take me out to the ball game" resonates nationwide.
This week earnestly step into the batter's box of life. Regardless of what pitch comes our way, let's take a big swing at never growing weary of good will toward others. We won't always make contact or get a hit. But with Helms' as our shining example, the effort might result in a home run.
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