Sunday, October 22, 2017

Pep Talk: "A Great Personal Gift"

Your scribe was hanging out with fellow knuckleheads the other day when somebody asked, “Anybody got a praise report?” My hand shot up immediately. “Darling wife and I just celebrated our three-year anniversary. Guys, it’s a perfect example. If at first you don’t succeed? Try....try....again!”

The dudes present are in the Denver Rescue Mission's "New Life Program." I love these guys and cherish time with them. Through A Stronger Cord, they have become brothers and know my marital history well. I certainly didn’t plan on being married three times; didn’t plan on making life challenging for two beautiful kids (one from each previous marriage) but holy smokes, what a blessing the journey has become. Why? It opened the door for an amazing woman (together 15 years now) to enter. Stealing lines from the Little River Band’s 1976 hit, this blessed man posted on Facebook to the beautiful, smart and generous heart-stealer, “Happy anniversary baby. I got you on my mind!”

Life. A roller coaster of unexpected twists and turns. Often, leaving us wondering, “What? Why? Me?” Let’s hope, it also begs another critical question: “How to move forward?” Which leads to an even more important consideration: How to become a student, not victim, of the experience and prevail against what, currently, ails  body, mind and/or spirit? 

On the comeback trail, what to do in achieving goals and overcoming challenges? Here’s an idea. It was sparked from, a few days after announcing our wedding anniversary, listening to Denver Dream Center's  CB Barthlow encourage men living in a Denver-area halfway house. The dynamic speaker presented three ideas that warmed my marrow. I hope, yours too.

First, the pastor implored incarcerated men nearing re-entry to society (ASC works with them too) to, “Know who you are!” Amen. All of us are uniquely created with God-given gifts and talents. At least that’s what I believe. For many, those gifts have been buried beneath unproductive “stuff.” Still, with a little digging, those talents, can be unearthed. The wise man continued, “If money, time and circumstances were not an issue, what would you do? What’s your purpose?” Be honest. That’s a tough one to answer truthfully. Whether living in a mission, mansion or on Main Street.

Then Barthlow mentioned something so powerful in a second point: “Who needs to shut up?” Brother, double amen! Negative self talk? Association with other negative contributors? We need boundaries for voices, ours and others, offering lousy words in detrimental tones. Negatoids. They’re quite damaging.

After discovering purpose and building boundaries, Barthlow’s third point implored using “Any healthy and productive means necessary” to achieve goals and overcome challenges. Sometimes, you gotta get creative and think outside the box. Right on man.

How about remembering this moment as an anniversary of new thought? Of living life with purpose, boundaries and creativity? That terrific trio is a cord of three strands not easily broken and could be a great personal gift to use daily, not just once a year.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Pep Talk: "A Fire of Moo-mentous Proportions"

It was the usual Friday morning gathering of men trying to sharpen faith through fellowship, study and introspection when one of the dudes belted out, “Those are the moments that set things on fire.”

My mind immediately zipped to the tragic wild fires burning in California’s wine country and then jumped to a recent conversation that had stuck like glue. It was a chat centered around the origins of lighthouses. According to the storyteller, in ancient times long ago any voyage was fraught with danger and many, if not most, ended in shipwreck.

Ships crashing into rocks, debris everywhere and many lives lost. Ultimately, brave mariners came upon the idea to collect the shattered pieces, stack them in a tower-like formation and set it on fire to illuminate the coast for others ships seeking safe passage.

The storyteller, a Denver Dream Center staff member, was sharing this message to men currently living in a Mile High City halfway house. These are guys on the comeback trail and, soon, re-entering our communities. A Stronger Cord works closely with these men in encouraging them to use the wellness program to build a stronger cord to their families, purpose and communities. Also? The more fit, connected and giving they become? The better off all will be.

Anyway, the point of sharing the story about collecting broken pieces of ship wreckage, stacking them and setting them afire for future good works, was to encourage the men to look at their lives in similar fashion. It would be a good exercise for all of us. The past certainly has moments where it seems we crashed on the rocks. Illness. Divorce. Job loss, to name just three. Stuff happens. Debris is everywhere. It appears to be a total loss. Don’t let it be. Get busy collecting broken pieces, stacking and setting them ablaze for a better future! We must become students of life’s experiences, sift through the wreckage of obliterated plans and have the courage to put fear aside and allow wonderment to win. I know, simple not easy.

An example of that truth appeared recently as your knucklehead scribe was talking with a buddy who works as a Denver Rescue Mission chaplain. The energetic man was sharing the story of a woman gifted in spirit but nervous about speaking in front of others. What to do? How to overcome a fear of public speaking and pursue a calling to serve others in ministry?

Well, sometimes you just have to get real creative. The woman began speaking to a herd of cows on a nearby property! Who knows how much feedback was received from the feed lot friends but the practice did empower an aspiring pastor to rise above pubic speaking anxiety and become an accomplished orator from the pulpit.

This week, let’s be limited only by imagination, not fear, in creating productive choices to the challenges we face. It can spark a fire of moo-mentous proportions benefitting us and those around us: two-legged and beyond.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Pep Talk: "If Not Us, Who?"

Three times a week your knucklehead scribe attends devotions with guys in the Denver Rescue Mission's "New Life Program." It happens, except Sundays, each morning at 7:15. Roll call is taken, announcements made and then a presenter, usually a Mission employee/chaplain, delivers a short Biblical message designed to inspire dudes trying to comeback from homelessness, addictions or other challenges.

“The circumstances of our lives will do one of two things,” bellowed a veteran and respected chaplain with a personal story of successfully overcoming detrimental afflictions. “They will make us bitter or they will make us better.” Amen dude.

While marinating in that statement, the ol’ cranium immediately went to the Las Vegas tragedy and its senselessness. Really? Everyone has an opinion on how to lessen America’s seemingly endless string of mass shootings. Will the massacre of 58 and the wounding of hundreds innocently enjoying a concert energize our nation? Will we become better or bitter concerning gun control, ammunition limits and more effective mental health policies?

For the record, I’m a Second Amendment advocate but believe we can become better at developing more sensibility in the gun-control debate. However, just personal opinion, what America desperately needs to embrace in equal, if not greater amounts, is the importance for a new spirit as much as new legislation.

A recent Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll says only 24% of Americans feel the country is headed in the right direction. Mass shootings. Too many people on the streets. Growing income inequality. Failing educational policies. Decaying infrastructure. Our country has big-time issues. How can we unite in addressing them? Become better, not bitter?

Since starting A Stronger Cord four years ago the mantra of the community outreach program has always been, “Why can’t we unify communities with wellness?” Who doesn’t benefit from being more fit, connected and giving? It’s a free and easy (it does take time) pathway to better health, relationships and communities. Whether we’re black, white or brown; live in a mission, mansion or on Main Street, we need to spend more time together. It will make us healthier. Body, mind and spirit. Individually and collectively. 

Do we have the will? Some numbers make you wonder. For example, The Denver Foundation recently conducted a CLOSE TO HOME homelessness public awareness campaign in communities across the Denver seven-county metro area. Responders acknowledged far too many cannot meet basic needs. The report added Coloradans need to increase understanding, compassion and get more engaged to solve, or at least reduce, the growing problem. But here’s what jumped out, at least for me, from the study. Only 7% of those polled believe they have a major responsibility to play in helping to address homelessness. Wow. Really? If not us, who?

The great struggles of our time. Will they make us bitter or better? Investing more money, alone, will not solve our problems. We need to build a stronger cord to one another and tackle them together!

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Pep Talk: "We'll Be Rewarded Too!"

Eager to return home to Denver and darling wife, your knucklehead scribe was hustling through Kansas City’s airport. After dropping off a vehicle, while passing the Enterprise counter, three young male employees are observed. They appear bored. It’s Sunday morning and kinda slow. “Go Chiefs!” I snort while cruising past. The young men earnestly agreed. Then, this Mile High City resident couldn’t resist. “Go Broncos!” Their witty response? In a slow and firm tone, “Nooooooooo.”

A few moments later, while on the transit bus toward the terminal, thy cranium focuses on an email received earlier. It came from a spectacular young man known since his birth. Now a freshman at Santa Clara University the basketball junkie, as a walk on, was trying out for the college team. In talking with his mother (she’s a long-time friend and A Stronger Cord stalwart) the proud momma shared about the hoopster's tryout. “He left it on the floor, is proud of the effort and waiting to see what happens.” Scotty Wiese didn’t make the team. Bummer. However, in the referenced email, the incredibly gifted magician (yep, that too) optimistically wrote of the excitement in helping the program as a practice player. Leaving it on the line, proud of the effort and okay with the outcome? What a great spirit.

We’re getting closer to the terminal when the brain zips to Liz Kelly-Hansen. She was one of five folks recently inducted in the Raytown, MO., school district's Alumni Hall of Fame. I was lucky to be honored a few years ago. Anyway, the wonderful woman shared an acceptance story of a young toddler with aching feet. “They hurt so bad I learned to walk on my ankles. I thought my mom would take me to the doctor. Nope. She took me to dance classes.” A star was born. “It turned a weakness into a strength.”

After graduating from Raytown schools in 1969, the dynamo went west. “I chose Los Angeles because of the way the sun set on the Pacific.” She earned a spot with the dance ensemble, the Golddiggers. Soon after, comedian Dean Martin showcased them on his hit 1970‘s television show. Then, Martin’s buddy, Bob Hope adopted the Golddiggers and included them on USO shows in Vietnam to entertain the troops. Almost a half century later, the studio owner volunteers considerable time serving isolated and displaced Vietnam veterans. From achy feet to an achy heart for wounded warriors. A wonderful example to the value of leaving it on the floor and turning weakness into strength.

One more admiring thought blasted the brain before departing the bus. Its source? A beloved husband and wife, the Bullard's. Regardless of the challenge, this faithful duet always seems to respond by leaving it on the floor for others whether family, students or community. I sure hope they’re proud of their efforts. It’s Hall of Fame caliber too. Thanks for letting me crash in your basement.

Back to the point. For us? This week? Lay it on the line, be proud of the effort and turn weaknesses into strengths. We’ll be rewarded too!

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Pep Talk: "When It Comes To Teamwork"

For long-suffering Rocky Mountain baseball fans, this year’s edition of the Colorado Rockies has been a blessing. With a week left in the regular season, a strong finish earns the Nolan Arenado-led squad its first post-season appearance in almost a decade. I wear my purple Rockies’ golf shirt often. Darling wife cracks, “When was the last time you washed that thing?” Haha.

Come on Rockies, hang on! Teamwork. The key to success wherever we roam. The venues certainly vary but the vision cannot. Whether it’s baseball, family, business, church, school, non-profit or whatever endeavor brings a group of individuals together, a belief in something more important than self is critical.

That was the conversation topic recently as your knucklehead scribe visited with dudes currently living in a Denver halfway house. Incarcerated men on the comeback trail and re-entering society. Like all of us, in need of a team around them for any chance of success. Self-reliance is important but, life is too difficult to navigate on our own.

Those were the wise words from King Solomon about 3,000 years ago. From what I understand, at the time of writing the Old Testament’s Ecclesiastes, Solomon was a grumpy old man venting about life, especially traveling through it. Times were barbaric then with lots of wild people and animals. Danger lurked everywhere. About roaming too far from home, Solomon offered in the fourth chapter, “One will be overpowered; two can defend themselves, but a cord of three strands is not easily broken.”

Name your team. It might be an elderly-care facility like where my mom lives; a community outreach wellness movement like A Stronger Cord or any collection of humans offering a collective spirit for a common cause. When it works? The sense of accomplishment is magical. It was more than 40 years ago but it seems like yesterday. The Ray-South Cardinals won every regular season game and advanced to the Missouri state playoffs for the first time in school history. This ol’ jock was the southpaw quarterback of that selfless group. That season of football and life forever burrowed within us the power of believing in something bigger than self. One heartbeat.

A desire to surrender ourselves for the greater good? Does that exist? Sure. In these times, does America need more? Maybe. I must admit to having many halfway house buddies look at me kinda crazy-like when it was offered, “Practice random acts of kindness toward one another.” It’s not how most are wired. These days, sadly, it’s not how most of America is wired. We need to build a stronger cord to one another.

Time with the dudes ended with us bellowing in unison, “Good, better, best; never let it rest. Till our good is better and our better is our best!” That’s how, I hope, the Rockies’ season ends and your future goes. This week, when it comes to teamwork, let’s make our good better and our better our best!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Pep Talk: "Be Somebody's Coincidence"

A dear friend grew up religiously roughed up. At nearly 60, that experience sours the Colorado native’s belief in a higher power. We have interesting conversations about what he considers “coincidences” versus what your scribe would call, “God things.” I look forward to our next debate and sharing the latest example that, “Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.”

Here goes. It was a Sunday. I was driving back from the mountains and looking forward to coordinating a moving crew for a beloved couple downsizing to a smaller place. I needed to make two stops to fetch three A Stronger Cord dudes. Also on the calendar, attending an early evening meeting for blood cancer research funding. The schedule was tight with no margin for unexpected detours.
First a whine, then a wobble and finally, the smell of burning rubber. My car’s right-rear tire had shredded. For a weekend day on Denver’s west side, traffic was busy on east-bound Sixth Avenue between Wadsworth and Sheridan. It took a while to steer the disabled vehicle from the far left-hand lane to the narrow and litter-strewn shoulder on the right side.

This was not in the plans. Changing a tire along the shoulder of a busy highway is a pain. Especially when unable to remove lug nuts from the blown tire. Greasy, sweaty and angry, after 45 minutes of trying, I gave up. What next? I called a buddy who owns a repair shop, Elder Auto. He was out of town visiting family but advised, “Call Dick's Towing. But considering it’s a Sunday, don’t expect them to get there too quickly.”

He was right, sorta. The dispatcher said, “It’s gonna be at least 90 minutes.” After a good round of cursing fate and making calls to secure someone else to transport the other movers, I settled in to wait for the tow truck. With the noon-time sun warming considerably, vehicles whizzed by at high speed, kicking up dust and grime. I slumped against the tall sound barrier separating a nearby neighborhood from the noisy arterial into the Mile High City from western suburbs. I was stuck and, seemingly, out of luck.

What to do? I had time to kill. I grabbed a Bible from the car. I’m a big fan of the 29th chapter of Jeremiah and, paraphrasing, “God having a plan for us; to prosper and not harm us; if we seek him wholeheartedly.” Here’s where it got interesting. Not two or three minutes into reading those passages, the loud blare of a horn startled me. The tow truck had arrived!

“I live right around the corner,” said driver Robert, when asked, “How’d you get here so fast?” The day had no more glitches. Thanks to the help of many, duties and responsibilities were kept. Was it luck? Or something else? This knucklehead would call it a “God Thing.” For anybody, even my skeptical buddy, it’s a good thing.

This week, let’s eagerly serve others and be somebody’s coincidence. The benefits are out of this world.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Pep Talk: "Storm Surge of Compassion"

“Mother Nature is trying to wake us up,” stated a buddy as we departed a morning workout at Kinetics Fitness. It's hard to argue considering the hurricanes, fires and earthquakes dominating headlines and wreaking havoc around the globe.

Often we are helpless against powerful forces changing landscape, claiming lives and forever altering the status quo. Pondering this, the ol’ noggin marinates on pressing societal issues of our times. Unlike Mother Nature, things WE have some control over. Are we waking up?

Bessie's Hope is sure sounding an alarm about the growing number of isolated and neglected American seniors dwelling in assisted-living facilities. For more than two decades the Denver-based non profit has encouraged others to realize the importance of lovingly engaging and interacting with those unable to care for themselves. 60% of our nation’s assisted-living elderly NEVER have visitors. Each month, on the second and fourth Saturdays, A Stronger Cord's Knuckleheads volunteer. We listen, laugh, sing, dance and play games with wonderful seniors starving, not for food, but for attention. Bessie’s Hope is a powerful force changing the landscape.

The same for the Denver Dream Center. One of America’s big challenges in major metropolitan areas? The absence of a healthy family atmosphere for kids/moms living in public housing. Gangs and their destructive forces lure children into a culture providing a sense of identity, protection and financial reward. It’s a charade. The Denver Dream Center, with its “Adopt A Block” program pours love and attention toward the problem. On the first and third Saturdays of each month, ASC loves to support DDC’s infectious “Show up, smile and serve” spirit. We must wake up to the fact we’re losing too many kids to the gangs. We have to give them competition for the kids’ attention!

How can we, collectively, become a powerful force changing the societal landscape of too many marginalized and disconnected folks? How can we re-claim lives and forever alter the status quo? Just one man’s opinion but the answer lies, not in more money, but something more finite: Our time.

“The government needs help from the faith-based community in mentoring those in need,” was the clarion call at a recent meeting focused on lessening the impact of too many isolated, vulnerable and displaced humans in our midst. The smart woman is correct. It’s interesting to watch the generosity offered in relief of natural disasters. Houston Texans’ standout defensive lineman J.J. Watt has personally led a charge of raising millions of dollars for Hurricane Harvey recovery efforts. Awesome stuff.

How can we wake up American communities, regardless of race, religion or socio-economic status, to the importance of building a stronger cord to one another and offering relief from our societal disasters? How to create a storm surge of compassion? To become a powerful force forever altering the landscape through, Denver Dream Center words, “Rescuing people, rebuilding lives and restoring dreams?”

Money is not the answer. We are. 

Monday, September 4, 2017

Pep Talk: "Three Options"

Those following these weekly ramblings with regularity know your knucklehead scribe is immersed to the eyeballs in an outreach program trying to unite communities with wellness.

A Stronger Cord enters its fourth year trying to accomplish that important task. I know because Facebook keeps reminding me of moments from “three years ago.” A good argument could be made, given the nation’s tumultuous state, we urgently need fresh ideas concerning building a stronger cord to one another. Why not wellness? Why not encourage others to embrace the value, individually and collectively, in becoming more fit, connected and giving? Healthier in body, mind and spirt? Win. Win. Win.

It’s a simple concept. It just ain’t easy.

Without question, the societal issues are complex. Could it be that progress in successfully addressing challenges of, to name only three, racial strife, dysfunctional families and an addiction epidemic, might have simple solutions? Maybe three options are embracing a spirit of fitness, relationship building and community service? Keep it simple stupid. Three decades after earning a master’s degree in journalism from the best darn J-school ever, Mizzou, it has stuck like glue. Too often, we overcomplicate matters.

Denver Dream Center and Bessie's Hope sure keep it simple. It’s why ASC’s Knuckleheads, through “Service Saturdays,” love working with each. We keep it real simple. Denver, all of America, has too many marginalized and disconnected kids, moms and elders. I’m a big fan of a Jewish carpenter who encouraged us to “Care for the orphans, widows and strangers.” Well, just one dude’s opinion, but the kids and moms living in public housing and the elderly dwelling in assisted living are the modern-day orphans, widows and strangers.

As a society, we need to care for them. We’re losing too many beautiful and talented kids to the gangs. We need to give the gangs competition for kids’ attention! Our nation’s elderly? My goodness, far too many rarely have visitors.

Denver Dream Center with its “Show up, smile and serve” spirit simplifies engaging the marginalized living in Denver’s public-housing communities. Volunteers have a blast playing games with the kids and assisting moms however possible. Show up, smile and serve. Simple, loving and effective.

Inspired, more than 20 years ago, by visiting her grandmother housed in a west-Texas assisted living facility, an amazing woman founded Bessie’s Hope. Linda Holloway saw the lack of a loving touch. The professional singer/musician recruited a dear friend and they started entertaining Holloway’s grandma and others. Bingo. A wonderful nonprofit was born in simplicity: Engage the elderly by saying hi, stating our names, asking theirs and giving a sincere compliment. Then converse, dance a little jig and sing. Have fun. It’s magical and good for the giver as much as the receiver.

Folks, this week let’s keep it simple. Say hi, introduce yourself and give a compliment. If that doesn’t enthuse you? Show up, smile and serve. Or commit to becoming more fit, connected and giving.

Three options wonderfully benefiting you, us and others. A cord of three strands not easily broken!

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Pep Talk: "More Socially Nutritious"

Mark Tidd is co-pastor at Highlands Church in northwest Denver. A good dude with an awesome spirit. We’ve met a few times about the wellness movement A Stronger Cord and its potential neighborhood outreach value for the inclusive and warm faith-based community.

I’m in the crowd recently listening to him share an inspiring message about the challenging times America faces with its ever-growing issues of bigotry and hatred. The Boulder native was telling the story of Peter’s transformation from being shackled to such ill-advised beliefs. An attentive gathering heard Tidd share about two early followers of Jesus. They had different viewpoints. The Apostle Paul was adamant the Jewish carpenter’s spirit was free and available to all. Peter felt differently and believed an awesome but controversial spirit, starting with love and ending with self control, was exclusive to Jews. 

Well, legend has it that serious hunger pain, a crazy dream and obedience to new thought helped dismantle Peter’s first-century racism. Tidd’s a great storyteller. His sermon was perfect for these tenuous times and included this zinger about our nation’s need to find common ground. “We need to kick at the darkness till it bleeds daylight.”

Amen dude.

While marinating on that powerful statement the mind wandered back almost three decades to the Rio Grande Valley of south Texas. It’s where a cherished television sportscasting career began as the weekend sports guy at KGBT-TV. The “Valley” is the American side of the Mexican/American border the Rio Grande River separates. Back then, the four counties along the border were allegedly the poorest in America. 95% of the population was Hispanic, half didn’t even speak English. Upon arriving there in 1986, this “Gringo” spoke no Spanish. What an educational experience.

I vividly remember doing a story on a family of eight living in a cardboard shack. The dilapidated structure had no running water or electricity. It was basically cardboard wrapped around two king-sized beds. Each parent slept with three kids. It has stuck in your knucklehead scribe’s cranium ever since. This was the United States of America and people lived in such desperate poverty and neglect? For a kid raised in the middle-class Midwest, a real eye opener. I know realize that moment was a spark to current passion for serving the isolated, vulnerable and displaced. In Tidd’s words, “Kick the darkness till it bleeds daylight.” We could use it.

How about us? Where could our time, talents and treasures be utilized to boot darkness to kingdom come?  A recent guest opinion in the Denver Post by Regis University President John Fitzgibbons validates Tidd, Saint Peter and encourages us to take action with these words: “We believe we can and will succeed in this difficult but sacred work because others have gone before us with challenges as big as ours, like Dr. King, who tell us our only choice is to live together as brothers and sisters or perish together as fools.”

This week, let’s be smart and create of culture of encounter satisfying our nation’s hunger for something more socially nutritious.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Pep Talk: "An Admirable Start"

Not surprisingly, while sitting with other knuckleheads in faith-fortifying Friday morning fellowship, somebody uttered words blowing thy socks off. “We must get rid of hindering spirits” mentioned a dude sitting nearby but looking elsewhere while addressing about a dozen men from all walks of life spiritually trying to sharpen one another.

Amen brother.

My mind immediately zipped to Heather Heyer’s parents and their grieving, yet inspiring, comments at the memorial service for the young counter-protestor senselessly killed via  intolerant and bigoted-fueled craziness. “They tried to kill my child to shut her up. Well, guess what. You just magnified her,” proclaimed Susan Bro, Heyer’s mother. “Make my daughter’s death worthwhile.” Wow. Added Mark Heyer, the 32-year-old legal assistant’s father, “My daughter wanted to put down hate and promote fairness.”
Fellow Americans, we need to peacefully rise up and honor these commands. We know it. Our nation’s social fabric is frayed. Few are winning while many are losing. The hindering spirits of a growing income gap, shrinking middle class and increasing number of marginalized folks is a major contributor to the craziness. Excuse me, but it don’t matter whether we’re black, white or brown; live in a mission, mansion or on Main Street, we need to build a stronger cord to one another. How? We need to spend more time together. Get out of our silos. It’s unhealthy. Why not with exercising, relationship building and community service? Or something else promoting communities becoming superior to their former selves? Right now, there’s plenty of room for improvement.

“You poke that finger at yourself like Heather would have done and you make it happen,” Bro defiantly challenged those gathered in person and watching around the world through media. “You take that extra step and find a way to make a difference in the world.”

Double amen sister. Admittedly, it’s real easy to get fired up from a mourning mother’s comments. However, it’s far more difficult to execute. We must find a way to transform hindering societal pain so we lessen its transmittance in the form of Charlottesville’s insanity and other tragic moments commonplace these days. We must do better.

Back to Friday morning fellowship. While sitting there listening to talk about hindrance and its damaging effects, I think of family and the isolated, vulnerable and displaced ASC serves. Hindering spirits are active in each and have been quite detrimental. Later, according to the ol’ torn and tattered Oxford American dictionary, “hinder” is defined as “To keep a person or thing back by delaying progress.” 

Who, or what, could we pour time, talents or treasures into? Invest. How might our efforts contribute to lessening barriers hindering a person or thing and delaying progress? Home, work and elsewhere?
Cranium careens to a young woman’s life lost to bigotry, hate and stupidity and her parent’s inspirational response. “This is not the end of Heather’s legacy,” Bro said. “It is just the beginning.” Triple amen sister.

This week, winning the hindering spirits war would be an admirable start to Heather’s legacy. Let’s do it wherever roaming!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Pep Talk: "Let's Be Punctual"

After slipping into a downtown Los Angeles conference room a tad tardy, the eyes scanned for an open seat in the packed auditorium. Wouldn’t you know it? The only unoccupied chairs were directly in front of the stage and podium. After weaving through the crowd, your knucklehead scribe settled in for the opening session of the 2017 Home Boy Industries' Global Network Conference.

Jesuit priest Greg Boyle started the excellent non profit about 25 years ago. Its mission is to transform the lives of former gang members in our nation’s second-largest city and beyond. Love this place. A Home Boy employee, a former gang member herself, concluded inspiring opening keynote remarks with this zinger: “We must find a way to transform pain so we quit transmitting it.” I wanted to stand and shout, “Amen sister!”

Transforming pain so we quit transmitting it to ourselves, loved ones, friends, strangers and communities. Baggage. We all have it, quite often, from traumatic childhood experiences. Like it or not, we’re products of our environments.

Personally, I think about a childhood where enabling and co-dependency were present. It influenced me and led to ill-advised efforts to “rescue” others. Also, long ago, a freak and career-ending head and upper torso injury suddenly terminated a promising athletic career. The pain of losing long-held sports dreams was medicated with booze, drugs and womanizing. Transforming pain so we quit transmitting it? Easier said than done.

How to take past experiences, learn from them and halt their emotional, physical and spiritual fallout? That is the million-dollar question with no easy answer. For me, it starts with faith God does have a plan. It’s a plan to prosper and not harm, to give hope and a future. Admittedly, sometimes it’s hard to believe.

Athletic dreams dashed; marriages with children melting away; television sportscasting career curtailed through layoffs. Reflecting on various dreams and goals waylaid over the years, it’s sobering to realize how infrequently life truly goes as WE design it. Stuff happens leaving us wondering, “What the heck is going on around here?” How to take painful moments, learn from them and not transmit through addiction to self pity, booze, drugs, crime, infidelity, overworking, retreating or flat out surrendering? Whew.

My mind wanders to A Stronger Cord and its efforts to unite communities with wellness. In working with others on the comeback trail from being marginalized and disconnected, tragic stories are learned of childhoods lost. It’s inspiring to develop a kinship with those discovering, often for the first time, meaning and purpose to life despite horrific experiences. Cheerfully, I find myself often these days bellowing, “It’s so cool you’re still trying!”

Where is the personal pain? How to stop transmitting it? An easy and productive way is to serve others. Everybody’s dealing with something, right?

Unlike my tardiness to the Home Boy meeting, let’s be punctual in never growing weary of doing good for others. It takes focus off of us. We also reap a harvest considering it’s a path to transforming pain without transmitting it. Try it this week!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Pep Talk: "Keeping Up With Kateree

“Keep dreaming, never quit and realize God has a hand on the small on our backs,” offered former Denver Broncos’ running back Terrell Davis during remarks at his Pro Football Hall of Fame induction. “He is there supporting, propelling and guiding us.”

Amen dude.

A young bartender at a downtown Los Angeles watering hole was getting an education on the Denver sports scene. After an extensive search near the hotel where your knucklehead scribe was staying, an establishment was discovered with simultaneous Saturday coverage of the HOF induction AND the Rockies/Philadelphia contest from Coors Field. Lucky me.

To anybody within earshot, a former television sports guy could not resist sharing a few stories about the unheralded sixth-round draft pick from Georgia. If memory serves me correct, it was Davis’ 1995 rookie season with the Broncos. Back then, CBS4 Denver (where I worked) was “Home of the Denver Broncos.” I was assigned to do a story on a player who had gone from long-shot of making the team to starter. Davis was living in a modest two-bedroom apartment near the Broncos’ team headquarters in the south Denver area. The extra bedroom was for his mother, Kateree, who visited often for extended stays. I also recall, at the time, Davis wore braces on his teeth. The future star was just a kid.

A talented running back had burst onto the pro football scene and was the toast of the Mile High City while still under mother’s watchful eyes. Davis’ father, Joe, died when TD was 14. Much of that long ago story centered on a loving mother’s influence. It was certainly felt in our short time together.

Fast forward more than two decades, I’m sitting at Hooters near the Staples Center and sharing cherished memories with anybody willing to listen. Suddenly, ESPN’s cameras shifted from TD to his mother. “There she is!” I shouted about a proud woman sitting in the stands with tears streaming down her cheeks. The server, who moved from Egypt to California to pursue acting dreams, shrugged her shoulders and moved to help others. 

A young woman’s indifference to my enthusiasm could not dampen admiration still felt, more than 20 years later, for a mother who raised eight children with a loving, nurturing and gentle touch. My mind could not avoid wandering to A Stronger Cord's current efforts, in partnership with the Denver Dream Center and others, in reaching kids/moms who live in Denver’s public housing communities. They lack the healthy “supporting, propelling and guiding” philosophy Davis emphasized in his induction speech. 

The heartwarming moment in Canton, Ohio ended with Davis, not surprisingly, giving the now infamous “Mile High” salute to his beautiful wife and three kids, Broncos’ fans in attendance and a national television audience. However, the biggest salute went to his mother. The always present guardian of his dreams.

Keeping up with Kateree in our influence. Not an easy chore. To all “supporting, propelling and guiding” the lives and dreams of today’s children and others, TD’s salute is for you too. Keep up the noble and necessary work!

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Pep Talk: "Good Going On"

Unless just crawling from beneath a big rock, returning from outer space or emerging from unconsciousness, you know these are challenging times in America.
That was the conversation topic on a recent Friday morning as three knuckleheads drove toward a weekly men’s fellowship. The self-proclaimed “Three Stooges” were debating, via speaker phone, with your scribe’s Kansas City-based 82-year-old feisty mother about America’s president tweeting of a ban on transgender military personnel. The never-reserved octogenarian, after vigorously defending her position, bellowed in the four-way chat, “It’s a bunch of bullsh*t.”

Ma, tell us what you really feel. However, in the craziness of our times, there is good news to report. So, here goes.

“Oh, I haven’t told you?” was the somewhat sarcastic remark from a dear friend when this ol’ jock suggested the mother of two grown kids had plenty of time for other pursuits. “We (hubby is buddy and former CU Buff football standout) took in a family of four unexpectedly between homes and in need of shelter.”

The heart just melted with admiration and respect for a wonderful couple who decided to serve others. A well-deserved respite from raising kids and enjoying life as empty nesters is taking a back seat to caring for others in a vulnerable spot. Bravo.

It’s been mentioned before in these weekly musings, but our nation has become way too isolated and divided. We need to build a stronger cord to one another. Never growing weary of doing good for others, realizing we reap the harvest, is a good place to start.

Here’s another inspiring story. Tom Moller is a friend, long-time radio stalwart and news director at a radio station in the Mile High City. I’m blessed to occasionally join him as co-host of "Colorado Issues on KRKS. We’re sports enthusiasts who love hanging together, interviewing others doing good works and telling stories. The proud Michigan State grad is a patriotic man.

“We were visiting some friends who live on the grounds of the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland,” the father of three and grandpa to five offered. “It brought tears to my eyes every morning, exactly at 8am, to hear a bugler play the national anthem.”

I dunno about you but this (me) ol’ fart, at almost 60, still gets teary-eyed during the playing of the Star Spangled Banner. Before breath leaves my body, it’s on the bucket list to sing it at a sporting event. Upon learning my buddy’s heartwarming sentiment about hearing the national anthem, I wondered, “Why not start playing it on the air?”

Moller liked the idea and KRKS started it last week. Each weekday morning at 6am, programming begins with the national anthem. Be still my heart. “What’s been the reaction?” I wondered. “It’s been awesome,” was the response.

Without question, we live in crazy times. However, please don’t forget the good going on. Caring for one another and the ideals of this nation. We all benefit when embracing each.


Sunday, July 23, 2017

Pep Talk: "Keep Trying"

“Since a little kid I’ve always dreamed the best years would be my 50’s and 60’s,” was the enthusiastic comment from a beloved buddy over coffee on a recent visit to Portland, Oregon.

Your knucklehead scribe was struck with the irony. A long-time friend was looking forward with eagerness to what lies ahead despite a sobering truth: Multiple Sclerosis was betraying his body, especially the legs. The reality is, barring a miracle, the amazing Jim Fairchild’s ability to be ambulatory without assistance is threatened.

Whenever blessed to have the opportunity to encourage others, especially the efforts of A Stronger Cord, one of the main principles is that life rarely goes as planned. It was not in the father of two teenage daughter’s plans to, at 47-years-old, be working through the challenges of MS, and acceptance of its limitations, while maintaining an optimistic outlook about the future.

As we sat and chatted on a beautiful Pacific Northwest summer morning, the ol’ noggin was in overdrive. Admiration for sure. A wonderful man is trying to turn lemons, the heck with lemonade, into sweet and savory margaritas.

Long ago, Fairchild (producer) and this old sports guy (host) worked together on CU football coach Gary Barnett’s television show. Sweet memories of a cherished time. “I want to spend the rest of life encouraging others through storytelling. I want to encourage them to keep trying.”

Wow. The small-business owner’s spirit knocked me back into the comfy pillows of a hotel lobby couch. He’s dealing with MS, going through a painful divorce and still finding an internal reservoir of hope. We know from Proverbs that “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is the tree of life.”  A guy who believes, considering his age, that the “Best is yet to come” focuses on that dream ahead of a debilitating disease, raising teenagers and the ending of a 20-plus year marriage? Are you kidding me?

Way to go buddy! My mind races to others who impressively ride this roller coaster called life with such an attitude. Bartender, a round for everybody to try and get intoxicated with such a spirit! It ain’t easy. “There are dark moments for sure,” Fairchild admitted. 

What’s causing any current angst? If you’re taking a breath at this time, you have challenges. We all do. It’s one of the central themes of the ASC Knuckleheads’ efforts to unite communities with wellness. We all have our stuff. Let’s use weekly fitness, relationship building and community service gatherings to build a stronger cord to one another. We’ll become more fit, connected and giving. Healthier and inspired to keep trying.

Our time together was too short. I’m blessed that darling wife does business in Portland. It gives me a good excuse to visit an inspirational dude. He does a podcast and we plan on doing one together soon.

Buddy, thanks for the reminder. It’s good for all of us. Despite current obstacles, the best may indeed be ahead. We gotta keep trying.

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