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.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Pep Talk: "Do The Turtle"

“What are you doing?” inquired darling wife. We were waiting at DIA’s terminal for the underground train to Concourse B and a flight to Portland, Oregon. Your knucklehead scribe was moving the jaw bone back and forth. Somewhat loving, the brown-eyed beauty cracked, “You look like a turtle.”

I was practicing something learned at A Stronger Cord's Wednesday night gathering at All Soul's Parish. It was a Pilates move. Instructor Catherine Glenn shared it with the Knuckleheads during the enjoyable sweat-producing workout. Moving the jaw back and forth, from tucked to extended? “It helps line up cervical bones!” is recalled as the logic. It works and felt good. So, while killing time waiting for a train, this ol’ jock is doing the turtle. The boss was annoyed.

The exercise triggered thoughts of an old buddy and awesome mentor, Jerry Gibson. Long ago, the former University of Illinois football chaplain, minister and all-around spiritual warrior, over breakfast, told a powerful story involving turtles.

“McIntosh,” roared Gibson, “When it comes to overcoming fears and chasing dreams, we could learn from turtles.” Sitting across from a beautiful soul devouring runny eggs, sausage and hash browns, I was dodging food particles flying from his mouth. Between quick moves to avoid chewed-food debris, a quizzical counter. “What? We could learn from turtles?”

A man who, eventually, would mentor many students and student/athletes at the University of Colorado, quickly retorted. “Think about it.” He proceeded to, first, tuck chin to chest before extending it forward, “A turtle doesn’t make any progress until sticking its neck out.” Amen dude.

A short while later, while on board the train the ol’ noggin starts processing: A wife’s loving, I think, ridicule leads to Jerry Gibson and then to another respected buddy, Bryan Sederwall.

The basketball-junkie pastor leads the Denver Dream Center. I love the community-outreach church. ASC teams up with these amazing folks for many events including Adopt-A-Block, Hardcourt Hustlers and Third Thursdays. Its mission is to, “Rescue people, rebuild lives and restore dreams.” Be still my heart. ASC and DDC make good teammates.

At a recent DDC staff meeting, Sederwall, the father of three athletic boys, was talking about the “Law of Entropy.” The Illinois’ native was raised with a science teacher as a father and boiled it down. “It’s a scientific fact: The world is chaotic.” Yep it is, especially these days. At a Denver Rescue Mission devotion the other morning, I heard a guy speak about the “darkness of the times.” To name a few from close observation, health care woes, growing inequality gaps and too many displaced folks. 

A Stronger Cord and its many partners are trying to change that. Working to deliver, through a three-pronged approach to wellness, communities positive energy and welcomed light in the darkness. Wanna join us? All are welcome.

If not, at least consider investing time somewhere else. Go ahead and stick your volunteer neck out. Do the turtle. Who knows, such efforts might bring order to chaos, light to darkness and health to cervical bones. Yours and others.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Pep Talk: "Saying Yes"

Walking into inferno-like Centennial State weather on a Sunday afternoon, the ol’ noggin’ kept wandering, “Who might say yes?”

Your knucklehead scribe was blessed to have made a brief A Stronger Cord presentation to folks experiencing homelessness and poverty. They were being served by Wellspring Englewood Church in Englewood, Colorado. It’s real close to ASC’s south Denver site at ASC South at All Soul's. The Knuckleheads are reaching out in the south Denver/Englewood area, trying to connect with those serving the isolated, vulnerable and displaced. Wellspring does a great job of it. 

Anyway, while climbing into the car, tuning the radio to Colorado Rockies’ baseball and cranking the air conditioner, the cranium kept ruminating on men and women engaged just moments before. Many seemed interested in the four-year-old wellness movement encouraging others to become more fit, connected and giving. Healthier in mind, body and spirit. Good for all, individually and collectively.

Pondering who might say yes to the invitation then took me back to the day before. “I’m so glad I decided to do this!!!” shouted a man in the Denver Rescue Mission's New Life Program. The 40-something college graduate (mechanical engineering) is active in ASC and on the comeback trail from addiction, emotional and psychological challenges. He was riding shotgun as we returned to the DRM’s Crossing facility after spending a few hours engaging and entertaining elderly residents of a Denver assisted living facility. Thanks to the non profit Bessie's Hope, the second and fourth Saturdays of the month, ASC embraces Denver’s isolated elderly - we have too many. On this day, “Roger” had been ambivalent about participating but at the last minute said “Yes.” He had a blast and kept shouting, “Thank you God. That’s just what I needed, taking the focus off of me!” Amen dude.

Stepping out of our comfort zone. It can be scary. It can seem like a pain in the ass. However, quite often, it’s so rewarding.

Nearing home with the Rockies ahead of the White Sox in the early innings behind rookie southpaw Kyle Freeland’s near no-hit gem, the mind suddenly begins to marinate on a long-held memory. Many years ago, when precious 20-year-old daughter was much younger, the University of Colorado-Boulder student wanted to cash in holiday gift cards at the Cherry Creek Shopping Center. It was the Sunday after Christmas of that year. The blue-eyed beauty had stuff to purchase.

However, it was a Broncos’ football Sunday! The current marketing student’s old man was settling in to watch the game. I protested, “Sweetie, we can’t go the mall today!” I lost that battle. But, was rewarded big time when, after about three hours of shopping and my childlike whining, Rachel bought a shirt that, across the front, stated,  “Daddy’s Little Girl.” Be still my heart.

What area of life right now has you straddling the fence between curiosity and callousness? Yes? No? Years later, that heartwarming moment has served as a reminder to the power of saying yes. Do it this week. It can produce wondrous moments!

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Pep Talk: "A Birthday Gift"

It was evening after a beloved group hiked from Vail Village to the mountaintop. Four miles and about two-thousand vertical feet. A good trek. Dinner was being prepared. Patriotic folks, beneath the breathtaking Gore Range, celebrating our nation’s 241st birthday. Blessed to be alive.

My mind marinates on roots. Yep. Roots. As the GansIntosh crew ascended Strawberry Lane then Berry PIcker Trail, when in the cool shade of Aspen groves, there were roots. Everywhere. Tangled but connected. Most often, crossing a path in search of one another.

When blessed to encourage others and share the importance of teamwork, your knucklehead scribe loves a story about a similar tree. Blame Hall of Fame football coach Bill McCartney. Nobody is bigger about teamwork than the guy who led the Colorado Buffaloes to a 1991 national championship.

United. As Mac would say, “Charging from the fox hole together.” Amen dude. According to Coach Mac, few do it better than Redwood trees. Hard to disagree. The tallest trees in North America remain tall thanks to horizontal root systems that grow toward one another. 

Before dinner, adorable, smart and athletic niece Shannon Schmitt, did a little research. After a Google inquiry, the 16-year-old pronounces, “Redwoods are clonal colonies.” So too, Aspens. Through connecting with one another, Redwoods and Aspens weather the storms of life. Help each other stand tall. A good thing! So, I’m trudging up a mountain with family and friends, feeling a bit patriotic and staring at tree roots. They cross the path, the divide, the whatever, and connect. They support one another.

Could it be the same for us?

I think of sitting in a recent Denver Dream Center staff meeting and hearing an intern talk about hanging out with young girls living in Denver’s public housing. These precious souls are isolated and vulnerable, especially to gang influence. Denver Dream Center goes into underserved parts of town and loves, in healthy and productive fashion, on kids and moms. Two young girls were bemoaning the end of a wonderful “date” with DDC interns. The kids felt like they had loving “big sisters.” Too many don’t have such relationships. They deserve and desire connective roots to positive role models.

While trudging up the trail on an absolutely gorgeous Centennial State day, the ol’ cranium, when thinking about connective roots, zips to our nation’s elderly. Through a partnership with Bessie's Hope, on the second and fourth Saturdays of the month, A Stronger Cord encourages them. America’s seniors deserve and desire connective roots too.

It’s just the opinion of a simple dude from Missouri walking a mountain on a Fourth of July holiday, but America should emulate Redwoods and Aspens. Yep. How about embracing clonal colonies? Who gives a hoot whether we’re black, white or brown? Or, live in a mission, mansion or Main Street? 

In these turbulent times, America’s future success requires growing roots, clonal colonies, to one another. At 241 years, our participation in that effort would be a beneficial birthday gift to our nation’s future.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Pep Talk: "Keep Swinging"

A Stronger Cord is blessed with great partners, including Union Baptist Church. The community outreach wellness movement uses the church’s gym Monday nights. In return, it’s our job to keep the two-acre grounds in Denver’s northeast Park Hill neighborhood clear of trash. Win. Win.

Recently your knucklehead scribe was playing trash man. There was a youth baseball game about to commence on the church’s “Marvin Freeman Field.” It’s a community field the Colorado Rockies built in 1995. As a sportscaster back then for CBS4, I remember covering the ceremony unveiling the beautiful diamond. At the time, Freeman was a Rockies’ reliever and a good interview. Always had something to say.

Anyway, back to the story. So, I’m walking around the field’s perimeter while young “Dodgers” and “Rockies” were warming up. A coach was patiently tossing Wiffle balls to a determined but inexperienced lad. The kid noticed the trash man was observing. The freckle-faced nine-year-old appeared embarrassed. “Keep on swinging buddy!” was my encouragement before wandering back to the task at hand.

Keep on swinging. The phrase jarred memories from earlier on this Saturday morning. I had been the substitute devotion leader for guys in the Denver Rescue Mission's New Life Program. We had talked about what the Bible says in Isaiah about “forgetting the former things, do not dwell on the past and focus on new things.” I had read a story from 2017 Daily Guideposts. In the story, author Julie Garmon shared about leading a pregnancy resource center meeting. In a room full of new moms and dads, Garmon asked how God was working in their lives. She was shocked to hear several stories of trials and tribulations overcome to reach a spot in life where they were joyfully bouncing new born kids on knees. “Forgetting former things and focusing on new.” Amen.

However, sure easy to talk about, far more difficult to live, right? Life can get messy. Of the 70 or so dudes in the morning devotion, the numbers are not good. For a myriad of reasons, few succeed in developing a new life. Recovery success rates are dismal. It’s a real challenge to forget former things, focus on new and keep swinging. Old habits are hard to break.

It’s true for all of us, not just guys on the comeback trail from addiction or incarceration. Life is constantly throwing curveballs. A Stronger Cord recently expanded to All Soul's Catholic Church in Englewood. An older participant was eager and devoted. A regular attendee. Tragically, the gentle soul died unexpectedly of aneurism. Here today, gone tomorrow.

Miracles happen too. Like, a buddy’s son surviving a scary four-wheeler accident. The 11-year-old was, as a precaution, airlifted to a nearby hospital but is home with scrapes and bruises but no major injuries.
Uncertainty. Tragedy. Miracles. Life’s a roller coaster ride. We try like heck to forget the former and focus on the present and future. What I offered the young slugger was meant for me. Hopefully, it’s also encouragement to you:  KEEP SWINGING!

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Pep Talk: "DNA"

“It’s Father’s Day and I’m not into thinking,” your knucklehead scribe cracked to the patient United Airlines' employee. It was early morning. The friendly woman was checking a golf bag and suitcase for my return trip to Denver from Kansas City and a wonderful weekend of connecting with hometown family and friends.

Father’s Day 2017. I can’t help but think of my old man. Cancer and heart disease took the father of four more than a decade ago. It was hard not to think of him during the visit. His presence was certainly felt while sleeping, visiting, playing golf and commiserating with others possessing Raytown, Missouri roots. 

Those cherishing such moments gathered for a golf outing at Hillcrest Country Club to raise money for additional youth sports, arts and music opportunities for current kiddos in the 9,000-student school district. Raytown’s a proud community with a long history. It sits on KC’s eastern edge near the Truman Sports Complex where the beloved Chiefs and Royals play.

I think of my father and think of my children. Two beautiful kids maturing into healthy and mindful adults. I think of the influence my father had on my life. The admiration for overcoming obstacles. Marvin Walter McIntosh, Jr. was a survivor who, at least not to me, bemoaned life’s circumstances. The hard-working dude knew a thing or two about a comeback. It was required often. Whether from childhood poverty, lack of education, health issues, divorce and other difficult moments. Dad had little, if no, empathy for complainers.

Like all of us, “Hacker Mac” had his flaws. A hard scrabble beginning calloused the oldest son of six in ways sometimes uncomfortable for others. What the heck, beautiful Cindy Crawford has a mole on her cheek too. Nobody’s perfect, right?

I think of my father and think of his grandchildren. My children. Yes, I’m sure they’ll remember times when their old man was a pain in the ass. However, I hope and pray they remember their father like their father remembers their Grandpa: A good and respectable man who displayed unconditional love and support. Sure, there were times when my old man and I butted heads, especially in the formative years when, “You’ve got a bright athletic future, don’t do anything dumb” was lectured more than once.

Back then, it didn’t seem like Dad wanted his second-oldest son to have any fun. I now know he just had my best interests at heart. He wanted that for all his kids. Heck, the popular guy wanted that for everybody encountered. The golf enthusiast was a “glass way-more-than-half-full” kinda guy. Beloved.

In retrospect, “It’s Father’s Day and I’m not into thinking,” was a blatant lie to the congenial airline employee. On this special day, I did a lot of thinking about my kids and what their Grandpa represented. The thought process was a powerful reminder to emulate the good in those who positively influence our lives. 

Their DNA resides within. Shame on us for not infecting others. It is good!

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Pep Talk: "Mental Miner's Hats"

“At night the school janitor used to let me into the gym but I had to practice basketball without the lights on to avoid detection,” said the Denver community activist. “I learned to play hoops in darkness.”

Randy Perkins was really good at hoops and played collegiately for the University of Northern Colorado, in Greeley. However, the founder of Colorado Miners Community Center, in the Mile High City’s Elyria neighborhood, is even more talented at serving others. “We named the center ‘Colorado Miners’ because so many kids/families in this neighborhood have little hope. Gangs are quite active, there’s a large undocumented population, the I-70 expansion project is disruptive and poverty is rampant. Many who walk into our facility are like miners. In a dark and deep hole. We provide light.”

Beautiful. Here’s an example. When the facility first opened, graffiti was a problem. “I got to know the perpetrators, earned their trust and invited them to share their art inside, where we could acknowledge their talents,” Perkins said. “The tagging stopped.”

The community center has a daycare/school, gym, weight room, kitchen and meeting rooms. It’s an abandoned city of Denver recreation facility. Long ago, “Coach Randy” shared with the Denver Post: “This place now, it breathes life — it has resuscitated this community. It feeds my soul every day.”

The former business executive walked away from a lucrative career and right into one of Denver’s poorest neighborhood’s with a servant’s heart and, figuratively, a miner’s hat offering illumination for others with dimly lit and uncertain tunnels ahead.

While visiting with Perkins recently your knucklehead scribe’s mind ventured to a 27-year-old man who has known too much darkness. About six months ago while in the Denver Rescue Mission's New Life Program and active in A Stronger Cord, the smart dude shared at ASC Monday Night. “My mom was a prostitute. I have no idea who my father is. There were always parties at my house. When I was nine, my mom began to offer me to her clients. I ran away at 12.”


15 years later this handsome young man was offered a miner’s hat via the New Life program. A Stronger Cord is trying to help too. The night he courageously revealed this tragic tale, I can remember hugging him afterward with, “I admire you’re still trying.”

Our past experiences and the fertile soil they provide. Personally, a senior year in college spent too intoxicated on self pity but spared brushes with law enforcement for egregious acts, inspire an ol’ jock to engage others through a community outreach wellness movement based on fitness, relationship building and community service. Gratefully, in my darkness, many family and friends were nearby and equipped with extra miner’s hats.

What about you? Where might it be time to utilize talents and tools developed from challenging times? This week, like Perkins, make sure to carry along a mental miner’s hat or two. Your encouragement could illuminate someone’s path and offer hope and confidence to those who can’t see a bright future.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Pep Talk: "Never Let It Rest"

The view from the stage was inspiring. The Evie Garrett Dennis campus community room was packed with eighth-graders from Omar D. Blair School. It was their “Continuation” ceremony. Many family and friends of the Denver Public charter school in  the Mile High City’s Green Valley Ranch area had shown up to wish the kids well as they moved on to high school.

Your knucklehead scribe was blessed to have the opportunity to give the teenage scholars a Pep Talk about the big move. While sitting facing the kids and waiting to share, for whatever reason, my mind wandered to a sobering statistic read recently in the Denver Post about the Centennial State’s graduation rates.

According to the eighth "Building A GradNation" report, Colorado’s high-school graduation rate was 77%. Six points below the national average and about 1.5% lower than its 2016 grade. According to the study, Colorado’s seventh LOWEST in the nation. Not good.

The school leader introducing me was wrapping up comments when the graduation numbers zipped through my brain. I hope the kids, in enduring 15 minutes of “Following your passion, working hard, making healthy choices and showing respect for others” encouragement, heard a nugget that will stick.

Earlier on this day something sure stuck with me. While playing in a charity golf tournament for a high school baseball team, a foursome partner, upon learning of the event, offered: “Challenge those kids to have AT LEAST one more graduation.” Amen, dude.

Another member of the foursome immediately followed with something that didn’t just stick, it knocked my socks off. “Southpaw,” barked Bill McCartney, the former University of Colorado and Hall of Fame college football coach, “Tell the kids this: Good, better and best; never let it rest. Till their good is better and their better is best!” Double amen.

I threw that gem into closing remarks. Thankfully at the end, the whole crowd, scholars and supporters, was enthusiastically shouting that wonderful refrain. It was cool to encourage those gathered in the packed auditorium to believe in a simple, but not easy, life task: There is always room for improvement.

“Good, better and best, never let it rest....” Where might that mantra apply to us? I shared about interviewing, during a long television sportscasting career,  basketball legend Michael Jordan. It was impressive, when the Chicago Bulls played in Denver, to observe the six-time NBA champion. He was always the last player off the court after practice. The best player in the game always embraced the value of hard work. Many of the kids’ mouths dropped wide open when reminded, “Jordan was cut from his ninth-grade basketball team.”

It was fun debating future high schoolers about who was better. Jordan or Cleveland’s LeBron James? Everybody had an opinion. The point was to emphasize Jordan’s devotion to hard work. Regardless of age, race, ethnicity or socio-economic status, let’s never let it rest. 

Till OUR good is better and our better is best. Everybody will benefit. Especially kiddos we’re trying to influence!

Monday, May 29, 2017

Pep Talk: "Courageously Sacrifice"

Memorial Day 2017. For the record, the holiday started after the Civil War and, as a nation placed flowers on fallen soldier’s graves, was known as “Decoration Day.” Not surprisingly, the cranium focuses on the word “Sacrifice.”

Your knucklehead scribe grabs a torn and tattered Oxford American dictionary. It has been a constant companion for almost 30 years of writing. From childhood days of playing Scrabble, I’ve always loved the meaning of words and tried to respect them.

On page 595 of the 1980 edition is the definition: “The giving up of a valued thing for the sake of another that is more important or worthy.” As our nation honors those who, in military conflict, have given up their lives, the mind wonders, what present-day Americans might “sacrifice” for the betterment of the good ol’ USA? We’re dangerously divided at this time. Sorry, can’t resist. What could we sacrifice in order to build a stronger cord to one another? Regardless of our race, religion or socio-economic status? We need innovative ideas.

Back in the 1940‘s, as a nation jumped into World War II after the Pearl Harbor attack, a system of rationing was implemented. It limited the amount of certain goods a person could purchase. Supplies such as gasoline, butter, sugar and canned milk were rationed and diverted to the war effort. War also disrupted trade, limiting the availability of some goods. For example, the Japanese Imperial Army controlled the Dutch East Indies (today’s Indonesia) from March 1942 to September 1945, creating a shortage of rubber. It affected American production. My 81-year-old mom remembers those days. Historians (Tom Brokaw especially) consider this time of “giving up valued things” as our country’s “Greatest Generation.”

Why not bring it back? Obviously, our country is different today than seven decades ago. Far more diverse and, sadly, more fractured. But there is hope. There are wonderful stories of sacrifice. I heard one recently from a young man in the Denver Rescue Mission's “Next Step” program. He’s active in A Stronger Cord. As we visited he shared of, while homeless himself, seeing a woman, homeless and without shoes. “I gave her mine knowing I could find others.” He sacrificed something of value for the sake of another. It has benefits. The 23-year-old Denver native continued. “It’s been amazing. Shortly after, I was given a pair of well-fitting black boots. I’ve been sober and growing in faith ever since. I have hope. Those boots have good mojo.” Way cool. That hope started with sacrifice for another.

Could it be? The great societal challenges before us? Might a sacrificial spirit lessen them? For example, offering our time to encourage the isolated, vulnerable and displaced? We have too many in our communities. Ration our time spent online, Netflix binge watching or gawking at mobile devices? Invest in others living on the margins?

Memorial Day in America. We, a patchwork of people living in tumultuous times. Let’s ration indifference and judgement. Courageously sacrifice them for empathy and action. Each quite important and worthy.
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