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!

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