tough but true

I’m really unsure of how the following is relevant. Maybe it’s not. Please know it is not meant to be disrespectful of anyone  — nor is my experience meant to equate to anyone else’s truth. We have that problem these days… equating individual experience with everyone else’s truth.

Nonetheless, I’ve remembered this often. It is true…

As longtime readers of the Intramuralist will attest, throughout my life I’ve been a pretty good athlete. My knees are a little slower now… perhaps also my eye in striking the ball as forcefully… but as close friends will acknowledge, one may still have met their match in me on the Top Golf, Wii bowling, or backyard-any-sport circuit. Thank God for the smaller backyard-any-sport circuit. Those competitive juices remain.

In college, arguably, I hit my prime. In fact, as inspired the mantra for this blog, you’ll note I used to enter pretty much each and every intramural competition. And I’d do great! … that is, until I met the one who had played that particular sport their entire (doggone it) life…

Weightlifting, racquetball, tennis…

Ping pong or a semi-friendly game of H-O-R-S-E…

And badminton. Yes, badminton.

I was an excellent badminton player.

I know, I know… some still think it’s the backyard game of birdies, barbecue, and those tiny little shuttlecocks. But to me it was so much more. I kid you not…

In my distinguished D1 school, I took one P.E. class each semester; it was a physical outlet — my relief — often in the midst of a demanding academic course load. One semester I took badminton. Friends, I was really, really good.

One of my dear friends at the time was a young man who grew up in Southeast Asia. The son of a prominent politician, Erwin was afforded multiple, far-reaching opportunities. One of those was growing up playing the equivalent of AAU (the Amateur Athletic Union) on the select, badminton, Asia-Pacific circuit. Erwin was excellent at what he did.

Thus, as close and competitive as we were, in between classes and conversations and doing life together, he mandated I meet him on the badminton court.

Timelessly, he would say, “Ann, hit it here!” … and we would not leave the court until twenty times in a row, I could hit that frickin’, feeble little shuttlecock into a 0.76m x 0.46m space in the midst of a competitive match. Twenty times in a row.

Erwin drove me crazy.

He also made me good.

During our actual class, the course cumulated in an end-of-semester tournament. It was a co-ed, single elimination, best of 3 games tournament. Per the official rules, “Each game is played to 21 points, with players scoring a point whenever they win a rally regardless of whether they served. A match is the best of three games.” The tournament was a series of those three games.

I sailed through my side of the bracket. On the other side, there was a young man named “Brent,” who equally sailed through his. Brent was on scholarship; he played on our university tennis team — playing men’s singles #1 or #2. So the showdown was set… the finals… Brent vs. me.

Oh, my… what a wonderful match that it was… back and forth… back and forth. The more we played, the more the crowd paid attention. It was a fierce, well-played, competitive match. I was giving everything I had. So was he!

I won game 1. He won game 2. I won…

Well, therein lies the problem… well, sort of a problem.

This badminton match was one of the best sporting events I have ever been involved in — certainly the best individually. I played great. He played great. It was back-and-forth and totally competitive… 

For years I have sincerely shared this story, telling of one of my most awesome wins.

But here’s the God-honest truth…

I actually can’t remember if I won or not. I know I played great. I know he played great. I remember the looks on the faces of those around us, astonished by what transpired… here this scholarshipped tennis player… and me, this seemingly athletic nobody.

I can’t actually recount this story and scenario in all accuracy. I can only, authentically share how I felt. I remember how I felt. 

For me, it was awesome.  

This was 30 years ago. It was a wonderful, incredible day. My point is that sometimes feelings are more prominent than details. Tough story. I get it. But true.

Respectfully…

AR

think different?

In 1997, what was then known as Apple Computer, Inc., — a company that was reportedly “hemorrhaging” at the time, according to co-founder Steve Jobs — rolled out a new advertising slogan.

The legendary campaign featured a rainbow-colored Apple insignia on a black background, with the simple white text below it, encouraging viewers to: “Think different.” The contrasting logo, background, and text, as discussed by Rob Siltanen, who was the creative director for the marketing firm making the pitch, “seemed to make the ‘Think Different’ statement all the more bold.

Something within that slogan resonates loudly within me… the boldness… the encouragement… and the freedom… the freedom that acknowledges, “No, we don’t all have to think the same way.” In fact, it doesn’t make sense to me that we all must think the same way; it doesn’t even seem wise. Repeatedly, we have witnessed how we are strengthened and sharpened by the different.

But that message seems increasingly counter-cultural, as in recent weeks, many have asserted that all “identities” must think alike… all of one gender to one ethnicity, all of one religion to one political party, even from all celebrities to all assault victims…

… that for some reason, we must think exactly alike, sharing the same perspective.

And if we don’t, unfortunately, two conclusions seem to be made, perpetuated by these so-called, humanly crafted tribes:

One, you are wrong.

And two, you are not really one of us. 

You do not — cannot — belong to my “tribe.”

Just like that we judge another, dismiss perspective, and kill the bold encouragement to “think different.”

Last week I walked with a trusted friend. We do so weekly and always look forward to the next week; this was no different. Strolling around the neighborhood, we shared and discussed our perspectives on recent current events. As we walked, we uncovered a significant area where our reactions were strikingly different; we did not agree. But instead of either of us walking away or refusing to listen or even concluding that we were totally in the right and the other was totally in the wrong, we walked longer, talked longer, asked more questions, and listened more intently. I don’t know that in the end either of us significantly altered our perspective, but I can say that there was no conclusion that one of us was totally right, the other was totally wrong, and that we are no longer similar to the other… that we are no longer capable of being trusted friends. There was instead a keen awareness, acceptance, and acknowledgement of the bold freedom — and inherent wisdom — to “think different.”

Note that for Apple, the “Think different” campaign was considered wildly successful. In addition to receiving numerous advertising accolades and awards, the campaign was said to have transformed the company and “marked the beginning of Apple’s re-emergence as a marketing powerhouse.”

Said, too, by Siltanen, “It was the exact kind of attention-getting and thought-provoking advertising Apple desperately needed.”

Think different.

Attention-getting…

Thought-provoking…

Desperately needed.

Maybe that’s what the rest of us need, too… an awareness, acceptance, and acknowledgement of the bold freedom — and inherent wisdom — to actually “think different.”

Respectfully…

AR

bad things happen… to each of us

Seventeen years ago, my life changed. Not only did it change, but everything in me was convinced it was changing for the worse.

Let’s be clear; it wasn’t just me who believed that; there was a reason our friends and family cried. Add the doctor on top of that, arriving in the room no less than an hour after our youngest son’s birth, whose first words to us were, “This must be the saddest day of your whole life.”

Let that sink in for a minute… “the saddest day of your whole life.”

In addition to the no doubt unintended, perceived gut punch, the doctor left us with a thick packet of info, brochures, statistics, etc., which included a multi-page list of approximately 300+ things that our son was now more likely to have wrong with him.

Wrong. 

Bad.

That’s how we perceived it.

Before we get to the main point of today’s post, let’s acknowledge October as Down syndrome Awareness Month — a totally awesome month — and offer a brief, supportive shout out to the friends and families that have such a special someone as a member of their family! No doubt many of those in this community are some of the finest people we have ever met. Truly. But I’d like to go a little deeper this day… in a way that affects us all.

What happens when something bad happens to you? Something you truly perceive as bad? 

Does it define you?

Does it destroy you?

Does anything good ever come out of it?

Let’s first address the increasingly pervasive “one-size-fits-all” rationale. Sorry, but that doesn’t make much sense to me… that because you and I have both experienced “the same kind of thing,” we should react the same way or share the same perspective. I don’t buy it. We are each uniquely and wonderfully made; we are wired differently. Therefore, it makes total sense to me that men, women, adults, children, persons of varied ethnicity and demographic would and could respond in totally different ways. I’d like to see us each give others a little more grace in this area, recognizing that “one-size-fits-all” is more suited for a retail clothing promotion. 

We react differently. That’s ok. Not even the mature nor intelligent respond the same. That is equally ok.

For me, having a child with a cognitive disability — and knowing that I was going to have to change my expectations immediately — was incredibly hard. Harder still was wrestling with the perception that not only the world — but also me, at the time — thought this was bad.

When I pivoted, however, from seeing my challenging circumstance as any doubt regarding who God is and how much he loves me to instead an opportunity to get to know and rely on him more, something changed. I began to see something the world did not — and perhaps cannot — always see.

I began to see something other than that perceived as bad. I began to see this also uniquely and wonderfully made child… who would teach me and grow me and stretch me… who would challenge some of my cultural norms… who would say things and react in ways I did not… who helped me learn and quit judging the different… who knew no fear… who loved faster… who was full of hope… and who taught me the striking difference between intelligence and wisdom. I began to draw nearer to the great big God of the universe — and then find a strength I otherwise would not have known. What I once saw as bad did not define nor destroy me; it instead, actually strengthened me.

Allow me to never suggest that the bad things are easy. No way. Allow me to also never suggest any of us need to just “get over it.” But let me suggest that the bad things in our life do not need to be lingering sources of anger directed at either self, the world, or those who think differently. Challenging as they are, they can be an opportunity to grow… if we let them.

Yesterday, as my son and I stood at the bus stop for none other than his 17th birthday, he again requested a long time favorite song. And so at 6:30 in the morning, in a public place, on a semi-busy street, we stood outside, belted it, and danced… “When I see your face, there’s not a thing that I would change, ‘cause you’re amazing, just the way you are…”

I see that now… amazing…

What an incredible opportunity to grow.

Respectfully…

AR

no reasonable person could ever… right?

“I don’t know how anyone could ever ___________!”

Fill in the blank with whatever you wish, friends.

In the last week, I’ve heard everything put in that blank from believing her, believing him, being ok with dirty politics, to being an Ohio State football fan.

My fear is we’re collectively making a most grievous, blinding error.

Note the subject of that first sentence: I… me… my… myself…

Because I don’t know” — because I don’t think that way I project my perspective onto all others as the only wise perspective they could or should possess.

I assume I am right and that no reasonable person — certainly not an intelligent nor mature one — could come to any different conclusion.

So allow me to humbly ask… since when did it become wise to believe that there is only one right perspective?

Since when did it become wise to believe that there is only one right way to proceed? 

And since when did it become wise to project our own experience and our learnings from that experience onto everyone else?

It’s ok to see things different ways.

Really.

A year ago, we published a post entitled “Death to Our Relationships.” Substantive to the primary point were the words written by Washington Post columnist Christine Emba, discussing the deteriorating communication in our country. Said Emba, “Both right and left have engaged in the breakdown-inducing behaviors that have put our democracy on the edge of divorce.”

Is that not the truth? 

Said Senators Collins and Murkowski respectively on Friday… 

“We live in a time of such great disunity, as the bitter fight over this nomination both in the Senate and among the public clearly demonstrates. It is not merely a case of different groups having different opinions. It is a case of people bearing extreme ill will toward those who disagree with them…”

“I’m worried. I am really worried that this becomes the new normal, where we find new and even more creative ways to tear one another down.”

Let’s examine the bigger picture. Intelligent people are warring against one another; they are assuming another to actually be lesser because of their intense disagreement. Allow me to then also suggest that such intensity combined with intelligence is impairing not only our individual perspectives — but also how we treat all of mankind.

Yesterday, I had the privilege of attending a Special Olympics bowling competition for high schoolers in our county. It was a humbling, amazing event, seeing 5-6 Olympians fill well over 50 lanes. And then it dawned on me… did anyone notice the shirt that many of the very special athletes wore?

Read from the back of my son’s shirt:

“Play unified. Live unified.”

Live unified. 

I couldn’t help but think that here in an arena not necessarily known for its intelligence or cognitive astuteness, there is so much the rest of us could learn.

Respectfully…

AR

a letter to my sons

Dear Sons,

Oh, how I love and respect you. What an incredible privilege it is to be your parent. You are older now — on your own in many ways. I wanted to take a few moments to briefly revisit some important things your father and I have long attempted to instill in you. Granted, you are fairly independent now… it’s up to you…

Seek God first.

There is so much available to you on this planet… so much to strive for, seek and find. Embrace, enjoy, but don’t let the fleeting distract you, as this planet is not perfect, paradise, nor anything even close. It is not heaven and should never be confused as such. That means you will encounter sin and struggles in both others and yourself. Give others and yourself generous grace; pick yourself up when you fall and continue to grow. Welcome godly conviction but not human condemnation. And don’t point fingers — again, not at others nor at self. Finger pointing too often evinces hypocrisy.

Love your neighbor well.

Seeking God first means you attempt to follow what he asks of us. He asks us to love both what and who he created. It’s why we take care of both his people and his planet. Unfortunately, you will be tempted to love well only those who think, look, act and even vote like you. Don’t fall prey to that limited thinking; it takes even the intelligent down. Love the neighbor and the stranger. Respect them. Interact with them. Ask them questions and listen to their response. Ask them more. Know, too, they are always welcome at our table. 

Prioritize what is good and right and true.

Love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness. Goodness. Grace. Faithfulness. Forgiveness. Family. Friendship. Gentleness. Laughter. Humility. Service. Selflessness. And self-control. Never allow anything lesser to pierce what is good.

Pursue the truth.

Discerning what is true is a centuries-old challenge; it’s not always clear. Understand that what you feel doesn’t always line up with what is true. Your feelings are valid, but they are not necessarily indicative of the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Also, your experience does not equate to everyone else’s reality. Know that. Be humble. And never let these learnings halt your pursuit.

Eat your vegetables.

Yes, ok… that’s not really the best way to say this, and I haven’t always modeled this well. I have much to learn. The bottom line is for each of us to be healthy — to intentionally care for our body — emotionally, physically, and spiritually. If you are off in any of the three, you are most likely off in all. But again, give yourself great grace. It’s ok to not be ok.

Treat a girl like a queen.

I’ll be honest; this is a tough one these days, but I will not stray from what your father and I have always taught you. Girls long to be cherished; boys long to be respected. Never withhold your love and respect. From either. But be careful. Not everyone holds the same values as you, especially in regard to all of the above; some have not yet found that guiding moral compass. That doesn’t make another bad, but it does mean you must be careful about any potentially compromising situation. Don’t go too far with someone you don’t love, especially in regard to time, topic, and touch. Build friendship first. Be kind always.

And lastly, when panned or praised, criticized or commended, accused or absolved, always remember the first three above…

Seek God first…

Love your neighbor well…

Prioritize what is good and right and true.

All will not always go well for you. But if you follow the above, you should sleep very well at night. You will have peace.

Love you, sons… always and all the time…

AR