amazing (judgment &) grace

What grace do we give to other people?
What grace do we give them, especially when they think differently?
Have we — maybe just you, maybe just me, maybe only the likeminded — have we cornered the market on wisdom?

I read a fascinating editorial this week, written by an online news contributor who consistently advocates for solely one side of the political aisle. I admire her eloquence. I admire the respect in her tone. I also admire her passion and compassion. She was sweetly advocating for loving our neighbor well.

As a person for whom loving our neighbor well is one of my top two priorities in life, I still found myself pausing at one point, troubled by her conclusion. To those who disagree with her chosen political approach, she wrote the following:

“There is a divide between our worldviews that can never be bridged… our disagreement is not merely political, but a fundamental divide on what it means to live in a society, how to be a good person, and why any of that matters… I can’t debate someone into caring about what happens to their fellow human beings.”

If one does not believe what the author believes, the author has concluded that the other person does not care about “what happens to their fellow human beings.”

The author has convinced herself that the other so-called side doesn’t care as much about other people as she does; she has found fault in their thinking. Finding fault only in another’s thinking, she no longer needs to wrestle with any fault in her own. She also then fails to wrestle with any validity in the opinion of another. While perhaps unknowingly done, that seems potentially judgmental and lacking in grace.

I wish we did a better job as a society of recognizing that we don’t know how each of us cares for other people. We don’t know how each of us uses our time, talents, and money as a means of loving God and our neighbor well… however perceived little or much time, talent, and money we’ve been given… how do we each use it well?

Who among us supports the building of an orphanage in Romania? … who among us gives annually to the Down Syndrome Association? … who among us uses our vacation to build a water system in Kenya, where there is no clean water for a remote, unpublicized village? And who among us volunteers for Hospice, visits a prisoner, or personally packs backpacks of food for the homeless?

And if others don’t do what we do, does that mean that they don’t care? … does that mean that only the person who gives their time, talents, or money is caring? … only they are empathetic? … that only the giver of that particular time, talent, or money — or holder of a specific political approach — loves their neighbor well?

We don’t know what each other does. Isn’t it therefore possible that we care for others differently but still well?

There’s no need to compare what we each do; there’s also no need to judge. Judgment is merely another form of comparison. Judgment also too often justifies the ending of respectful dialogue. I was sadly struck, in fact, how this editorial’s author added that she’s “done trying to convince these hordes of selfish, cruel people to look beyond themselves.”

… hordes of selfish people … cruel…

Is that us? … because we care differently?

My point is that while I appreciate the compassion behind various approaches — from government paying for healthcare to wanting government to be solvent to building that orphanage in Romania — it’s inaccurate to assume that a different approach equates to caring lesser. It’s inaccurate to assume that only those who want to give their time, talents, and money as we do, are empathetic. And to then suggest that there’s no need to talk to another any more… well, that seems to say more about a person’s impatience and unwillingness to listen than it says about the holder of a seemingly opposite approach. It’s not just a singular set of people that need to “look beyond themselves.”

I’m reminded of an incredible book I read years ago, “What’s So Amazing About Grace?” by Philip Yancey. In it, Yancey shares tale after tale of generous grace offerings, extensions of practical love that are so much broader and extensive than I have ever done, much less even considered. Each instance was an intentional choice of grace over judgment, when truthfully, judgment is most always the easier path.

Seeing how hard it is for us to give grace to one another consistently — especially to those holding varied opinion — grace is amazing indeed.

Respectfully…
AR

what’s most important

The stakes were high.

Each side wanted to win.

No side had any desire to lose. They refused.

And both sides thought this issue, this event, this moment in time, was most necessary to bring home a victory.

… We can’t be too sympathetic. We can’t give too much. We can’t totally listen nor give up much. We must stand our ground. We must support our side only…

And then it happened.

The man fell to the ground.

No pulse. No pulse.

Make no mistake about it; the man was a fan of only one side. He only rooted for one. And he rooted fiercely. He clearly sided with one over the other — maybe even uttered a few expletives. He firmly believed the opposing advocates were way off base.

One woman then loudly summoned all those in the audience. “Help!”… Her same-side supporter was now slumped over in his seat. “He’s weak,” another said, in realization that in the middle of this whole, fierce debate, help from any side was needed.

And help now.

A man had fallen to the floor. His life was in jeopardy. Would all those on opposing sides realize his life was in jeopardy? Would they react promptly to help him? Would they keep what’s most important, most important? Could they even see that?

Or would they let their support systems get in the way? … would they block what’s right? … and skew perspective?

I admit… the passions run deep… legitimately deep.

Let me diminish not anyone’s passion.

Those near started chest compressions. One of the men, in fact, leading the care for the stricken supporter was actually a supporter of the other so-called side.

He performed mouth-to-mouth… five to seven minutes… until medics arrived.

“He started breathing on his own a little and his pulse came back, and we were fortunate we were able to revive him,” said the supporter.

Fortunate…

That word strikes me… he knew we were fortunate… even… from the other… side.

Republican, Democrat…

Trump, Clinton…

Black, white…

Feminist, meninist…

The dividing lines run deep.

I wonder how many would have refrained from helping simply because of the side from which one hailed. That is a sad commentary on today’s culture… even upon today’s intelligent…

The University of Florida and Louisiana State University share a fierce, competitive rivalry. There is often a public back and forth, negative feelings shared, with little expressed compassion. They are both incredibly, athletically talented and competitive. And they want to win. Because of their continual, direct competition against one another, those Gators and Tigers don’t like each other very much. Sometimes we even hear the word “hate.”

This past week the two regular season, co-SEC champions squared off for the annual College World Series, and surprising to no one, the fierce rivalry continued. It was tough. It was rough. It was full of passion and deeply held opinion. Some of the words expressed on the playing field should be heard by no one.

On the night before game one in the best-of-3 series, an 87-year-old Florida fan apparently suffered a heart attack and had no pulse. The father of a star LSU pitcher helped revive him.

Thank you.

Thank you for being an excellent example to the rest of us. Thank you for focusing on what’s most important…. thank you for knowing when individual passions should be set aside… thank you for knowing when the name calling should be nonexistent… and thank you for knowing when we should each be shaken to our core, remembering that there is better and more that binds us together.

Respectfully…
AR

healthcare

How can we best care for all people?
How can we best care for all people without spending money government doesn’t have?

I’d like to write about healthcare today. But truthfully, the Intramuralist is a little leery. I want to talk about the ins and outs, facts and effects, good things and bad. I want to wrestle with what’s good and true and right — and what’s not. I want to navigate through the varied opinions and approaches. I want to analyze and assess what could be effective. But I’m hesitant. I’m hesitant due to the current rhetorical climate and the potential onslaught of masses telling me there’s only one right way to think about this. I’m hesitant due to the vocal number who no longer see value in objective analysis… or… who are convinced they are objective. It’s far quicker to point fingers, denigrate and demean than it is to sift through the wisdom on all sides of this important debate.

Let me be clear… 

I don’t believe our legislators as a whole, on either side, are evil. I don’t believe they are motivated by evil. And I don’t believe the motives of either party are entirely impure nor solely designed to assure re-election, financially reward their supporters, or are a part of some grander, nefarious conspiracy to take over the world and put Lex Luther in charge.

What I do believe is that there exist varied approaches to maintain and improve the mental and physical care of the American people. I also believe there exists sincere disagreement with those approaches. Consistent with the mantra of this blog, it’s ok and often healthy for disagreement to exist.

But currently, it’s incredibly difficult to even wrestle through the disagreement and objections because the rhetoric is getting in our way.

I wish people would quit obstructing us… Stop proclaiming why one side is more honorable. Stop proclaiming why one side has handled this so wisely…

 Besides both parties being less than transparent in the development of their approach, representatives from both have also either lied or said some untrue things (… “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor”… “Nobody on Medicaid is going to be taken away…”). Both have said some awful things (… the establishing of the Democrats’ “death panels”… the Republicans paying with “blood money”…). This sensational rhetoric skews objectivity and keeps far too many from impartially sifting through what is wise and what is not. Let’s be clear: no party these days seems to have cornered the market on wisdom.

The Intramuralist believes in the healthcare debate, both of the above-offered objectives should be pursued:

1. How to care best for all people.
And 2. How to care best for all people without spending money government doesn’t have.

I will admit, no less, to again being leery of the numbers of people who will attempt to exclaim that only one of the above motives is compassionate…

To care for all people — such as the teen in my community, tragically struck by lightning four years ago, who now has hundreds of thousands of medical bills annually — that is a compassionate motive.

To care without bankrupting government — preserving and planning for the other thousands of programs that aid and abet American workers, farmers, students, etc. that need financial support — that is a compassionate motive. Different approaches can be compassionate. Different does not equate to “mean” nor “cruel.”

But when partisans utilize such false or inflaming rhetoric, they no longer aid and abet the American people. They do not trust us to sort through what’s wise, discern effective solution, nor make our own conclusions.

Recently someone asked me what I’d most like to see happen in this whole healthcare debate. My response was that I’d like to see persons from all sides gather, have some coffee/a beer/whatever together, roll up their sleeves, and work together in crafting a bipartisan approach. Respect each other. Respect the compassion in another’s different approach. Find a way to care for all people without continuing to overspend. I believe we’d be better served if our leaders worked better together.

But I also desire our leaders and legislators to quit attacking the other party as so less honorable than they are. I’d like for the rest of us, too, to quit being seduced by their rhetorical lure. Yes, I desire more respect for one another… and more objectivity in the analysis.

Respectfully…
AR

doctor, doctor…

For weeks, I didn’t answer their phone call. I give them credit. They tried multiple times. Sincerely. I just wasn’t in position to take the call. Between a graduating senior, a special needs teen, a house on the market, and frequent single parenting, it was less of a priority to me make my son’s annual doctor’s appointment.

I know… bad parenting award.

My special needs teen was born with a congenital heart defect. Being born with a life-threatening limitation, having it repaired, surrendering my inability to control the outcome… such is one of the most powerful, peace-giving, faith stories of my life…

What are those things in your life that are so big, you know you have to rely on something other than self?

But alas, I digress. It’s just hard not to give God credit when you know there is no way something could have happened outside of him. I praise God for what he did with my son. And with my family. And with me.

So for weeks and months last winter and spring, the local children’s hospital called me, attempting to schedule Josh for his annual cardiology checkup. It’s somewhat tricky. The cardiologists only have so much time for clinical assessments; appointments are limited. By late spring, no less, they quit calling.

As the light at the end of my figurative tunnel soon became clearer this month — and both grad festivities and house activities were winding down — I realized it’d be wise to schedule said appointment. And so I meekly returned their call.

Acknowledging that the delay was my fault, I attempted to schedule an appointment with our cardiologist for mid-July. Note: the Intramuralist & Co. are taking their talents to Central Florida next month, so an appointment here would need to happen ahead of time. There’s one problem; with limited appointments, there are no appointments available with Josh’s cardiologist until mid-August.

I didn’t do what I should have. I didn’t do what was most prudent. I screwed up. And now I couldn’t get my kid what he needed most.

Pause for a second…

In that scenario, how do we typically react? Do we cry out? Do we become demanding? … even when the error is “mine”?

The registration staff and I first decided to give one another a few days to think on it, discerning the wisest way forward. Maybe, in fact, there would be a cancellation we could take advantage of. After a week, it was concluded that there was no option in Cincinnati for us. We could not get in to see our doctor. We could see another doctor, but not one who was already familiar with Josh’s care.

That being the case, I asked for a recommendation in the Orlando area. If we need to start anew with another cardiologist, it seemed logical to us that we should start anew in our coming community.

The nurse on the phone called me later with three recommendations. As I asked about each, she commented that one of the doctors is actually still on staff here in Cincinnati — the families love him. Several from the midwest, in fact, are committed to traveling the 920 some miles in the future, because they respect this particular doctor deeply. 

I asked a few more questions, as this sounded like an excellent option.

The nurse shared that the highly regarded physician was transferring to a new, highly regarded healthcare facility in a new, expanding area of Orlando. “I’ve heard the name,” I pondered aloud to the nurse.

With Google Maps making us all look like more confident navigators than we really are, I quickly exclaimed, “It’s only two miles from our new house in Florida!!”

Had I done what I could have… had I done what I even should have… the end result would not have been this good.

Sometimes the biggest blessings come in spite of us…
… without asking…
… when least expected…
… in practical, wonderful ways.

Respectfully…
AR

using words wisely

The following sad story caught my attention — for its unique, potential legal precedent — and — for its broader application…

A young Massachusetts woman, Michelle Carter, who was 17 at the time of the incident, was found guilty Friday of involuntary manslaughter in the suicidal death of her boyfriend, Conrad Roy III. Both struggled with depression, and Roy had prior suicide attempts. And when Roy was set to attempt it again, he had stepped out of his truck filled with carbon monoxide, but was in touch with Carter, who encouraged him to get back in.

The case, as noted by observing legal experts, hinged primarily on hundreds of text messages between the two. For example:

Carter: “If you want it as bad as you say you do, it’s time to do it today.”

Roy: “Yup. No more waiting.”

Carter: “Okay. I’m serious. Like you can’t even wait ‘till tonight. You have to do it when you get back from your walk.”

In a trial where the 6th Amendment’s right to a jury was waived, the judge held those words against Michelle Carter. Said the judge, “She admits in … texts that she did nothing; she did not call the police or Mr. Roy’s family. And, finally, she did not issue a simple additional instruction: get out of the truck.”

Her words were viewed as a weapon.

As I ponder the tragedy of the families involved above, I can’t help but focus on that perspective: her words were used as a weapon. The court saw it as such. Said Massachusetts ACLU lawyer, Matthew Segal: “This is saying that what she did is killing him, that her words literally killed him, that the murder weapon here was her words.”

Pause here for a moment.

Think not simply of our teens and tweens.

Think of us.

How many times have we seen on social media especially (where it’s easier to boldly rant without looking your audience in the eye) where we use our words as a weapon? Where we rant, rave, insult, judge, assert how evil or idiotic another is, or tell someone to go [expletive-inserted-here] themselves?

 We — not just our teens — are using our words as a weapon.

Friends, using words as a weapon doesn’t make another want to be like us. Beating another up with a vicious, rhetorical two-by-four is not an effective means of winning friends and influencing people. Beating them up only injures further.

Said international speaker and author Yehuda Berg:

“Words are singularly the most powerful force available to humanity. We can choose to use this force constructively with words of encouragement, or destructively using words of despair. Words have energy and power with the ability to help, to heal, to hinder, to hurt, to harm, to humiliate and to humble.”

In other words, whether on Facebook or face-to-face, we have a choice in how to use our words. We can use them to build up or tear down. We can use them to affirm or insult. We can use them to reflect upon self or point fingers at another. The wisdom in our words depends on how we use them.

As Michelle Carter awaits an August sentencing, there is no doubt her situation is a sad story with no easy answers. It’s heartbreaking. Unfortunately, what’s currently playing out on social media and elsewhere — between adults not necessarily suffering from depression — is also, often, equally sad.

May we use our words wisely… always.

Respectfully…
AR

deserving to be shot?

Over the weekend, Democratic pollster and former Bill Clinton consultant, Doug Schoen, wrote an insightful, analytical piece about Democrats and Republicans increasingly “loathing” one another. Can it be fixed? “Can anyone lead us to compromise?” Or do too many no longer associate any kind of compromise with wisdom?

Schoen began by detailing last week’s intentional gunfire directed at Republicans only. What was scary about the shooter is that he was not an “extremist.” Like many of us, he did “make a habit of criticizing [in this case] conservative viewpoints and projecting his own militantly liberal ideas across social media. His spiral downward into violence is a blatant depiction of the extreme rage that now permeates both extremes of the American political spectrum.”

Schoen asserts that even though America’s history has not always been peaceful, “we are approaching uncharted waters in terms of the stark ideological polarization in our country. Wednesday morning’s tragedy was a manifestation of the aggressive hatred that is fueling the schism between the left and the right.” The middle ground is gone.

Schoen then shares the data over the past two decades, sharing how increasingly more engrained partisan loyalty has become… how significantly fewer identify as “moderate”… how many would be deeply unhappy if their son/daughter married someone from the other party. We even think less of the other party. As the NY Times summarized last week, “Americans in 1960 were more likely to allow that members of the other party were intelligent, and they were less likely to describe opposing partisans as selfish.’”

No more. We are so judgmental now. Writes Schoen: “What these people fail to realize is that their own accusation towards the opposing party is, in itself, a threat to the well-being of our nation. The alienation of fellow Americans and their ideology discourages discourse, it discourages understanding, and it discourages unity. Disagreement is perfectly healthy. The two parties, with different philosophies, are bound to present different plans for health care reform, and to have different tax priorities, and to approach paying for infrastructure differently. But the idea that these differences are unbridgeable, that the two sets of ideals are so alien to one another that it is simply impossible to negotiate with our fellow Americans, is absurd. We have a common philosophical foundation. We are not Sunnis and Shiites, or Fascists and Communists.

Or are we? As we saw on Wednesday, incessant, dehumanizing intolerance shown towards opposing ideologies breeds something closer to blind hate. [Shooter James] Hodgkinson made a target of the Republican baseball practice, acting on his expressions of displeasure regarding the current administration’s values. An unspeakable act of violence stemmed from a simple difference of opinion.”

Can we no longer handle differences of opinion? Are those opinion holders stupid? Are they evil? Do they deserve to be shot?

The Intramuralist, for one, has been pleased with the pleas for unity and bipartisanship after the shooting, but let me be clear: I want it to happen for more than one week. I want it to happen consistently. I want change from our leaders — change from us. I want us to listen to one another. As Schoen advocates, “We will not move forward as a country if we cannot find a middle ground. I say this not as a political analyst offering advice, but as an angered citizen, hopeful about everything that this nation could do and be.”

Both parties/partisans take turns resisting and refusing, with adults even resurrecting the old playground mantra that because “they did it first,” it must be ok.

Presidents, leaders, and legislators from both parties have contributed to this political divide. Many have also called to heal it. Again, as said by Schoen: “[Trump’s] response to Wednesday’s shooting, however, was a step in the right direction. Trump made a powerful statement that demonstrated that he has the capability of leading a united coalition against partisan hostility. He said that ‘We may have our differences, but we do well in times like these to remember that everyone who serves in our nation’s capital is here because, above all, we love our country.’

And it wasn’t just the President that suggested a message of unity. Politicians from both sides of the aisle corroborated the importance of reduced polarization. Speaker Paul Ryan urged his colleagues ‘to show the country — show the world — that we are one House. The people’s House — united in our humanity.’ Soon after, Nancy Pelosi, Minority Leader, echoed the words of Ryan, her political opponent, calling his statement ‘beautiful’ and exclaiming that the shooting was ‘an injury in the family.’”

But Schoen’s final point is perhaps his strongest. While last week’s bipartisan pleas were healthy, the current election process for presidents and House representatives specifically magnifies the division; the divisions are growing. Hence, Schoen’s point is that we must stop blaming those who represent us and look first to ourselves…

“If the American people continue to drift further and further apart, it will be impossible for our elected officials to genuinely represent the extremism of those constituent opinions while also compromising to the extent necessary to enact bipartisan policy.

When a democratic government loses touch with its constituents to the extent that the United States government has, a sense of public betrayal is inevitable. Party leaders need to take more responsibility to represent their electorate in a way that moves the country forward…

Without popular support and some degree of trust, government faces a tragic crisis of legitimacy. As we saw on Wednesday, this can manifest itself in inexcusable ways. It is absolutely imperative that our country disrupt our current trajectory towards further polarization, division, and hate. We must come together as the United States; our country depends on it, our well-being depends on it, and our children’s future depends on it.”

We can no longer excuse the inexcusable. The rhetoric. The disrespect. The judgment. It starts with us.

Respectfully…
AR

what are we doing?

On Wednesday, as most know, a man who belonged to multiple anti-Republican groups, including one called “Terminate the Republican Party,” opened fire on Republican lawmakers, who were practicing for a charity softball game.

Let’s start here. Let’s start by omitting the words “Republican” and “Democrat,” for if any believe that only the Republicans or only the Democrats are contributing to the reckless rhetorical climate, than they — we — are more part of the problem than we think. What are we doing?

The Intramuralist believes we need to be clear in how we speak of this. It is not the rhetoric or a Facebook group or another association that is responsible for the violent acts; the people who choose the violent acts are the people responsible for the violent acts. However, we are contributing to a climate which makes the violent acts more likely; we are feeding a culture that encourages the equating of ideological difference holders to enemies; sometimes our elected leaders have even referred to political others as the “enemy.” That is the basis for today’s question. By definition, an “enemy” is seen as bad. Wrong. And sometimes even necessary to shoot and kill. We are contributing to an unhealthy, morally-digressing climate that encourages some to shoot and kill.

One of the things I appreciate after the resulting shock and pause of horrific events, is the positive use of “we”… “We are all Americans” after 9/11… “We are Orlando” after the Pulse night club shootings…. And “we are all sons and daughters of God” — a frequent, articulated truth that is perhaps the only “we,” we actually always are. In the wake of tragedy, no less, we turn the “me” into a “we” — focusing most on what we have in common. There is no assertion that the “other” is the “enemy.”

But with all due respect, save for in the wake of those horrific events, my sense is we currently, collectively stink at that. We stink at including others in our “we.” We tend to focus most on what we don’t have in common, as opposed to what we do. We pit our values, belief systems, identities, etc. against someone or something else. We pick teams, separate groups, and create intentional division. We utilize terms such as “resistance,” “war” and “destroy” — terms each partisan group takes turns embracing… sometimes shouting.

As former Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) said this week, “Angry, divisive words are setting the stage for the unhinged to act out.” The reality is that our leaders and “we” are the ones using those angry, divisive words.

How many call now — or called before — for either Donald Trump or Barack Obama to be destroyed?

And how many justify it? … maybe, most likely, only for one?

Again, this week’s shooter is responsible for this week’s shooting. But we have created a climate in which a person lacking in wisdom or discernment feels like “destroy” actually means “to destroy.” The softball field shooter went to do exactly that.

While there is nothing wrong with respectful, passionate opposition, we have been seduced as a society into believing that it’s ok for policy attacks to become personal. We have been fooled into believing that another’s policy differences equate that person with idiocy or evil.

And then we fight.
The man at the softball field went to fight.

Will we come together to recognize that we really are all Americans?

Will we stop this reckless rhetoric that encourages hate towards someone?

Will our leaders courageously lead, stopping the call to resist and destroy, even though the firm stance tends to rile up the people (and secure more future votes)? 

Will we stop attacking the person — especially, referring to them as the “enemy”?

And — perhaps the bottom line question for today — will we embrace wisdom first and foremost — or will we continue to be seduced into something lesser?

Back to Sen. Bayh… “Let’s hear more reconciliation in our political debate. Let’s rethink our propensity to make every disagreement apocalyptic. Let’s resist the temptation to infer the worst motives to our adversaries. In the end, the American values that unite us are much stronger than those tearing us apart. Let’s remember that.”

Yes… let’s remember.

What are we doing, friends?

Respectfully…
AR

my friend, rick

I lost a friend the other day. Let me describe him to you, from those of us who’ve known him our whole lives…

Rick was one of a kind.
He was high voltage.
He beat to his own drum.
He’s the funniest person I’ve ever known.
No one could really keep up with his energy, but he was always fun to run alongside and try to keep up with — even just for a moment.

Rick was an uncanny, energetic, passionate man. From first grade on, I never failed to laugh in his presence.

I’ll add a little more…

He was a wrestler in middle school and went undefeated in 8th grade.
He was a brewer for Oaken Barrel Brewing Co. long before the craft industry became cool.
He owned several ferrets over the course of his life.
He loved animals.
He was a tireless worker and enjoyed a successful hospitality and sales career.

Rick, too, loved an audience…

He was an entertaining mix of Robin Williams, Sam Kinison, and Ronald Reagan.
In high school, he used our lunch table as the test market for his standup routine. Every day. I think our favorite was watching him eat his peaches as if they were a live goldfish.

Rick would also do anything for his friends…

Rick wanted to be a friend to all.
He was clever, raw, edgy, conservative, and loyal to his friends.
He would be the first to stand and the last to fall when it came to the people and issues he held dear.
He was firm in his convictions, but not condemning.
He loved his family and friends fiercely.

With the rise of social media, Rick also found new ways to voice his passions — and voice them he did. He was never afraid to speak his mind, and often, brazenly so. He spoke out sometimes daily on the issues, never hesitant to call it as he saw it. We interacted often, and when I saw him some 3-4 years ago, I razzed Rick for the frequent sharpness in his political statements — he who comes from a stance one friend describes as “somewhere a little bit to the right of G. Gordon Liddy and Friedrich Nietzsche.” Rick shyly grinned, turned a little red, and said something along the lines of “yeah, I know I can be a little rough sometimes.”

But Rick’s roughness never impeded how he felt about his friends — even on those days he’d shoot me a quick bold text, arguing I was wrong or not hard enough on someone. Said another friend, “He and I really butted heads over politics and rights, but he was also the first person to tell me how much he cared about me!” The key to our friend, Rick, was that his convictions never compromised his relationships.

I’m thinking of how much I will miss Rick. I think, too, of the current sad, digressing, societal state in which too many intelligent others have allowed their convictions to compromise who they love and how they love them… how their convictions have knowingly and intentionally damaged their relationships… how they have no tolerance for the conviction of another… and how that intolerant tone rubs off on those who take it way too far. Some want passionate voices silenced. On the left. On the right. That grieves me, as we are sacrificing wisdom.

While I can no longer hear, Rick’s raw, edgy, voice, his silence also grieves me…

Some final words…

“Bottom line — he was a great guy who would do anything for his friends. When he asked how you were doing, he really cared. He knew that life was hard, and we’re all in this together. There are people who don’t know Rick who will think that he gave up early on life. But he was a shooting star that was destined to burn out early. He even knew that. He candidly talked about being amazed to be alive in his 20s and in his 30s and in his 40s. And he didn’t work hard to stay alive for himself — he did that for us. He did that for his friends and family, and we were blessed to have him here for 52 years. For those who knew him, he is irreplaceable — but I trust that his memory will live on in the stories. I’m guessing everyone has their favorite Rick story. I’m smiling right now as I think of mine. Somewhere in heaven, Rick is working his routine on a new audience. God bless him.”

Respectfully…
AR

language or communication?

A week ago, as with most Hall of Famers, Phillies veteran Mike Schmidt found himself once again before a microphone, with another earnestly desiring his opinion. He was asked about the future of the Philadelphia Phillies, a subject upon which the twelve time all star would obviously possess a unique perspective. He was asked if the team could build around current outfielder Odubel Herrera. Schmidt’s answer, calmly articulated, was as follows:

“My honest answer to that would be ‘no’ because of a couple of things. First of all, it’s a language barrier. Because of that, I think he can’t be a guy that would sort of sit in a circle with four, five American players and talk about the game — or try and learn about the game or discuss the inner workings of the game — or come over to a guy and say, ‘Man, you gotta run that ball out.’ [He] just can’t be — because of the language barrier — that kind of a player.”

Only a few hours later, the former third baseman found himself apologizing, seemingly sincerely from this blogger’s observant, albeit limited perspective. He apologized for the perceived disrespect of Herrera and Latin players in general. “I’m very sorry that this misrepresentation of my answer occurred and may have offended someone,” Schmidt added.

Still later that night, Boston Red Sox broadcaster Jerry Remy took his turn before the mic. During the game versus their New York rivals, when the Yankees pitching coach made a visit to the mound in the middle of the fourth, he was accompanied by a Japanese translator; they came to calm the momentary errancy of Yankees ace Masahiro Tanaka, also Japanese.

As play resumed, Remy averred about the translator, “I don’t think that should be legal. I really don’t. Learn baseball language. You know, learn; it’s pretty simple. You break it down pretty easy between pitching coach and pitcher after a long period of time.”

Like Schmidt, Remy calmly offered his opinion. Also, like Schmidt, Remy’s comments were met with immediate criticism on social media. The next morning, his employer said in a statement that it “does not agree with any such views expressed by Jerry Remy and we know from talking to Jerry that he regrets making them. The network sincerely apologizes to anyone who was offended by Jerry’s comments.”

An apology was made for Remy’s seemingly sincere opinion that speaking the same language was a necessary part of the game.

Great question. Is it necessary to speak the same language? Is it necessary to speak the same language in order to play the same game? Is it necessary to speak the same language in order to be a leader in the game? Again, great question.

I wish there was an easy answer. In our current, sensitive societal state, I often wonder if the intensity of offense and immediate apology strategy at times impede our ability to wrestle with the underlying issue. The issue here isn’t language; the issue is communication.

We don’t have to speak and write the same formal, linguistic structure. But we do need to communicate. Communicating is far different than language.

We communicate and connect via example and engagement. We communicate and connect via eye contact and touch. We communicate and connect via unspoken kindness and courtesy.

We communicate positively and lead effectively — both on and off the diamond, hardwood, soccer field, etc. — when others know via some connection that we expect nothing more of our teammates than we do of self… when our teammates know we are doing nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit… when our teammates know we value others above ourselves, typically looking to their interests first.

With all due respect to Schmidt, Remy, and likeminded others, we communicate via the nonverbals embedded in humility. That’s the kind of communication that spurs others on. That’s the kind of communication that’s powerful and effective. And that’s the kind of communication for which no offense nor apology is necessary.

Respectfully…
AR

hearing on the hill

In the wake of all the commentary on Capitol Hill last week, there was one exchange that especially caught my attention. Let’s first attempt to extract some of the emotion that tends to skew our objectivity, as the two persons involved, Sen. Bernie Sanders and Russell Vought, are potentially polarizing figures. Sanders, even though seemingly authentic, is potentially polarizing because he’s a little too comfortable with socialism; and Vought — not that most know who he is — is potentially polarizing because he’s a nominee of Pres. Trump, and many currently oppose anyone or anything advocated for by Trump. The two were discussing Vought’s nomination as Deputy Director at the White House Office of Mgmt. and Budget (OMB) — important, but not dire to our existence. Note their exchange last Wednesday afternoon…

Sanders: “Let me get to this issue that has bothered me and bothered many other people. And that is in the piece that I referred to that you wrote for the publication called ‘Resurgent.’ You wrote, ‘Muslims do not simply have a deficient theology. They do not know God because they have rejected Jesus Christ, His Son, and they stand condemned.’ Do you believe that that statement is Islamophobic?”

Vought: “Absolutely not, Senator. I’m a Christian, and I believe in a Christian set of principles based on my faith. That post, as I stated in the questionnaire to this committee, was to defend my alma mater, Wheaton College, a Christian school that has a statement of faith that includes the centrality of Jesus Christ for salvation, and…”

Sanders (interrupting): “I apologize. Forgive me, we just don’t have a lot of time. Do you believe people in the Muslim religion stand condemned? Is that your view?”

Vought: “Again, Senator, I’m a Christian, and I wrote that piece in accordance with the statement of faith at Wheaton College”…

Sanders (interrupting): “I understand that. I don’t know how many Muslims there are in America. Maybe a couple million. Are you suggesting that all those people stand condemned? What about Jews? Do they stand condemned too?”

Vought: “Senator, I’m a Christian…”

Sanders (interrupting and now shouting): “I understand you are a Christian, but this country are made of people who are not just — I understand that Christianity is the majority religion, but there are other people of different religions in this country and around the world. In your judgment, do you think that people who are not Christians are going to be condemned?”

Vought: “Thank you for probing on that question. As a Christian, I believe that all individuals are made in the image of God and are worthy of dignity and respect regardless of their religious beliefs. I believe that as a Christian that’s how I should treat all individuals…” 

Sanders (still interrupting): “You think your statement that you put into that publication, they do not know God because they rejected Jesus Christ, His Son, and they stand condemned, do you think that’s respectful of other religions?”

Vought: “Senator, I wrote a post based on being a Christian and attending a Christian school that has a statement of faith that speaks clearly in regard to the centrality of Jesus Christ in salvation.” 

Sanders: (turning away from Vought) “I would simply say, Mr. Chairman, that this nominee is really not someone who is what this country is supposed to be about. I will vote ‘no.’”

Remember that Russell Vought has been nominated for the OMB, the office whose most prominent function is to produce the President’s budget. To Bernie Sanders, aspects of Vought’s faith impair his ability to work on a budget.

Is Christianity now a litmus test? Are some suggesting Christianity is a value system that is lesser, wrong, or in this case, actually disqualifying? And how in our humongous, democratic melting pot, does Christianity make one not what “this country is supposed to be about”?

With all due respect, it concerns me that in a land marked by its bold freedoms, that an elected government official would equate any man’s faith as what we are “not about.” This, therefore, may have been the most troubling hearing on the Hill last week.

Respectfully…
AR