gratitude vs. entitlement

So I did a little bit of a word search this week…

What’s the opposite of gratitude?

A casual search suggests ingratitude, thoughtlessness, rudeness, disregard, refusal, and multiple more responses.

A more creative search suggests a lack of appreciation for something given or done to you or to someone else.

It is reasonable, therefore, to include that the opposite of gratitude is entitlement.

I admit. I have multiple feelings of subtle and not-so-subtle entitlement.

For example, yesterday afternoon, moments before I was to host an online virtual meeting, my internet slowed and the connection destabilized. I was more than a little irritated that I couldn’t do what I wanted to do — what I felt I needed to do. I admit… I feel my internet should always work quickly and efficiently (… regardless of whether or not the entire globe is online and shopping at Amazon at the moment).

To be entitled is to feel a right to…

… to feel deserving of.

I get it. We feel deserving of a lot of things.

But what if right now, at this unprecedented moment in history, those feelings of entitlement are actually obstacles?

What if that sense that we deserve something, gets in the way of walking through the current pandemic in a healthy way?

And what if any entitlement we feel, keeps us from being grateful — when maybe, just maybe, intentional expressions of gratitude might be our wisest and healthiest, intentional response?

No doubt in a “glass-is-half-full” approach, there are multiple areas in which each of us can currently grow…

In our practice of courage…

This is a challenging time. As the articulate Dr. Brené Brown shares, “Courage is a habit, a virtue: you get it by courageous acts. It’s like you learn to swim by swimming. You learn to courage by courage-ing.” Maybe we need to each practice courage-ing right now… I wonder what effect that would have on our anxiety and fears…

In the practice of self-discipline… 

With calls for social distancing and to “shelter in place,” this can be hard — especially for the extroverts, sanguine, and Enneagram 7’s and 3’s! But the change in routine, isolation, and staying put isn’t easy; we have to change things we otherwise might not. However, there is no doubt that self-discipline is a very wise thing… I wonder what would happen later if more of us would learn such now…

So what if we also then grew in our gratitude?

Instead of complaining about what we don’t have, what if we were grateful for what we do?

Instead of complaining about our circumstances, what if we grateful for something within them? What if we were intent about finding that which is good?

Back to Dr. Brown for a moment, as we quote her once more this day…

“I don’t have to chase extraordinary moments to find happiness — it’s right in front of me if I’m paying attention and practicing gratitude.”

So in these trying times — when the certain is uncertain — resisting the temptation to make certain, therefore, what we cannot — how might be wise to respond?

Dare I suggest… by intentionally choosing gratitude instead of entitlement.

It’s right in front of us…

… that is, if we’re paying attention.

Respectfully…

AR

cartwheels in the park

And there she was… the young gal, maybe 19, 20… doing cartwheel after cartwheel in the afternoon sunshine in the park. As I was out for my daily walk (which is a little bit longer now since my local gym is closed), it struck me…

What does it take to do cartwheels in the park?

Excuse me. Allow me to reframe the question…

At this crazy moment in our culture — unlike any most of us have ever faced — what does it take to get through the time in a cautious yet still carefree way? … in a way in which we are prudent in ample precaution, yet don’t fall prey to a paralyzing sense of worry and hysteria? … in this time of uncertainty — when there’s a temptation to make the uncertain certain — what does it take to still do the cartwheel in the park?

No doubt the desire to minimize the pandemic’s speed and spread will have crucial consequences. Our economy is currently crumbling; American production has been halted in multiple areas; and soon the job losses may be measured in millions. In addition to those who actually catch COVID-19, the longer this continues — prudent as the nationwide shutdown may be — the loss of income and employment will be devastating to many. Again, there is much uncertainty, of which it is impossible for us to make certain.

So what can we do?

(With all due respect to the sagacious Steven M. Covey) Allow me to semi-humbly share what we’ll refer to today as “The 7 Habits of Highly Hopeful People”…

1. Be educated but not obsessed.

Get the news. Watch the news. Maybe (even better) read the news. But beware of the bias (as it’s always there). Know when to turn the TV off.

2. Contemplate community.

Have you ever considered the authentic value of community? Groups of people, coming together, caring for one another… How can we help? What can we do for one another? What can we share?… Differences do not matter. Community will always mean more.

3. Keep the faith.

I remember years ago, when my youngest son had to be moved to critical care because he could not breathe on his own. As the doctor shared the depth of the then-current, potentially dire diagnosis, I listened, asked questions for clarity, and remained calm. When the physician exited the room, one nurse remained, dumbfounded and shaking her head… “I don’t get it. I don’t understand how you could stay so calm.”
I don’t remember being a person of many words that day. I simply responded, “There’s a reason I have the faith that I do. I’m not going to give up on that now.”

4. Say your prayers.

Over the years I’ve learned prayer is a bit of a two way street. That’s probably why the Intramuralist isn’t a fan of the “thoughts & prayers” memes in which the prayers part is crossed out. I get the frustration with inaction, but I’d never want to be in a position in which I denied the power of prayer. Granted, sometimes it’s easiest to deny what we don’t understand. I suspect that prompts me to pray a little more.

5. Omit the politics.

I know this is not popular with the passionate, but there is a time for partisan pursuits, and that is not now. It only fuels denigration and disrespect; it can also fuel both denial and fear, and it possibly even slows solution. A wiser approach would be coming together for a common purpose — rooting for each of our leaders to succeed.

6. Recognize the beauty of rest.

I remember hearing someone say years ago, “If Satan can’t make us bad, he’ll make us busy.” Sometimes we’re so busy, we miss the simple joys in life… the small touches, kind acts, quiet times, and time with family. I said it previously and I’ll say it again: the wisest people I know have learned the unforced rhythms of rest. They intentionally stop or slow down, recognizing the rejuvenating gift.

And 7. Utilize leisure well.

What are those things you love to do but typically don’t take the time to do? Maybe read a book. Play a game. Put together a puzzle or two. Write a letter. Take a bath. Binge watch “The Office.” Call that old high school friend. Be intentional. 

Me?

What else will I do?

Well, I have a confession to make.

Embarrassing as this is to at this life stage finally confess and publicly share, I have never — and I do mean never — been able to do a cartwheel. All growing up, I watched so many of my middle and high school friends — Amy, Andy, Kevin, Kristen, Jerry, Jill, Paula, Peggy, Steve and more — hop, leap, and seemingly jump circles all around me! But still… I could never do a cartwheel.

Maybe this week I’ll try.

Respectfully…

AR

a wise response (& 5 more questions)

As society slows, what can we learn? Is there something we can glean and grow from? … maybe even something that is — dare I say — potentially good?

Something amid this latest version of March madness, perhaps?

Allow me to first and foremost acknowledge that the scope of this virus is sobering; we need to take prudent and practical precautions. Let me also say that no wise one would wish it on anyone; such would negate any consideration as wise.

That said, what could result in what is potentially good?

Allow me a semi-humble stab… in question form, of course… only the following five…

Q#1: Can I better learn the rhythms of rest?

The wisest people I know have learned the unforced rhythms of rest. They intentionally pause, stop, or take a sabbath. They purposely slow down, believing it makes them better, sounder and more effective. Oprah, Roger Federer, Peter Scazzero… each speaks passionately about the need for intentional rest. With a slow down of society and encouraged self-quarantines, this may be a prudent new practice.

Q#2: Do I need to become a little more empathetic?

The impact of COVID-19 affects each of us differently. With the increased cancellations, each of us will be hurt somewhere. Me? I have two sons’ high school and college graduations that are now in jeopardy; suffice it to say, they — we — are/were very much looking forward to them. So as I recognize my own disappointment, I find it still wise to bear with each other’s burdens; consider another’s plight no better nor worse than our own. A tough but wise word would be to avoid any comparison. There is always someone who has it easier… and always someone who has it worse. 

Q#3: Is this an opportunity to grow more in my faith?

No doubt the most challenging times of my life have also been the places I’ve grown the most. And most of that growth has been in finding authentic hope — and learning to plant my trust in that. What is life without hope? The more I’ve learned that I am not in control, will never be in control, and am actually incapable of being in control, the more I’ve surrendered my want and will to the great big God of the universe. Life is not about me. No personal practice has been more helpful or hopeful. And no pursuit has provided more lasting peace. What, for each of us, no less, has sometimes stood in the way? That is a raw, honest, fantastic question.

Q#4: Where can we as a society prioritize most what we have in common?

Oh, my… we are such a divisive culture. We humans are so good at creating deep, polarizing, permanent divisive parameters! Do you recognize, in regard to COVID-19, that we all want the same thing? That we want no one more to succumb to this sickness? That’s Republicans, Democrats, white, black, brown, Asian, Hispanic, gay, straight, Christian, Jew, etc. etc. alike?? That is the biggest bottom line. Hence, to cheer about any individual identity or smaller unifier is lesser. Focus on the big. Focus on what we have in common. Focus on what means more.

And Q#5: Where can we become more creative?

This question comes to me from my articulate friend, Mary, who has done some fantastic work on this issue, professionally advising many across the globe. She is convinced that our current scenario will pave the way to more creativity and innovation. Will we be a part of those that embrace creativity? She suggests that first, we have to learn to embrace our constraints…

“… Do not become a victim to your constraints.

If you find yourself saying things like ‘now we can’t…’ or ‘poor us…’ you need to be careful, because you are on your way to becoming a victim to your constraints. 

When we let ourselves become victim to our constraints, we limit any chance of moving forward. The goal is not to be a victim, but rather to use those constraints to make us more creative in the way we solve our problems.”

She then encourages us to “ask inspiring questions”… How can we do this better? … differently? … more effectively? … efficiently? … or more?

Ask questions. 

Maybe like the five above.

Keep embracing this moment, friends. Maximize the learning, humbly aware that even in madness, there can be some sort of good.

Respectfully…

AR

one shining moment

Will we embrace the moment?

Will we do this well?

Friends, with the speed and spread of the virus, news, and our individual and collective readiness, one thought keeps coming to me, over and over again. We have an opportunity.

Yes, COVID-19 is significant, and it is undoubtedly prudent each of us prepare. While some may perceive various responses as an overreaction, it is important to remember that the current goal is to “flatten the curve.” Shared by shrewd health officials, the goal is to minimize the number of cases until more protective measures are in place. The coronavirus will still spread in the United States; the objective is to curtail the speed of the spread, giving hospitals, private and public health organizations more time to prepare. We don’t want to overwhelm the healthcare system; we instead want beds available, respirators ready, and more time for an effective vaccine to be developed.

An opportunity exists.

It is not rocket science to recognize we live in a fairly fractious state. We denigrate, discriminate and too often disrespect. We find so many reasons to look down upon another. Intelligent people do it. Otherwise astute people do it. Our politicians and pundits do it. We do it. 

In public. On social media. We even chuckle, cheer, hit “like,” and more.

I know… I know… “I have reasons for my disrespect!”

I hear you. Let me gently but boldly ask, “What part of ‘loving your neighbor’ are you omitting?”

It is no secret that the Intramuralist finds our current divisive society severely distasteful.

Hence, in a moment like this, I crave embracing the obvious opportunity…

We have a common goal.

We have something before us that transcends individual identity, passion, politics and pursuit.

We have something bigger.

Bigger is a bridge to opportunity.

Our goal is to stop this vicious virus. Our aim is to curtail the outbreak and eventually eradicate the illness. Our collective desire is that no more would succumb to the sickness.

Whether we are black, white, gay, straight, Christian, Jewish, liberal or conservative, etc., etc., we want the same thing.

The opportunity we have is therefore this: to recognize we want the same thing.

… As long as I see you as wanting something different than me, I don’t have to respect you. I don’t have to give you the time of day. You’re not worth it. You don’t deserve my time or attention. You should be silenced, in fact… You don’t deserve my respect…

When I am instead humbled enough to recognize the profound truth that you and I want the same thing — that we have the same goal — I become a better listener; my prejudice and judgment become additional aspects curtailed. For we have more in common than we do not; our opportunity is to recognize that — allowing no other conviction or opinion to obstruct what is true.

In the midst of this current scenario, of all that has thus far been cancelled, one of the most significant is “March Madness,” the NCAA Division I men’s basketball championship. The 15-day, 14-city event nets near one billion dollars in ad revenue, and is watched by approximately 100 million people worldwide. This year, that won’t happen.

In typical years, after a new team’s crowning and the cutting down of the nets, CBS musically depicts the past weeks’ play with video set to “One Shining Moment,” a song sung since 1987 by Luther VanDross, Ne-Yo and more. As written on Wikipedia, “The first verse is about inspiration and hard work. The second verse deals with adversity.”

Inspiration. Hard work. Adversity. 

With our current efforts to curtail the coronavirus, let’s be inspired. Let’s maximize the bridge to opportunity. Let’s work together and focus on what we have in common. Let’s omit the politics. Let’s fill the gap with trust. And let’s do the hard work, fighting through the fears, peril, and precautions associated with the adversity.

That way, at the end of this, “one shining moment” will still be played.

Respectfully…

AR

a virus, prerogative and level of trust

Allow me to first say again what we said on Sunday in regard to the coronavirus and prudent preparation…

“Be guided by medical advice and not your feelings…

Limit your exposure to coronavirus news (due to biased news sources)…

Be well-informed from health advisories but make sure your sources are credible…

Follow the CDC guidelines for washing your hands…

Don’t let fear rule your daily living…”

Allow me also repeat: “It is no one’s prerogative to tell another that they have no valid reason to fear; we are often too quick — and not always empathetic and sometimes a little arrogant, truthfully  — to tell another they have no reason to be afraid.”

I conclude, therefore, that fear shouldn’t rule our lives, but we need to be empathetic to the fears of another. We each perceive things differently. Mercy will thus always triumph over judgment, especially in how we relate to one another.

But the reality is so much info is out there, friends. Keep reading — albeit not excessively much. Remember there exist motives from many to both inflame and downplay. I prefer falling prey to neither. 

Hence, with a desire to embrace a common sense, cautionary approach, I was struck by the insight of columnist David French. Allow me to thoughtfully, humbly share…

“At this point, after you sift through all the tweet threads about the coronavirus, read all the articles, and watch all the news reports—there is a single message that blasts through, loud and clear. This is no time for business as usual. There’s no need to panic. However, each one of us needs to alter our behavior, at least to some degree. Stop shaking hands. If you feel sick, be courteous to others and stay home, lest you alarm (or infect) everyone around you with your coughing and wheezing. Rethink travel plans, including potentially that dream vacation you’ve spent the year (or years) saving to afford. 

There’s more, much more, that Americans can do depending on their roles at home, at work, and in public service. But there’s a common factor: To minimize the risk of facing the kind of crisis that has killed thousands, crippled Chinese cities, damaged the Chinese economy, and is afflicting Italy, Americans will have to take the coronavirus seriously, and they’ll have to engage in at least some degree (even if small) of personal sacrifice. 

That requires trust—including trust in your neighbors, in members of the media who transmit information about the virus, and in public health officials. That trust will require a change in behavior even if no one you know is sick, even if you feel healthy, and even if the virus isn’t yet in your community. 

But here’s the catch. We’re living in a low-trust time…”

Oh my…

We’re living in a low-trust time.

How many times can I “amen” the above?

The whole challenge with the current leadership, society, government, partisanship, social media infighting, demonizing, tribalism, sides and divides and all the other schismatic crud is that when there’s a gap between you and me, so-to-speak (… or a gap between Republicans and Democrats, blacks and whites, Christians and non-Christians, etceteras and etceteras), we have a choice…

Will we fill that gap with suspicion or will we fill that gap with trust?

The choice is one or the other.

Hence, allow me to humbly but boldly submit…

If we can move ourselves as much as possible to fill that gap with trust —even when it’s hard, even when we don’t want to — such would be wisest and best.

Respectfully…

AR

coronavirus

“The risk is real, so let’s put on the record right now that this is a concern,” speaking of the coronavirus — aka COVID-19 — and again quoting David Ropeik, an expert on risk perception and communication. “The challenge is keeping your worry in perspective.”

Why does the coronavirus scare us?

It’s new. Says Ropeik, “When something is new, we don’t know all of what we need to know to protect ourselves, and that feels like powerlessness. And that’s what makes it scary.” “New” and knowledge are often incompatible; the complete clinical perspective is unknown to experts at this time.

It feels out of our control — referencing that powerlessness. There’s no shot, vaccine, nor seemingly full-proof preventive measure. Washing our hands continues to be the most encouraged deterrent, but that doesn’t feel targeted enough.

It’s spreading. First reported in late December in Wuhan, an eastern Chinese city with a population of approximately 11 million people, it has since spread to Europe and now to the US. American cases were initially reported on the West Coast, but as of March 6th, two deaths were reported in Florida. More than 330 cases in the U.S. have been confirmed, with 17 fatalities, and the numbers increasing.

Should it scare us? In other words, do the facts support the fear?

Let me first say it is no one’s prerogative to tell another that they have no valid reason to fear; we are often too quick — and not always empathetic and sometimes a little arrogant, truthfully  — to tell another they have no reason to be afraid. We don’t know their life experience; we don’t know their history; so that said, let’s be clear about the facts. 

According to the World Health Organization, “COVID-19 is still affecting mostly people in China with some outbreaks in other countries. Most people who become infected experience mild illness and recover, but it can be more severe for others.”

The elderly, special needs, and those with compromised immune systems are most at risk. Still the mortality rate from the virus is currently estimated to be approximately 3%. The flu mortality rate is considered to be approximately 0.1%. Hence, the chance of death is low, but compared to the flu, it is notably higher. Comparison makes a difference.

What perpetuates the fear?

Call it just me, but the Intramuralist really has little trust in most media. Don’t get me started on those rote “fake news” chants; the reality is the media has an agenda; politicians have an agenda. With the media so intertwined with politicians in 21st Century America, we can’t always discern exactly what the agenda is, as it’s hard to tell what is true and what is not. And often, pieces of a story are true, but specific verbiage is utilized in order to promote a desired emotion to accompany the reporting. 

Writes David A. Clark Ph.D. in this week’s Psychology Today about the virus, “Media coverage of health issues is biased. The news outlets devote more time to emerging health hazards, like the COVID-19 outbreak, than common health threats. Anxious or fearful individuals tend to pay more attention to threat-related information, which then drives up their anxiety and distress.”

So what can we do?

A couple of things, no doubt. Back to Dr. Clark, for a moment…

  • “Be guided by medical advice and not your feelings…
  • Limit your exposure to coronavirus news: Given your bias for threat, it’s best to restrict time spent searching the latest news on the coronavirus. You’ll want to be well-informed from health advisories but make sure your sources are credible…
  • Avoid compulsive washing:  Follow the CDC guidelines for washing your hands. If you find yourself washing until you feel better, this may be a sign you’ve slipped into OCD territory.
  • Normalize your life: Don’t let fear rule your daily living. As the coronavirus news becomes more urgent, be guided by reason, responsibility, and keep your fears in check.”

And lastly, say your prayers. I go back to Dr. Clark’s advice, “Don’t let fear rule your daily living.” I continue to recognize that in my prayers and in all those who have shared historical encounters with the great big God of the universe, in each encounter, what’s the first thing God says?

“Fear not.”

“Don’t be afraid.”

Time and time again.

Increasingly more, therefore, I see us neglecting the wisdom of the great big God of the universe. It’s not that concerns about coronavirus are invalid; indeed, we should be mindful and aware. Even error on the side of caution. But when fear becomes our greatest driver — recognizing the actual, paralyzing and even physical toll fear, stress and worry take on our lives — I question how wise is our response.

Respectfully…

AR

be afraid. be very afraid.

Soon after reading Ben Sasse’s Them: Why We Hate Each Other—and How to Heal last summer, I began thinking increasingly more about how the politicians, pundits, Sean Hannity’s and Rachel Maddow’s of the world are actually fueling the latest (not-so) great divide. Sasse made the point that the goal is rage — to make us mad.

In an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, Sasse said: “Today, the most watched cable programming in America, Hannity is number one and Rachel Maddow is usually number two. Both of them have the same basic business model, which is try to intensify the political addictions of the 1% of America that’s listening to you and you can always just demonize your opponent, and never give a fair shake to what the other argument is.

And I say that as one of the most conservative members of the U.S. Senate. I’m the second most conservative member of the Senate. I’m not mealy mouth indifferent on policy, but I don’t think policy differences mean that people I differ with, on a given policy, I have to regard as evil and, therefore, not as a part of a shared America…”

I’ve since concluded that there’s a deeper aim employed, as we recognize a common root of anger. Allow me to quote Dr. Leon F. Seltzer, a dual doctorate holder, popular psychologist and author, in a post from “Psychology Today”:

“… anger is almost never a primary emotion in that even when anger seems like an instantaneous, knee-jerk reaction to provocation, there’s always some other feeling that gave rise to it. And this particular feeling is precisely what the anger has contrived to camouflage or control.

The simplest example of my admittedly unorthodox relegation of anger to secondary, ‘reactive’ status might relate to the universally frustrating situation of being cut off while driving. Virtually everyone I’ve ever asked has responded emphatically that their immediate reaction to such an event is anger. But when I further inquire as to what being ‘cut off’ typically involves—namely, the very real threat of an accident—they realize that in the fraction of a second before acting successfully to avert a collision, their emotion must certainly have been one of apprehension or fear. Cycling from the heightened arousal level of fear to equally intense anger happens with such breathtaking speed that almost no one can recollect that flash of trepidation preceding the anger—or even rage…”

Fear seems employed in order to fast fuel the divide.

Look again at the politicians and pundits — whether running or currently in office. Look at what they want us afraid of… certain people… now even a potential pandemic. Not that there aren’t reasons to be watchful and concerned, but fear is a different level, so-to-speak; there’s an unhealthy motive in the fear. And on a macro level, no less, those persons seem to intentionally attempt to make each of us — from varied angles — fear loss. The goal is to make us afraid of something we are about to lose…

i.e. Guns. Children. Other people’s children. Healthcare. Voting rights. Reproductive rights. Equality.  Employment. Citizenship. A safe country. Money. Retirement accounts. The freedom to worship, speak, or have a free press. Even more money. And even more rights.

The challenge is that we “regress to tribalism when afraid.” Such is the point of international consultant, expert, and also Psychology Today author, David Ropeik. He writes: 

“…As a result of the inherent nature of risk perception, our desire for the safety of the tribe when we are threatened is cleaving us into camps, polarized and mistrustful and defensive tribes, ready to follow divisive ‘We’re Under Attack’ voices…”

The politicians, pundits, Sean Hannity’s and Rachel Maddow’s of the world (and many of us on social media) are doing exactly that.

Continues Ropeik: “The problem is, an Us AGAINST Them world doesn’t allow for middle ground, for the flexibility and compromise and give as well as take that we need in order to help solve the big problems we face. This sort of risk perception is actually a pretty dumb way to actually try and protect ourselves… We need to recognize the danger…the danger from the instinctive tribal way we’re behaving…and recognize that we all belong to a larger tribe, and the big threats threatens us all…and perhaps that tribal identification can bring us a little closer together and allow solutions that will make us a little safer. Us AGAINST Them may feel safe in the short term, but in the long run it’s a far more dangerous path.”

Being lured into fear is a dangerous path. It shatters the idea of a shared America.

May we thus realize that our wisest resistance may be to the tribal mentality.

Respectfully…

AR

why read?

As we have discussed already in 2020, one of the Intramuralist’s resolute resolutions was simply to read more. Why?

“There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate’s loot on Treasure Island.” — Walt Disney

Reading is an exercise in empathy; an exercise in walking in someone else’s shoes for a while.” — Malorie Blackman

We read to know we are not alone.” — C.S. Lewis

And while no aficionado nor expert nor author extraordinaire, my strong sense is we need to be reading different things by different people and not simply books and essays that serve primarily only to reinforce what we already know we believe. It’s why I actively, consistently read the Bible, the world’s all-time best, bestseller; it teaches and stretches me more than any other writing. It challenges me, humbles me, and clearly confronts me with the reality that there is so much I do not know… and so much more to learn. Wisdom comes often from sources other than self.

What are you reading that’s conservative? Progressive?

What are you reading from history or about a contemporary conflict?

What are you reading that’s written by someone who doesn’t look like you?

What are you reading from an American author or from someone not born in this country?

What are you reading from a male? Female? Old? New?

Fiction? Nonfiction? Biography?

Varied background? Style? Or ancestry?

From the book completed just yesterday, said one of the fictional characters, after some life-changing growth, “I tell them there is nothing more selfish than trying to change someone’s mind because they don’t think like you. Just because something is different does not mean it should not be respected.”

So in 2020, I’m thrilled to be learning from the different, such as in…

Permission to Feel, written by Marc Brackett, whom we have previously quoted at length here, encouraging each of us to become an emotion “scientist” as opposed to an emotion “judger”…

Small Great Things, written by Jodi Picoult… In this 2016 New York Times bestseller and noted work of fiction, the lives and perspectives of Ruth, Kennedy and Turk are interwoven. Ruth is the protagonist, an African-American labor and delivery nurse who was ordered not to touch the baby of a white supremacist couple; the newborn later dies in her care. Kennedy is Ruth’s white public defender, and Turk is the father of the child. In a gripping — and for me, page-turning — tale, we watch each character wrestle with what they’ve been taught. To quote one of the central characters, “It just goes to show you: every baby is born beautiful. It’s what we project on them that makes them ugly.” NY Times critic Roxane Gay called the novel “messy,” but added “so is our racial climate.” No doubt this is a deeply insightful read…

Making Peace with Change, written by trusted friend, Gina Brenna Butz… In this brand new, nonfiction, 2020 release, Gina wrestles with the depth of transition in each of our lives, recognizing the mess, but encouraging the reader to navigate through in a healthy, God-honoring way. I feel like I’m sitting down with Gina having a long, extended cup of coffee; there’s so much here we can also quote; for example, “The pain of unmet desire often causes us to lash out. Our kids disobey, and we insist that they change. We yell and lay down the law and demand that they do what we ask. Why? Because at a deep heart level, we don’t feel respected by them, and we we hate that… On the surface, we blame the moving company for running late, or the map app that just sent us down the wrong road in a new city. But underneath, the anger is a symptom of unmet desire. And when something feels threatened, it is easier to make ourselves big with anger than to feel the fear, confusion, and frustration”…

So far I’ve read insightful works from each of the above in addition to Rosaria Butterfield, Latasha Morrison, and Chip and Dan Heath. Ben Carson and Malcolm Gladwell are next on my list. William Krueger, Robert Dugoni, and Priya Parker will hopefully come soon thereafter. 

Allow me only to encourage the growth and humility that comes via reading, recognizing wisdom comes often from sources other than self.

Respectfully… always…

AR

Kobe, MJ & why the GOAT doesn’t matter

This is worth our time and attention. The words are not mine. They are the words of NBA great, Michael Jordan, a man who rarely speaks extensively in public, but this time, with tears generously streaming down his face, at Monday’s memorial service for Kobe Bryant. Note that Jordan and Bryant were considered competitors. Throwing Wilt, LeBron, and others into the mix, onlookers always wanted to argue about who was the greatest.

Not Michael and Kobe. They didn’t argue. Hear Michael’s humbling words. (Please note: all emphasis is mine.)

“… Maybe it surprised people that Kobe and I were very close friends. But we were very close friends. Kobe was my dear friend; he was like a little brother. Everyone always wanted to talk about the comparisons between he and I. I just wanted to talk about Kobe. You know, all of us have brothers, sisters, little brothers, little sisters who, for whatever reason, always tend to get in your stuff, your closet, your shoes, everything. It was a nuisance, if I can say that word.

But that nuisance turned into love over a period of time, just because the admiration that they have for you as big brothers or big sisters, the questions, the wanting to know every little detail about life that they’re about to embark on. He used to call me, text me, 11:30, 2:30, 3 o’clock in the morning talking about post up moves, footwork, and sometimes the training. At first, it was an aggravation. But then it turned into a certain passion. This kid had passion that you would never know.

It’s amazing thing about passion. If you love something, if you have a strong passion for something, you would go to the extreme to try to understand or try to get it, either ice cream, cokes, hamburgers, whatever you have a love for. If you have to walk, you will go get it. If you have to beg someone, you will go get it. What Kobe Bryant was to me was the inspiration that someone truly cared about the way that I played the game or the way that he wanted to play the game.

He wanted to be the best basketball player that he could be. And as I got to know him, I wanted to be the best big brother that I could be. To do that you have to put up with the aggravation, the late night calls or the dumb questions. I took great pride as I got to know Kobe Bryant that he was just trying to be a better person, a better basketball player. We talked about business. We talked about family. We talked about everything, and he was just trying to be a better person…

That is what Kobe Bryant does to me… He knows how to get to you in a way that affects you personally, even though he’s being a pain in the ass. But you have a sense of love for him in the way that he can bring out the best in you. And he did that for me.

… the thing about him was we could talk about anything that related to basketball, but we could talk about anything related to life. And we as we grow up in life rarely have friends that we can have conversations like that [with]. Well, it’s even rarer when you can go up against adversaries and have conversations like that.

… And I admired him because his passion, you rarely see someone who’s looking at trying to improve each and every day, not just in sports but as a parent, as a husband. I am inspired by what he’s done and what he shared with Vanessa and what he shared with his kids. I have a daughter who is 30; I became a grandparent, and I have two twins. I have the twins at six. I can’t wait to get home to become a girl dad, and to hug them and to see the love and the smiles that they bring to us as parents. He taught me that just by looking at this tonight, looking at how he responded and reacted with the people that he actually loved. These are the things that we will continue to learn from Kobe Bryant.

To Vanessa, Natalia, Bianca, Capri, my wife and I will keep you close in our hearts and our prayers. We’ll always be with you, always. I also want to offer our condolences and support to all the families affected by this enormous tragedy.

Kobe gave every last ounce of himself to whatever he was doing. After basketball he showed a creative side to himself that I didn’t think any of us knew he had. In retirement, he seemed so happy. He found new passions. And he continued to give back as a coach in his community. More importantly, he was an amazing dad, amazing husband who dedicated himself to his family and who loved his daughters with all his heart.

Kobe never left anything on the court, and I think that’s what he would want for us to do. No one knows how much time we have. That’s why we must live in the moment, we must enjoy the moment. We must reach and see and spend as much time as we can with our families and friends and the people that we absolutely love. To live in the moment means to enjoy each and every one that we come in contact with…”

Living in the moment… not seeing our adversary as our adversary… learning from them instead… how humbling, refreshing, and insightful…

Respectfully…

AR

changed

Twelve years ago, as the end-of-year holidays came and went, once again faster than I always, each year desire, I penned the following, slightly edited post. The sentiment remains. It also remains a good reminder of wisdom for far more than me…

Now that no more is hung by the chimney with care — and the words “hark” and “good tidings” will patiently await another year before rejoining our frequented vernacular, I’m wondering what’s new… what’s different… I mean if I truly believed that Christmas was the birth of the savior of the world or that each new year was a time to embrace all that’s new and good in the world, I think there’d be something in the magnitude of that remembrance that would change me…

Perhaps it’d be a new skip in my step during Monday’s workday.

Perhaps I’d hug my kids a little more tenderly and be more intentional in teaching them life’s greatest lessons.

Perhaps I’d let bygones actually be bygones.

Perhaps I wouldn’t be so quick to be offended by another.

Perhaps I’d watch what I post.

Perhaps I’d work a little harder on forgiving that one from whom I have long withheld forgiveness.

Perhaps I’d seek more to understand than to be understood.

Perhaps I’d realize that mercy always triumphs over judgment.

Perhaps I’d realize that a game is still only a game.

Perhaps I would refrain from worshipping anything other than Him (…that includes the idolization of any Grand Ole’ Party, a golden calf, a sports team, and/or any Presidential candidate…).

Perhaps I would refrain from demonizing anything other than the demonic (…that includes any Grand Ole’ Party, sports team, or Presidential candidate…).

Perhaps I would gain the humble confidence to tackle that destructive habit that has plagued me for years.

Perhaps I would surrender more challenges, recognizing that most things are out of my control.

And perhaps I would recognize that having things out of my control can be a very good thing.

A few short years ago, I prayed for a healthy child… or at least one that I considered healthy. 

You know the prayer… “and Lord, I don’t really care if it’s a boy or a girl… tall or short… All I ask is that the baby is healthy, has no defects or disabilities… I can handle everything else from there.’

Well, God didn’t answer my prayer the way I asked. My child was not healthy by contemporary medical standards. He ‘failed’ his genetic test. My guess is he will ‘fail’ a few more future, supposed, cultural tests. But he is a kid who doesn’t allow all the crud of life to get in the way. 

Where all the rest of us have trouble loving all those around us — because we allow appearance, arrogance, political standing or something to get in the way — young master Josh simply loves people where they’re at. Right now.

Josh recognizes the value of others, and he desires to encourage, to day-brighten, and yes, to warmly converse. What I’ve realized since is that Josh knows what it means to love — to love unconditionally — all around me — significantly better than me.

Thank God most things are out of my control. Thank God He didn’t answer that prayer the way it was prayed. Thank God, as songwriter Bruce Carroll wrote years ago, that ‘sometimes miracles hide.’

And one more thank you… thank God we can… I can… always… all of us… if willing… can still be changed.”

Respectfully… 

AR