what’s secondary to support

Today was one of those days when I was prepared to hit “post” on today’s blog selection, that I just couldn’t. Something bigger, something more significant was ongoing.

Don’t get me wrong. We have lots to talk about on all sorts of topics, but today my strong sense is we would benefit from a brief, important pivot.

Last night Iran attacked Israel.

The specific onslaught is now over; however, as we all know from a war games mentality, there remains the sobering, quiet question of who stops first.

What does retaliation look like?

Is it bigger?

Is it more?

Israel reported that Iran had launched 170 drones — more than 30 cruise missiles and 120 ballistic missiles — in their direction.

Bigger and more is alarming indeed.

Hence, today is a day when the rest of the world needs to come together. But the problem is we aren’t good at that.

Way too many of us only root for part of our country. We find enormous fault in the parties and candidates we feel we lesser align with. And because we find such evil and error in them, we not only don’t support them, we root against them. We ensure they have no perceived personal wins so that no more support for them materializes. 

All one has to do is look at our collective behavior directed toward the two most recent presidents. Most are collectively awful to at least one of them. Sorry, friends… it is my clear conclusion — and this is a perspective shared by what I believe to be a muted but massive majority — that there are unique, but serious weaknesses and liabilities held by both Presidents Biden and Trump.

But lest we digress, here’s my point.

Today, praying the regional tensions can be diffused — and — the tension can be restricted to regional, Pres. Biden is calling a meeting of the Group of Seven advanced democracies “to coordinate a united diplomatic response to Iran’s brazen attack.”

We need Pres. Biden to lead well today… and tomorrow… regardless of how we ideologically or even emotionally align.

Lead well, Mr. President. You have my support.

My opinions and preferences are secondary to what you need to do.

Respectfully…

AR 

learning that transcends the sports world

So since it’s one of my all-time favorite topics, allow me a bit more rumination… but also, as certainly almost always, allow us to apply the learning to far more than any sport, game or event of potentially perceived less significant meaning.

As the Purdue men’s basketball team walked off the court the other evening, showered by confetti intended to honor someone other than them, March’s madness came to an end at least in college basketball. Congrats to UConn’s Huskies, the dominant victor in 2024.

In an incredible season of their own, my esteemed alma mater came in second. Here’s what we learned, indeed transcending the sports world…

First, success comes in all sorts of packages. Sometimes I think we miss out on the superfluity of success in both self and others because we’ve too narrowed the definition of what success is and what it is not. Too often we’ve crafted a discernment barometer that measures outcome and accomplishment based on how we compare to someone else. And because we are not someone else, we are either lesser or more. I think our measurement of success is way too finite. 

Purdue did not win it all in 2024. But suffice it to say, of the other 350 schools that are full members of Division I basketball conferences, 349 of them wish they were in Purdue’s shoes today. What a great, fantastic, successful year. Success is not limited to a few.

Look, too, on the women’s side, which saw South Carolina again cut down the nets. Caitlin Clark’s Iowa, like Purdue, was the runner up. But Clark ends her season and college career not only as the NCAA Division I all-time leading scorer, but also as one who has generated unparalleled contemporary interest in women’s basketball. That, even as a runner up, is unquestionably successful.

The stories are more. Some with noted, lesser media attention. Successful nonetheless.

Second, to be concise, quoting one of the more iconic poets of our time (thank you, Taylor),  “The players gonna play, play, play, play, play, and the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate.” It is fascinating to me the plethora of people who create copious cause to loathe a player on the court. There’s just something about them we don’t like.

Something they’ve said… a way they reacted… maybe just the way they play. We don’t like it. It — they — are annoying. Hence we justify the hate. Let me just say this… For the far majority of athletes, and yes, I mean the far majority, we have very little proximity. We have incredibly limited perspective. And we are basing our self-crafted hatred on an incredibly small sample size.

I get not wanting someone to do well — especially if they’re on the other team — but hatred of a player typically says more about a lack of discernment in those who feel so emboldened to judge freely.

(For the record, while I am unaware of any current abhorrence, let me extend my sincerest apologies for previous behavior in my youth directed toward Indiana University, the Dukies, and any and all teams associated with Tom Brady. Yes, sorry… I’m wiser now.)

Third and lastly, no less, there is one more key learning from my beloved Boilermakers failure to win the coveted NCAA crown. Yes, that’s a tad on the dramatic side…

But it’s true. We failed. We did not achieve our ultimate goal. We were not the featured stars in the annual “One Shining Moment.” With the champagne chilling in anticipation of a more favorable end result, to say me and my family were disappointed is indeed a significant understatement. I was sad that we did not win.

But…

Just because I feel one emotion strongly doesn’t negate my ability to feel another emotion, potentially even more. Wow… I wish we would have won on Monday night! But… know what I feel even more deeply today? 

A deep, permeating sense of gratitude for a group of young men who played their hearts out, were respectful to those around them, and gave me more to celebrate in college basketball than ever before in my lifetime. That, my friends, is incredibly joyful. And nothing in the above or in the actual outcome changes how I feel.

There’s always so much to learn…

Far beyond the sports world.

Respectfully…

AR

harder to hate them

The following is the best thing I read last month. It’s an op-ed by the “sane, hilarious voice” of Ben Kawaller, an L.A.-based writer and Free Press contributor who believes in good-faith debate and the importance of finding consensus in our polarized times. He is on a mission to understand our country’s division. 

He is wise. He is funny. Here is his mid-March contribution, entitled, “It’s Harder to Hate the Other Side When You Come Face to Face”:

* * * * *

I recently went to Mardi Gras and spent a couple days committing the ultimate faux pas: talking politics at a party. Knowing that in vino veritas—or at least, in vino ludicrum (thank you, Google Translate)—my plan was to ask people, in their inebriation, what they would change about America if they were in charge. I figured these interrogations would yield some insights into the collective psyche of a polarized nation.

The primary insight: what polarized nation? Polarized suggests a clustering around the extremes—and while I spoke to a few enthusiastically left- and right-wing partygoers, they were at least matched by people describing themselves as moderate, independent, or completely disengaged. And many of the partisans were lukewarm. One black gay guy described himself as ‘liberal. . . ish.’ When I guessed that one twentysomething boatyard worker from Maine leaned conservative he said, ‘Meh. Sure.’ One elderly black woman who loved Obama and JFK resisted the label liberal entirely, as did two local high school seniors, though they rejected the word conservative as well (‘I feel like that’s just so aggressive.’). When I asked another woman if she was conservative, she was stunned (though her reflexes seemed generally dulled). ‘I’m gay!’ she told me. Did that mean she was a liberal? “I don’t know,” she slurred, then added, ‘Your camerawoman’s kinda hot.’ This was hardly a population seething with pre–civil war rage. 

Perhaps that’s no shocker—this was a bacchanal, not a constitutional convention—but you would think that if we were on the brink of a ‘national divorce,’ at least someone would have said something like, ‘The problem is liberals,’ or ‘Everything would be great without Republicans.’ In fact, the overwhelming response to ‘How do we fix America?’ was a plea for greater kindness and less division. 

It was gratifying, as someone generally critical of the left’s culture wars, to see my own opinions so gloriously reflected by these people on the street. For instance, when I asked six self-identified liberals what the left gets wrong, two interviewees (both of them black) specifically cited ‘racism’ and ‘race-baiting.’ It was quite something, I thought, that in 2024 any African American should feel the need to remind his fellow liberals that ‘We’re all human.’

Other critiques were similar. ‘We can be sanctimonious,’ one liberal-leaning voter told me. Another leftist lamented the inability to ‘relate to each other as individuals.’ Another cited ‘cancel culture,’ suggesting that the left is too ‘inclusive’ of ‘over-thinkers.’ I would call them jerks. 

I got less self-critique from the right, but they’ve always been savvier at this kind of thing. If it’s self-flagellation you’re after, nothing beats Democrats.

Was I conducting a rigorous piece of political science? No, I was shooting the breeze with drunk people. But more serious adults have researched the psychology of our electorate, and their findings echo my own suspicions: that most Americans make up an ‘exhausted majority‘ whose views aren’t represented either by the orthodox left or the far right. The amplification of those extremes—and, I would argue, a craven kowtowing among the political right and the cultural left to each group’s most radical elements—gives an impression of a nation more ‘polarized’ than it actually is. 

My trip to New Orleans was the first in a series of stops I’ll be making around the country over 2024 to understand how people’s political identities (or lack thereof) are affected by this year’s face-off between two deeply unpopular heads of two increasingly unpopular parties. I hope to find out what real Americans actually think. And, as I have always thought of myself as a healer of nations, I hope to help bridge some of our supposed divides.

Or at least not make things any worse.

* * * * *

Ben will be making regular reports across the country for the Free Press this year. Looks like it will be wise to tune in.

Respectfully…

AR

sitting in it

What do we do with the bad stuff?

How do we handle the hard?

Allow me to slightly alter a recent response by an influential leader, with a live mic in front of him at a very public moment in time…

You have to sit in it. You have to take it. Sometimes when you sit in it, and you’re honest with yourselves and you take it, some great things can happen.

Let’s briefly examine the included components…

You have to sit in it… meaning you have to acknowledge reality. 

You have to take it… meaning you have to let yourself feel it; it doesn’t do any good nor is it healthy or effective to numb the pain.

And you have to be honest… meaning don’t paint a different story, don’t shift the blame onto someone else, and don’t play any sort of victim. You have to deal with it.

If you do that, some great things can happen.

The other simultaneous truth is that sitting in past hurt doesn’t preclude experiencing present joy.

Hence, we come to one of my favorite topics. And while some may not share the zeal nor extent of the specific fandom, it’s indeed true that there are so many places where the realities of life and the nature of sports mirror one another. It’s as if God set this world up to give us all sorts of creative ways to learn about ourselves, in one arena after another.

The above altered quote comes from none other than Matt Painter, head men’s basketball coach at Purdue. Noting the lack of universally shared zeal, allow me to quickly provide a bit of a Cliff Notes context…

Purdue has been very good for very many years. In fact, in the last 44 years, they’ve won precisely 958 games, 11 regular season conference titles, 2 league tournaments and have had only 5 losing seasons. Suffice it to say, they’ve been consistently great. In the regular season only. They haven’t been to the Final Four since 1980. They’ve faced multiple uncanny, untimely injuries, season-ending heartbreaks and losses to less prominent, double digit seeds… with last year, for the Purdue fan, being the dreaded worst. 

Believed to be a serious championship contender, they did the unthinkable, in a circumstance that had occurred only one time prior in the tournament. As a top 1-seed, they lost to a bottom 16-seed, to a team that barely made the tournament. In addition to rare and unthinkable, it was painful and hard.

So Coach had to lead these impressionable 18-22 year old men to face their hard. To “sit in it,” if you will. To sit in adversity. It happens to each of us, all of us, in far more than in any so-called game. The wisest in life learn to navigate the hard in a healthy way.

What a lesson. And what a lesson that transcends any sport.

On Sunday the Purdue men’s basketball team won their 33rd game of the season and punched their ticket to the 2024 NCAA Final Four, the first time since 1980.

The players, former players, alumni and fans experienced almost unspeakable, tremendous glee. The Atlantic called it “a cathartic win 44 years in the making.” Indeed. Wide support from college coaches across the country has been pouring in, for both Purdue and Painter, believing the latter is a great coach and an even better person, a humble man who does things the “right way”… Michigan State’s Tom Izzo, Gonzaga’s Mark Few, former Villanova coach Jay Wright. Tweeted, too, by longtime CBS analyst Seth Davis after Sunday’s win: “Could not be happier for Boiler Nation. Some of the most passionate, loyal and long suffering fans in all of sports. Your long wait is OVER…”

Don’t let me act as if everyone’s rooting for Purdue. Fans have teams they like — teams they don’t. That’s ok.

But the bigger lesson remains true. If we sit in the hard and deal with it in an honest, healthy way, some great things can happen… no matter what arena we play in.

Respectfully…

AR

Easter… and one of humanity’s biggest blunders

What a fascinating day…

It’s Easter Sunday, a day of immense meaning for those who follow Jesus.

It’s the day history records as Jesus, having died two days prior via an unquestionably agonizing means — egged on by the aspersions and ardor of the amassed local audience — supernaturally walked out of his tomb. No other religious leader has made such a claim. 

There are numerous aspects providing evidential support, far more than the absent body, from the amazed disciples to the agreeing eyewitnesses to the angry authorities. For me, thinking especially of those disciples and eyewitnesses, I’m reminded of former special counsel to Pres. Richard Nixon, Chuck Colson, who was jailed for his Watergate crimes and would come to know more about Jesus in prison. Colson spoke of how when the Watergate scandal broke, he and 11 others — some of the most powerful persons in the world at the time — met immediately secretly, crafted a story, and swore to maintain it. But the men caved — almost instantaneously. As said by Colson:

“I know the resurrection is a fact, and Watergate proved it to me. How? Because 12 men testified they had seen Jesus raised from the dead, then they proclaimed that truth for 40 years, never once denying it. Everyone was beaten, tortured, stoned, and put in prison. They would not have endured that if it weren’t true. Watergate embroiled 12 of the most powerful men in the world—and they couldn’t keep a lie for three weeks. You’re telling me 12 apostles could keep a lie for 40 years? Absolutely impossible.”

But in addition to the evidential support, let me be very clear about what some may see as a fairly insignificant thing…

I am no one’s Holy Spirit.

It’s something I say a lot. So let me say it a different way…

It is not my job — nor even my ability — to convict another of what’s true.

Let me be even clearer…

I wholeheartedly believe in Jesus Christ. There is zero doubt in my mind that he is the foretold Messiah, Son of God, and lived and died for me. I have experienced him in countless ways, with his teaching, guidance and love making an unprecedented difference in my life. While still imperfect and always so this side of heaven, Jesus has changed the way I think in so many healthy, wise and uncanny ways. I have innumerable stories of how he has shown up in my life. I have no doubt it’s him. I realize now none of us are too insignificant for him to love, and his wisdom transcends death. My relationship with Jesus has hands down been absolutely the greatest producer of joy and peace in my life.

But…

There are two primary things Jesus asks of those who follow him. One, love God big time. Love him back with all your passion, prayer and intelligence. And two, love other people. Love them selflessly, meaning love them at least as much as yourself.

I’ll be honest. I think this is one of humanity’s biggest blunders, both in and out of organized religion, from both the faithful and the skeptic. We too often believe that it is our job to convict another of what we believe. Not only do we think it’s our job, we think we’re capable of it. And when the other person doesn’t adhere to our persuasion— sincere as it may be — we conclude that said person is lesser in some capacity.

Friends, when I believe it’s my responsibility to determine the conviction of another, I am missing the second half of what Jesus has most asked of me. To love another selflessly, that means I love them no matter where they are at — at similar or different places in belief or behavior than me.

It’s why at the Intramuralist we consistently advocate respect for absolutely all people. That is: all people.

So let me encourage you. Let me applaud your search to reflect and grow and be increasingly curious. Feel free to be where you are at. Also feel loved and respected in all things, wherever that may be.

Happy Easter, friends… what a fascinating, wonderful day.

Respectfully…

AR

more than a bridge

Sometimes I sit down to pen a post and then all of a sudden I just can’t. I can’t go forward with my pre-thought-out idea. Something has happened that changes my perspective. Sometimes I don’t like that. But the reality is that most of the time when my perspective is changed, it’s for the better and wiser. Such is true today.

When I first began to ponder the content of today’s post, awakening to the early morning news, my first visual was a view of the Francis Scott Key Bridge, tragically collapsing in Baltimore, Maryland. I read the immediate, shortened accounts… of it happening around 1:30 in the morning… the cargo ship hitting the bridge… the bridge spanning the lower Patapsco River… and the rescue urgently underway, believing this to be a “mass casualty.”

It’s horrendous. It’s unfathomable. It makes me stop. 

Multiple people have lost or are in process of losing their lives as I write this. I know we all have hard stuff in our lives — stuff that’s hurtful, hard to deal with, things that have the potential to totally rattle us because we don’t want them to happen. But we aren’t those people who were on that bridge. We aren’t the people who were routinely coming or going to/fro work that night. We aren’t the families who were waiting at home nor the sleeping kids who awaited a final kiss on the forehead when their parent finally arrived. We weren’t part of the missing construction crew. And while I don’t believe in dismissing any individual via the comparison of suffering, it is still reality that we aren’t the people who all of a sudden most had to deal with the horror. The horror puts life in perspective.

We live in a broken world, friends — in a world that’s not as it should be. And I would respectfully argue that such is a feeling even the non-religious adherent are aware of. There is too much death, disease and destruction… there is too much fighting and seeking of power over others… there is too much condescension and conceit. There is too much lesser than honoring God by learning to love all whom he created.

If we’re all created in the same image, it doesn’t matter any more or any less who it was on that bridge the other night…

… black, white, Latino, Asian… gay, straight, something else… old, young… Republican, Democrat… bright, disabled, rich, poor… it doesn’t matter.

Friends, we fight about too many things.

We justify too many fights.

We fight because we don’t understand. We don’t understand because we don’t sit with the different. We don’t sit with the different because it takes patience, time and a genuine willingness to hear the heart of others. That’s hard.

And we avoid the hard that’s constantly present in a broken world, acting instead as if the fight is necessary.

Friends, most of the time when we deem the fight to be necessary, it’s unfair to conclude the lack of virtue is solely with another person.

Sit with the one you do not understand. Be curious.

In current day, we routinely hear from many of those in the political realm who have no idea how someone can be a supporter of Donald Trump and all his accompanying, disrespectful bravado. We hear a surfeit of others aghast at those who turn a blind eye to Joe Biden’s lack of lucidity. We see the demonization continue downline… even in sporting events, of those who root differently, who feel differently. It’s sad to juxtapose sports and politics, but the reality is that in a broken world, we aren’t all that good at respecting those unlike us; we’re instantly opposed to the other team, whatever arena we enter. We thus judge others in what we don’t understand. And we aren’t taking the time to understand them.

Here’s a hard truth, friends. There are good people who support Donald Trump and Joe Biden. There are good people who sit on the other side of the sporting event, rooting for the other team. But when we aren’t patient, when we aren’t curious and when we don’t take the time, we will never realize that. Instead, we will justify the fight, further fueling the prevailing brokenness.

It’s Easter week. That’s hard to dismiss. It’s a week all about love, sacrifice, and suffering. And I want to ensure in that love, we learn to honor both the skeptic and the faithful, each of whom was created in God’s amazing image.

Some were on that bridge.

That makes me think.

That makes me think of how we treat one another.

That also makes me keenly aware of the broken world we live in.

Respectfully…

AR

fill in the blank

A young man told me a story the other day. It was a sobering tale… deep, involved, lots of layers… ample emotion, too. There is zero doubt in me that he shared what he believed to be true. I’ll admit, it was a hard story to hear. I was grateful for his sharing, and especially, for his indisputable honesty. I learned much.

I then met soon another who had shared the experience with the young man. It was equally sobering… also deep, involved, lots of layers, emotion, etc. He, too, was no doubt sharing what he believed to be true. It was equally hard to hear. I indeed learned even more. And the two distinct angles, one from each person, when compared with one another, totally made sense together. It was clear how both were laced with sincerity and truth.

There was only one problem. 

They were two very different stories. Two disparate accounts of what happened as a part of the same, exact experience.

The reality is that like no doubt most days in life, two people were in the same place at the same time and walked away with two different impressions of what happened.

Hence, today’s zillion dollar question is fairly simple: can two different impressions both be true?

Can two people walk away from the same experience with contrasting reactions but neither be lying? Can both be sincere? And both be telling the truth?

We’ve heard such said about the so-called “6” on the sidewalk. One walks toward it from the right. He sees a “6.” Not only does he see it, he’s sure of it. He believes it’s a “6,” knows it’s a “6,” and he therefore confidently tells his friends honestly about the authentic “6” that he saw.

Another comes from the left. He clearly sees a “9.” There is no doubt it’s a “9.” He knows it’s a “9.” He’s seen it with his own two eyes; therefore nothing and no one could tell him otherwise. He, too, shares proudly with those in his presence. After all, there is zero question in his mind that he is sharing truth.

And here’s what makes it harder…

If I only heard the perspective of the “6” see-er, I would believe the “6.”

Same for the “9.” If I only hear from him, oh you bet; that’s what I believe.

Thus when I hear perspective from others regarding far more than an exemplary numerical sighting, the same principle applies. 

If we only hear a singular perspective, passionate and sincere as the sharer may be, there is a reasonable possibility that another angle could also be true. But if we never hear that angle, we will be unaware of what we do not know. We may even make some unknowingly wrong conclusions.

Hence, there is wisdom in restraint.

Way too often we feel way too free to fill in the blank. 

When there exist gaps in our knowledge, we fill in the gaps. We assume we can. We assume we know enough. We assume there is absolutely nothing wrong about it. As what else could it be?

We know enough… right?

And in said approach, we assume there’s only one right way to see the so-called “6” on the sidewalk. We will have forgotten that from another approach, if we’re willing to go there — to walk in the shoes of another, so-to-speak — a different, contrasting conclusion is equally as legitimate.

I admit, that’s not always easy. Not convenient either. It takes time, discernment and sometimes a willingness to hold the uncomfortable… especially when the emotion of another completely resonates with me. 

But it’s also often the only wise way forward…

It’s simply wisest to forgo the temptation to fill in any blank, luring as such may sincerely be.

Respectfully…

AR

here comes the madness!

Lions and tigers and bears!

Lions and tigers and bears!

Lions and tigers and bears!

Or so said Dorothy, Scarecrow and the Tin Man.

Oh, the diversity… now turning to madness… as we have a far grander, sundry swarm participating in this year’s NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament. Indeed as the fictional trio referenced… 

There are the Catamounts from Vermont and Cougars from Charleston, Houston, BYU and Washington State. Still in the big cat kind of family come Bobcats from Montana State and Tigers from Auburn, Clemson and Grambling State. None should be outdone by the lesser domesticated Wildcats, represented this year by Arizona, Kentucky and Northwestern. 

Let us ensure we represent the cats and the dogs both, with this year’s set of Bulldogs appearing via Drake, Gonzaga, Mississippi State, Samford and Yale. (Where is Sam not Stan, by the way?) The Huskies from UConn are expected to be a little more vicious, with the State of North Carolina and Nevada each bringing their respective Pack of Wolves.

Wisconsin is sending its Badgers… although I’m still uncertain in what family the short-legged omnivores fit. Boise State sends the Broncos, ensuring once more a half-tamed horse is solidly represented. 

There exist some other rather large species… Baylor’s Bears, Oakland’s Golden Grizzlies, Bison from Howard, Buffaloes from Colorado, and Rams from Colorado State. There are Longhorns from Texas and even some Antelopes from the Grand Canyon.

There are also the larger than life Gators from Florida, although I still can’t discern quite how a reptile learns how to play basketball. 

I also never quite understand the intimidation by all sorts of birds on the court, specifically the Owls from Florida Atlantic, Bluejays from Creighton, Jayhawks from Kansas, Seahawks from Wagner, nor Eagles from either Marquette or Morehead State.

I suppose even less intimidating are the Peacocks of St. Peter’s, but I really can’t talk (… since they uh, beat my beloved once). 

Then again, also interesting to evaluate on the intimidating athletic scale are TCU’s Horned Frogs and the Jackrabbits from South Dakota State. Dare I say, each has hops.

Indeed there are more in a bird kind of family… the South Carolina Gamecocks and Oregon Ducks.

There are some creative families represented… Blazers from Birmingham, Tar Heels from North Carolina, and anyone of Irish-Gaelic descent from St. Mary’s. 

Then there are those that I’m not quite sure what family to put them in… Hatters and Hilltoppers, Lobos and Lancers, Cornhuskers and the colorful Crimson Tide. 

We also see some seemingly admirable persons represented, at least by title… there are Cowboys, Flyers and Spartans… even both Cavaliers and Volunteers. There are, interestingly, also, two units of actual Dukes. Let me add I’m not as certain on the admiration appropriate for Raiders and Red Raiders nor any shade of actual Devils. Some things weren’t meant to be all that celebrated. 🙂

Still, the Illini come as their own state, while the State of Iowa comes in a storm. Also arriving as a fun favorite is Long Beach State, whose nickname is (wait for it) the actual Beach.

Let us not forget the Aztecs nor pair of Aggies, the latter of which is always a fascinating one to look up. And once again we see the Zips; there may be no better name. 

Last but not least hail this semi-humble blogger’s beloved Boilermakers. What is a Boilermaker? Its origin comes from the perceived burly trade of a 19th Century blacksmith. They were strong and tough and good at what they did. Here’s to hoping in the 21st Century, it means something victorious and even more.

Let the madness begin, friends! As always, grateful for the diversity.

Respectfully…

AR

why out-of-sight-out-of-mind isn’t an option

The whole out-of-sight-out-of-mind idea makes total sense. If we can’t see it, we oft don’t care about it. And some things are hard to care about.

Allow me to start with a semi-short account, a tale which prompts immediate glee upon its every remembrance…

I was a young 20-something jetting joyfully out as I embarked on my brand new career. I was in the human resource hotel world, initially placed in Key Largo. It was a beautiful setting — for far more than the climate and coral reefs. It was my first substantial plunge into plenteous ethnic diversity. Close in proximity to Mexico, Cuba and multiple Caribbean islands, multiple persons found their work and home in the alluring archipelago off of southern Florida. One of those persons was a sweet, 30-something woman named Vivian. 

Vivian was a housekeeper at our resort hotel. She was responsible and thorough. She was also incredibly respectful and quiet; it was almost as if she felt a strong, distinct pecking order between executive staff, line employees and hotel guests. She never wanted to violate the perceived hierarchy, and so she kept to herself, kindly answered questions only when called upon, and did her job with excellence. She became the ideal person in charge of cleaning the more trafficked hotel spaces. Such included our HR office.

Two or three times a week, Vivian would enter our office. She would take out the trash, vacuum, wipe down the tables and chairs, etc. She would smile warmly when greeted, almost surprised that we wanted to interact and know her more; she would briefly share stories of her present and past. But alas, after only a few sentences, you could tell she felt it necessary to resume her work; she wanted to honor her employer. No doubt honor was a high value of Vivian’s.

One interaction stood out to me. And beware; I’m going to date myself here. I was alone in the office working on one more of those seemingly endless stacks of HR documents, and Vivian entered to attend to the room. I was typing —  yes, typing —  on one of those egad-ancient, electromechanical machines in which you actually inserted single sheets of paper to be struck by an inked ribbon by an individual alphabet key. I noticed, no less, Vivian take an extended glance at my activity. So I paused. I stopped, looked at her and noticed maybe a hair of embarrassment, back to that code of honor and need to be working. But she also trusted me.

It then dawned on me. “Vivian, have you ever used a typewriter?”

There was an immediate, abundant modesty. “Oh, no,” she said emphatically, shaking her head and quickly resuming her work, a little uncomfortable in the conversation if not for that trust.

“Vivian, I think today is the day.”

And so gently but trustingly, I got up out of my chair and invited Vivian to sit down. Me in my professional attire. Vivian in her floral housekeeping uniform. She reluctantly obliged.

First I inserted a clean sheet of paper. Then I rolled it up, so she could see a little more of what we were about to do. One-by-one, I placed her fingers on the keys, the way they taught us in typing class. I then stood behind her, and with her quiet but intentional ok, I placed my fingers on top of hers also one-by-one. Slowly, but deliberately, saying each letter out loud, together we typed the following:

VIVIAN

I rolled up the paper, and Vivian… oh my… she simply squealed in delight… she was so incredibly happy! 

“May I keep?!” she still humbly but pleadingly asked.

“Absolutely.”

My heart warms anew just thinking of that moment… thinking of Vivian and the contentment found in the simple joys of life. There is so much to learn in that.

Vivian is from Haiti. She was not a citizen at the time. She was here on an authorized work visa. We had several employees of similar status at that time. It’s one of the reasons, in fact, Democrat and Republican partisans frustrate me, unable to craft a solution on immigration. I simply don’t believe in letting all in nor keeping all out. Find the commonsense solution.

But lest we digress, let me call attention to what’s happening in Haiti right now. Succinctly stated, it’s a mess. 80% of the country’s capital of Port-au-Prince is under gang control. Over half the population is in need of humanitarian assistance. People are trying to get out. Violence is rampant. Rape is rampant. The unpopular Prime Minister is in exile. And democracy is nonexistent.

Don’t let me act as if solution here is easy. It is not. My desire is solely to create awareness of an awful situation.

And it’s because of people like Vivian — a woman who reluctantly shared her life with me, who quietly shared bits and pieces of the struggles she left behind, who earnestly was attempting to carve out a better life for her family in this country — that I care. I care about the honor of all people. Thank makes it so that out-of-sight-out-of-mind isn’t an option. 

Respectfully…

AR

qualities necessary in a president

Let’s be respectfully blunt today; as we’ve been discussing, neither of our two most recent presidents are all that popular. Such is why they spend enormous amounts of energy attempting to keep others out of the race instead of adding to their own support. In order to be victorious, they have to limit our choice. Hence, the all too clear co-dependency of Joe Biden and Donald Trump. Hence, their desperate need for one another. Hence, what may be most disturbing about this upcoming election. We crave better. We crave more in the President of the United States.

In search of what’s better and wiser we asked persons what they would instead like to see. What qualities are necessary in a President? What are the traits that would make one popular? … or at least more effective and clearly, make one good at the job?

What a response. We’ve combined the feedback for clarity purposes. Let’s begin with the response that was by far and away the attribute most frequently desired; the President should be a person of noted integrity. No ifs, ands or buts. Integrity should never be in question.

Three other attributes were strongly stated by many; our President should be wise, honest and intelligent. 

More words were used to describe our ideal leader. It’s a solid list:

Accountable. Alacritous. Authentic. Business-smart. Civil. Collaborative. Courageous. Decisive. Diplomatic. Discerning. Empowering. Even-tempered. Humble. Kind. Principled. Relational. Resilient. Respectful. Self-aware. Selfless. Strong. Trustworthy. Visionary. And well-spoken.

They should be persons known as the following: 

  • An active listener
  • An appreciator of constitutional law
  • A defender of democracy
  • A great communicator
  • An intentional solicitor of others’ opinions
  • A proven leader
  • An ongoing learner
  • A uniter

Their resume should include experience in:

  • Business (including budgets, finance and prudent spending)
  • Executive decision making
  • International affairs
  • And the military

There were some unique but seemingly significant suggestions, most notably wanting our President to be:

  • Capable of leadership on a global stage
  • Possessing a high capacity and thus able to meet the incredible demands of the job
  • Surrounded by experts — not buddies
  • Willing to accept ideas from their perceived opponents
  • And younger than 70 years old

There are also some things we do not want our nation’s highest leader to be:

  • Not a divider
  • Not easily rattled or prone to insult
  • Not a frequent user of executive orders
  • And not the leader of a singular, political party any longer — forgetting they represent all the people

Interestingly, no person shared that our President be a specific party member, gender, ethnicity or other demographic characteristic. In fact, several commented via various expression that the President represent all, favor no one, and possess no limited, partisan or personal agenda. 

(Some — no doubt in light of our current scenario — suggest that the exemplary candidate would also not have any orange hair and be capable of walking up a full flight of stairs, but I will refrain from expounding at the moment.)

Two other thoughts shared by others that I think are worthy of thoughtful consideration…

One person wishes our President’s past would contain very little political experience. Why? Because multiple contemporary politicians are too influenced by money and power. If it’s true that people become like the five people they spend the most time with, more political experience could indeed be a strong negative.

And lastly, another considerate contributor shared that our leader needs to prioritize what “benefits Americans and our nation as a whole rather than political party allegiance.” As a proud Missourian, they reminded us of the state motto to “let the welfare of the people be the supreme law.” 

If our President truly cared for the welfare of all people — meaning commonsense and common ground — they would be effective and very good at the job. Maybe even popular, too.

Respectfully…

AR