We have a black Labrador Retriever who’s name is, Parker. She is eight years old and loving life.
Parker is a rescue dog. When we got her, as a very small pup, she had been rescued from Gulley Park and had just undergone surgery to reset her broken jaw…caused by someone who had tossed her out of a moving vehicle.
We named her Parker Gulley Brooks.
During the first two years of her life she almost died more than once.
She has significant allergies and must eat special food and take monthly injections.
Parker has two, Boston Terrier Brothers, they are older than she is…but she is the boss!
Three years ago, she had surgery to remove a tumor that, happily, was just of the ‘fatty variety’ and today she has surgery again for more of those pesky fatty tumors.
When Parker decides that she wants to remain outside, in our fenced in portion of the backyard, nothing can dissuade her…but the voice of her father. The other members of the family can call and cajole and promise and threaten…to no avail…but when the ‘old man’ says, ‘alright…ok…that’s alright…,’ she hurries inside the house.
I told Jonathon, last evening, that I would walk out onto our screened in porch and give my proclamations to Parker…who was below in her area of fun that is adjacent to the porch/deck.
Jonathan said that he could not believe that even without seeing me and just hearing my voice, Parker obeys immediately.
All of the chew bones, enough for a three dog family, are Parker’s. If she desires one of them that her Boston brothers is enjoying…she simply barks, the most ear splitting and continuous bark that they or I have ever heard.
They quickly release their ‘toy.’ It is not worth the aural pain.
Wallace and Brody enjoy sitting on their mother’s lap…they weigh slightly over 20 pounds.
Parker, believing that she is a Boston Terrier also, lumbers on to Mom’s lap…at 70 plus pounds.
Parker, has a specific vice, but we will not talk about that today…as we are so happy to have her beat the odds…again.
I have heard the cats have nine lives…I think I just heard Parker…meow.
I walked Campus this afternoon. It is a habit or perhaps an addiction of mine.
I could not help but contrast the lovely weather, today, with the frigid conditions that we have endured this winter and the flooding rains that have recently befallen us.
We seek renewal and re-awakening and re-birth.
At times, dark clouds, can cover our lives and the hope of the sun shinning again can seem remote.
It can be so cold…that we feel that, perhaps, we will never be warm again.
Our life experiences can be so traumatic that we have great difficulty, remembering, when things were good and peaceful and bright.
‘For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone;
‘The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land;’ Song of Solomon 2: 11-12 KJV
I have always believed that every person that I meet, on this road of life, I met for a reason and a purpose and it is incumbent on me to not hurt that person.
I learned, many years ago, that as a supervisor and a manager, and even before that, as a church leader, that often, what I said was taken very seriously by the person that I was speaking with.
From my perspective or looking out of my eyes…or living in my head…I witnessed that, an off hand remark, could be troubling and worrying and disconcerting to others.
I, am one of those people, who believes that God is watching and waiting and observing how we treat each other…or if you are looking for God…or if you want to find Jesus…look at the person that is next to you…and start there.
I have never been sorry for a kind word that I have said…and I have never been happy with a harsh one.
I, often said, when I was a manager of a large group of people…that if I erred…I wanted to err on the side of mercy.
That is what our Creator is doing with us.
‘Because, let’s face it: Life is one hell of a rollercoaster ride. At times we feel totally in charge of the journey and love the ride. At other times we feel completely overwhelmed and want to get off. Throughout our lives, we’re by turns strong, then weak. We’re quite sure we know what we’re doing, and then we’re utterly and totally lost. We feel elated, and then depressed. We act powerfully, then feel like the victims. We’re buoyed by courage, then scared out of our wits. We feel part of a community, and then we feel totally alone. We take pride in our accomplishments, then we want to crumble with shame over our mistakes.’ Maria Shriver’s Sunday Paper
I have been a christian since I was 10 years old…and now I am 60. The past 50 years have been a rollercoaster of a journey.
During my early, christian years, I wanted to be a minister and before the age of 20… I was assisting my pastor in preaching funerals. After that time, I became the primary person in the church that preached funerals.
Over a period of years I have acted as an advisor to more than one minister and been involved in all manner of church government.
Along the wild rollercoaster ride…I had a crisis of faith…well really I have had a couple…but the last one caused me to distance myself from pastors and church work.
I was sitting in church this morning and reflecting on why do we go to church and become members of a church.
Do we believe that God has led us to the church that we are in…as well as leading our pastor to the same sanctuary? Or are we. …a Kiwanis Club…or a Lion’s Club…or the Eagles…or the Elks…or the Odd Fellows…or the Moose?
Do we want to understand God better and his plan for our lives…or is our collegial relationships…simply business…and nothing more?
Does God have a plan for our lives or do we attend church on Sunday morning to see our friends and those who think like us?
I talked with my Pastor…the other day…well before any covenants of dissolution were signed.
My Pastor spoke…only…of her love for the people of our church…and her concern for our continued health and wellbeing and the exciting christian journey though this, rollercoaster, of life.
Not a word about her…or her wellbeing…
No words of criticism…
No words of anger….
No words of strife….
No words of division….
Now that is a Pastor….and I lost her…just after I found her.
I was talking with my friend, recently, regarding the many opportunities that Southern Illinois University affords.
I recall, so vividly, being asked to assume the Assistant Superintendent position, when I had been a foreman for less than a year. All of my foreman colleagues were senior to me…and I was just getting into the job that I had considered the capstone of my career.
I sat up all night…mulling over my decision to take the position or not. I had interviewed with the Assistant Director of the Physical Plant and my boss, the Superintendent of Building Services. The Assistant Director had conducted the interview and during the course of the meeting he had criticized my ability to follow through on custodial needs that occurred in my area of responsibility.
I knew that I had no problem in following through with my foreman duties and that in fact I had been asked to oversee, one of my senior colleagues’ foreman areas while he joined the Superintendent in extra curricular activity.
When the morning dawned…Mary Jane told me that if the job worried me so much as to keep me awake all night that I should refuse it. I agreed.
I, subsequently, told my boss that I appreciated the offer but that after the interview I had determined that I needed to work on being an effective foreman before I became the boss of he foreman.
My supervisor’s face fell and he told me how disappointed that he was…I liked my supervisor very much and appreciated all that he had done for me.
I proceeded to my area of responsibility and about thirty minutes later my pager went off and it was, Ray, asking me to meet he and, Dale, at Woody Hall. When they arrived, Dale, asked me if I would join them at the McDonalds that was across the street.
Dale wanted to purchase my dinner…but I would not be plied by expensive food offerings.
As Dale spoke to me regarding his sadness that I did not want to accept the Assistant Superintendent position…he noted that he had not determined that he was going to give it too me anyway…and that he had told, Ray, that I would not accept his constructive criticism, in the interview, well.
He went on to say that if I did not take the job that he was going to offer it to a custodial foreman, that was my age, from Northern Illinois University. At this point I looked at Ray and he was shaking his head in the negative position and he looked very sad.
I accepted the job…I was 29 years old.
Though there are often storm clouds on the horizon…there is always the sun waiting to break through.
There is an old saying, ‘Opportunity Only Knocks Once’, and I consistently found this to be true.
Twelve years later, the Director of Plant and Service Operations told me that I could accept the Superintendent of Building Services position…or that he might just contract the department out to an outside cleaning service.
I accepted the position and held it for the remaining 13 years of my SIU career.
My friend, Jo Ann, who was the chancellor of the University asked me too consider accepting either of two administrative positions at the University…I probably would have accepted one or the other…to help her…if she had not been terminated two months later.
It is impossible too for see, in your crystal ball, what life has in store for you and it is vital to listen to the…often…quiet knock on your door of opportunity.
Throughout my over 32 year career I discovered that the civil service staff are the backbone of the organization.
Administrators and faculty, often, work at several universities during their careers. However, the civil service staff, have the most invested and longest outlook and the passion for success for their’ School.
Often, opportunity comes from places that you did not expect.
We all have a comfort zone…and we enjoy being ensconced in it.
But, what is the plan for our lives?
What did God have in mind for the gifts that he gave us?
There are few things that are more enjoyable than doing what you were meant to do!
‘Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.’ Hebrews 11:1 KJV
‘For we walk by faith, not by sight.’ II Corinthians 5:7 NKJV
‘And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard see, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.’ Matthew 17:20 KJV
Did you ever feel like that you were on the road of life alone?
I think that this is especially true when life reversals assail our constructed myth of peace and harmony.
We are reared to believe that if we work hard and play by the rules that a comfortable and middle class life style will be ours and that this, mental photo torn from a Sears and Roebuck catalog, will be our utopia.
We trust that if we can just build a high enough wall…the undesirables will not interfere with our, hard worked for peace and tranquility, and that we will be sheltered from the vagaries and horrors of the human existence that so many of our fellow travelers endure.
In 2011, Mary Jane and I travelled to the island of Jamaica. From the air port to the Sandals Resort, that we were staying at for a week, was a ninety minute drive by bus. During the bus trip we witnessed abject poverty and deprivation and Jamaicans that were ill clad and ill housed and ill fed.
When we entered the Resort…it was Nirvana. Everything was beautiful and ornate and manicured to perfection. We were offered a glass of champagne by our hosts and a damp towel to cool our brow.
During the course of our week stay…we luxuriated in the beaches and swam in the pools and had our choice of Jamaican delicacies in, no less than five, wonderful restaurants.
Food and drink…were unlimited.
At the conclusion of our week in Jamaica…we boarded the bus, again, for the ninety minute drive back to the airport…and the degradation and the sorrow…of the real Jamaica…was on view for every mile of the journey.
Even, so, with our lives…as we enjoy the temporal treasures that our labors and our luck have afforded us.
What is God trying to teach us…during our short time in this life?
The people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki…had no warning that complete and total devastation was going to fall from their sun lit skies.
Is the christian life supposed to be an endorphin high?
Or is it a life…in Christ’s example a life of sacrifice and suffering and realization that everything that we see and touch, including each other, goes back to dust…entropy.
What is the dynamic of church? Is it a club where our many needs, both emotional and physical, are met and satisfied…much as the experience that we had at the Sandals Resort in Jamaica?
Or is the church a call to stewardship and working outside our comfort zone and reaching out to the poor and destitute and the mentally ill and the unwanted and unwashed and forgotten?
Are we seeking a minister that tickles our ears and salves our conscience…or are we looking for: ‘In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea. And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. For this is that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. And the same John had his raiment of camel’s hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey.’ Matthew 3: 1-4 KJV
One thing that I have discovered, as a newly minted 60 year old, life has chapters.
As a youngster my focus was on my nuclear family and my education…which I did not enjoy…until University.
As a high school graduate and living on my own I, soon became accustomed to the rhythms of responsibility and working for my food and shelter and heat and all of the rest…and walking wherever I needed to go.
Marriage came, to the love of my life,…and she was supportive of my ideas and endeavors and I wanted to please her and have her be proud of me.
Then, the birth of Aaron…and I was so proud of him and I thought that my son’s birth was so important and so significant and that my purpose in life was to be a good father and a good husband and provide for my little family.
About, two and one half years later came Jonathon…and he climbed out of his cradle and jumped on to the floor with a hearty laugh.
He picked up every chat-ski that we had and admired it and subsequently broke it.
I was the father of two sons and I could not have been happier.
And, then, came the work years and the triumphs and the struggles and the challenges of both caring for our children and our aged parents.
There were accolades and victories and accomplishments in career.
There were illness and shocks…that had to be addressed…and there was a friendship with a former chancellor and her husband that was memorable.
So, now, there is the retirement years and the communications with my former colleagues, Elizabeth, and others, and the, kind request for my ‘senior opinion’ and my ongoing concern for my University and our State and our Nation and our world.
I wonder…when life ends…if this was but a chapter in our continuing story?
Wednesday, another horrendous school shooting occurred in Broward County, Florida, at the Marjory Stonemason Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
Seventeen people lost their lives.
- ‘Alyssa Alhadeff, 14
- Scott Beigel, 35
- Martin Duque Anguiano, 14
- Nicholas Dworet, 17
- Aaron Feis, 37
- Jamie Guttenberg, 14
- Chris Hixon, 49
- Luke Hoyer, 15
- Cara Loughran, 14
- Gina Montalto, 14
- Joaquin Oliver, 17
- Alaina Petty, 14
- Meadow Pollack, 18
- Helena Ramsay, 17
- Alex Schachter, 14
- Carmen Schentrup, 16
- Peter Wang, 15′ CNN
‘Attack on a Florida high school is the eighth shooting to have resulted in death or injury during the first seven weeks of the year.’ The Guardian
I am a gun owner. I believe in the right to bear arms….but the epidemic of mass shootings in the United States of America has to be not only addressed with, ‘thoughts and prayers’, but real and concrete and significant action to endeavor to ameliorate this scourge that is overtaking our country.
Law enforcement, almost universally, wants to see semi-automatic weapons removed from our streets.
Semi-automatic weapons, such as the AR-15 style rifle used in the mass killing Wednesday, have no practical use, other than the privilege of owning whatever firearm that you please due to the sentence in the Constitution that promises the right to bear arms.
No other country on our planet has the regular occurrences of mass shootings that the United States does.
I was in high school…at one time…many years ago…I suppose you were as well.
It never crossed my mind that someone would enter my little high school in Eldorado, Illinois for the purpose of shooting and killing me and my classmates.
Each time that I think…that I do not want to see any gun restrictions…I visualize what if one of the students murdered was one of my sons….?
Money and the plentiful proliferation of it, to both democrats and republicans has caused them to be silent…in the face of genocide.
The majority of Americans want stricter gun laws.
The majority of law enforcement want stricter gun laws.
How is it that our elected legislatures and president can offer no more than…thoughts and prayers?
I have been a christian for almost 50 years.
During those years I have been both witness to many wonderful and christian acts and heard so many sermons and read so many scriptures…that I daily think in scriptures.
I have had the pleasure of hearing many, talented, ministers deliver spell binding sermons that compelled me to get up and go forward and attempt to live the compelling christian life that the minister spoke of.
Not a christian life of wealth and superiority and being a member of the elite…but rather a life following Christ’s example of suffering and service and caring for the poor.
There was a minister, years ago now, that headed a denomination that I had been a part of for eighteen years.
This minister was beloved by many…but he was rather aloof towards me…at least for the few times that I attempted to form a relationship with him.
However, his sermons, at times, were inspiring and some of the best that I had heard…at that time.
I decided…so many years ago…that this minister’s effectiveness was not about me personally…but it was about the results that he achieved in his home church and throughout the denomination that I was a member of.
I have served as an elder in three different churches. I have worked closely with ministers throughout most of my life…even in the last few years.
Time and age and experience has taught me to look at the results that are being achieved in the church that I am attending.
How does the minister respond to the young and the elderly…are they at home and received with love and compassion?
What is the Message that the minister delivers…does it compel me to examine my christian life and my service to the poor and the homeless and those who are marginalized by our society?
Does my minister, consistently preach Christ’s message,,,and it is a hard to hear message…and it is a burdensome message…especially to the rich…?
‘It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.’ Mark 10:25 KJV
Does my minister’s message move me towards social justice and fighting for the little guy and gal…or does it make me feel secure in my own emotions and dreams and upper middle class comfort?
I had a friend tell me, again…many years ago, that Policemen…were just men…and that they had the human foibles that all men and women have.
Our christian message is impossible for we fallible humans to live in it’s perfection and totality.
The same challenge goes for our ministers…they are human and have feet of clay and trials and tribulations and challenges that are inherent in our human flesh and experience.
‘Saying, Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm.’ Psalm 105:15 KJV
I have been privileged to observe my Pastor, Rev. Janice West, a she interacts with young people…and it is a delight to behold the light in their eyes as she communicates so effectively with them.
Often, after hearing one of Pastor West’s Sermons…I am, inspired to write a blog regarding her effective and timely call to help the helpless.
I used to preach funeral sermons…perhaps upwards of 25 or more…in a past life.
Pastor Janice…preaches the most thoughtful and personal and considerate funeral sermons that I have ever heard.
My Pastor has a lovely singing voice…she sings a prayer almost every Sunday…it causes me to want to pray.
‘And as they departed, Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind? Matthew 11:7 KJV
One of the first things that I learned, as a manager, is that I was only as good or effective, as the people that I had working with me.
If you desire supervisor that care about people, then you must promote those who have demonstrated that people are important to them.
If you want leaders who have an eye for excellence and who can see the ‘ant in the corner of the room…as well as the elephant that is in the middle of the room,’ you must search for those who have demonstrated that ability in the job that they currently are holding.
So often we are impressed with rhetoric and empty platitudes that are uttered in a convincing manner.
Strong words and bluster and promises…are mistaken for words the are supported by demonstrated success and promises that the promiser is committed to fulfilling.
Two popular sayings are: ‘Wing It,’ and ‘Fake It Until You Make It.’
A successful organization must be dedicated to a Vision and have a clear…bullet point outline…as to the goals desired and the methodology to achieve those goals.
There is another saying, that seems obvious…but is not. ‘You do not know what you do not know.’
When I began as the Superintendent of Building Services I set out a simple vision for the department. ‘The customer is always right.’
Every action that we took as an organization was in service to that one, and one more sentence.
The second sentence was, ‘No one wants to hear why the cleaning person can not clean.’
Again, seemingly obvious…but not really.
I had inherited a primary housekeeping organization that had been following a skip cleaning program that was artificial and that was hated by the Building Services staff.
When I took the shackles off of the eager and professional housekeepers…miracles happened.
There is an entrepreneurial spirit in we humans…that is crying to be set free.
We, by and large, seek excellence and hunger to be a part of a successful enterprise that is dedicated to being the best!
As I wrote the Building Services Handbook, I said, that I wanted our custodial group to be like the old Hertz Rental Car Commercial.
In the commercial there was a man, who was wearing a suit and tie and hat…floating through the air until he was comfortably landed behind the steering wheel of a Hertz Rental Car. The tagline for the famous rental car commercial was, ‘Hertz Puts You In the Driver’s Seat.’
I also mentioned an old McDonalds Restaurant Commercial that exclaimed, ‘We do It All For You.’
And finally I likened our department to the Cadillac of Custodial Services.
There is a spark in all of us…that is waiting to be ignited.
We are desperately seeking a leader who has the confidence in us… for us to achieve the potential that is hidden deep inside.
I have likened Southern Illinois University to a Sleeping Giant…that is waiting to be awakened and to then demonstrate the inherent excellence that is smoldering like hot coals in a pot belly stove…you can feel the heat…and the fire wants to dance!
For many years Mary Jane and I shopped at Famous Barr Department Store. Famous Barr was headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri and was owned by the May Company.
For several Christmas Seasons we took Aaron and Jonathon to the magnificent Christmas display that they had on the seventh floor of their headquarters in St. Louis. The Display was entitled, Christmas Bears Trimming the Tree. The animated Bears and their Holiday shenanigans covered almost the entirety of the seventh floor. When you entered the Tree Trimming Splendor…it was a full immersion experience. Famous Barr…did things right…they were the epitome of excellence!
When I walked though Famous Barr in Carbondale, Illinois…every salesperson greeted me by name.
Both in St. Louis and Fairview Heights, Illinois and Carbondale, Illinois…the women were dressed in suits or dresses and the men were attired in suits, as well.
I have purchased items at Famous Barr…for more money than I could have purchased the same item somewhere else, cheaper.
When I was at Famous Barr…I felt like I was at home.
We know that we are members of this life but for a short time.
We want to make our mark…make a difference…be a part of something that is much larger than us…and is special.
In the wonderful holiday movie, It’s A Wonderful Life, Jimmy Stewart’s character, George Bailey, tells Donna Reed’s character, Mary, that if she wants the moon that he will lasso it and bring it down to Earth for her.
We all want to lasso the moon. When a leader, unleashes and unshackles us and relies upon us to totally buy into the organization that we are, obviously, an integral part of,…then…miracles happen!
Aaron and I were talking about a subject that interests both of us, management. We both have an ongoing interest in the subject as I was a manager for over 25 years and Aaron has been a manager for over ten years.
When I became a supervisor, 1980, I was humbled by the responsibility of being the crew leader of three full time staff and nine student staff.
I first wanted to understand what my, new staff, needed to be able to accomplish the housekeeping duties that we were charged to accomplish on a nightly basis.
I knew that I responded favorably to supervisors who spoke to me with respect and treated me as an equal…rather than a subordinate. I remembered that a few kind words from a supervisor or a manager or the Superintendent of the department, inspired me and caused me to want to do an increasingly better and professional job.
Also, I had experienced what it felt like to be, talked down too and criticized publicly and made to feel insignificant. I had experienced a supervisor uttering profanity when they gave me work instructions.
I knew what it was like to be new on the job and nervous and apprehensive and trying so hard to accomplish a good job…that the opposite occurred.
As a new supervisor, I wanted each member of the team to feel valued and vital to the success of the operation. I wanted everyone to feel like members of a caring family.
The great motivational speaker, Zig Ziglar, said, ‘I really do not care how much you know…until I know how much you care…about me.’
The Golden Rule tells us that we should treat others as we want to be treated.
Implementing the Golden Rule…is easier to say than do.
A a manager you may be doing the most thoughtful of things for a member of your staff and you may be patient with them and kind when there is a constructive correction needed and interested in their job satisfaction…and then you hear that the employee is openly and vigorously criticizing you and your management style.
You must treat the criticizing member of your staff as if you never heard the criticism.
I have been asked, numerous occasions, what my management philosophy was?
When I was, suddenly, given the Superintendent’s duties for the Building Services department, the Director of Plant and Service Operations introduced me to his immediate staff and then asked me if I would like to say anything.
I told the Director and his Associate Directors, that I was going to make Building Services enemies our friends and that I wanted our friends to love us.
I made it a habit, during my career, to treat those who were the most critical of me…as my friends and supporters.
One of my foreman told me once that she had noticed that I treated my enemies just like my friends and that if a person did not know, who was in each camp, they would never be able to distinguish by my interactions with them.
She went on to say that she wondered that…if at times…I did not treat my enemies better…?
I felt no greater satisfaction than when a person told me that they had not trusted me or cared for me…but that through the years they had grown to appreciate my dedication to everyone in Building Services.
As a, human, when people say bad or negative or untrue things about you…it hurts.
I told my foreman, more than once, to not relay to me the personal negative comments that they heard regarding me…unless they overheard that someone was trying to get me fired or killed.
However, management…leadership, is not about you and it is not about me. It is about treating everyone in a fair and caring and considerate manner. It is a stewardship position…you do not own people and they are not your subjects.
If constructive criticism is required it must always and only be about specific job performance and it must always be done in private.
If there is praise and commendation to be uttered regarding a successful professional member of your staff…exclaim it from the top of the tallest’ mountain for everyone to hear and appreciate.
Don’t be given to rhetoric or bluster or speak of personal traits that are not job related.
Everything that you tell a member of your staff that you are going to do for them…you must move heaven and earth to ensure that you do exactly what you said that you would do.
If you are told something, confidentially, you must…lock it in the vault and throw away the key.
As a supervisor and a manager/administrator I believed that I was simply the University’s representative to the members of my staff and that it was my awesome responsibility to portray SIU as the caring and compassionate and stellar and elite institution of higher education that it is.
For the entirety of my 32 years and 2 months and 3 week career at SIU…I believed that I was associated with colleagues that were the best of the best and that their wisdom and dedication and professionalism was unparalleled.
I understood that it was a humbling honor to be allowed to work with such an Housekeeping Team that were at the height of their skills and paramount among their peers throughout the State of Illinois and throughout the United States.
It was not hard or difficult to treat these wonderful and caring and first class professionals with total respect!