‘Ring the bells (ring the bells) that still can ring’
‘Forget your perfect offering’
‘There is a crack in everything (there is a crack in everything)’
‘That’s how the light gets in…’
Leonard Cohen – The Anthem
I watched a tribute to Leonard Cohen, the other night, where several Cohen songs were sung by the Wainwrights and others. I was particularly moved by the lyrics above.
Indeed, in our world, we are obsessed with what our neighbor or colleague or friend or family has done wrong. In our righteous indignation we are supremely self-satisfied that if others would simply see life and politics and religion as we do…all would be well.
My family and I visited Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in the 1990s and we saw the Liberty Bell. It has a, famous, crack!
I reflect on the indisputable fact that all of us are members of the same human family. Why are we so judgmental of our brothers and our sisters and our mothers and our fathers?
Thanksgiving is a week from today, in the United States. Many of us will enjoy a wonderful feast! The feast, probably, will contain the traditional turkey and dressing…and cranberry sauce. There will be the televised Macy’s Day Parade, with Santa Claus concluding the event. Many will relish football games and, turkey, naps. While others will plan their black-Friday shopping extravaganzas! I wonder if we could first love and accept the family that will sit down with us around the holiday table….And then love and respect those who are different from us or who have an alternate lifestyle from ours?
Will we do more than think, briefly, about the homeless? Will we pass the Salvation Army Kettles…and throw in some loose change and have our conscience mollified…and know that we have done God’s work?
Our church has a, new, mission to provide quarters and soap for anyone in need at our local laundromat. Jane, told our board that there had been an overwhelming response to our outreach. She went on to describe a, homeless, young man who had one change of clothes and subsequently stripped down to his shorts and washed his clothes and his sleeping bag. Tears welled up in my eyes! There is a vast amount of humanity that live in another world of poverty and want and degradation and they are seeking another, cracked human vessel…that has experienced the light coming in!
George Schultz was the Secretary of State in the Regan administration. During those years, in the 1980s, I had just become the assistant superintendent of Building Services at Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale. This was my first exposure to management and I was 29 years old. I watched Secretary Schultz, in a television interview, state that he would never accept a job that he was not willing to walk away from, if he were asked to compromise his integrity.
Secretary Schultz’s words were a lodestone for me and a compass. During my 25 years in management/administration…I encountered numerous occasions that I had to choose my sense of right and wrong rather than the expediency of what the boss wanted me to do.
I watched as others chose to compromise their values or to ignore their conscience…many times due to being afraid of loosing their employment. There is, indeed a dynamic of doing what the boss wants done…often when it is ethical…and sliding into continuing to do what the boss wants done….When it is not ethical.
The most egregious violation of integrity or an ethical compass is the abuse of people. This comes in many forms which includes; listening to staff’s concerns but not addressing them, assuring staff that you will assist them and subsequently failing to do so, toying with people or moving them about…as if on a chessboard…with no clear managerial need.
Dishonesty or lying to members of your staff are some of the most devastating of lapses in doing what is right. I have walked out of numerous management meetings where others disparaged and demeaned those that they perceived were beneath us!
For years I worked for a leader who felt that the best way to demonstrate that our organization needed more help…was to stage a slow-down of the housekeeping that we produced. I refused to do so! It was my belief then…and to this day that it was our job to clean the campus as well as we possibly could.
Former chancellor Argersinger was terminated in less than a year on the job. Jo Ann was not only a breath of fresh air but an inspiration to the university community. I stood up for her, as did many of my colleagues, but it was scary! I not only had my job threatened but the jobs of my colleagues in Building Services!
It occurs to me that it sounds like that I am bragging on myself…but on the contray…I often felt like the ‘skunk at the garden party!’ I wondered if I was not only a bit to altruistic…or a simple minded oaf…or lacking in understanding on how to get ahead!
Mind you, I was not the only one, but rather I worked with hundreds of stelar colleagues that were examples to me in the art of, ‘To thine own self be true!’
So, you may find yourself in a position that, to your dismay, you are misplaced in! Perhaps your best efforts are misunderstood and met with retaliation or disdain. I have lived my 62 years being a believer that if your efforts are not appreciated…find somewhere that they will be.
I have heard it said, for the majority of my life, ‘It is not what you know…but who you know!’
This may sound like an incredible statement, I have witnessed many professionals that will work for free…if they are appreciated!
There is a common malady in management and administration of others, that rears its ugly head on many occasions. The dysfunction that I am refereeing to is the lack of acknowledgment or recognition of dedicated service in regard to members of the university family or the corporate staff, who have labored in the heat of the day…and sought no reward…but certainly did not seek insult.
I have heard it said, of individuals that work night and day to facilitate the success of their workplace…’well you know…they love to work and labor…unpaid…it is a labor of love for them!’
I worked with a friend and colleague, for many years, who had the most grandiose stories of his past accomplishments. They were both interesting and enlightening, and had me sitting on the edge of my seat! It appears that my friend had lived at least two…or perhaps three lifetimes…to accomplish the many, James Thurber-Type, claims!
So, the gifted speaker and spinner of yarns…is the type of person that administration looks for to elevate to positions of authority and responsibility…when another has been working in the trenches to produce an excellent product. When we look for the shiny object or promotional candidate, or when we pass-over the quiet and conscientious worker who has demonstrated, Herculean, efforts to demonstrate and produce a successful and stelar work completion and a result that is at the zenith of excellence….We scratch our heads in disbelief that morale is at its lowest point!
I have wrestled with the subject of leadership since I was a youth. The presidents of the United States have always fascinated me. I have witnessed many variations of leaders, the most ineffective that I have seen is the, ‘Little Club of Leaders.’ This would be an exclusive club that has the motto over the door of the Clubhouse…’You Scratch My Back…And I Will Scratch Yours!’
On the contrary, people who feel, genuine, appreciation for the work that they are doing…will rise to the utmost of their capabilities! Their first concern is not how much money they can make…but how much of a difference that they can accomplish! Contrary to what CEO’s or chancellors or presidents may believe…there is such an abundance of dedication in the ranks of staff…that they are unaware of the value that these dedicated employees bring to the operation.
I have had the supreme opportunity to feel what is like work in an organization that the majority of my colleagues were working as a team and through their breaks and their lunch and had, bought into, the vision of what it means to be a Saluki, which is Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale’s mascot. I can assure you that when our most valuable campus citizens, our precious students, felt that camaraderie and dedication to something larger than all of us…they responded with a happiness and joy at being a member of such a, functional and loving, family atmosphere!
Another year rolled around for the old man last month…and now it has caught up with the first-born! Today is Aaron’s birthday! I remember how excited and proud and full of awe that MJ and I were when Aaron came into the world. A few months prior to his birth MJ and I were stranding at the front door of our little, four room house, in Elkville, Illinois….and she asked me what I thought a good name for our, soon to arrive, baby would be? I thought but for a moment…then went quick to my work, with apologies to W. Clement Moore, and proclaimed that if a boy, Aaron, and iif a girl, Abigail! You see his birth 38 years ago was before the technology of knowing what sex your baby was prior to birth…I think…nevertheless we chose not to know….but to be surprised!
Aaron came into the world with a lusty cry! I was in the delivery room! Dr. Bennett, who I have attended church with the past 21 years, was the doctor who delivered him.
I was just telling Aaron’s baby brother, Jonathon, that the first word that Aaron said was, Dida, whereupon after each utterance of the derivative of Dad…he raised his hand and, lightly slapped his bottom lip!
Aaron had a wind-up swing that he loved and MJ and I utilized it daily, and some times hourly, during his first year of life. If he was not in his swing…his mom or I were dancing with him as he lay his head on our shoulders and was lulled to sleep…until the dancing ceased!
So, now, he is a man…and has been so for many years. He is a strength to both me and his mom and is one of the most considerate people that I know!
The first comment that I heard regarding Aaron, when he entered the work-place, was that he was a hard worker! He has been a hard and dedicated worker and, for the past several years a manager of a multi-million dollar operation .
Each time I see Aaron or hear him talk…I see a lot both MJ and Me in him….and I thank
God for such a rich heritage!
Tonight we are going to enjoy dinner at a lovely restaurant in Carbondale, Keeper’s
Quarters, and tomorrow Aaron and I are going to give the new Stephen King movie…a viewing!
As I become older, as we all do, I am so grateful for Aaron and Jonathon, who are unique human beings…that were loved so much by their mom and dad!
When I was the, only, freshman in a class of junior and senior speech class…I was welcomed by the senior girls! I enjoyed speech…very much! A lovely brunette senior girl who’s last name was Uzzle, said of me that, ‘still waters run deep!’ I can make the same proclamation regarding Aaron!
I have been a member of First Presbyterian Church for the past 21 years. One of the first things that I noticed was the tremendous choir, that sang each Sunday morning. Not only was the singing melodious but the singers were made up of both young and old participants.
I remember enjoying seeing Dr. Alan Bennett and Dr. Don Darling…lifting their voice in beautiful hymns! Dr. Bennett had been MJ’s doctor and had delivered both of our sons.
Gwen King inspired me as a young woman who simply looked beatific as she sang, and she also, often, played the flute!
Within the group was John and Dorothy Baker. I had known John’s name from my early career at Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale. John was the budget person for the campus and was highly respected. I recall his, welcoming, demeanor and his speaking with me for some time after our first service at the church.
Dorothy was my mentor, a few months later, when I joined the trustees/board of the church, and she was the chair of the body. Her kindness to me and interest in my success has stayed with me for these many years!
During the past several years we have had the blessing of welcoming students from both SIUC and John A. Logan College to our choir and have received a morale lift and the spirit of youth and vitality that is so special and necessary in any church!
Carlyn Zimmerman has been our choir director for the past 12 years. Carlyn is, simply, the consummate professional. Not only does she produce a heavenly sound from her choir’s members…but she has unparalleled people skills. People sing in our choir, often, because Carlyn is the director. Her kind and engaging personality generates an excitement about church music and singing and participation in one of the oldest of music forms…singing unto the Lord!
Kathy Manfredi’s many years of music education and her virtuoso piano playing…provides edification and encouragement and hope to our congregation…and her dedication is the finest that I have witnessed!
I have had the opportunity to hear Kathy speak regarding the history of hymns and church music and the value and blessing that it brings to us…and I have learned more than I did during my music classes in both grade school and high school…and university.
So, our choir is a, necessary component of our worship service…and it is a missionary outreach to our University and Junior College neighbors!
Recently I was involved in some performance evaluations. The positive experiences for all who were engaged in the process caused me to reflect on the many, good, experiences that I participated in during my 32 year career at Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale.
It has been my belief and management philosophy, since my earliest days of supervisory duties, in 1979, that evaluations or performance reviews do not have to be a negative experience…but rather they should be not only a positive experience…but a learning experience for all involved.
Evaluations, in their purest form, are an instrument of discovery for both the supervisor and the person being reviewed.
Communication is a two way street. The annual meeting is a golden time to understand each other better!
Praise in public and proclaim the strengths of members of your staff…on the mountain top! Constructively criticize in private and never disclose the suggestions for constructive change with anyone who is not directly involved and has the need to know.
It is natural for each of us to rise to our best efforts if we receive positive input and recognition for jobs that are well done and a laser like focus on our strengths!
Needs for improvement can be and are caused by a plethora of conditions. Perhaps a person is not meeting expectations because those expectations have never been fully explained to the employee.
Often I have seen members of our staff who fail to produce quality work because they have not been trained properly or fully. A person may not have the proper tools or equipment or facilities to perform their job expectations to their fullest extent.
As a manager or administrator, you may have supervisors or managers who are under your oversight…who are not treating their staffs properly. Abusive of lackadaisical leadership produces a pandora’s box of problems with down line staff.
Many times when I witnessed a crew of full time staff who were of low morale and poor attitude and under-performance…I need look no further than their crew leader or their manager!
Also, a high performer and a person who is beloved by their colleagues and their direct reports and their leaders…still must be held responsible to a higher authority. I often used the example, at SIUC, that I was responsible to the Director of Plant and Service Operations, and the Director of PSO was responsible to the Vice Chancellor of Administration, and the Vice Chancellor was responsible to the Chancellor, and the Chancellor was responsible to the President of Southern Illinois University, and the President was responsible to the, unpaid, Board of Trustees of the University.
The best meetings that I have had the opportunity to be a part of were with my colleagues where there was a performance problem or issues that we worked on together and we, both, owned the success of the solution!
A member of my immediate staff told MJ…many years ago…that she had been in meetings with me where she thought, after she had left the meeting…’I just got my ass chewed out…and did not realize it!’
So we were in St. Louis this past Sunday and Monday. We began our Sunday morning with a Hardees breakfast biscuits, and felt strong and of good courage! Hardees is a popular fast food franchise in the United States…and they make delicious biscuits!
When we arrived at Plaza Frontenac, my favorite mall in St. Louis, MJ proceeded to shop while Jonathon and I made our way to the theatre to see, Jojo Rabbit, a new movie portraying WWII through the mind of, young Jojo, a 10 year old German boy who begins the movie fascinated with Adolf Hitler. When the movie began, I was reluctant to laugh, at first, when watching Jojo’s antics with his fantasy friend, Adolf. However, I soon realized that the movie, which is a satirical black comedy…is intended to be funny…primarily in the beginning!
Jojo discovers that his mother, played by Scarlett Johansson, was hiding a Jewish girl in their home. The dramatic arc of the movie was outstanding and it is the best flick that I have seen this year!
I could not help but notice that the weather report for St. Louis seemed to worsen by the hour. MJ had a doctor’s appointment on Monday at 1:00…and we hoped for the best weather…but feared the worst!
Plaza Frontenac has the most luxurious Christmas Trees and holiday decorations and Santa Claus…who was already sitting on his ‘listening seat!’ One of the first times that we visited the Plaza it was, again, the holiday season… and several children were sitting on the couches and chairs that are throughout the mall…and they were reading!
Monday morning began with breakfast at the hotel. I have always enjoyed biscuits and gravy. The hotel biscuits were outstanding! I went back for a second portion…as I knew that my diet did not begin…until today!
Following the bodacious biscuits, it was time to brave the gale force winds and blowing and blinding snow! I was wearing my lambswool sweater…but while getting additional petrol…I retrieved the second sweater that I had in my suitcase and quickly put it on, as well.
And, so, with time to kill, prior to the doctor’s appointment, and, more mall business to accomplish, we drove, carefully, to the West County Mall. They have a great Barnes and Nobel bookstore and Jonathon discovered the book that Jojo Rabbit was taken from. This welcome respite was enjoyable as we sipped our Noble coffees and wondered what lay ahead for us in the autumn/winter storm.
Finally, at about 2:30 we began our journey back to Carbondale, which is over 100 miles away. To our dismay, St. Louis and interstate 64 East was well plowed and drivable, although at a much reduced speed.
But…when we turned on to route #127…it was a different world! The pavement, appeared to be unplowed…and it was treacherous! I have driven on ice and snow packed roads on several occasions in my 62 years…but it has been sometime. We saw several automobiles who had slid off the road and into fields and down embankments. For significant periods of time we drove under 30 miles per hour. The thing about driving on ice and snow is that you never know…no matter how carefully you are driving, who may not be driving safely. Also, you can encounter slick spots or black-ice that no amount of careful driving can compensate for.
Thankfully, we made it home and celebrated with Pizza Hut pizza…but it was not as good as the biscuits!
Note: Jojo Rabbit photos are courtesy of Google search.
A snowy adventure from, Jonathon Brooks!
It snowed today in St. Louis and Carbondale and many other places around the midwest according to the weather report on local news. This snow would not have been a big deal if I had been in the comfort of my own home and did not have anywhere I had to be today other than my house. The snow, however, did feel like a big deal because I was in St. Louis this morning and I needed to return to Carbondale today.
Do you recall how exciting snow was when you were a child? I certainly do! Snow lead to snowball fights or perhaps sledding or a day off of school or hot chocolate or something else equally wonderful and glorious. Today I did not feel like snow equalled anything glorious or wonderful. No, on this day, the snow was an obstacle from St. Louis to Carbondale.
I am exceedingly…
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‘Start by doing 1 push up.
Start by drinking 1 cup of water.
Start by paying toward 1 debt. Start by reading 1 page. Start by making 1 sale. Start by deleting 1 contact. Start by walking 1 lap. Start by attending 1 event. Start by writing 1 paragraph.
Repeat tomorrow.’ Mindful Christianity Today
As the actress, Vivian Leigh, said as her, iconic character, Scarlett O’Hara in the 1939 movie, Gone With The Wind, ‘Tomorrow is another day!’
‘Today is the tomorrow that you worried about yesterday!’ Dale Carnegie
Tomorrow is always full of possibilities! The future has the keys to the city of our success… that we can not seem to locate…today. Within our heads are the, self-made chains of; ‘I can not do it…I have always been heavy or fat or fleshy….I will write soon…I will read a book this year….or you can place any new habit in the blank of, ‘I will begin——————-….tomorrow!
Of course, none of us know if tomorrow is going to dawn for us? The new year of 2020 will arrive in less than two months. We know that the new year will produce newness in us! When in reality the forming of any habit is incremental.
Studies have shown that lack of loosing weight is head problem and not a belly issue! The inability to work towards goals that we have set…has to start with a first step.
One of my colleagues asked me, many years ago, how I had been able to work so many years at SIUC. I replied…one day at a time.
If you want to write the great American novel…you have to write the first word….
So many tasks in life can seem overwhelming. When you examine the enormity of the planed finished product…you feel like throwing your hands up in despair!
When I have visited Europe and admired the majestic churches and castles that are plentiful across the continent…I reflect on how long it must have taken to build them! The builders of these marvelous edifices dedicated years of their lives to the completion of one structure.
Success in life is much more than financial success! Money is not the measure…or God’s ruler…to determine those who have reached the pinnacle of achievement. Millions of poor faithful christians that have lived and died possessing little of this worlds goods….it is crystal clear that heaven is not based upon capitalism.
Success is following your dreams and listening to what your soul tells you is you calling. Then acting upon that knowledge, one day at a time, and overcoming the negative thoughts and walls and blockades that you have set up in your mind. Much of achieving what you know you have the ability to accomplish is the systematic working toward those goals and the ability to defer, immediate, pleasure, for later reward!
Winston Churchill became England’s Prime Minister, for the first time, when he was 65 years old. Rather than say that he was to old he accepted the Herculean challenge of his life in leading the United Kingdom against Hitler’s War Machine. Upon his second installment as Prime Minister…he was 77 years old.
One of my fellow classmates told me, when we were in high school, that she believed that I would be a leader of many people….one day. I was a bit like the Biblical Sara when God told her that she was going to bear a son…and she was in her nineties…and she laughed.
My first pastor told me that he had a dream where I was a supervisor of a large group of people that included some of my fellow congregants. At that time, as the saying goes., ‘I did not have a pot to piss in…or a window to throw it out of!’
When I became a Building Service Worker I at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale on October 10, 1978…soon thereafter MJ told me that God had told her that I, would one day be the Superintendent of Building Services, and I thought, oh my…I would be happy to achieve the promotion of, Building Custodian, which was a housekeeping crew leader!
Whey not give God the opportunity to help you achieve your dreams…one day at a time?
I am living right in the middle of my favorite time of the year! September and October have passed, like a thief in the night, and November is well under way. It is 48 degrees…but it feels like 46, and a steady rain is coming down. I am one of those peculiar folks who enjoy rain and cool, or chilly weather, and the long nights of autumn and winter. As Jonathon said, the other day, that I was the only person that he knew that liked it getting dark so early! I have surrendered that I am a creature of the night.
I blame my love of the dark and the night on my having worked at Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale on either the second or third shifts for almost 20 years. I became accustomed to the soothing flow of less people and the quiet of the night.
Rain is a panacea for me. The rhythmic sound of the drops striking the window pane are musical. The quieting of nature and the settling down of the earth for its winter’s rest is a needed respite to the hustle and bustle of life.
However, rain and long nights and cold temperatures affect many of us in an adverse fashion. ‘Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a mood disorder subset in which people who have normal mental health throughout most of the year exhibit depressive symptoms at the same time each year, most commonly in winter. Common symptoms include sleeping too much, having little to no energy, and overeating.’ Wikipedia
Life brings us metaphorical, fall rains…as well. Disappointments come to us all…and at times it seems that they come much too often. It has always seemed to me that employers, and often large ones, seem to lay off employees in conjunction with the holidays. At the time of year that both the media and our friends and neighbors tell us should be, ‘the most wonderful time of the year.’…often sadness is our companion. Challenges range from, health issues…to the loss of a loved one…to financial and employment reversals. It is alright to feel sad…sadness is a normal emotion. It is perfectly appropriate to ask when you’re, big break, is going to arrive. It is therapeutic to talk to your missing loved one…and tell them how much you loved them and miss them during the holiday season.
One size does not fit all. Men need to cry just like women.
Eeyore the donkey in the story of Winnie the Pooh was clinically depressed…but Winnie and Tigger and the rest of the gang…never left him out of their festivities in The Hundred Acre Wood…they loved Eeyore…for himself! He was their friend.
Note: Photos of Eeyore are courtesy of Google Search.