Archive for October, 2013

My friends are getting old

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Someone has played a mean trick on me. He or she has signed me up for a 40th birthday party mailing list. I never asked to be on this list. And yet, the invitations keep pouring in.

Age forty is a special time, I suppose. When hair changes color or density. When bodies contort in ways that resemble Sesame Street numbers or letters or characters. It’s the time when one’s children have an epiphany:

“I thought my Dad was a professional athlete, a traveling musician, a stunt man. He is actually a salesman, a manager, a report generator.”

Friends and family gather ‘round during this transition to mourn the loss of coolness. They recount stories of collegiate feats and youthful pursuits. They tell tales of times before gravity fully descended, when metabolisms ran day and night, when “cholesterol” came up in health class, not in Golf Channel commercials.

For the record, I’m nowhere near forty. I have just always been mature for my age. So, my friends have always been several years, if not decades, older than I.

This makes the mailing list practical joke all the more problematic. While some are barreling toward middle age, I am just now gliding into my prime.

While others are falling asleep in movies and developing a taste for olives, I am dominating my son’s pee-wee football practice. Never has a meaner man held a blocking dummy (until he felt something snap in his right knee last week).

While the forty-year-olds are getting their ear hairs and eyebrows trimmed, I’m appearing in advertisements for Gent Hair Salon. (At least I will be soon; I’m certain my offer got sucked into an e-mail spam folder.)

Their primary care doctors are asking them to eat four-fifths of the serving sizes they used to eat. Mine will soon ask me to speak at his annual health clinic.

Growing old gracefully is a great challenge of our time. I have friends foregoing red meat, then all meat, then dairy, then gluten. I’m not exactly clear what gluten is, but I am confident I am already avoiding it. How else would I be invited to speak at that soon-to-be-scheduled health clinic?

Denial is another great challenge of our time. Men attempt to stiff arm Father Time and Rogaine their strength. Women think outside the Botox for natural ways to resist wrinkles.

It’s easy to forget the surest ways to attractiveness at forty, fifty and beyond: joy in one’s heart and character in one’s bones. There’s simply no powder, cream, foam or silicone shortcut to these things.

And I’m really not sure which comes first: the joy and the character or the good decisions that lead to them. Regardless, they inspire an attractiveness that affects, and yet surpasses, physical appearance.

Thankfully, I have many years left to cultivate them before I summit the hill. In the meantime, I guess I’ll continue to attend the 40th birthday parties. My friends need a reminder of what they used to be.


Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star. Follow him at http://www.kwt.info.

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When the music stars aligned

My folks were slated to be in town from Nashville for their semi-annual visit. So my better half secured us tickets for a concert at St. Peter’s Catholic Church. Yes, a Christian concert at a Catholic church – more on that in a moment. 

Then, my wife’s singing/songwriting sister, also a Music City resident, scored us tix for another show at Sam’s Burger Joint in San Antonio. This was shaping up to be a once-in-two-decades-of-childrearing musical weekend.

Don’t judge Sam’s Burger Joint by its name, or its burgers, for that matter. Its comfortable concert hall is a mature, kempt live music venue. 

I’m sure the place devolves into a mosh pit at times. According to Sam’s Web site, the band playing the next night is known for “seething rage and a bruised vulnerability,” two items not currently on my Christmas list.

But on this night, Lori McKenna, a Boston-based singer/songwriter, hung me on nearly every word she sang. McKenna’s thoughtful lyrics and un-bruised vulnerability surprised me. For instance:

“Time does not waste itself / A dream can not wake itself / The truth can not disgrace itself / An unwritten prayer can not save a lost soul // Arms can not embrace themselves / A heart can not break itself / And I can not shake myself from you” 

And this:

“You left a Hallmark card that morning on my bureau / You didn’t know what to write / 
So you just signed your name // That boy that I loved may not have been my hero / But the same is not true / Of the man he became”

Usually, I only enjoy a concert (or church, for that matter) if I have heard the songs before. Not this time. McKenna’s faithfully executed talent turned over a new leaf for me.

Concert #2 featured an evangelical worship leader playing guitar in a Catholic cathedral. To quote another of McKenna’s song titles,  “How romantic is that?” Not very, I suppose, to some veteran members of the “universal church.” St. Peter may have even done a double-take from the pearly gates.

Personally, I’m elated by the evangelical Catholics I’ve encountered in recent years. They’re quoting Scripture, sometimes in English (ha!). They’re reaching out to the community with fun runs and carnival games. This concert was one such effort of these “Charismatholics.” (That’s original fusion, BTW.) 

As I see it, we need to unite for the war against the evil that spirals our culture downward. So I had no problem rocking out with worship leader Phil Wickham, Catholics and Protestants alike. (Note: my definition of “rocking out” is standing up for one-half of a concert.)

Wickham has the vocal talent of Josh Groban and the bravadic passion of Bono. His sweeping anthems gave me hope that if heaven is an eternal church service in the sky (which I don’t believe it is), I will make it through. 

I wish I could tether the deep lyrics of a Lori McKenna with all the worshipping hearts that populate the Christian music scene. I can understand why some churchgoers tire of the karaoke-like repetition of certain modern worship songs. I do miss Rich Mullins. 

Willie Nelson is still with us. I plan to see him soon at Floore’s Country Store. I’ll let you know how it goes.

 

Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. Follow him at http://www.kwt.info.

Help kids reject high-tech lies

ImageWhat are kids learning from the high-tech world they’re growing up in? Lots of fascinating stuff, of course. But child development guru Dr. Kathy Koch (www.celebratekids.com) has also identified lies or “misbeliefs” that Generation Y (aka the Millennials) are absorbing.

Unless these lies are gently refuted by wise and discerning adults, children are in for a long, hard journey. Tragically, the slog is sometimes cut short. According to Dr. Koch, suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death among 11-19 year olds. We must help kids re-interpret these false messages:

Misbelief #1: “The world revolves around me.” We’re all susceptible to this lie, but young people are particularly vulnerable. Everywhere they look, from targeted TV advertising, to customized banner ads, to personalized gear and accessories, it’s all about them. They desperately need a Galileo moment.

Misbelief #2: “I deserve to be happy all the time.” With movies and games that follow them from setting to setting and device to device, kids approach unhappiness like a global injustice. But they don’t need happiness. They need joy and contentment. Here’s the simple truth: What you’re in will bring you short-term happiness; what’s in you will bring you long-term joy.

Misbelief #3: “I must have choices.” No, you don’t, little one. You can adapt to what we’re doing. But tired parents (e.g., this author) often find it easier to give choices and make compromises to avoid fights. Many twenty-somethings are living at home because they can’t make big decisions that would limit their choices.

“You don’t have to turn ground beef into tacos, hamburgers and meat loaf,” Dr. Koch says. “Make meat loaf and let them go to bed hungry if they choose! Life doesn’t come with drop-down menus.”

Misbelief #4: “I need what I want when I want it.” Endless information and constant communication make the lust for instant gratification stronger. Kids are impatient, argumentative and demanding. It’s not necessarily their fault; it’s their culture. We need to teach the difference between needs and wants.

Misbelief #5: “Everything should be easy for me and I should always win.” The “participation trophy” generation has trouble (a) working hard to win and (b) losing graciously. There’s always been a manual for how to beat the video game. You get to “play again” until you succeed. Not in real life. Weak work ethic plus strong entitlement equals difficulty in life and relationships.

Misbelief #6: “Boredom is my enemy so I must multitask.” Dr. Koch says we’re “not so much multi-tasking as semi-tasking.” If kids are constantly entertained away from boredom, they’ll never discover what really lights their fire. Boredom sparks interest. An engaging parent can then fan the flame of passion.

Misbelief #7: “My friends determine who I am and who I will be.” Pleasing people online is so tempting because feedback is instant and widespread. “Friends” like or not like, thumbs up or thumbs down, tweet positively or negatively as soon as you say or do anything.

Therefore, young people will often say things polar opposite from what they said a short time before. Who they are is very much dependent on who they’re with. Dr. Koch calls this dangerous tendency “liquid identity.”

Misbelief #8: “Self-evaluation is unnecessary. Others will tell me how I’m doing.” Immediate and objective feedback from authoritative sources can be a powerful tool for growth. A teenager’s Facebook feedback may be instant, but it’s rarely objective or authoritative.

If we help kids review their own work and behavior objectively, then they can catch their own mistakes before major consequences arise. They won’t flap in the winds of socially mediated whims.

Misbelief #9: “I can solve most problems by ‘rebooting.’” My 10-year-old did this recently when he couldn’t get a DVD player to work. Whenever I make a physical (vs. digital) mistake, I’ll subconsciously reach for the “undo” key in my mind before I realize no such button exists.

Teens and twenty-somethings change jobs, romances, locales and lifestyles more often than previous generations. They are trying to auto-correct and Photo-shop life. Life doesn’t work that way. Behaviors have real consequences.

Misbelief #10: “I am my own teacher because I can find the information I need.” Young people feel powerful because of the data at their fingertips. They perceive non-techie parents and grandparents as clueless and out of touch.

But there is a difference between knowledge and wisdom, between information and understanding. Older generations shouldn’t abdicate their authority to train and guide younger generations, no matter how much data the whippersnappers may have.

***

More generations are alive today than ever before. Older generations have friendships, business relationships and marriages based on a commonality of beliefs. They have “belief-based relationships.”

Millennials have “relationship-based beliefs.” They believe things based on the people they’re around. That’s why they feel no dissonance about having one opinion around one group and another opinion around a different group.

This doesn’t mean they don’t have values. The Internet has shown them how broken the world is. They desperately want to improve it. They are innovative, entrepreneurial and creative in their approaches. Dr. Koch says if we help them discern their passion, if we give them a purpose, they will live through the heartache they see in the world around them.

Specifically, how do we enter into relationship with them? Dr. Koch recommends two simple steps: Have (1) digital-free days and (2) digital-free zones (e.g., the car). Kids will enter them kicking and screaming, but they will emerge thrilled by how exciting checkers can be with a parent of undivided attention.

 

Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. He can be reached at kevin@kwt.info.


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