Archive for May, 2017

Some words to live by

Several years ago, I was invited to speak to some graduating high school seniors. What follows is a synopsis of my advice. (Spoiler alert: I haven’t been invited back.)

You’ve been told you can do anything. You can’t; humans have limitations. Work your tail off discovering the few things you do well that you also enjoy. Master those.

Some academic degrees boast that they are so broad you can do anything with them. In reality, they are so general that you can’t do anything with them. Specialize.

Don’t stall out trying to find exactly the right school, major, job or mate. There are many right ways to maneuver through life and only a few wrong ones. Keep moving. Like a car, life’s easier to steer when you’re rolling.

Create more than you consume. People who create are more valuable to employers than people who don’t. In other words, you’ll get paid more.

Practice voice to voice and face to face communication. Consequential business will always happen through them.

Be present. Try leaving your phone in the car.

Build relationships with people in other age brackets. The world is changing; human nature is not. Older friends have wisdom that will help you navigate both.

Budget while you have a little, and it will be easier to budget when you have a lot. You’ll never have a lot unless you budget.

Time, not money or geography, is the limiting factor of our age. Treat it as your most valuable asset.

Don’t over-schedule. Notice the rhythms of the earth. An omniscient God created days, seasons and years. Fallible humans created hours, minutes and seconds.

Learn to say no. Responsible people will always be in demand. Don’t be afraid to forego an opportunity if it takes you off your focus.

The people you spend time with will help shape who you become. Choose wisely. Screen carefully.

The music you listen to will also help shape who you become. Don’t assume the “artist” on the other end has a good plan for your life.

When in doubt, end the relationship. If it’s meant to be, it will come back around – on your terms.

Immature people will want you to be responsible for them. Don’t give in. It will make you miserable. With mature people, give and forgive. It will make you happy.

Sex is not for entertainment. Don’t expect to give yourself physically to a slew of partners and get a committed, satisfying marriage in return.

Don’t worry about what people think about you. They aren’t thinking about you; they are mainly thinking about themselves.

You were born into a situation you did not choose. You are not responsible for that situation or what happened to you as a child. You are responsible for how you respond as an adult.

You are not alone, nor will you ever be. The One who made you loves you. Draw near to him and he will draw near to you.

In the end, your life will be judged by how you relate. To God, your family, your friends, your enemies, yourself. Relate well and you will live well.
Kevin Thompson can be reached at kevin@kwt.info.

Another university tail wagging its dog

 

Stories of college students’ imposing their wills and views on administrations and faculties are running rampant. Often in the name of social justice or some other liberal term of art, student groups flex their muscles and find little resistance from adults in the room.

One more episode of a higher education tail wagging the dog came out of Texas last week. The setting for this most recent installment was the 9,200-student Texas Southern University, a historically black institution in Houston.

Texas Southern students co-opted the school’s spring commencement exercises when an invited speaker was perceived to have unappealing views on the Trump Administration, voter identification laws and so-called sanctuary cities.

The university’s core values of “inclusiveness” and “fairness” must only extend so far.

The invited speaker was the senior United States Senator from the second largest state in the nation, Texas. The three-term senator also serves as the second-in-command Majority Whip of the U.S. Senate. He is currently in the running to head the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

John Cornyn knows a thing or two about fairness. As a Texas Supreme Court Justice from 1990 – 1997 and as Texas Attorney General prior to being elected to the U.S. Senate, Cornyn decided and pleaded hundreds of cases based on the fair application of law.

Plus, the steady-as-a-rock lifelong public servant knows a thing or two about service, leadership and succeeding in life.

Nevertheless, in all their twenty-something years of wisdom, the Texas Southern students decided Mr. Cornyn offered them nothing of value: no word of advice, no tip for the future, not even a healthy exchange of opposing ideas.

Remarkably, the students pushed their administration to rescind Cornyn’s invitation. Noteworthy, the students left invitations to Democrat Congressmen Sheila Jackson Lee and Al Green untouched.

As myopic as the students’ behavior was, the most tragic part of the story is this: there was no wise man or woman to hold the ground in the name of civil discourse or even historical significance.

“Every consideration is made to ensure that our students’ graduation day is a celebratory occasion and one they will remember positively for years to come,” the administration said in a statement.

In other words, students will receive their trophies in untainted homogeny.

Cornyn, a man of grace, graciously bowed out, though he must have wondered how many more collective forests we will miss in the face of stubborn ideological trees.

Contrast the Texas Southern story with that from another historically black university, Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, Florida.

Its president, Edison Jackson, invited United States Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to speak at the school’s spring graduation. He then defended her right to express her ideas in the face of student jeering and turned backs.

DeVos has devoted much of her life to helping inner city children escape the burning houses of failing urban schools. President Jackson appreciates her achievements even if many of his young graduates do not.

The regents of Texas Southern University should seek out a leader of Jackson’s stature if the school wants to be taken seriously as a crucible where groundbreaking ideas form.

Otherwise, it will flop in the winds of popular positions held by people long on passion but short on perspective.

 

Follow Kevin Thompson at www.kwt.info.

A Tribute to Moms

 

For all the motivational experts and the purveyors of inspiration, moms have the original fire in the belly. They are the original incubators, creating a safe place for new life.

For all the entrepreneurs and startup junkies, for all the adventure sport fanatics, for all the seventh grade boys looking for their first date to the dance, moms are the world’s biggest risk takers.

They give of themselves, literally and figuratively, in the face of endless potential harms. They bring life into a world fraught with death. They nurture that life until it can stand on its own, with no guarantee that it will, in fact, stand.

Motherhood is a purely remarkable feat, wherever it may be found. May it be forever honored, first by fathers, then by others. Without it, the world simply does not go on.

When I think of Mom, I think of soft hands and back scratches. I once so loved her touch that I dreamed of inventing an automatic back scratcher – complete with her nails and her perfect pressure – for when life would take me beyond her reach but not beyond the need for comfort.

I think of macaroni and cheese and Smiley Stew, i.e., ground beef and beans I refused to eat before a creative re-branding. I think of leftovers and a microwave. Better a meal of vegetables where there is love than a fattened calf with hatred, the Proverbs say.

I think of Easy Listening 92.9 FM. The music soothed Mom’s stress amidst bumper-to-bumper traffic. It gave me a headache.

I think of Extra sugar-free gum and white Tic Tacs, the ones that tasted real good for a minute and then quickly turned into menthol overkill.

I think of the dread of Sunday nights and her preparing kindergarten lesson plans for a principal’s review. I get it. Just how many ways can you say, “This week we are studying the color purple?”

I think of a canoe trip down the Buffalo River and her clamoring for our family’s canoe not to capsize. She couldn’t swim, and she couldn’t get her perm wet. Ours was the only boat that stayed upright.

I think of swimming lessons and the way she walked backward to give me more practice even when I begged her not to. She knew what was best for me.

I think of Perry Como vinyls and an Amy Grant concert.

I think of her sitting next to my bed on nights I was scared or sick. I think of the hum of the humidifier and amoxicillin’s aftertaste.

I think of the time she called the city fire department to our rural property one snow day.

She had smelled the neighbor’s fireplace, saw steam rising from my father’s workshop and felt warmth on the shop’s dark red door. (It was in the sun.) She wanted to keep us safe.

The late Rich Mullins’ music career and free spirit took him far and wide but never outside the reach of a mother’s love:

“I’ll carry the songs I learned when we were kids. I’ll carry the scars of generations gone by. I’ll pray for you always, and I’ll promise you this: I’ll carry on, I’ll carry on.”

 

Follow Kevin Thompson at www.kwt.info.

Putting the coach in coach pitch

 

After three years of coaching “kid pitch” Little League baseball, I’ve been sent down to the minors. For the first time in a while, I’m coaching a “coach pitch” team again this spring.

At the season’s start I wondered if the coach pitch coaches would be less wound up, no pun intended. Nope. Some of them might as well wear stirrups. To them, there’s a reason “coach” comes first in “coach pitch.”

“I’m just trying to teach these kids error-free baseball,” one of them told me last week. Wrong league, sir. Barring a birth certificate scam, you have all six and seven year olds just like the rest of us.

“We haven’t had one clean inning. I want a clean inning!” another coach told his crew before a final inning in the field. They subsequently made about five errors and gave up three runs and the lead.

Somewhere along the way, many coaches – and parents, for that matter – have forgotten that we learn the most when we succeed the least.

Certain coaches are too smart to say it, but their driven-ness clearly communicates that winning is everything. It’s as if their egos and their legacies are on the line.

So, they stretch base running rules beyond what’s reasonable; games look more like track than baseball. They banish ballplayers to the bench or the outfield, never letting them see the light of infield day.

They forget – or never learned – that the real objectives are fun and character formation. Baseball is still a game, though for some kids, it feels like a job.

That’s why some kids are bucking the trend. They’re hanging up the cleats and picking up the clubs…at age eleven. Like a corporate manager nearing retirement, these kids have had enough of the intensity. They’re hitting the links to relax.

Of course, not all coaches are over the top. Many keep things in perspective.

A retired Little League coach suggested this strategy: “I used to tell my parents at the start of the season, ‘Please remember that out of all the kids on our team, only one will play high school baseball.’”

“Did you mean only one will play professional baseball or in the Major League All-Star Game?” I asked, to help prove the point.

“No, I meant high school,” he reiterated.

And that’s what’s so spellbinding about the state of modern youth sports. It’s like we’ve shelved old-fashioned statistics beside the old wooden bats. Or maybe we know the odds. We just think our progeny can beat them. Hubris is hereditary, after all.

Ironically, upper level coaches like Jason Marshall at the University of Texas at San Antonio will tell you the cream rises to the top regardless of a coach’s zealotry or a parent’s pressure.

We can cure for the obnoxiousness that taints the nation’s pastime at the lowest levels. The Little League pledge, penned in 1954, is a good place to start:

“I trust in God / I love my country and will respect its laws / I will play fair and strive to win / But win or lose I will always do my best.”


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