Archive for the 'Inspirational' Category

In search of forever families

Happy family heaving fun in the park.November is many things. A time to celebrate veterans. A time to give thanks. A time to parse the difference between a yam and a sweet potato.

It’s also a time to remember children who need a forever family.

November is National Adoption Month. Special thanks to Nineteen Ten Church’s Jason Brown for the reminder.

The initiative’s roots date back to 1976 when Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis, a Democrat, announced an adoption week to recruit families for his state’s foster children.

In 1984, Republican President Ronald Reagan proclaimed the first national adoption week. About a decade later, Democrat President Bill Clinton expanded the campaign from a week to a full month.

Caring for orphans is rightly a national, bi-partisan concern. As President Trump stated in his 2019 proclamation of National Adoption Month, “…every child — born and unborn — is uniquely gifted by their Creator and endowed with both potential and immeasurable value.”

We should do everything we can for the children in need of a family, and for the families who take them in. It’s the highest of callings.

“Our son has ADD, PTSD and a bunch of other acronyms,” an adoptive father of an eleven-year-old told me last week. “He experienced every kind of abuse you can think of: physical, verbal, sexual, even neglect and starvation.”

The young man has been with his forever family for about five years. Progress is slow, but he is making headway.

“You can’t deal with adopted children, particularly those who have been through trauma, as you would your biological children,” the father continued. “They’re angry. They think you’re going to throw them away anyway, so they try to get rid of you on their terms. They want control.”

Adoptive parents know the struggles: tantrums, meltdowns, manipulation, threats, violence.

“Our son threw scissors at his teacher and flipped over desks,” the father remembered. “He’s a very smart kid, but he’s still often in trouble.”

Another forever dad honestly described how his adopted son has disrupted their family system:

“We don’t want to reward his bad behavior by taking him places, but we don’t want our other kids to miss out. When we do take him, even if he’s not acting up, he’s constantly interrupting.”

There are no easy answers. There is only perseverance.

The 2018 film “Instant Family” portrays some of the challenges of adoption. It will make you laugh and cry. If you haven’t seen it, watch it with your family over Thanksgiving.

President Trump’s adoption month proclamation pays respect to families who have taken the plunge:

“We recognize the loving and devoted individuals who are part of God’s plan for every child by taking on the role of a parent through adoption. We celebrate the beautiful families created through the generous act of adoption.”

I think about these special families whenever I meet a contributing member of society who tells me he or she was adopted.

Nineteen Ten’s Pastor Brown noted that if just one family from every church in Texas adopted a child, all kids in Texas’ foster care system would be home for good. One family per church doesn’t seem like a lot.

Perhaps that stat would make a good topic of conversation at Thanksgiving dinner, once the sweet potato / yam question is resolved.

 

Kevin Thompson writes regularly for The Boerne Star. Read more at http://www.kwt.info.

Hitting the quotation mark

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Graphic credit: Drew Beamer

I have long been a sucker for quotable quotes. I can’t often remember stories, jokes or movie scenes, but a good quote jumps off the page at me.

As a high school sophomore, I started writing daily inspirational quotes on the white board of my basketball locker room.

My teammates likely thought I was outside my lane; I was just a scrawny bench warmer. But my coach didn’t seem to mind, and for good reason.

Coach was a Pennsylvania native who had come to Nashville to write country music lyrics. When that dream didn’t pan, he became an English department chair.

You read that right. A head varsity basketball coach who served as the English department chair of a 1,500-student high school. He was probably the only one in the country.

In English class Coach introduced us to his favorite quotes, like Booker T. Washington’s, “I shall allow no man to belittle my soul by making me hate him.”

He also had quotes on our locker room walls:

“Nothing great has ever been achieved except by those who dared to believe that something inside them was superior to circumstances.”

And the sign we slapped when we exited the locker room, “Those who work the hardest are the last to surrender.”

I drew many of my white board lines from a motivational book for young athletes that my mother gave me. The sayings weren’t complicated, but they were helpful, such as “Remember when you were at your best. Now get there again!”

I likely inherited my love of one-liners from Mom. Her walls are full of them:

“Worry is the advance price you pay for troubles that may never come.”

“I asked God for all things that I might enjoy life. He gave me life that I might enjoy all things.”

The quotes of historical figures are never far from my consciousness.

Margaret Thatcher: “Being in power is a lot like being a woman. If you have to tell people you are, you aren’t.”

Mark Twain: “When I was fourteen, my old man was so stupid I could hardly stand to be around him. When I turned twenty-one, I was amazed at how much the old man had learned in just seven short years.”

Vince Lombardi: “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.”

I’m constantly on the lookout for new fodder, like this line lifted from my friend Steve Garrison’s email signature: “Think like a man of action; act like a man of thought.” Here are some other new discoveries:

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the ax.” – Abraham Lincoln

“You can’t think your way into new ways of living. You must live your way into new ways of thinking.” – Richard Rohr

“Start by doing what is necessary, then what is possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” – St. Francis of Assisi

And, finally, a great word for parents of small children on the power of trajectory: “If you’re an inch off on landing, no big deal. If you’re an inch off on takeoff, you miss the moon by a million miles.” – Neil Armstrong

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

Things Kids Can’t Do

Kids – at least my kids – just can’t seem to do certain things.

They can’t turn off a flashlight before setting it down. They can’t put their shoes in the same place twice. And they can’t forget even the slightest promise I make.

“But you said!” they remind me.

This time of year, I’m reminded of another thing kids can’t do: they can’t not believe.

Since the world is bigger than they, kids assume there’s a world beyond them. Hence, the magic of Christmas.

A few years ago, we introduced our gang to The Elf on the Shelf. It was actually the Spanish version, Una Tradición Navideña. Bed, Bath & Beyond was out of the English version. The language barrier wasn’t a problem. The kids got the point.

For those farther behind than I, “The Elf on the Shelf” is a book that came out in 2005. It comes with an accompanying elf doll. Once you read the book, the elf appears in a different corner of the house each day to help Santa keep an eye on things.

Technically-speaking, the elf flies to the North Pole each night and returns to a different place in the house the following morning. It’s fun to explore the house looking for where it landed.

Our elf is a female named Valeria. She has shown up in glass cabinets, on ledges, in stockings and on Christmas tree branches. Once, she appeared on a ceiling fan blade that got accidentally turned on.

We carefully wrapped the fallen elf in a towel and repositioned her in a stable place at a lower elevation.

You’re not supposed to touch Valeria. If you do, The Elf on the Shelf web site gives recommendations to help your elf get its magic back: write an apology, sprinkle cinnamon or sing a carol with your family.

The web site also explains what might have happened if your elf returns from its overnight trip to the North Pole and lands in the same place it landed the day before:

  1. It’s the elf’s favorite spot.
  2. The spot has a great view.
  3. The elf is preparing for a really special surprise the next day.
  4. The elf ate too many cookies at the North Pole and was too tired to move.
  5. The elf did move – work on your observation skills!

The web site makes no mention of a correlation to a parent’s exhaustion level.

No matter the peculiarity of Valeria’s movements, or lack thereof, my kids are still convinced of her magical powers. I can’t make them not believe any more than a grungy mall Santa can make them not believe.

This phrase captures a child’s resilience to doubt, “All things are possible for him who believes.”

In hearing the Christmas story again this year, I was struck by another angle of the impossible made possible.

There were actually two miraculous births: Jesus, born to a virgin, and John, born to a barren woman.

Whether we’re before our prime and scared, or past our prime and sad, the message is the same: God is in the impossible. Believe!

 

Kevin Thompson writes frequently for The Boerne Star. Read his other Christmas columns at www.kevinwt.com/christmas.

Veterans Day 2018: Military stars shine brightest

“We are privileged to serve,” Texas Air National Guardsman Lt. Col. Ben Schill told me last week. “It’s our calling, our solemn duty.”

He continued, “We don’t need people’s gratitude, but a sincere ‘thanks’ goes a long way, just like in friendship or in leadership. The American people can’t pay us back, but we can’t pay them back for their support either.”

Lt. Col. Schill, known to fellow pilots by his call sign, “Showdown,” has flown F-16 fighter jets for sixteen years, twelve of those in the U.S. Air Force. Duty has called him to Germany, Korea and Iraq.

Today, the Boerne, Texas, resident trains a new generation of fighter pilots at Lackland Air Force Base. He also still flies missions of his own.

Schill recently returned from Afghanistan where he flew roughly fifty “close air” missions supporting American and Afghan ground troops. His time overseas provided clarity on the U.S. military’s role in the world.

“Our power is overwhelming to our enemies,” Schill explained. “We are extremely good at fighting and winning. We have a heritage of skill and expertise that extends back to the World Wars.”

“But we also have a conscience,” he asserted. “The men and women of the U.S. military are volunteers from the citizenry of our country. We have a somber approach to taking life. We don’t take unnecessary life. We don’t cause unnecessary suffering.”

Like a sharp scalpel in the hands of a skilled surgeon, U.S. Armed Forces excise threats to human life and rights worldwide.

“The meritocracy, the ingenuity and the capability of our military make the United States a tremendous force for good,” Schill stated. “The power of our dollar and the power of our military have brought more prosperity and security than any other forces in history.”

“It sounds jingoistic, but it’s absolutely true.”

I had to look up “jingoistic.” Schill’s Air Force Academy education had left me in some etymological dust. It means “characterized by extreme patriotism.”

You could certainly use the term to describe Schill, a Pennsylvania native, but his devotion isn’t naïve. It’s rooted in an “eyes wide open” view of our times.

“We are fighting an Islamo-fascist ideology that wants to destroy and subjugate faith, freedom and open society. It’s a scourge that devalues human life, particularly the lives of the defenseless, the vulnerable.

“Today’s terrorist leaders are extremely perverse. They’re only interested in power and using people for their own gain. If we pull back, the weak will suffer more.”

Schill pointed me to a timely line by twentieth century English writer G.K. Chesterton: “Men are never more awake to the good in the world than when they are furiously awake to the evil in the world.”

“We live in a miracle called the United States,” Schill believes. “When you witness evil like what continues to transpire in parts of Afghanistan, you realize what good is.”

Under the capable leadership of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, the U.S. military is arguably the brightest light atop this shining city upon a hill. (For more on Secretary Mattis, click here.)

Veterans and service personnel like Lt. Col Schill have made it so. They don’t need our thanks this Veterans Day, but it would go a long way if they got it.

 

Kevin Thompson writes a regular opinion column in The Boerne Star. Follow him at http://www.kwt.info.

 

Bucket List Includes Rock & Roll Show

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I admit I don’t have much of a bucket list, besides keeping the floors mopped until the kid spills decrease.

And while I was born in Music City the week Elvis died, I don’t consume a lot of new music. My older sons laugh at how few artists are in my repertoire.

And I definitely don’t think of myself as a rocker, unless it’s on the front porch.

Still, I consider one band iconic. While the group is labeled a rock band, its work cuts across genres and decades. With its latest release, the four-man act has had a Billboard chart-topping album in each of the last four decades.

My wife was a fan long before I. So, she wasn’t a tough sell when I asked her to rendezvous with…drumroll, please…U2. “I was going With or Without You,” she said.

U2’s sweeping anthems have captured generations of music lovers. The songs land the band on Super Bowl halftime shows and outsized music festivals. Think “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” and “Where the Streets Have No Name.”

U2’s current tour is called eXPERIENCE & iNNOCENCE. At the concert, we didn’t hear all the classics. We did experience the heart and soul of U2’s vision and its mastery of technology and artistry.

While U2 scales every rhythm and melody to entertain at the highest levels, its lyrics are what draw me in, particularly the Biblical allusions. Lead singer Paul David Hewson (a.k.a. “Bono”) pens them.

“See the bird with a leaf in her mouth, after the flood all the colors came out” (from Beautiful Day)

“You broke the bonds, and you loosened chains, carried the cross of my shame” (from I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For)

Historical references reflect how much attention these guys pay to the world around them. They are always on a mission and are deeply affected by human suffering.

“Sometimes, I wake at four in the morning when all the darkness is swarming, and it covers me in fear…Sometimes, I’m full of anger and grieving, so far away from believing that any song will reappear” (from The Little Things That Give You Away)

Bono’s honesty keeps U2 rolling, real and relevant. He connects grief and terror from his youth with events of today. The death of his mother and the 1972 shootings in Northern Ireland impacted his young innocence.

And now, through experience, Bono entreats Americans to restore the American soul. There’s even a song by that name.

On the new album, he writes, “The slaves are lookin’ for someone to lead them, the master’s lookin’ for someone to need him, the promised land is there for those who need it most, and Lincoln’s ghost said, ‘Get out of your own way.’”

“Free yourself to be yourself,” he encourages in the song, Lights of Home.

“I want to be useful,” Bono said recently in an interview with Rolling Stone. “That is our family prayer… It is not the most grandiose prayer. It is just, ‘we are available for work.’ That is U2’s prayer. We want to be useful, but we want to change the world. And we want to have fun at the same time.”

While making good music, Bono and company appear to be keeping the faith, just not to themselves.

 

Kevin Thompson can be reached at kevin@kwt.info.

Don’t put off reading this!

If you’re reading this, you’ll know I relapsed. I’m likely on a first name basis at a meeting of Procrastinators Anonymous.

This is the chapter my editor keeps on file for when I wait to the last minute and then that minute gets interrupted by a case of pinkeye.

Or maybe I just couldn’t resist checking my bank account and sports scores and online garage sales. Maybe I needed just the right cup of coffee to get started, but the Keurig spit out only grinds. Whatever the reason(s), I procrastinated.

Procrastination occupies the punch line of plenty of jokes and quips.

“Procrastinators are the leaders of tomorrow.”

“Never put off to tomorrow what you can put off to the day after tomorrow.”

In Latin, “pro” means “forward” and “crastinare” means “of tomorrow”. The two combine to stockpile many good intentions. We all know the roots of the disease, but, for therapy’s sake, let’s review.

  1. Fear of failure. Whether I’m apprehensive about trying something for the first time or I’ve done something a hundred times but fear this one might not measure up, fear of getting it wrong can slow me to a crawl.
  2. Perfectionism. If I can’t do something precisely right, I often would rather not do it at all. So time slips away while I think about how to accomplish a task perfectly, forgetting that it’s only in practicing a task that my performance actually improves.
  3. Urgent vs. important. Small fires burn so uncomfortably hot that I think I must address them immediately. I think they will only take a second, but they can smoke out priorities for hours and days.

Procrastinating is not necessarily irrational. Work generally expands to fill time. So, it makes sense to compress a project into a window that closes right at a deadline. Deadlines force action.

But this is the rationale of someone who can’t leave well enough alone, someone who obsesses over a project to the bitter end, someone addicted to the adrenaline that comes from squeaking under a wire.

Some possible cures for procrastin-addicts:

  1. Let it go. If you let a project go when it is reasonably done, it will be easier to start the next one. You may need a reasonable third party to help define what “reasonably done” looks like. Your OCD won’t necessarily know.
  2. Care less about what others think. All you can do is all you can do. If it’s your best effort at that point in time, it shouldn’t matter what other people think. Remember: most people are neither for you nor against you. They are only thinking about themselves.
  3. Visualize. This is the most cliche of my recommendations, but it really does help to imagine what it will be like to get something done. Think the thoughts, feel the feelings of relief and satisfaction. Or, conversely, imagine the consequences of inaction.

If all else fails, perendinate (verb – to put off until the day after tomorrow).

If all else fails, add a word to your vocabulary: perendinate – v. to put off until the day after tomorrow!

 

Follow Kevin Thompson at http://www.kwt.info.

What’s your leadership quotient?

“There are two kinds of people in the world,” Dr. Lyle Sussman began his seminar. “One kind walks into a room and the room lights up. The other kind walks out of a room and the room lights up. Which kind are you?”

Sussman is a Professor of Management at the University of Louisville. He writes and speaks on leadership, motivation, performance and teamwork.

Sussman believes great leadership begins with great followership. His Golden Rule of Management is this: “Are you the kind of employee that YOU would want to manage?”

Self-examination is critical to improving one’s leadership quotient or “LQ”. LQ is Sussman’s measurement of a person’s ability to lead effectively.

“It’s hard to look at yourself,” Sussman says. “It’s easy to stay in that river in Egypt: denial.”

The cure for denial involves asking the people around us for honest feedback about how we act. It is a painful process. It is also a helpful one. Sussman recommends 360-degree reviews where more than an employee’s supervisor comments on the employee’s performance. These reviews should be done anonymously.

Presentee-ism can be as big of a problem as absenteeism, Sussman says. He once asked a seminar attendee, “How many people work in your company?” His reply: “About half of them.”

Management guru Peter Drucker was convinced that most organizations are over-managed and under-led. Sussman agrees. All employees are volunteers, even if they get paid. They have free will and can choose how hard they will work. Managers can buy talent, but they must earn loyalty.

The goal of both managers and employees is to increase value and reduce costs. Value and costs can be in both monetary and non-monetary terms. Non-monetary cost reductions may include resolving conflict or reducing stress.

Volunteer-employees create value for your organization. What are you doing as a leader to make them smarter? Sussman asks. When’s the last time one of them came to you with an idea to make the organization better?

Productivity is the product of efficiency and effectiveness. Efficiency means limiting costs. Effectiveness means getting a job done. Sussman explains efficiency and effectiveness with a quadrant matrix:

1. Not efficient, not effective – This person raises costs, but doesn’t achieve goals (will soon be fired or bankrupt)

2. Efficient, but not effective – This person limits costs, but doesn’t achieve goals

3. Not efficient, but effective – This person raises costs, but at least achieves goals

4. Efficient, effective – This person limits costs while achieving goals

Category 4 is obviously the model employee, but most employees fall into Category 3. Effective coaching can help employees ascend into Category 4.

Unfortunately, good coaching can be scarce. Most managers are more referee than coach. It’s easier to carry a rule book and a whistle than to invest in an employee’s development. That requires courage and self-sacrifice.

With regard to coaching, courage, self-sacrifice and getting out of one’s comfort zone, Sussman had a unique perspective on the growing industry of executive coaching and consulting.

Coaches and consultants are paid to get people to do things they already know they should do. People who actually do what they know really do believe what they know.

We’ve all heard the adage: “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” Hogwash, Sussman says.

“The trick is to make the horse thirsty.”

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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