Thursday, May 27, 2010

I'm Not Through Knowing You Yet

I’ve had the good fortune to live a bunch of places in my lifetime. I’ve met and gathered a great host of friends in every place I’ve lived. I keep in touch with at least one or two people in each of these cities.

When I lived in South Carolina, I directed music for a church, and there was a sharp young couple who started attending our church by the name of Jay and Michelle. Jay was a young medical student at a nearby university and we began the beginnings of a good friendship. Soon after our paths crossed I was offered and accepted a position which moved me to Dallas, Texas.

I’ll never forget the card Jay and Michelle gave me just before I left. They wrote some nice words that were esteeming, but closed the note with this phrase, “I’m not through knowing you yet.”

I love that! Sometimes, people come along and you just can’t get enough of them, in a good way, of course. You just click on so many levels. You find yourself inviting them over for coffee, or going out to breakfast, and sharing life in a hundred other ways.

Unfortunately, sometimes life takes us to other places and other experiences and interrupts these friendships. With truly great friendships and relationships I often find myself thinking and sometimes saying, “I’m not through knowing you yet.”

I have college friends from long ago, and I feel that way about some of them. I wish I would have known then what I know now about friendships, building relationships, and the significance of a true, lifetime friend. We left college and went our separate ways and I wasn’t through knowing them yet.

There are some friends of mine that have so endeared themselves to me that when we do occasionally get back together it’s like no time has passed, and we pick up our lives from the first moment we see each other and go on from there. That is rich! That is the art of friendship at its finest.

Facebook is a wonderful thing for reconnecting with friends and acquaintances. We can get back in touch, unravel life’s twists and turns and restore and begin again the dance of friendship and cherished relationships.

Your bank account may be large or small, but how big is your friend bank? Reach out to someone today, some long forgotten, rarely seen friend, and restore and reinvent the relationship.

I love this quote by Emily Dickinson: “My friends are my estate.”

So, my friends, come back and let’s sit for a spell. I’m not through knowing you yet.”

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Thanks for Believing In Me

We all need someone to believe in us – in our goodness, in our skill set, in our redeemable characteristics, and in our dreams.

This is vividly portrayed in the movie/musical Man of LaMancha, based on Cervantes’s classic work Don Quixote.

Don Alonzo, the protagonist, is all about pursuing a life of chivalry. His quest is to become a knight-errant long after that age of history has passed. He saw giants in windmills and adventures where rabbit trails meandered down the lane.

He "rescued" a common prostitute named Aldonza, whom he saw as a beautiful lady. To him, she became the beautiful Dulcinea and his every move from then on was to please her and conquer giants and defeat armies, all for her sake. Don Alonzo looked beyond the rags and tattered, twisted life of Aldonza to see what she might become – a beautiful, graceful lady and one worthy of his conquests and affections.

Aldonza resented him at first. She resented what she interpreted as his mocking of her way of life. Her state in life has brought nothing but abuse, misuse and degradation and that was as far as she was able to see.

But our hero won the day. He triumphed in conquering her heart and devotion. As the old man lay on his deathbed, Aldonza thanked him for seeing in her what she could not see in herself.

Isn’t that so like life? Sometimes we need to look through the eyes of others to see ourselves best. We need to hear from their lips what is redeemable and good in our own lives.

I’m reminded of a sixth grade teacher, Mary, who assigned her class a writing assignment one day. The assignment was to write a short, positive comment about each of his/her fellow classmates and turn them in to her.

After compiling each student’s list, the teacher passed them out in class. You could hear a pin drop as the students sat quietly, reading what their fellow classmates had written about them. It was a remarkable moment.

Years later, one of the boys, John D., was killed during a hard-fought battle in Viet Nam. His sixth-grade teacher attended the memorial service, along with many fellow students in John’s class.

After the service, John’s father approached Mary and thanked her for coming to the service. He paused, and continued. “We found this in his wallet along with his other belongings.”

He began unfolding a sheet of paper, yellowed, tattered and torn. It was the paper containing all of the comments from his sixth grade classmates written ten years before.

The father said, “He carried this with him everywhere. I’m told he would often pull it out and read it before almost every major conflict in which he was involved during his time in Viet Nam.”

By now, other students had gathered around and one by one they each began telling that they too had their copy of these comments and how meaningful they were to them. Some even had their copy neatly tucked inside their wallets or pocket books.

You see the power of an appropriately placed word? Has someone seen something in you bigger and greater than you ever dreamed you could be? Those kinds of people become my heroes. What foresight! What insight!

Oh, that I can become a person who helps you see beyond yourself to what you are so very capable of becoming. You are a becomer, you know? If you have dreams, you are definitely someone who can do, might do, and most likely will accomplish greater exploits than you can possibly imagine.

Hold on to your dreams. To lose a dream is a great loss. Norman Cousins once said, “Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside of us while we live.”

I love what John Maxwell says in his book 25 Ways to Win with People about helping others who are in pursuit of dreams. Listen to John’s words.

“Encouraging others in their pursuits of a dream is to give them a wonderful gift.
1. Ask them to share their dream with you.
2. Affirm the person as well as the dream.
3. Ask about the challenges they must overcome to reach their dream.
4. Offer your assistance.
5. Revisit their dream with them on a consistent basis.
6. Determine daily to be a dream booster, not a dream buster.
People will live up to their dreams when they have a chance to fulfill them.”

May we all become a dream encourager.

Let me encourage you in your pursuits.
Stretch your wings!
Be a becomer!!!

I believe in your dreams!
I believe in you!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Playing in the Right Key

I have spent much of my life as a musician, both in full-time pursuit and part-time. I have an immense appetite for great music. By training, I am a percussionist, by experience I am a vocalist and conductor.

In orchestras, I love to play the tympani most of all. There’s something about the rumbling, sonorous tones that a well-tuned set of tympani can produce, and the punctuated accents the tympani can add to a piece of music is sheer percussive heaven to my ears.

Being musically trained, I’ve come to understand and appreciate the ability to play in the right key. When I sing solos, I know there is usually a perfect key for most songs, and I’m not at my best unless I am singing that song in its most perfect key for my voice.

My wife is an excellent pianist, and she has the amazing ability to play just about any song in any key desired. What a dream musician she is, besides that, she’s beautiful as well. (Oops, I got side-tracked there for a moment.)

Let me tell you a story.

During my college days I directed the music program for my Dad’s church in Lewisburg, Tennessee. I made the fifty-three mile trip down every Sunday morning and would often take a college friend or two with me. Our church especially loved it when we would come down and sing a “special musical” selection for them.

Every seventh Sunday we were asked to broadcast our church services over WJJM -- 1490 on your AM radio dial. On broadcast Sundays Dad wanted the music to be extra special.

On one particular broadcast Sunday I took my two best friends down with me -- Harold Ivan Smith and Michael B. Ross. We formed a trio and practiced the song “I’m a Child of the King” as our special for this particular Sunday. Harold also accompanied us.

We rehearsed three times, decided on the perfect key and made the fifty-three mile trip down to Lewisburg, my home town.

When it came time for us to sing, we took our places around Harold at the piano, my father placed the microphone on the piano and Harold began playing his introduction. We soon realized that Harold had forgotten the exact key we had practiced in and had us off into some strange, lower key. We sang, actually it was more like a growl, because of the lower key, yet we somehow managed to make it to the end of the song.

Any time I’m with either of these guys we always find our conversation coming back to “The Three Bears Trio”, which is the name that Harold called us, because of the growling sound we made as we tried to sing even though he put us in the wrong key.

Even as I sit keying in this story, I’m laughing out loud remembering this incident. What a great story for a lifetime.

Here’s the application.

It’s important to sing and play in the right key!

What key does your family sing in? Are you all harmonizing or are there a bunch of individualistic soloists, going their own way, each singing their own tune? Are you even on the same page of music?

What other keys do you play in at home and at work? Do you find yourself playing in major keys or minor keys? I know some people who major in the minor stuff of life, do you?

I love the key of ethics, for it promotes honesty and fair play.
I love the key of creativity, for it adds spice, spark and newness.
I love the key of kindness, for it oils the machinery in human relationships.

I love the key of appropriate words, for they open my heart to receive what you say.
I love the key of respect, for it builds cohesiveness and helps build trust and cordiality.
I love the key of stableness, for it calms and solidifies.

I love the key of opportunity, for it opens my eyes to possibilities.
I love the key of honor, for it means respect, value, and good esteem.
I love the key of integrity, for it means sincerely, without false pretense.
I love the key of principle, for it means you place value and hold to higher standards.

What key are you playing in?

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Importance of Significance

“I like you.”
“I think you are grand.”
“I see such potential in you.”
“You have what it takes to go far.”

Great words of esteem, aren’t they? When we hear words like these we just step a bit lighter, our pace quickens, and good feelings simply flow through our veins and give us a euphoric sensation.

Everyone with whom you and I come into contact deserves to be respected and valued. There are redeeming qualities in each of us. But do we take the time to see them?

Do we, instead, look down, think less than admirable thoughts toward that person just because of what we see on the outside, or because they fit into a certain socio-economic group?

Keep reading, I’m coming to some good stuff.

There is nothing worse than the dehumanizing of another human being.

I recently read Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. Dr. Frankl was held prisoner in more than one German prisoner of war camp leading up to the end of World War II. In the book he commented: “Any guard that wanted to make a charge against a prisoner just glanced at his number (and how we dreaded such glances!); he never asked for his name.” (Man’s Search for Meaning Page 6, Victor Frankl.)

In an environment like this, the norm is to treat your prisoners as a number, a “thing” without merit and without significance. There was no humanity in that environment. Viktor Frankl was nothing but a cipher, an empty zero.

In his book Character Is Destiny, John McCain tells the story of an incident that happened when he was a prisoner in Hanoi during the Viet Nam conflict. One day he found himself in solitary confinement, with his hands tied tightly behind his back. His wrists were hurting from the bindings and his arms ached from the awkward position in which his captors had bound him.

Around mid-morning his captor came into his space of isolation. John didn’t know whether he was going to receive a beating, be spat upon or have to endure some other miss-treatment, so he braced himself for the worst.

His captor walked over to where John was lying on the ground, turned him over onto his stomach, and then did a surprising thing. He loosened the ropes binding John’s hands just slightly, with enough slack to give John a bit less of a strain and less tension. The rope burns actually lessened by this random act of kindness.

As his captor stood to leave, he moved his foot next to John’s head and with the toe of his boot he made a sign of the cross on the dirt floor so that John could see it, and then promptly rubbed it out. This simple act of significance did much to revive John’s spirits on that day of pain and torture. John had just received the gift of significance.

I love that! In the midst of pain came a grace-filled act. The captor stepped out of his role for one moment in time and extended significance to Mr. McCain.

One of my favorite movies is Patch Adams starring Robin Williams. In one particular scene Patch is with a group of other third-year medical students following a more experienced doctor on his daily rounds at the hospital. As they approach a woman lying in bed, you can sense fear and trepidation within her. The experienced doctor picked up her chart, cleared his voice and said, “This patient from Room 313 has a serious case of edema.”

Patch quietly asked, “Does this patient have a name?”

“Why yes. Her name is … Doris,” stated the experienced doctor.

“Hello Doris. How are you?” asked Patch.

One can sense an automatic relaxation response in Doris. She smiled, and you can see that the fear was leaving her, all because of the use of her name. She became a person in that moment in time, not “the patient in Room 313.”

It is significant to be important, but it’s more important to be significant. Mankind cries out to be recognized. All of us long to make a connection, that moment of recognition for who we are, not what we are. I love what Mary Kay Ash says in her book People Management. “Imagine that every person you meet is wearing an invisible sign around their neck that says, ‘Make Me Feel Important.’”

It is a proven fact that people will speak up more in a group if they receive individual eye contact. That is recognition because of significance.

I had a college professor by the name of Jim VanHook. He instilled in me a philosophy that I’ve never forgotten. It is simply “Love the People!” That is another way of saying “You are significant!”

John Maxwell tells this story in his book Dare to Dream that perfectly illustrates my point.

He says, “An experienced nurse recounts her story: ‘During my second month of nursing school our professor gave us a pop quiz. I was a conscientious student and had breezed through the questions, until I read the last one: “What is the first name of the woman who cleans the school?”

‘Surely this was some kind of joke! I had seen the cleaning woman several times. She was tall, dark-haired, and in her fifties, but how would I know her name? I handed in my paper, leaving the last question blank.

‘Before class ended, one student asked if the last question would count toward our quiz grade. “Absolutely,” said the professor. “In your careers you will meet many people. All are significant. They deserve your attention and care, even if all you do is smile and say hello.” The nurse continued, “I’ve never forgotten that lesson. I also learned her name was Dorothy.’”

I began this blog with the story of Viktor Frankl. I’m quoting from my favorite book Aspire by Kevin Hall as he speaks of Dr. Frankl. “It is interesting to note this about him. The man who had become a number became a person.” (Aspire, Page 14, Kevin Hall) (By the way, Dr. Frankl’s number was 119,104, but his name lives long after, thanks to his legacy and his will to live and make a difference.)

Do you feel significant? I hope so. Just in case you may be feeling less than adequate, let me give you a word of encouragement.

Even though we may have never met, I know some things about you.
You are made in God’s image, with a plan for your life, tailor-made for you.
You have a unique DNA, a unique set of finger prints and voice print.
You have uniqueness written all over you and it is just awaiting your discovery.
Life is worth living.
Whatever difficulties you are facing at this particular moment, remember, “This too shall pass”.

If you feel that no one else cares about you, we here at Up-Words care.

You are important, and you certainly are significant!