If it can happen once…

Several years ago I ran into the story of a soldier in the Vietnam War, a soldier who started as the classic last kid picked for the team, bottom of the barrel sort of person. It was entirely easy to label him as “the screw up” and send him away because nobody would want that guy on a mission. It could have ended there, with our soldier being the screw up no one wanted for time an all eternity; however, that’s not what happened.

The salvation of this man came through his own honest effort; a little instruction and assistance from a wise old sergeant; and… a cup of coffee.

The sergeant could see what was happening. He talked with his soldier and then made some changes. The sergeant took away all of the soldier’s previous duties and gave him one, just one, thing to do. The soldier would be attached to the company headquarters and was to make sure that the captain had a hot cup of coffee available at any time he wanted one. It was a little thing, a silly thing, but it was something the soldier could do if he put in the effort. And this simple act, this one duty, bore amazing fruit.

The soldier, the former ‘screw up’, did his one duty. The captain had a cup of hot coffee when and where ever he wanted. And, the soldier received two critical things: sure knowledge that he was not a complete screw up, he could do things if he tried; and the opportunity to observe and learn without undue stress and criticism.

The soldier took this opportunity to observe and learn, and then he stepped up to do. Our soldier was no great tactician or leader. He wasn’t a great fighter slaying the enemy with his M16 and bayonet. He wasn’t an engineer conjuring wondrous structures and impenetrable defenses with just his entrenching tool and some communications wire. But, the man did have a gift. And, when he was given the opportunity and knowledge he needed, that gift came out.

Our soldier, the ‘screw up’ no one wanted, was a logistical problem solver. This soldier became the man who could find solutions and get dry socks and warm meals to the men of his unit. That might not sound like much if you’re sitting in your own home with your own washer and dryer, and pizza delivery on speed dial. But, trust me, if you’re out in the field, out in the dirt and muck, that kind of thing matters.

The soldier, the former ‘screw up’, became a beloved and valued member of the unit because he was given an opportunity, a chance to both learn and succeed, and he took it. He took action to become better than he had been before.

But what does this mean to us?

And so it is with us dear reader. We stand on all sides of this equation.

There are times when we are the ‘screw up’ who just needs one success, even a tiny one, and a bit of knowledge and support to put us on course to better things.

There are times when we are the one who can see a need, and an opportunity. In that case we are called upon to take action and help someone to help themselves.

Sometimes we are one of the others in the unit, the ones who need to allow space for change; the ones who will forgive the faults of the past and give someone who can grow the space and opportunity to do so.

Sooner or later we play all three roles dear reader. Sooner or later all good things will come if we let them.

That’s it for this one dear reader, see you next post… Until then…

Find an opportunity and take it!

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Mother’s Day 2016

This Sunday is Mother’s Day, the day that by convention we spend a lot of time eulogizing mothers and motherhood. It is kind of an interesting day because we as a group are honoring a nebulous idea which often does not (and cannot) match up with reality and real people

Mothers (and mileage) may vary

In reality I’m not sure we agree on what that nebulous ideal is and as for the actual mothers our experience with them can vary wildly.

Actually, if we ignore multiple births the number of different mothers and mother images we have can be calculated by taking the number of people on earth and multiplying by one.

What about siblings?

Being a mother’s second (or third… or fourth… or…) child is different from being a first or only child. So, the experience with mom will be slightly different.

I’m Ok with all of us having different ideas and ideals about motherhood. We are all different, so if we all had exactly the same perception of our mothers that would be kind of weird.

Common good from uncommon people

There are commonalities. Whatever your situation your mom did bring some good into your life. If you’re reading this you exist, and probably aren’t dead. Your mom gave birth to you. You exist in part because of her, and that should be honored if nothing else is.

Your (earthly) mother isn’t perfect. If you choose to believe in a heavenly mother, or goddess, or whatever; I’m Ok with that, but your mom here on earth wasn’t perfect. Mother’s Day is a day to honor the good in, and about, your mother regardless of what else may have happened in life. (As I said above, since you’re here she has to have done some good)

The idealized mother we think about is often a nurturer, a teacher, a protector, someone who loves us. If your actual mother was those things honor them.

If not… well…

Honor the good in her, by being a better mother (or father, or just person) than the example you had. No matter how bad of a job we (or our mothers) think our mothers did there was really some good there, so honor it by making that good grow!

I think that’s how you honor your mother and Mother’s Day, make the good grow!

Conclusions

I think that’s the take home idea from this one dear reader. Take whatever good your mother has given you (no matter how little or how much) and let it grow!

If your mom really is that ideal ‘good mom’ she’ll be pleased to see it. Making the good grow is an ideal gift for the ideal mother. The perfect gift.

If your mother wasn’t the ideal… the good that was (and is) in her, and came from her, can grow with your help.

I’ve written this from the perspective of a child. I haven’t said much about being a mom. I will leave it to my wife and others to give the ‘good moming’ advice. Do the best you can at it, learn, and share what you have learned. The ability is in you.

That’s it for this one dear reader. Until next time…

Happy Mother’s Day.

P.S.

I know this isn’t the ‘usual’ Mother’s Day post (I’m not the usual person (especially this year)), but I hope it helps someone out there.

Thoughts on Heros (part 1)

I put “part 1” in the title of the post because this is a topic I know I’m coming back to…

I’ve been MIA for a couple weeks but it’s for a good cause. My would be post from two weeks ago is well on it’s way to being a magazine article, and last week I missed due to being out with a couple big gentle puppies finding shiny rocks…

Now then, lately I’ve been thinking about heroes. I don’t necessarily mean the guys who go running into a burning building (though they could fit in). I definitely don’t mean the one’s you see on TV with scantily clad women and explosions behind them while a voice over says things like “watch this weeks episode!”. I mean personal heroes, the ones that you look at and say, “I want to be like him/her”.

Hero’s large and small appear in every culture I’ve ever met, and unless you have lived your life completely alone (and if you did how are you reading this?) you have someone you’ve tried to emulate at some point. Heroes serve as inspiration, as a rallying point, a gleam of hope and/or a goal to shoot for. Heroes help us to see and describe what we want to be.

But there are dangers in dealing with heroes.People do become disenchanted, cynical and sometimes downright unpleasant because of  hero problems. Among these problems there are three that have been on my mind: the unattainable hero, the poorly chosen or false hero, and the fallen hero.

The unattainable hero is a mental trap that we inflict on ourselves. We choose a hero that we want to be like, but then we tell ourselves we can’t be like them. Classic example here: the person that chooses a superhero as a hero then says, “but I can’t fly/shoot energy bolts/turn invisible/what ever, so why even try?” Solution: take some time and evaluate why and how you want to emulate this hero. Is it really the super power, or is it maybe that they are brave, witty or just willing to stand for something?

If it’s the super power we have a choice, decide the power isn’t achievable and choose another hero to emulate, or we can learn and find a way to emulate that power.  Sure, most of us cant fly by putting on spandex and jumping into the air, but what about getting a pilot’s license? Invisibility? Camouflage (I’ve met some snipers that might as well be invisible (seriously!))!

If it’s the brave/strong/witty/willing to stand for something part…You can do that without super powers. It does take courage (and maybe a gym membership) but you can do it.

The poorly chosen or false hero is a “hero” who wasn’t what you thought he or she was. Many times these are the “heroes” that looked like the hero you want, or someone else told you you wanted but they really aren’t. There is a preventative solution here, this is going to be your hero, you can take some time to decide. You don’t have to buy into a hero right away. And if you decide the “hero” isn’t someone that’s a hero for you (even if you’ve already chosen to call them a hero) you can choose someone else. Your life, your choice, your hero; nobody can take that from you.

The fallen hero is a slightly different form of the false hero. They do, or at least did, have traits you want to emulate. But then it happens, they make a mistake and disgrace themselves, or you learn they are human and have faults. This situation can really hurt, but there are options. You could drop the hero and find a new one. This can be painful, but sometimes it’s the best way to go (if the part you find offensive is really problematic). But wait! The hero does, or did, have one or more traits you want to emulate, so consider the “hero with an asterisk” model. You don’t have to emulate all the traits of a hero, and you can have more than one hero.

I hold George S Patton as a hero, he was personally brave and his men would follow him anywhere, but I don’t have to swear like he did. I hold Poe as a hero, he was a great and creative writer, but that doesn’t mean I have to get drunk and die in the streets.

Well dear reader, that’s my thought for today. Have heroes, it’s a good thing, but make sure you take time to choose the heroes you want to be like and not just someone that someone else says is cool. Realize that you can have a variety of heroes and model different parts of you life on different heroes. And if you find a hero doesn’t fit anymore, they’re your heroes, you can change them.