Letting Our Human DNA Out to Play

I continually find myself amazed at the everyday kindness of people on this big blue marble.

The other night I found myself in line for tickets to a ballgame. Handing a coupon to the clerk on the other side of the ticket window, she found herself in the situation of telling me the special seats were already sold out.

“Hey,” came a man’s voice behind me, “we’ve a buy-one get-one-free coupon you can have.

Turning around I found a woman searching through her purse to find a coupon for someone they’d never met until minutes earlier.

Here we are, both wearing shirts supporting opposing teams on the field, yet seeing right through all the superficial noise to help out another.

I know most people might consider an unyielding faith in others as ridiculously naive, but my experiences have led me to believe in the best in people around me.

Over the years I’ve met people from a near as next door — and as far away as the opposite side of the planet – only to discover we share a set of nearly identical values. We love our families, we want the best for our children, and we like to help others in need. Granted the definition of ‘need’ can vary from situation to situation, but inside most of us feel natural urge to help others. But I am convinced, hidden in our DNA, is a special gene designed to cut through everything our conscious tells us and allows us to act on in a universal human manner.

There is an old (and confirmed) story from the Second World War where the German fighter pilot, upon seeing an Allied B-17 mortally disabled, pulls off his guns and escorts the enemy plane across the channel to safety.

I know this is not the same as offering a coupon to a stranger in line at a ballpark, but I believe this ‘human’ gene is in all of us – fighting to overcome the prejudices and influences of the world around us.

This is, after all, one big blue marble. And historically speaking, mankind’s time occupying this orb is only a minor blip on the radar. Like most things, there will be a beginning and ending date for our existence. The difference we can make, however, is how we choose to treat each other in window of time. Our legacy can be one of helping and caring for those in need or one of cold selfishness over borders, resources, and power.

An hour later I found myself with an opportunity to help another and return the favor granted to me earlier. A father with his three daughters was looking up into the seats trying to figure out where they’d been sitting before they’d left for a run to the concession stand. Seeing his frustration, I reached up and waved to him and pointed to the seats ahead of me. Corralling his family, he led them up and across to their seats.

After sitting down and getting the girls situated, he turned and offered me the first handful of peanuts from his newly opened bag.

He didn’t have to thank me or offer to share his food. But inside, I believe this ‘human gene’ pushed through the clutter of daily life and wanted to make a connection – however minor it might be.

And that it is just little moments like these that will always serve to remind me of why I will always believe in the human spirit.

 

– 30 –

 

 

 

 

 

Mother Nature Offers Reminder On LIfe

“You know, this will be the last weekend for the three of us,” said our daughter the other night.

Her seemingly innocent words hung in the kitchen air as both my wife and I let the words reveal themselves to us. With our daughter’s graduation from high school increasingly becoming a distant memory — replaced by planning for her moving out and off to college – her words filled the room with an odd feeling of bittersweet emotion. Within the next several weeks, life will dramatically change for all of us.

In what seems more recent than her waking across the stage to accept her diploma, I remember her first days in school and the ritual of back to school shopping for clothes, school supplies, and the always important decision of which backpack she’d wear for the year. To this day, we still occasionally run across a colorful backpack in hidden in a closet, unable to part with them for the memories they hold for us parents.

Only this year things are different – much different.

This year, there will be no backpack splashed with a colorful character from a cartoon series or contacting her friends to see who will be in her class for the year. Nor is there a school-issued list of required items to bring to her first day of class. No, this year everything changes.

But in comparison to everyone else under the roof, I guess I’ve been in a bit of self-denial about the approaching of this event. As being the youngest of our children, our daughter’s departure is more of a period than a comma in a sentence describing stages of life. For us, she is the caboose in a train of parental events of raising children under the safety of one roof.

So here we are, standing in the kitchen together, on the homestretch.

The next few weeks will be filled with visits from friends and weekend trips to celebrate the end of summer. And soon will come the ceremonial loading of the SUV with all the tools to help her make her own memories while my wife and I walk past yet another empty room.

Earlier this year a small bird made its home just inside the roofline of the small portico on the front of our house. For the next several weeks we watched the mother bird build a sturdy nest just outside our front door as the elements of spring swirled around her. A short time later we heard the sounds of smaller birds chirping away as the mother returned to the nest to feed and nurture them. Then one day, as quickly as it began, the nest was empty – the small birds taking flight and making their way into the world.

Recently I’ve wondered if Mother Nature didn’t set this series of events up for me as a last-minute reminder of how life works: you bring life into this world, you invest love and care onto them, and then you encourage them to leave the nest and live their own lives.

I’ll need to remember that next time I open a closet and discover a colorful backpack hidden in the corner.

– 30 –

I Want My MTV (Back Please)

I want my MTV.

Sometimes I wonder if I’m showing my age – still hanging onto the hope one day I’ll flip over to MTV and music videos from my youth will begin spilling out again. Instead, I get a rude reminder of how far removed I am those early days of MTV as characters in increasingly bizarre reality shows burst into my living room.

Somewhere along the line, one of the most important defining features of my youth was hijacked.

MTV, which actually stood for Music Television, took to the air on August 1, 1981 revolutionizing and transforming the music industry for an entire generation. While music is always a powerful force in culture, laying down the soundtrack for each generation, MTV pumped out music videos out 24 hours a day, seven-days a week. While Elvis spent a few brief minutes on the Ed Sullivan Theater, MTV was the equivalent of an all-you-can-eat buffet.

MTV-man-on-moonAsk people who lived though this cultural revolution of the 1980’s and you’ll find we all share a collective history of particular videos or how they evolved from simple one-shots to more complicated story-telling vehicles. Forget what you know of the cartoonish Michael Jackson of the couple several decades – on MTV he was the master. If ever a venue was created for an artist, Michael Jackson was a man for the times. When Hollywood director John Landis teamed with Jackson for the epic Thriller video, the world of music culture changed overnight much like when Ed Sullivan introduced the Beatles.

Even fashion was dramatically impacted as the MTV culture fueled the outlandish styles of the 1980’s – a world where big hair, florescent colors, and gothic punks styles all peacefully coexisted in one world. Even Hollywood got into the act by producing movies based on the different subcultures (Breakfast Club, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Valley Girl, etc.). MTV, in many ways, was the most powerful kingmaker of a generation.

Granted, sometimes timing is everything – and MTV came into the world as cable television penetrated into homes and video cameras allowed for lower production costs. Add to that the arrival of VCR’s on the scene that allowed people to time-shift for the first time, MTV could be recorded and played over and over again on demand.

Most of us from the heyday of MTV are a fountain of trivia: what was the first video broadcast? (Video Killed the Radio Star), or who did the voice work on Michael Jackson’s Thriller? (Vincent Price). Granted, this won’t earn us discounts at Starbucks, but we hold some of these like a small club with a secret handshake.

So today as I find myself rummaging through hundreds of channels on today’s cable screen in a desperate search of something to catch my attention, I continue to yearn for the days of my MTV – the one absent of reality television shows.

But for now I continue to find old habits are hard to lose. Like an itch that will never go away, I will continue to find myself pausing on MTV in hopes of discovering a weekend long marathon of the videos that defined a generation and changed the world.

– 30 –

Generation Daredevil: Living To Tell About It

 

The other day I saw the strangest thing – a small child outside gently rocking on a backyard swing set.

Now this might not seem odd to many people, but to those of us who grew up in a time before smartphones, tablets, and computers, this is increasingly rare.

You see, I grew up in a world of danger. We rode our bikes without helmets, raced our Big Wheel trikes off plywood ramps, and heck, we even drank milkshakes with the spoon inside them.

Yes, life was different then.

Demographers like to attach terms to generations: Generation X, Generation Y, or Millennials just to name a few. Me, I like to think of myself as a member of the “Daredevil Generation.” We lived wild and comparatively dangerous childhood with very little adult supervision.

Granted, video games were something only written about in Popular Science magazine, but we still played first-person shooter games in the backyard — only we were armed with cap guns or spears carved from sticks found in the woods. No one ever really won and we usually just retired to the nearest house to drink from a garden hose.

And no, we didn’t have the Disovery Channel piping in through the television. Instead we had empty milk cartons filled with tadpoles we captured in a nearby creek and watched them grow into frogs before our very eyes. We even learned how to hunt crawfish – successfully using one hand to distract while the other captured him from behind.

We even learned how to scale rooftops – sitting on top of the spine of rooftops looking out across unseen landscapes like explorers. There we’d sit for hours peering into the horizon wondering who – or what – might be living the next block over.

Today it is common for parents to ‘issue’ a cellphone to children to keep tabs on them. Not saying this is wrong, but I remember my mom would order my brother and I out of the house on summer mornings with marching orders to only to return for lunch or dinner. Don’t get me wrong, its not that she didn’t like us – she just wanted us outside playing or riding our bikes.

Not even Mother Nature could slow us down. I remember how when flash floods would roll into town and all the neighborhood kids would meet down at the creek to ride the churning stream. Sure we picked up a few cuts and scratches, but we washed up afterwards and our parents never batted an eye beyond telling us to be careful.

Even the swing set – just like the one I mentioned earlier – proved to be a world of excitement for us. Lining up, we’d all take turns swinging and measuring who could fly the highest or jump the farthest (marked by dragging a stick across the dirt). Sometimes, in testosterone-filled competitions, we’d match up with partners to push us higher and higher in an attempt to set a new “world record”.

So yes, I’ll admit, I don’t see too much of this anymore. My own children, now pretty much grown, grew up in a much different world – one with more phone and social media drama than I think is healthy for anyone.

So next time you happen to be driving along and wonder where all the kids are, take solace in knowing you are probably from the last generation of genuine daredevils. 

 

– 30 – 

Beltway Gang Needs A History Lesson

 

 I tend not to use this space for political commentary. Political opinions are like cheap ballpoint pens – everyone has one (or a dozen). I am not into casting dispersions and I make every effort to listen and respect the opinions of others in hope of learning something I might not have previously recognized.

But today, as this is the Fourth of July, I just wanted to get something off my chest (or keyboard).

I am extremely disappointed in the current state of politics as practiced inside the Beltway of DC. Okay, make that disappointed to the point where I’m ready to tag it as broken and in dire need a swift kick in and attention-getting area.

Earlier this week, while reading up on US Constitutional history (yes, I know that sounds boring), I ran across paragraph explaining our founding fathers framed and wrote the constitution in approximately 100 days. 

Think about this for a moment: our founding fathers came together and figured out how to work together for the greater good and produced a brand-new document from which a new nation was born in 100 days (source: http://www.archives.gov). These were not lifetime politicians but rather farmers, mercantilists, teachers and such. Sure there many were schooled in the field of law, but for the most part, this was a gathering of a broad swath of the population coming forward to shape the new government.

Fast forward to the world inside the Beltway today: stacked with brilliant individuals educated in some of our finest educational institutions – a majority in the field of law – and doing daily battle with professional interest groups pulling them each and every way.

Add to this the tentacles of party machinery and I’m not sure anyone has a chance to successfully govern from either the Executive or Legislative branches without undue outside influence. Color yourself red, blue, green – whatever color of the rainbow you like – but I am increasingly skeptical if the current state of life inside the Beltway is functional, let alone relatable, to the average man or woman in our nation.

So here I am – frustrated and saddened by what I see.

But we are heading down a very dangerous road lined with polarized opinions. Gridlock, or whatever you want to call it, is counter-productive and unfair to our nation. Heck, we can give our friends 1,000 days and they can’t seem to tangibly resolve issues like debt ceilings or budgets.

I, for one, am ready to say ‘enough already.’

So here is my simpleton solution: going forward our friends in the Beltway will have 100 days to address and resolve and address an issue. If they can’t figure it out, they lose the right to run for reelection. No skin off my nose – I simply want action and results.

And I dare anyone inside today’s Beltway to utter the “you just don’t understand – things are different now.” Let me introduce you about a group of people who came together under the threat of death or imprisonment to selflessly frame a new nation in 100 days – and they made it happen. 

 

– 30 – 

 

 

 

 

Scissors End Up in Surprising Hands

Suddenly I realize I am wrong.

Funny thing about raising children into adults is you seem to think we, as parents, are in control. You’re there when they come into the world, you’re there when they step onto the school bus their first day of class, and you’re there when they get their driver’s license. Not only do you share biological genes, but you also share the responsibility to watch over them. The letting out of rope of independence with each passing stage is inherently yours as a parent.

And we all know how this evolves over time – or so we think.

As a parent I’ve always thought I was in control – the one who extended the ties of freedom and responsibility with our kids. But today, with our youngest preparing to move out and off to college, I am now coming to the realization it is not me who is holding the scissors preparing to cut the ties – but rather, it is our daughter.

I’m sure I share the spell of parental pride with many others parents – that is the feeling in my heart that our daughter is very special and going to light the world on fire. Parents have a right to feel this way – and they should.

But somehow I thought I was always going to be the one who controlled the clock of independence. Only today I see this beautiful young woman with a pair of scissors poised over the invisible parental ties — eager to cut them at any moment. The timeline, I recognize, is now increasingly in her hands.

My wife and I have always treated our kids with respect and, in many ways, like adults their entire lives. I don’t think we even uttered what could be considered ‘baby words’ to them. We treated them with calm, reason, and logic, waiting for them to sort out the emotions of their age. And thankfully, they responded likewise and matured into wonderful adults.

So today as I begin to recognize the increasing signs of adult independence pushing through her actions, I have mixed emotions. After years of helping guide – or just being there — she is ready to let go. And this, as any parent will attest, is painful. Not painful as in hurtful, but a different feeling of pride mixed with the nervousness of the unknown. We suddenly realize we’re being relegated to the role of a pinch hitter sitting on the bench – called on only in certain situations.

I am so proud of my daughter I wouldn’t even know where to begin if asked to explain. At each turn I find myself admiring someone who is far more mature than I was at her age — radiating beauty from both the inside and out. I couldn’t ask for more from her.

That said it is the pair of scissors she holds that introduces me to new feelings. I never realized it would be her who cuts the ties of dependency – thus sending her sailing into the adult world without me at her side. This makes me uneasy to say the least.

But today I realize this is another natural progression in life — and he only person who seems to be caught by surprise is me.

– 30 –