Friday, November 19, 2010

When All Is Said and Done, Occasionaly More Is Said Than Done

It has happened to all of us. Someone made a commitment. We depended on them to come through.

It was probably unavoidable. An emergency interrupted their plans. Traffic patterns, changed by construction, caused them to miss a deadline.

They didn’t break the promise. They were just unable to fulfill it. Better planning could have helped, but all things considered, they were trying to keep their end of the bargain.

Caught up in the moment, a parent promised to teach a class, bake some cookies, or accompany a group of children on a day trip. Of course, they forgot they couldn’t actually bake, aren’t skilled in teaching, and don’t really like museums.

There are times people commit to a timeline no one can fulfill. Promises for all time, made at sixteen, have a way of fading into the mists of later days.

Few people are confirmed liars. It’s not likely someone said, “Today I will mislead my employer and promise to complete this project.” While their actions betray them, it never enters their mind to say, “The goal of my afternoon is to lead my mate to think I will do what they want, when all the time I have my own agenda.”

Looking back, we knew our vision was in danger of a ragged and ugly death. We sensed our colleague was in trouble. Reminding them of the opportunity for success, we warned them they could get overwhelmed and sidetracked. Even with our efforts the co-worker failed to produce the help we desperately needed.

Whenever or however it happened, someone goofed. Because our friend promised what they could not do, a deadline now threatens our sleep, sanity, and social status. Much to our dread, the truth hovers like a fog over Matagorda Bay. Our vision is in peril of the sand bars and oyster shoals.

To each of us, our project is the most important event on the horizon. However, we’re not the only hungry people at the table when pleas for time, resources and skills converge. We should not be surprised at our free-fall on the co-worker’s list of priorities.

It may be time to step back. It may be time to reassess. It is definitely time for a dose of realism.

There are competing calls for the lives and times of friends and colleagues. We must learn to wait our turn. When it comes to depending on people, patience becomes a virtue highly valued. Remembering this now prepares us for the ugly reality that lunch will be a bit late.

Showing restraint and understanding has additional value. It makes it easier for them to “fess up”, first to themselves and then to us, when an eminent collapse is probable. This opening proves our worth. This opportunity shows we have the right to be in the kitchen.

After all, what is more important; the disappointment that only 100 attended the annual banquet or that we reached out to our publicity chairperson as their life fell apart and someone needed to say, “I understand” when the invitations didn’t go out on time?

Life is bumpy enough. We ought to look for ways that smooth the road and help others miss a few potholes that dog their path.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Such Unusual Bedfellows

Mom was aghast. “One day they will start advertising Christmas before Thanksgiving.” Dad responded, “They will have trees up by Halloween.” Someone laughed at the ludicrous prophesy Alfred Schaal uttered in our church one fall morning in 1960.

In the early 1960s, stores made the most out of Christmas. The mercantile machine roared from its Indy-style start each Friday after Thanksgiving. Macy’s Parade declared, “Gentleman, start your engines” and for five heady weeks the push was on for “Chatty Kathy” and anything “Milton Bradley.” TV discovered “Mattel” and “Mattel” understood advertising.

Each week, sandwiched between commercials advertising “Lincoln Building Blocks” and “Easy-Bake Ovens,” one sage after another decried the commercialization of Christmas. White flocked trees reminded us of a Bing Crosby Christmas we never knew in South Texas. Solid blue lights shining from artificial silver trees garishly hawked a change in the gentle, Frank Capra Christmas quickly receding from our grasp.

This year, one week before Halloween, shelves of closeout sales on hideous masks and grotesque decorations struggled to empty their spaces as Christmas lights and spangled balls magically appeared.

With only the slimmest of nods to Thanksgiving, five weeks became ten and Mr. Macy found himself an antiquated relic of commercial days long past. The “Shell Game from Arkansas” replaced the “Miracle on 34th Street.” Sam Walton leaned against his rusty truck, watching the parade balloons, and said, “Who needs to pay for helium? I have enough hot air to keep my balloons in the air as long as I want.”

Yes, the commercialization of Christmas is well refined and highly polished.

The first participants of that Christmas morning came looking for a sign. Ever since that day, signs have pointed the way. What better sign that Christmas is fully commercialized than to hear a televised defender of the faith castigate modern marketers for taking Christ out of the holiday season.

What? Did I hear him right? We want to hear more about Christ in advertising? No more do we hear calls to protect the sanctity of the Birth of Christ from the Sears Wishbook. There is no need to guard our modesty and order Victoria to keep her secrets to herself.

Now we know the quickest way to evangelize our society. Let Sam do it… and Best Buy, Target, and Cabellas. Now we say, “If you sell with an eye to rest it under our Christmas tree, keep your "Happy Holiday" wishes to yourself and plaster "Merry Christmas" across your front door.”

All through the years, I feared being bought, bullied and bamboozled into Christmas gifting and celebratory debting. Now I understand it all. The liberals were right.

Our whole capitalist society is a cleaver plot by the fundamental, premillennial, dispensational, evangelical right-of-center Christian church to take over every bit of fabric in our pluralistic society. The gaily decorated and present-laden Christmas Tree is the gateway we will use to rescue the lost and save a nation.

How wrong I have been. Not only did I not understand the vast evangelistic plan, I focused on the wrong event as the turning point of our world. All this time I thought the Christmas Tree was the blood-stained one in the center on Calvary.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Tell me a story

This last election taught me one thing. We don't need more politicians. We need more story-tellers.

Story-tellers have a long history. Since the first person sat with another at the end of a long day and recounted what happened at the watering hole or during the hunt, stories have worked their stuff.

They reconnect people. "You weren't there, but...", "I wish you could have seen..." and "It was amazing..." are just a few of the calls to community.

They give perspective. "Do you remember back when...", "S/he understood what happened when..." and "Kids just don't get the way it was when..." (Which was the very same thing that was said by the previous generations!)

They give permission for healing. "I hear what you are saying...", "I want to be your friend..." and "I know how you feel. I used to feel the same way when..."

The best story-tellers are honored teachers, leaders and visionaries.

But most of all, "Story-Tellers-R-Us." The explosion of publishing opportunities and the unlimited horizon of internet communities betray the hunger we have to tell and hear stories.

Go ahead, grandparents. Tell your stories of "back in the day." Parents, tell your stories of a childhood mixed with hopes and dreams. Children, tell your stories and begin learning the difference between virtual reality and reachable, attainable reality.

Let's pull up a log, "cop a squat" and warm our hands around the community firepit. Let's tell our stories so we can laugh, "ooh" and "aah", and shed copious tears all the while warming our hands and our hearts.

Dear friend,tell me a story.