Absolutely, Perhaps

Today marks the end of the most amazing uncertain challenging disruptive surprising controversial enlightening surreal frustrating inspirational first half of a year you’re likely to ever experience again.

Things got off to a wonderful start when the crystal ball dropped in Times Square on January 1. By February, the stock markets were hitting all-time highs.

Then Covid-19. People died. The nation shut down. Workers stayed home. The economy stopped. Those same streets of New York empty. The Fed and Treasury infused liquidity into the markets. Wall Street soared back.

Then George Floyd. Protests across the nation. Voices seeking to highlight systemic racial unjust drowned out by looters and rioters. Factions took sides. Support Black Lives Matter. Back the Blue.

Then states reopened. Georgia. Texas. Florida. Half capacity. Three-quarters. Social distancing. Prom. Graduation. Memorial Day. Maybe this pandemic isn’t what we thought. Over-hyped by the left-leaning media. Underplayed by those on the right.

Then virus spread. Arizona. Texas. The Deep South. New cases nearing 50,000 per day. Hospitalizations rising fast. Return to closure for bars. Restaurants back to fewer customers at a time. Everyone should wear a mask. No one can make me.

This look back at recent history is a reminder that we didn’t see any of this coming six months ago. In hindsight, our New Year’s Eve 2020 vision wasn’t good – and we don’t have any idea what’s to come the rest of the year.

However, you have a chance to do things differently. Rather than make everything about your personal view of things, focus your energy on those around you. Listen more. Talk less. Think about their experiences, perspectives and needs.

The world will get through these times that defy all adjectives. Humanity always finds a way. The question is will we collectively as a society be better, the same or worse than when the year started 183 days ago?

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Me First

I was oblivious to any racism at my high school in the late 70’s. My experience was on bus rides with the basketball team, as we celebrated winning most of our games – including a state championship our senior year – by loudly playing music by the Commodores, Brick, Parliament, Ohio Players and Brothers Johnson on postgame return trips to school.

I reflected on those times the past two weeks and realized I didn’t live up to how I was raised and my own expectations about equality.

There was the poem someone shared our senior year. It was titled ‘De Black Speckled Banner.’ I passed it along.

There were jokes by others I laughed at that made white people look superior. I retold them.

There were times white friends said something and I knew it was derogatory and I should have spoken up. I kept quiet.

Because of my career journey, I have worked with people who didn’t look and think just like me. Black. Hispanic. Asian. Jew. Muslim. Hindu. Buddhist. Mormon. Atheist. LGBTQ+.

I’ve always believed I am not a racist. That my experiences and the people I met along the way give me a wide and open view of humanity. That living a life based on the teaching of ‘Love one another as I have loved you’ makes me unbiased.

Then… George Floyd.

After many conversations since with my wife and the two adult daughters living with us during these socially distanced times. After reading numerous articles. After watching lots of videos. After looking deep inside and acknowledging white privilege. After considering 400 years of this country’s history.

I looked in the mirror and said, “My silence is racist.”

So I’ve been sharing a lot of links with my white friends. Most of them are open to having dialogue so they, too, can better understand the experiences of those who don’t look like us, weren’t raised like us, haven’t had our same advantages. A couple pushed back and said all the protests are a ‘narrative by the left-leaning media.’ One told me to stop sending him things because he doesn’t want to think about it.

I can’t control how people react. I can’t make people think differently. I can’t change people. However, I can’t remain silent any longer. I will continue to share. Continue to challenge. Continue to move the conversation forward. Perhaps I won’t have any impact on anyone else. I know it will make a difference in me.

The world changed May 25. I am changing too.

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Mask Charade

From my earliest childhood memory, going to church is something I’ve enjoyed. Whether getting out of bed on Sunday mornings during college, or Kathy and I taking our three kids each week through their high school years, or now when it’s only the two of us, remaining committed to attend is a priority. While faith is involved, it’s also about focusing on something greater than myself and expressing gratitude for blessings.

The past two months of a global pandemic changed our Sunday mornings from getting dressed and driving to a building into sitting on the couch barefoot and watching an online service with empty pews. While churches are starting to reopen with proper social distancing and limited attendance, I don’t plan to hurry back anytime soon.

The ‘aha!’ moment as I reach age 60 in two weeks? It’s not about the building; it’s not about the pageantry; it’s not about the ‘big T’ or ‘little t’ traditions. Nor the dogma. Nor the shared beliefs. Nor the time, treasure and talent. All that is human construct.

What does matter is do I place – 24/7/365 – the needs of others ahead of myself? If the answer is yes, then it’s not important which religion I resonate with or what location I attend. There are no points given in Heaven for showing up. The question I’ll someday have to answer is did I keep the new commandment to “Love one another as I have loved you (John 15:12)” for more than just an hour on Sundays?

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Culture Stars

Celebrities are often criticized for stating their opinions – a majority leaning to one side of the political spectrum – while living lavish lifestyles. “Stick with acting and keep quiet.” “If you don’t like America, move somewhere else.” “I don’t see you out helping the poor; put your money where your mouth is.”

During the past many weeks, though, it’s nice to see famous folks donating their time and talents (and maybe even treasures) to raise money for those impacted by COVID-19, especially health care workers. From Broadway stars singing in unison in their social-distanced homes, to movie stars voicing over pictures from the front lines, to TV stars reprising iconic roles – like Tony Shaloub as ‘Monk’ – so many are trying to be a ray of light during these difficult days.

A personal favorite of ours, Matthew McConaughey, Minister of Culture for the University of Texas, agreed to hold a chat forum on The Athletic last month. Technical difficulties caused it to start a half hour late. While a lot of celebrities would have immediately thrown blame, ‘Hey, I was here… not my fault,’ the Academy Award winner who teaches acting to UT students, typed: “McConaughey here—tardy for class… excuse me—password glitch—what up—let’s jam”

There’s a good chance when we finally come out of this, human nature kicks in and we’re back to our same old habits. On the other hand, perhaps we’ll have new appreciation for each other and the challenges we face together. It would be great if that respect and concern carries over and continues in the new normal.

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Major Disappointment

In September 2017, Hurricane Harvey devasted a large part of Houston. During the following weeks, the Astros run to the World Series energized and united the city. Much of America got behind the team – and ‘Houston Strong’ became the rallying cry.

The Astros had more success – making it to the ALCS in 2018 and the World Series last year. Then the bottom fell out. A former player went on the record about a massive cheating effort to steal opponents’ signs. The Commissioner’s investigation verified the allegations and he took swift and harsh action.

Failing to act cost the General Manager and Manager their jobs. It cost the New York Mets and Boston Red Sox their Managers who had ties to the Astros. It impacts the legacies of several All-Star players. It forever taints the Astros World Series rings.

While sports may hold too high a priority given the world’s many problems, they serve as a window into the soul of a community. For an area that struggled to overcome the moniker ‘Choke City’ – a curse finally lifted by those 2017 Astros – this is one more gut punch.

Several people had the opportunity to end the cheating and let it continue. The end justified the means. The lesson? See something. Say something. Do something. Never stand by idly and look the other way. The light of truth will ultimately shine on you.

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