Tuesday, November 30, 2010

2010-49 - Quite a Character…

I can remember when I was a child in grade school, my parents would attend the PTA meetings. I stayed at home shaking in my boots, fearful of what my teachers had to say about me. I don't know why. Most of the time when they returned home, my father would say, "I asked how you were doing in class. She said 'Bob's a charmer.'" I'd smile and sigh with relief.
"You're quite a character, Bob," my mother would tell me. So, for most of my life I thought being a character was the most important thing.
Then one day when I had been much too long in adulthood, I heard someone talk about my reputation. It wasn't very flattering. Most likely truthful to some extent, but not something I'd want my parents to hear at PTA. Being a charmer doesn't always work for good. I also discovered that being a character isn't as good as having character. Being a character is like being a clown, an actor of sorts. Having character involves morals and ethics.
During a discussion I was involved with one day, a man made a very strong point. One that lit the fire and sparked the desire for me to make changes in my life. He quoted Dale Carnegie, "Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are."
That was it. If one focuses on their character, one need not worry about their reputation. Reputation is someone's interpretation of who they think you are. How they see you is based on their judgments, prejudices, and personal experiences. Like all other views and opinions in life, it all comes down to the way you see it, the way I see it and the way it is.
~ Bob Perks

“The measure of a man's real character is what he would do if he knew he never would be found out.”
Thomas Babington Macaulay

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

2010-48 - Run With Intent…

Fred Lebow once complained to his doctor that he lacked energy. His doctor advised him to take up running in order to increase his stamina. He fell in love with it! He was 39 years old when he entered his first race - and did horribly. He beat only one other contestant - a 72-year-old man. But he loved it!
Fred decided what he really wanted to do - and he did it in his spare time. He joined the New York Road Runners Club and organized New York City's first marathon race. But what Fred truly wanted to do, even more than run, was to bring people together. And that is what he did. He believe that anybody should be able to run - people of all ages, any background, professional or amateur, and of any country. Today, more than 28,000 people of all backgrounds and nationalities compete in the NYC Marathon.
Not everyone in New York was excited about people running through their neighbourhoods. Fred was approached by a youth gang that warned him that nobody had better run through their turf. "That's great," Fred enthused. "I need someone to protect the runners in your area, and you look like just the fellows to do it." He gave them each a hat, shirt and jacket and that year, when the marathon went through their neighbourhood, these young men proudly guarded the runners along their way.
Fred decided what was truly important to him and he found a way to do it. He lived with intent. That single decision made his life remarkably different.
In 1990, Fred Lebow found he had a brain tumour. In 1992 he ran his final race. He crossed the finish line holding the hand of his friend and Norwegian Olympic medallist, Grete Waitz. A bronze statue was created of Fred in his running clothes, checking his watch. It is now placed at the finish line of every race. Fred died in 1994. But as one sports writer said, "Fate handed him a short race. With his gall, with his love of life, Fred Lebow turned it into a marathon."
Fred would say that it's not about how long you live, but how you run the race of life. Do you run it with intent?
~ Steve Goodier

"The man who is intent on making the most of his opportunities is too busy to bother about luck."
B. C. Forbes

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

2010-47 - From Spark To Flame…

When my now 19 year old daughter was in Grade 3, all of Mrs. Mathews' students were given a small pot with a bean seed to plant. Green string beans it seems are pretty hardy and the perfect seed to use when promoting green thumbs in young children.

Once the bean plants had sprouted and flowered, their teacher allowed the kids to carefully transfer the precious cargo from school to home. Once home, Shanna scouted around for the perfect location and settled on a sunny south window sill and then proudly declared, "Soon I can feed the whole family!"

Shanna's sisters were envious and even our cat looked intrigued which should have been a warning to me because when I woke up the next morning, I saw that the bean plant had been maliciously ripped from its pot. It's leaves were frayed and it was quite unrecognizable from the day before. The plant, it seemed, was a goner.

I dreaded what I had to tell Shanna but as I gently began to explain that the bean plant had to be put in the compost, her reaction was not what I expected. She said, "Everything will be okay Mom, the plant will get better."

Without wasting a second in thought she secured the first aid kit from the bathroom returning with gauze, a tongue depressor, bandages and a deep belief that the pathetic looking, near-dead bean plant would live, thrive and even produce food!

I had mixed emotions knowing that she was postponing the plants inevitable trip to the compost bin but I went along with it and helped her wrap bandages. Days later, to my absolute surprise, the bean plant was standing tall and looking perky. It was also amazing to see that the one and only bean, had become plump almost completely masking the claw marks that had scarred it.

Just one week later we were able to take the bandages off and again we barely found evidence of an attack and there was even a new sliver of green where a second bean was forming. Back to the window sill it went but this time we built a fortress of heavy books to keep it safe until our day of bounty.

I set the table beautifully with all the fanfare of a Thanksgiving dinner. The beans were carefully divided by 5, which awarded each person 2 small pieces, claw marks and all. They turned out to be the best green beans I had ever eaten!

My daughter never quite understood my exuberance over the significance of the beans. In my work as a youth motivator I am brought together with kids and teens that all desperately need people to believe in them. Now, more than ever, no matter what I have been told about a child or a teen and their behaviour, I see everyone, no exceptions, with the same eyes and heart that my daughter used on her broken, beaten up bean plant.

I wonder if it's a coincidence that later that same week, I stumbled upon a most appropriate quote by Italian Poet Dante (1265-1351): "From a little spark, may burst a mighty flame."

~ Monique Howat