The Conspiracy to Keep us Down and Dumb

This (see title) came up in an email conversation this week.  Here is a paragraph I wrote in Overcoming Adolescence about the subject:

One of the saddest attacks of negative nostalgia I have ever encountered was while reading Frank McCourt’s second autobiographical book ‘Tis   His first installment, Angela’s Ashes, was a runaway bestselling account of the grinding poverty of his childhood.  I could not identify with it.  He was more impoverished than anybody I knew.  However, ‘Tis, describing his early years as an Irish immigrant in America, struck home.  His account of moving up the educational and socio-economic ladder recalled, for me, a couple of episodes in my own life.  A family member or a work-buddy in a dead-end job challenged McCourt’s attempt to get an education, to use good grammar, to play by a different set of rules than was valued on the lowest rungs of society.  I identified.  I have heard it all:

  • “Do you think you are better than us now?”
  • “You are getting kind of uppity, aren’t you?”

There was and is a mammoth conspiracy afoot by the ignorant to keep others as wretched as they are!  Misery, we say, loves company.  It makes underachievers feel better if you are failing along with them!

Categories: Uncategorized | 7 Comments

High School Cliques—50 years later

Planning a high school class reunion is a hoot—lots of laughter and old jokes. Good memories.

Planning a class reunion elicits other emotions as well. There is the surreal experience of literally not recognizing someone with whom you were close, your lab partner in chemistry, a teammate, even a girlfriend. Of course, they don’t recognize me either. Some of the insecurities of adolescence also return as cliques re-form: the popular boys and girls, the jocks, the beauty queens, the rich kids. If there is a way to divide human beings, we will find a way to do it.

I’ve heard someone say that at class reunions the same ol’ pecking orders emerge.

As my North Augusta High School Class of 1965 has begun to plan its fiftieth reunion, I’ve had a bit of a different take on our so-called cliques. Of course, it’s no fun to be excluded, so there is obviously a negative aspect to dividing ourselves into factions.

But, who else would we hang out with other than the people we knew best? At least five elementary schools fed into our one junior high and then our high school. We merged just fine as far as I recall. But, it’s natural enough that some of my best friends with our own special memories go back to grammar school. Some of us went to the same church. That’s why we were best friends then and good friends still.

Even in high school, we had groups that were exclusive in their own way, but what other option was there? I was never in the band and band folks have a unique bond, an in-group that I was not in! Why wouldn’t they want to hang out together at a reunion? Some classmates went off to the same college and have shared memories of high school and university. Some stayed in town and raised their own kids together. They have been in the same Sunday school class together for forty years.

We can be a bit prickly and paranoid at these events but the time together is worth the effort.

Happy days then. Even happier days now.

Categories: Humor, South Carolina | Tags: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Fiftieth Class Reunion Planning Committee

Our fiftieth high school class reunion is on the calendar. That makes those of us sitting in the room planning the event either age 67 or 68. Glenda, preparing to preside over the dozen or so of us on the reunion planning committee, looked at her notes, then said, “Terry, Can I borrow your glasses again?”

Great start, I thought.

Then, Allison said, “Don’t forget some of us are going deaf, too, so speak loudly.”

Really great start!

Hearing aids and glasses adjusted, each person in the group introduced and said something about himself or herself. Of course, during these short speeches, folks bragged about their grandchildren. Understandable, but when one classmate said she had fourteen grandkids, she was asked if she could name them all. That cut down on the grandchild talk.

Introductions were necessary because we didn’t have a clue who these other old folks were. “Hey, How ya’ doing? So good to see you,” was merely a cover.

At least nobody said, “Were you one of our teachers?”

Finally, we got around to the business. Questions about what to eat and how much to charge and would we need a policeman for security. Security? The most dangerous thing anybody in this crowd was going to do was to fall asleep while driving home.

I was interested in the time set for the reunion. There were arguments for 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. but I was holding out for the 4:30 p.m. Early Bird Special. The menu choice was easy: mustard-based barbeque. This is South Carolina, after all.

There was some debate about saving some money by using email instead of snail mail and postage stamps, but some of our class doesn’t use email. Back and forth, one opinion, then another.

Eventually, we decided we’d better hurry up with whatever choice we make before we’re all too old to get there.

Categories: Health, Humor, South Carolina | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

I Loved High School

These days, it’s cool for people to say they hated their high school years. They will often add that the other students didn’t like them and they didn’t like the other students. Nothing could be further from my experience.

High school was a feast of football and basketball games, sock hops, field trips, proms, cheerleaders and summer camps.

At North Augusta High School, graduating in 1965, we told bad jokes when we were dissecting frogs, and made bad rhymes when we discovered limericks. We enjoyed some quality educators who made learning fun.

I also remember the day we all hid in a closet to confuse our physics professor who was late to class. When we weren’t there, he turned around and left. Of course, even when he wasn’t late, he was confused. Terry Bodiford and I played spitball basketball during his class. That could explain my grades in that class.

I remember the coach whose most memorable counsel was, “Do something, even if it’s wrong.” During the Cuban Missile Crisis, those of us at baseball practice started drilling with our bats. Not long after, each of us has an exact memory of where we were when we heard President Kennedy had been shot.

High school was a time of discovery, some of which happened in the classrooms, but more took place in the hallways, on ball fields, in locker rooms, and on afternoons and weekends.

Happy Days!

Categories: Baseball, Family, Football, South Carolina | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

Go. See. McFarland, USA.

The movie McFarland, USA interested me because the previews indicated it would be an inspirational sports story. I like sports. My wife doesn’t. She was out of town, so it seemed a fine film for me to see by myself.

I loved it. Sally would love it too. Based on a true story, McFarland, USA tells of a poor, predominantly Latino (Mexican-American) town in Southern California.

Kevin Costner plays a familiar character well: the stubborn, hardheaded athlete. Think Bull Durham, Tin Cup, Field of Dreams, and Draft Day. In McFarland, USA, he is Bill White, the newly hired high school cross-country coach. White’s never run cross-country or track. He’s never coached cross-country or track. The teenagers he coaches have never run cross-country or track.

Spoiler alert. You’ll like the way the movie ends. This film is Disney at its best.

What I did not expect was a touching account of a Daddy and his daughters. Take your Kleenex.

This is a good movie for all ages, children and adults, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, grandparents and grandkids.

Go. See. McFarland, USA.

Categories: Book Review, Health | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Dear Abby

Reading Dear Abby has been part of my daily newspaper ritual for decades. Certain themes emerge over and over again. Here are five I’ve seen repeated many times, followed by my observations:

  • Misunderstanding the nature of love. Marion’s response: Love is not what you feel when someone makes you feel good. Love is what you do when someone makes you feel bad.
  • Mind reading. Marion’s response: Nobody can know what another human being thinks. If you want your husband to give you yellow roses on your birthday, you have to tell him. Communicate.
  • Pet peeves. Marion’s response: Do you really need to have an opinion about everything? No, you don’t. Pet peeves are, by definition, petty. They don’t need to drive you crazy. Let it go. Find some space for grace in your life. What your mother-in-law or daughter-in-law chooses to wear is not your business. Period.
  • Thoughtlessness.  Marion’s response: We can laugh about a teenager being clueless. When older adults fail to stop and think before speaking or acting, it’s not humorous. It’s depressing and sad. Think!
  • Fear.  Marion’s response: People write Dear Abby who are miserable and desperate because they are afraid of someone’s reaction. Living in fear of an event that may not happen, and probably won’t happen, is a miserable and desperate way to live. Get over it. Move on. Fear not.

Marion D. Aldridge Author of Overcoming Adolescence

Categories: Family, Health, Lists/Top Ten | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

What I’m Giving Up for Lent…

Richard Rohr has been a hero for the past year or two.  His insights in Falling Upward are right on regarding the different tasks we have as young adults and as older adults.

Younger, we accept what we are taught, else we are burned by the stove or killed by the car coming down the street.

Older, we should learn to think for ourselves, how to use a stove properly and how to cross a street safely.  Or, we can choose not to cross the street, Or to drive a car.  Or a truck.  At any rate, we should learn to think for ourselves and not automatically do what Mom and Dad and our church and our culture taught us.

Here is the link to subscribe to Richard Rohr’s daily meditation.

Today, Richard Rohr wrote:

“The biblical tradition hopes to reveal that whenever the prophetic function is lacking in any group or religion, such a group will very soon be self-serving, self-maintaining, self-perpetuating, and self- promoting. When the prophets are kicked out of any group, it’s a very short time until that group is circling the wagons around itself, and all sense of mission and message is lost. I am afraid this is the natural movement of any institution. Establishments of any kind usually move toward their own self-perpetuation, rather than “What are we doing for others?”

Marion’s observation: We have lost (if we ever had it and used it) the ability to think. We are not even critical of what others say, meaning we don’t process the information–Is this really true or merely words that sound true? Unable or unwilling to critique others–Christians, Muslims, Jews, Republicans and Democrats, we certainly don’t evaluate ourselves very effectively.

Tomorrow begins Lent. Good time for us to give up something — such as getting our news and our opinions from the usual sources. As I’ve done the last few years, among other Lenten disciplines, I’m giving up Facebook for Lent. I recommend giving up your usual news sources, whether Fox News or NPR.  Why not give the fear-mongers a rest for the next month and a half? We will all be better for it.

One year, I attempted to give up complaining and failed miserably.  But at least I became aware of how much I complained.

So this year, I will try to give up FEAR for Lent.  I will attempt to keep fear instilled by politicians, broadcasters, emails, Facebook and friends at bay.

Prophets, Angels and Jesus say, Fear Not.

Categories: Faith/Spirituality | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments

Guest Blog: Crisis Intervention “My Day Did Not Go As Planned”   William P. Dieckmann

You are sitting in your office all ready for a hard day of work with much to get done. The phone rings and one of your employees has been in an accident. All the plans for the day are put on hold. You rearrange all your appointments. You let the people at the office know that you are headed to the hospital. The hospital is out of town and three hours away. On the drive to the hospital you get a call and the news is not good. You head back to the office. The next day you go to the house to be with your employee’s spouse. What do I do? What do I say? How can I help?

Crisis comes to everyone. Crisis intervention to those can help others to regain a sense of control and begin the process of putting their life back together. Crisis intervention is about active listening and helping others cope in the next few hour or days in the aftermath of a life altering event.

Here are five practical was to help:

  • Attend to survival needs: Are they safe? Is the family safe?
  • Attend to comfort needs: Do they have food and shelter?
  • Act as liaison between the victim and emergency personnel: Do they need help working with others? (They maybe numb or in shock.)
  • Give referrals to victims and family: Who can help them with short and long term needs?

What else can you do? Listen!!!  You don’t need to be a therapist to listen!! Just listen don’t try to analyze.

Some possible questions:

  • Where were you when you heard about the accident?
  • What do you feel like you need to do next?
  • Who can you talk with about this?
  • How is your family doing?

Listening Well

Don’t’ talk too much: “If we were supposed to talk more than we listen, we would have two tongues and one ear.” Mark Twain

  • Don’t Distract: Don’t doodle, shuffle paper, or look out the window. Don’t send messages to the speaker that you are distracted.
  • Empathize: See the person’s point of view. Have an open mind, leave your preconceived notions at home.
  • Be patient: Silence is ok don’t rush. Don’t interrupt the speaker.
  • Listen to the person’s tone of voice: follow the emotion of their conversation.
  • Listen for themes: what is the big picture?
  • Non-Verbal communication: Listen with your eyes.

We all will face someone who just went through a crisis. Nothing we can do will prevent some things from happening. Accept this fact.


National Organization of Victim Assistance

Harvard Business Review, January-February 1999, p 59  

Social Intelligence, Dr. Daniel Coleman

© “Crisis Point Coaching”       (February 2015)

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Family, Health | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Birthday Thoughts—February 11, 2015

  • At age 68, I’m glad to be here still. Not everyone lives this long. For me, those are more than glib words. My two best friends died at ages 60 and 63. I miss them. I am glad to be here still to enjoy and hopefully to be enjoyed by my family and other friends.
  • I’m glad to have good health. I just got back from my two-mile walk. It’s 7:30 a.m.
  • Spiritual health is also vital. I will be in church this Wednesday evening for Kathwood’s weekly “prayer meeting.” I have had my quiet time and read my morning devotional today while I ate breakfast.
  • The newest Big Addition to my life is that I now attend Al-Anon, a Twelve-Step group. I think about two-thirds of the people I know should attend Al-Anon—established for the sons, daughters, husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and friends of people with an addiction, past or present. Who is not related to or a friend of someone who is addicted to something—alcohol, food, drugs, television, money, religion, talking, coffee, work, control?
  • Life is worth celebrating. Bluebirds, blackberry cobbler, baseball, books, cigars, naps, art, coffee, fireplaces, travel, rivers, weddings, laughter, soap, hats, Shakespeare.
Categories: addiction, Faith/Spirituality, Health, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 24 Comments

My Life as a Contract Killer

For the past fifteen years, when someone has wanted to know what I do for a living, and they really don’t need to know, I say I am a contract killer. I can be convincing.

The lady who cuts my hair—a stunning blonde named Katie—believed this for about five years. I travel a lot, and she likes to ask where I’ve been lately. Answers, all true, have been San Antonio, Austria, Vermont, Belgium, Atlanta, Canada, Thailand, Romania—anywhere and everywhere.

Katie was careful not to ask what I was doing in those places and I didn’t tell her. Sometimes it was a quick trip and other times I said, “I need to be gone for a while.” The less I disclosed about me, the better.

Over time, I got to know Katie pretty well. She told me about her life, a world I knew nothing about—clubs and parties and boyfriends, nightlife among the young and beautiful.

Eventually, one day, the jig was up. I had given a Bible as a gift to a couple I knew, and they started going to church. The husband got a job in Katie’s salon as a massage therapist. Somehow, one day, I became the topic of conversation and my cover was blown.

For over forty-five years, I have enjoyed a career as a Baptist minister. Yet I found nothing shuts down dialogue more quickly than for a stranger to make that discovery. They suddenly develop a different personality. They are on their best behavior. I will never get to know that person as a real human being. Everything they say will be sanitized by their He is a preacher filter. I hate that.

It’s really a bummer when the introducer adds, “Be careful what you say. He’s a pastor.” I hate that.

Certain topics are immediately off limits. There will be no honest revelations about spouses or children, no talk about sex, booze, cigars or certain movies. No tales about wild weekends. If the person slips us and cusses, they will say, “Pardon my French, pastor.” They assume they know how I vote. I hate that.

I am a real person and I like real people.

A few years ago, Katie asked me to officiate at her wedding. I was honored. By then, I knew the real Katie and she knew the real Marion. I like that.

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Humor, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 33 Comments

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