April 2010 Edition
CIM Class 1972 web site publication.
"Trials, temptations, disappointments -- all these are helps instead of hindrances, if one uses them rightly. They not only test the fibre of a character, but strengthen it. Every conquered temptation represents a new fund of moral energy. Every trial endured and weathered in the right spirit makes a soul nobler and stronger than it was before." -- James Buckham
The rear view
What would you do differently if you were to go back and raise your children again? Given the same situation, it would still be tough to do anything different than what probably most of us did. Perhaps for many of us, time was a commodity we could not afford, even with our children. But if I were to go back again, I would spend most of my limited time listening to the kids more instead of engaging in all those active pursuits – driving, shopping, talking and lecturing. As much as possible I would limit to the barest minimum spending my limited time trying to arrange and re-arrange their lives to create the sort of “perfect” existence I wanted them to have, and quit building a house of cards called expectation, held together by ridiculous demands. I would just stand back and witness their change, leave them alone to their own fantasies and dreams, and let them learn on their own. Like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, they learn about greed and evil by surviving it in the land of their dreams.
I would constantly remind myself that when I was growing up, I knew things slowly in my own good time, and it was a thrill to discover and acquire knowledge on my own. Thus I would not take away the children’s innocent understanding of the world – their intuitive grasp of its beauty – by cramming their minds with information. For, thinking about it, it is the uncovering of life, the unfolding of its treasures - that made us dance. When it is handed to us on a platter, demystified and distilled, it is nothing more than dime-store knowledge, worthless to us because it has already been decoded. The thrill is gone. When we keep giving the children our own lessons in life, conveying to them the results of our own struggles, we are not only destroying the illusion; we’re cheating them out of their sense of wonder, their chance to unravel the mystery of their own lives.
I don’t know about you but when my kids were still little, I never had time with them enough to make them feel I was there for them because like many young professionals, I was always busy working or making money to satisfy the family’s wants and wishes and to prepare for the future. Young and restless, I worked everywhere, withholding if not neglecting even my own body’s needs of sleep and exercise, pursuing the dream of what is called financial freedom or security, like a dog after a bitch. With the lack of sleep and exercise, grouchiness was my way of life at home with the kids.
Life was a battle instead of an adventure. It was a race to be won by the fastest. Challenges stimulated competitive instinct rather than curiosity. Work was draining because I only see it in terms of what I can get from it rather than what I can learn and grow from it. There was no time left over for a little bit more romance. All too often everything was done in a hurry, including sex. There was stronger relationship with tension rather than touching, intensity rather than intimacy, stress rather than sex.
I never had time to think and perhaps learn something with regards to raising my own children. I seemed to simply follow the routine discipline that I picked up from my own parents – scream and yell at them, sometimes hit them, and threaten them if they make mistakes or don’t behave the way I wanted them to. The more strictly I followed that discipline, the worse the kids behaved and the more irritable I became. Little did I know that everything in that discipline is intended for control, and nothing for nurture.
I guess I’d been just lucky to realize earlier that I turned the kids into someone like me – impatient, impulsive, intolerant, insecure, and with poor self-esteem. I had become the embodiment of insanity, following the same methods and performing the same rituals again and again, yet expecting different results. Fortunately the kids have turned out to be more than I had really hoped for. To paraphrase the song: “I’ve had my share of life’s ups and downs. But fate had been kind. The downs hadn't been too bad nor too many. I guess you could say I’d been lucky. And I guess you could say, it’s all because I realized it early that I had been losing my sanity.”
The front view
With a grandchild, it’s a whole lot different ball game. You have more than enough time for everything – to think and learn more. You have time to act on thought rather than on impulse. You have more time for love, more time for introspection, reflection and self-assessment, and more time for understanding that kids will not grow as their genetic code dictates; instead, they will reflect in their behavior the way they have been treated. Thus in babysitting our grandson, I’ve learned something that I wished I had thought about it many, many years ago.
While babysitting our 16 months old grandson for several days a little more than a month ago since the father had to go out of state for an educational conference, we took the kid to the mall every afternoon because it was so confining in their house and also we wanted to spend up or exhaust the kid’s energy so that putting him to sleep during the night would be a lot easier. At the mall, our grandson was so happy and went straight to the indoor play park. Even if the other kids were a lot older, bigger and taller than him, the little boy just went on, climbed and slid into the tube slide. Initially he hit his face on the floor because he went down the tube with his head first. He cried a little bit but went back and climbed again, and immediately learned to slide with his feet first. He did not say to himself, “Damn, that hurts. I bet others had gotten hurt too. I’m not going there anymore.” Instead, he was laughing and having a good time. He has no concept of fear and he was so focused on having fun and doing what he wanted to do.
After the play park, the little boy ran around the mall, getting into each store and looking at the salespersons like he wanted to let them know that he was not buying anything, but to the delight of those salespersons in the stores that did not have many customers. He would step into and ride the escalator, pushing my hand away because he did not want me to hold him. I just had to stay behind him. It was fun just watching him. It’s good that my daughter and her husband allow our grandson freely to get hurt if necessary just to learn something by himself. Even when he just started crawling at 9 or 10 months old, they taught him how to climb up and down the stairs by himself. At a little more than a year old when he started walking steadily, my wife would cringe when she sees him climbing up and down the stairs in our house using the rails like an adult. But he would clap his hands once he’s through and I would cheer him up to my wife’s dismay. So far, our grandson has suffered only bumps and bruises, not cuts….. yet.
As adults, wouldn’t it be a good idea to think more like a little boy of 16 months old? Can you imagine how much we would have accomplished with that kind of thinking when we were young adults? You see, we let fear stop us from pursuing our dreams. We keep on wondering or even worrying about what would happen if we failed, and so we got stuck with our potentials unexplored, and sometimes we felt like a fool. Before we make decision, let alone take any action, we spend a lot of time analyzing and hesitating, and all too often we failed to act. Indeed there is nothing wrong with analyzing a situation and assessing the risk. But it should be tempered with some measure of risk and optimism. We will never know, let alone learn anything, unless we act. To know what’s in the mountain or behind it, we have to get there. Yet when it comes to possible results, we all too often spend too much time worrying.
Worry is considering things that may not occur, and so we don’t take risks because we are afraid of what might happen and what others might say and think about us. Our concept of failures or losses is shame and embarrassment. We can’t really blame ourselves because in the family of many of us or in our guilt culture in the Philippines where we all grew up, failures or losses are treated as weaknesses, if not stupidities, and are almost always penalized at least with ridicules and criticisms that readily become the subject of gossips and more ridicules.
Hurtful comments, criticisms and put-downs are something many of us had gone through and put up with when we were growing up. I know I had. They came to us like they were parts of our lives, of our growth and development, of our society, and of our culture. Yet they hurt, and because they hurt, they make us angry and defensive, or fearful, anxious and insecure. Those who were not strong enough withdrew, and the angry ones fought back, slinging criticisms back like squeezing the trigger of an AK 47. Their emotions dictate their reaction; they talk and even yell without thinking.
Our self-esteem took a whipping by those hurtful comments, criticisms, and put-downs. What made it even worst was when those cutting remarks are being justified -“They are not intended to hurt your feelings, but to toughen you up and build your character; why should it make you upset when it’s true that you’re a shit head? Why can’t you just accept it and do better next time? You’re not that ambitious and focus, anyway. So, chill!” Thus it was hard to acquire courage and confidence in ourselves because these justifications put fear and doubts in our minds. And it takes a lot of strength and courage to accept and face reality, and then to move on in pursuing what we want.
As results or consequences of those cutting or critical remarks, many of us are too quick to criticize ourselves. We have become approval-seekers; we often structure our life pleasing others and especially pleasing our parents and families, and opt for what we should do instead of what we want to do. The years of trying to please others put us out of touch with who we really are and what we really want that sometimes even the simplest choice becomes a major conflict. We think more of what others might think about us than what we think about ourselves. We have become too sensitive and defensive that we often take things personally so that we find it impossible to accept even mild and well-intentioned suggestions that we don’t like to hear. Good relationships have been destroyed by nothing more than well-intentioned comments or suggestions. It’s easy to become offended and get upset or angry if our focus is on the who said it rather than the what is being said – “How dare you criticize me or make such suggestion, when you are only a nurse or when you are not a doctor!” Etc...
Believe it or not, it is those personal critical comments that have made me change my attitude and the way I think. Of course, even as career professionals, personal critical comments are generally destructive at least initially, but some of them are actually constructive. You have to learn to take them calmly and not react but consider instead whether they are true or not by looking into yourself like reflecting on it or intuiting, and being honest. If they are not true, then you just have to learn to dismiss and forget them. D. Sutten said: “Find the grain of truth in criticism – chew it and swallow it.”
Walt Whitman wrote: “Have you learned lessons only of those who admired you, and were tender with you, and stood aside for you? Have you not learned great lessons from those who braced themselves against you, and disputed the passage with you?” While we may love to hear that everything we say and do is wonderful, such an assessment really tells us little about why it’s wonderful or whether it can be improved. Hearing only the good things may build our ego, but does little to encourage growth and change, create challenge, or provide goals. Sometimes the only way we can see ourselves clearly is through the eyes of another.
Make no mistake though, criticisms can destroy the self-esteem and self-confidence of young kids or children in particular especially if the critics are their own parents or siblings. Children’s world is very narrow, and no matter how critical or abusive, the parents still represent the only available source of emotional nourishment; of love and comfort. And children have the right to be nurtured emotionally, to have their feelings respected, and to be treated in ways that allow them to develop a sense of self-worth. Hurtful criticisms are not one of these ways; they are not emotional nourishments; they are emotional toxins. Cruel words are as powerful as kind words. Cruel words have the power to destroy just as kind words have the power to build.
Many years ago, Al Capone virtually owned Chicago. Capone wasn't famous for anything heroic. He was notorious for enmeshing the windy city in everything from bootlegged booze and prostitution to murder. Capone had a lawyer nicknamed "Easy Eddie." He was his lawyer for a good reason. Eddie was very good! In fact, Eddie's skill at legal maneuvering kept Big Al out of jail for a long time.
To show his appreciation, Capone paid Eddie very well. Not only was the money big, but also Eddie got special dividends. For instance, he and his family occupied a fenced-in mansion with live-in help and all of the conveniences of the day. The estate was so large that it filled an entire Chicago City block. Eddie lived the high life of the Chicago mob and gave little consideration to the atrocity that went on around him. Eddie did have one soft spot, however. He had a son that he loved dearly. Eddie saw to it that his young son had the best of everything: clothes, cars and a good education. Nothing was withheld. Price was no object. And, despite his involvement with organized crime, Eddie even tried to teach him right from wrong. Eddie wanted his son to be a better man than he was. Yet, with all his wealth and influence, there were two things he couldn't give his son; he couldn't pass on a good name and a good example.
One day, Easy Eddie reached a difficult decision. Easy Eddie wanted to rectify wrongs he had done. He decided he would go to the authorities and tell the truth about Al "Scarface" Capone, clean up his tarnished name and offer his son some semblance of integrity. To do this, he would have to testify against The Mob, and he knew that the cost would be great. So, he testified.
Within the year, Easy Eddie's life ended in a blaze of gunfire on a lonely Chicago Street. But in his eyes, he had given his son the greatest gift he had to offer, at the greatest price he would ever pay. Police removed from his pockets a rosary, a crucifix, a religious medallion and a poem clipped from a magazine. The poem read:
The clock of life is wound but once
And no man has the power
To tell just when the hands will stop
At late or early hour.
Now is the only time you own.
Live, love, toil with a will.
Place no faith in time.
For the clock may soon be still.
World War II produced many heroes. One such man was Lieutenant Commander Butch O'Hare. He was a fighter pilot assigned to the aircraft carrier Lexington in the South Pacific.
One day his entire squadron was sent on a mission. After he was airborne, he looked at his fuel gauge and realized that someone had forgotten to top off his fuel tank. He would not have enough fuel to complete his mission and get back to his ship. His flight leader told him to return to the carrier. Reluctantly, he dropped out of formation and headed back to the fleet. As he was returning to the mother ship he saw something that turned his blood cold, a squadron of Japanese aircraft were speeding their way toward the American fleet.
The American fighters were gone on a sortie, and the fleet was all but defenseless. He couldn't reach his squadron and bring them back in time to save the fleet. Nor could he warn the fleet of the approaching danger. There was only one thing to do. He must somehow divert them from the fleet. Laying aside all thoughts of personal safety, he dove into the formation of Japanese planes. Wing-mounted 50 caliber's blazed as he charged in, attacking one surprised enemy plane and then another. Butch wove in and out of the now broken formation and fired at as many planes as possible until all his ammunition was finally spent. Undaunted, he continued the assault. He dove at the planes, trying to clip a wing or tail in hopes of damaging as many enemy planes as possible and rendering them unfit to fly.
Finally, the exasperated Japanese squadron took off in another direction. Deeply relieved, Butch O'Hare and his tattered fighter limped back to the carrier. Upon arrival he reported in and related the event surrounding his return. The film from the gun-camera mounted on his plane told the tale. It showed the extent of Butch's daring attempt to protect his fleet. He had in fact destroyed five enemy aircraft. This took place on February 20, 1942, and for that action Butch became the Navy's first Ace of W.W.II, and the first Naval Aviator to win the Congressional Medal of Honor.
A year later Butch was killed in an aerial combat at the age of 29. His home town would not allow the memory of this WW II hero to fade, and today, O'Hare Airport in Chicago is named in tribute to the courage of this great man. So the next time you find yourself at O'Hare International, give some thought to visiting Butch's memorial displaying his statue and his Medal of Honor. It's located between Terminals 1 and 2.
SO WHAT DO THESE TWO STORIES HAVE TO DO WITH EACH OTHER?
Butch O'Hare was Easy Eddie's son.
A man walking along a California beach was deep in prayer. All of a sudden he said out loud, "Lord grant me one wish." The sky clouded above his head and in a booming voice, the Lord said, "Because you have tried to be faithful to me in all ways, I will grant you one wish."
The man said, "Build a bridge to Hawaii so I can drive over any time I want."
The Lord said, "Your request is very materialistic. Think of the enormous challenges for that kind of undertaking. The supports required to reach the bottom of the Pacific!! The concrete and steel it would take!! I CAN DO IT, but it is hard for me to justify your desire for worldly things. Take a little more time and think of another wish, a wish you think would honor an glorify me."
The man thought about it for a long time. Finally he said, "LORD, I wish that I could understand women. I want to know how they feel inside, what they are thinking when they give me the silent treatment, why they cry, what they mean when they say 'nothing', and how I can make a woman truly happy."
THE LORD replied, " YOU WANT TWO LANES OR FOUR LANES ON THAT BRIDGE?"
A married couple was in a terrible accident where the man's face was severely burned. The doctor told the husband that they couldn't graft any skin from his body because he was too skinny.
So the wife offered to donate some of her own skin. However, the only skin on her body that the doctor felt was suitable would have to come from her buttocks. The husband and wife agreed that they would tell no one about where the skin came from, after all, this was a very delicate matter.
After the surgery was completed, everyone was astounded at the man's new face. He looked more handsome than he ever had before! All his friends and relatives just went on and on about his youthful beauty!
One day, he was alone with his wife, and he was overcome with emotion at her sacrifice. He said, "Dear, I just want to thank you for everything you did for me. How can I possibly repay you?"
"My darling," she replied, "I get all the thanks I need every time I see your mother kiss you on the cheek."
A Sunday school teacher of pre-schoolers was concerned that her students might be a little confused about Jesus Christ. She wanted to make sure they understood that the birth of Jesus occurred a long time ago, that he grew up, etc. So she asked her class, "Where is Jesus today?" Steven raised his hand and said, "He's in heaven!"
Mary was called on and answered, "He's in my heart!"
Little Johnny, waving his hand furiously, blurted out, "I know! I know! He's in our bathroom!"
“The whole class got very quiet, looked at the teacher, and waited for a response. The teacher was completely at a loss for a few very long seconds. She finally gathered her wits and asked Little Johnny how he knew this.
Little Johnny replied, "Well, every morning my father gets up, bangs on the bathroom door, and yells: 'Jesus Christ, are you still in there?'"
There were Five country churches in a small TEXAS town: The Presbyterian Church, The Baptist Church, The Methodist Church, The Catholic Church, The Jewish Synagogue.
Each church was overrun with pesky squirrels.
One day, the Presbyterian Church called a meeting to decide what to do about the squirrels. After much prayer and consideration they determined that the squirrels were predestined to be there and they shouldn't interfere with God's divine will.
In The BAPTIST CHURCH the squirrels had taken up habitation in the baptistery. The deacons met and decided to put a cover on the baptistery and drown the squirrels in it. The squirrels escaped somehow and there were twice as many there the next week.
The Methodist Church got together and decided that they were not in a position to harm any of God's creation. So, they humanely trapped the squirrels and set them free a few miles outside of town. Three days later, the squirrels were back.
But The Catholic CHURCH came up with the best and most effective solution. They baptized the squirrels and registered them as members of the church. Now they only see them on Christmas and Easter.
Not much was heard about the Jewish Synagogue, but they took one squirrel and had a short service with him called circumcision and they haven't seen a squirrel on the property since.