Saturday, January 23, 2010

Suppose I got a phone call . . .

The phone rings. I pick it up.

A voice I have cannot mistake says, "Hi, Jim. This is Jesus Christ. I'll be passing through Jacksonville in tomorrow, and I'd like to drop by and say hello."

And I say, "Gosh, yes, Lord! I'd be delighted. Come right on by. Stay as long as you can."

But when I hang up, I think, Oh, my! How much I need to do to get ready! The Lord is coming, and look! This place is a mess!

So I run outside and begin raking up the pine needles on the lawn. After all, a good first impression counts for a lot.

I'm there, working away, when this guy walks by on the street. He watches me for a while with an amused expression and finally says, "You really look frantic. What's going on?"

I say, "Look, a really important visitor is coming and I've got to get this place looking good."

So he says, "Well, if it's really important, I haven't got anything else to do. Let me help you." He sees my dubious expression and says, "Really, I'm not looking for a job or a handout. You look frantic, and I'll be glad to help. Let me finish raking up the pine needles, and you go ahead and work on something else."

So I hand him the rake and I rush inside to begin cleaning and dusting and vacuuming and all the other things I need to do.

In a few hours, he comes in and says, "The lawn's done! Can I help you with something else?"

So I look, and the lawn is great! So I say, "Thanks! I really appreciate it. Could you help me with this vacuuming, while I finish the dusting?"

So he vacuums while I dust, and he washes the dishes while I get the laundry done, and he volunteers to scrub the toilet while I mop the kitchen floor.

As darkness falls, I look around and the house is spotless. I turn to my helper and say, "Really, truly--thanks. I don't know what I would have done without your help. Though you may not believe it, Jesus is coming here tomorrow, and I really think He will be satisfied with what we have done."

And he said, "You're very welcome, Jim. I know I'll be satisfied with it. After all, we did it together."

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Remembering Mr. Albert James

Mr. Albert James has died. He was a fine man, and one of the finest educators I have ever known. I rank him among the best principals I ever worked for.

The core of Mr. James's success was his respect for others; students, teachers, staff, parents, and members of the public. He looked at every person as an individual worthy of his time and effort.

He was a quiet man, who did not seek attention for himself. He did his job; he gave you time and space to do yours. He believed in the ability of people to do their best, and always encouraged that best.

I will miss him. His students and co-workers will miss him. Education will miss him. We need more principals like Mr. James.

Inefficiency is not the same as malice

You are the director of an aid organization who has lost its building, many members of its staff (killed or wounded), and all its records. There are no phones working. The cell towers are down. There is no water and no electricity. Desperate people, many with guns, are roaming the town. Some of the people with guns are not desperate, but greedy, and will shoot you to get a bag of flour to sell on the black market. The police are in just as bad a shape as you are, with many dead, no supplies, and their infrastructure destroyed.

So after many hours of struggle, you manage to get to what is left of the Port-au-Prince airport. There you find that the American affiliate of your organization has sent a pallet of desperately needed food and medical supplies. But you have no trucks. No gas if you could find a truck. No way to protect your supplies from looters if you take them away from the protected enclave at the airport. No idea of how to best distribute what you have, or how to find someone who can make appropriate use of the medications. For all you know, the doctors you used to work with are dead, or seriously injured, or fled. You have managed to borrow a satellite phone from the US Army, and asked for supplies you think you need, but your parent organization says that it will have to put your order in line behind all the other orders from groups to the very overwhelmed suppliers, and the backup at the airport is so bad that, when the plane with the supplies is ready (if they can get a plane), it will have to get to the end of queue that is already four days long and growing.


No, the supplies are not getting out to the people as fast as they are coming in to the airport.

No, not all areas are being served, and many of the most damaged areas are being served the least.

Yes, there is a lot of wasted time and effort.

Yes, there is a lot of duplication.

Yes, a lot of the people on the ground don't know quite what they are doing.

All of that is regrettable, and has bad effects. But the people caught up in this mess are not bad people. They are ordinary people caught up in a terrible, tragic, and very disorganized situation.

Please, until you have evidence to the contrary, assume that they are trying their best, even when that best is, by ordinary standards, not very good. In that situation, not very good may be all that can be done, and it is far better than sitting back and saying, "Well, since they can't do it exactly right, I won't help at all."

(This is inspired by the situation in Haiti and some of the very cynical responses to aid efforts I have read.)

Saturday, January 9, 2010

What too many children are learning

I was reading a post on teacher's net about the lessons people learned from their parents.

I also learned many valuable and meaningful positive lessons from my parents.

But I am afraid that too many children today are learning negative lessons from parents who don't care.

The lessons I fear too many children are learning today.

1. A father is a guy your mother knew once.
2. A dad is your mother's current boyfriend.
3. What is on television is real.
4. Cooking is what you do to a frozen dinner in a microwave.
5. Teeth are supposed to hurt.
6. Beer is good for you.
7. Any videogame is more fun than any real game.
8. When you feel bad, there is always something you can take that will make you feel good.
9. School is a place you go so you can hang out with your friends. It has no other purpose.
10. Nobody cares; why should you?

There have always been a few neglectful parents who more or less allow their children to raise themselves, but I fear that their number is growing.


About Me

Jacksonville, N.C., United States
Retired teacher, motorcyclist, member of the Patriot Guard Riders, the Christian Motorcyclists Association, and the Moto Guzzi National Owners Club.