Saturday, March 30, 2013

Connections Are Made

As human beings, we never know when we make a connection with another human being. Unless, that other person lets us know through their words or behavior.

Yesterday, I was on a weekly conference call with a group of people who are all members of a group called The Good Men Project. When the topic came up about some people objecting to strictly men helping young boys and men to become better people, and how we were supposedly ignoring young girls and women in the process, I had to make a statement.

I proceeded to go on about a five-minute rant about how I made a connection with a young lady in a locked mental health unit in a hospital many years ago. I told about how this one girl came to my presentation in her bathrobe and pajamas. She had no reason to get dressed because she was depressed and suicidal.

This was back before the Internet and email. Two days after I visited that institution, I received a large manila envelope with letters from all the youth who had attended my ninety-minute presentation.

As it turned out, there was a two-page letter from this young lady who wrote she had tried to kill herself seven times, and because of my presentation she would never do it again! I have received letters like that both before and since that day. Now, I get emails from both young people and adults who are hurting and express themselves to me after only maybe hearing me for an hour. It always amazes me what people are willing to tell me after only meeting me briefly and listening to me speak for a short period of time!

I called the counselor who had arranged for my trip and told her of the girls letter. I am proud to say I return every letter or email I have ever received to the individual who has written me. In all the years I have been speaking, I have only received one hate email. In fact, I received two identical emails that day from two different students in a school I had been at two weeks prior to those Sunday afternoon emails. They were especially disturbing because they both had my photograph from my website defaced with a paint program, and the words, Your gay and a bitch. I wish you die and go to hell!

I must admit that scared me. The next day, I called the counselor from that school and told her of the incident. That is a whole other story, about how we dealt with that issue. I spend a good part of a chapter talking about it in my book, I Still Believe In Tomorrow. As I am prone to do, I am getting off topic. Please forgive me. Regular readers of my blog will understand my propensity to do that.

Back to the young lady: Through a series of phone calls with her counselor, and a couple conversations with the counselors from her high school who were friends of mine, we addressed her issues and she received some more psychological counseling. I had visited her home high school on numerous occasions; and the person who arranged for all the visits was one of her counselors who was very aware of her situation.

Then, about a year later, I was invited to the school where she had graduated that previous spring for a twenty-four hour lockdown of eighth-grade students coming in as freshmen in the fall. Unbeknownst to me, she was one of the graduates who was assisting the counselors in running this orientation.

I no sooner got into the building, when this attractive, well-dressed, young woman in a dress came running up to me, gave me a big hug, backed away, spread her arms out, and proclaimed, Look what you did!

I immediately asked, What do you mean?

Whereupon she explained, I am going to college, I got an apartment, I moved out of the abusive environment I was in, I've changed my name, I'm a new person, and I owe it all to you!

I said, I didn't do any of that. You did it. I just gave you the tools.

You should have seen the look on her face when she realized it was her and not me who had made the transformation to become the young woman she was today. It was one of those life-defining moments we all get on occasion.

The point of this whole post is to give you an example of how we can make a difference in someone's life and not even realize it. Something I said in that mental health unit affected that young woman so profoundly; she even went so far as to change her name!

As always, I welcome your comments.



Wednesday, March 27, 2013

It Never Stops!

My longtime readers have often read my posts when I start out by writing something like, I never know where my inspiration for posts is going to come from.

Guess what? It has happened again. I received an email this morning from a Rev. in Casper, Wyoming. He wrote how he was a new student in Worthington just starting his senior year in the fall of 1971. He also wrote how he was the student who ran our videotaping, or at that time, Super 8 mm movie camera to film our game.

He went on to write how he remembered the sound of my accident! Please indulge me and let me insert his email message here:


While I am sure you don’t remember me, as I was just a new senior there at Worthington your junior year when you broke your neck, I was the one who was recording the game for the school.  I was also one of the many who rode our bikes over to Sioux Falls to visit you.  I do know that you know my parents Robert and Betty McGrew as it was in conversation with them that my parents got a copy of your book for me (signed by you) as they thought that I knew you. I know more about you as I was there, and will never forget the sound from that moment.

In any case, the reason I am writing to you today is that after reading your book, I was in conversation with a lady here in Casper, Wyoming, where I am currently appointed as a United Methodist pastor, and I believe that your book would be an inspiration for her as she struggles with recuperating from a major stroke. If you would let me know what I need to do in order to get another copy of your book and what the costs are I would appreciate it.

Now, mind you, he is talking about my accident, which happened more than forty-one and a half years ago. He mentioned how he will never forget the sound! He was perched high from the crowd in a crow's nest at the fifty yard line, more than two hundred feet from the play! It astonishes me how he could hear the snap of my neck from that distance!

One of my coaches told how he heard a sound; and before the whistle even blew to end the play, he was running onto the field because he knew something was wrong. He was even thirty or more yards from the play when he heard it.

If you have read my book I Still Believe In Tomorrow, you know I wrote about how Charlie Blackstead, who was running the chain gang and had a very unique perspective on my accident, constantly referred to my head bouncing just one time, it bounced just one time, it bounced just one time. He kept repeating that in a conversation we had just a few years ago.

Another friend wrote how he did not think it was any big deal, until the ambulance got there. Again, if you have read the book, you may remember some of those comments.

I often refer to an instant in time when I talk about my accident. I believe we can all think of an instant in time in our own lives that have affected not only our life but the peoples' lives around us. It is those instances in time that often define our lives. Take a minute if you will, and think about some of the instances in time in your life that have affected not only yours, but the lives around you.

I am happy to say I have already sent the book; and a woman in Casper, Wyoming who has suffered a major stroke may benefit from an instant in time in my life in 1971. Also, who knows whom she will give it to and let read I Still Believe In Tomorrow?

I could not always say this, but I believe very strongly there was a reason for my accident. That gets reinforced to me on almost a daily basis.

As always, I look forward to your comments. I especially look forward to comments from people who were at the game and what you remember about that instant in time.



Sunday, March 24, 2013

March Madness Is In Full Swing!

For college basketball fans, these last four days were all about doing nothing but watching game after game after game, grabbing the remote to switch and see how your teams were doing on one of the four channels covering all thirty-two games this weekend! They were CBS, TNT, TBS and TruTV.

March Madness is living up to its name this year. So far, there have been plenty of upsets, brackets busted, and the field is almost completely narrowed down to the Sweet 16.

Personally, I still have my eventual winner in the Sweet 16, and a couple other possible point producing teams, but my bracket fell on hard times yesterday and today. With eighty-six people in our pool after day one, I was only one point out of the lead. Day two, just two points out.

Then Saturday and Sunday brought carnage and yours truly now finds himself about fifteen points out of the lead! I am still in the upper half, but that is not saying much.

Friends of mine run the pool I enter every year, and it seems to be getting larger and larger every year. This year is the largest number of participants they have had, although I think some people enter more than one time.

For instance, there is one participant whose name is Reggie Bird, who happens to be a cockatiel. I know he does not fill out the brackets, so one of two humans must be doing it for him. One of my goals is to make sure I beat that damn bird every year!

Another one of my goals is to make sure I finish ahead of two longtime friends who have been entering in the tournament pool now for many years. We have an ongoing battle between the three of us, and I consider it a successful year when I finish about those two! Right now, I am ahead of both of them. However, one of them has a pretty good-looking bracket yet and may overtake me next weekend in the Sweet 16. The other one is done as his pick to win it all has already lost.

Many years ago, when a friend from high school worked at the local CBS affiliate, WCCO, he asked me if I would enter their pool. This was back before the Internet and email, so I picked up the brackets, filled them out and took them back down to the WCCO building.

Lo and behold, I won the tournament both years! The funny thing was, the third-year Dave told me the sportscasters would not let me enter the tournament that year because I was not an employee. It seems I had crushed their fragile egos and beaten the so-called sports experts! I loved it. One of them is still there, and I am sure he would not remember that if we were to ask him about it today.

I have also won the tournament I am in now one time. But that was a long time ago, and I know I am in the hole if you add up all of my entry fees compared to what I have won. When I send in my ten-dollar check every year, I just write Donation in the memo of the check.

Now it is time to check my brackets and see how I have fared so far today. If you are in a pool somewhere and are doing well, Congratulations! If you are not doing well, just remember, there is always next year. -->
I just know it is a fun way to follow the tournament and feel like I am a part of it. I always like it when I beat the high paid prognosticators. We all need to remember, “In the end, only one team goes home a winner!”

On another note, I just heard the University of Minnesota Women's Hockey Team just won their second straight National Championship! Congratulations to them as they have their own version of March Madness!

Now it is time to check my brackets and see how I have fared so far today. If you are in a pool somewhere and are doing well, Congratulations! If you are not doing well, just remember, there is always next year.

As always, I look forward to your comments.



Sunday, March 17, 2013

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Happy St. Patrick's Day everyone! I hope you are all wearing green and enjoying this special holiday named just for me. Of course we know that is not true, but I love to tell people, When I was born, my parents thought about naming me Saint, but smarter heads prevailed and they settled on Michael.

By the way, did you know Michael is the second most common male name in the world? Do you know what the first one is? Well, rather than going to Google and checking, I will tell you; it is Mohammed. At least that was what the source I got it from listening to a radio show one day.

I digress. Imagine that, me getting off the subject of my post. That is absolutely unheard of. Mea culpa.

Back to the subject at hand. St. Patrick's Day or as it is also known the Feast of St. Patrick, celebrates Ireland's most well-known patron saint, Saint Patrick. Saint Patrick lived from 385-461 A.D. Although according to some sources, his year of death is in question. The reason March 17th was picked as St. Patrick's Day is because that was the day he died.

The day originally was to commemorate Christianity coming to Ireland, as well as a celebration of Irish heritage and culture. Celebrations included parades and festivals and wearing of the green. The day is celebrated by Irish all over the world; especially in Britain, Canada, the United States, Argentina, Australia and New Zealand. 

But, I guess you already knew we celebrate the day here.

The holiday is observed by the Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion (especially the Church of Ireland), the Eastern Orthodox Church and Lutheran Church.

According to Wikipedia, St. Patrick's Day was made an official Christian feast day in the early seventeenth century. It was the feast that allowed people to stop fasting for Lent for one day that obviously encouraged the holiday’s tradition of drinking. I do not know what other countries around the world do to help celebrate a national day to go overboard and celebrate St. Patrick's Day, but in Chicago they dye the river green.

I like to tell people there are two types of people. There are the Irish, and then there are those who wish they were Irish! On St. Patrick's Day, everyone becomes Irish.

I like the buttons that read, Kiss me, I'm Irish.

Hopefully this will get posted today, so none of my Irish and St. Patrick's history will be lost on your parties as you go out tonight and enjoy a wearing of the green, drink some green beer, if that is your choosing, share your newly-learned trivia and enjoy your St. Patrick's Day.

As always, I look forward to your comments.



Thursday, March 7, 2013

What Happened To Good Grammar?

What happened to good grammar? Has it gone the way of the dinosaur? Should we just let it die and speak like we forgot our seventh or eighth grade grammar lessons? Is it important to at least sound like we are intelligent when we speak and write properly?

One day I was in a middle school, and a young man started to tell me a story. He said, as he pointed to his friend, John, Me and him went to the mall. I asked him to repeat it. He replied, Me and him went to the mall. One more time, I asked him to repeat what he just said. The third time the young man said, Me and him went to the mall.

Whereupon, John piped up and said, No, it's him and me.

Neither one of them obviously had a grasp on the objective and subjective forms of the pronouns him and me. If anyone remembers their seventh or eighth grade grammar, they know he and I are the subjects in a sentence, and him and me are the objects.

As I remember the rule, if you cannot say one person in a list of two or more, then you are using the wrong word. Now, that is obviously a paraphrase of the rule; but, I think you get my message.

Another one of those scratching your fingers on the blackboard types of misused verbs is seen and saw. How many times a day do we hear someone say, I seen that, or I have saw them in that store? If not those exact sentences, ones similar to them when they misuse the two verbs.

There is one more I want to share, and that is the use of lie and lay. The definition of lie is to rest or recline; while the definition of lay is to put or place. So, you do not lay down to take a nap, you lie down to take a nap. The other one is the misuse of lay. When you put a plate on the table, you lay it there. If you can substitute the word put or place instead of lay, that is the correct usage. Likewise, if you substitute the word rest or recline when you lie down, that is the correct usage.

I could go on and on, but I think you get my drift.

The March second edition of the St. Paul Pioneer Press printed a story about a Stillwater, Minnesota couple who are doing a documentary on grammar entitled Grammar Revolution. You may read the article by clicking here.

Elizabeth O'Brien states in the article, The way we present ourselves is through language. So when you're writing a resume, when you're writing a Facebook status update, when you're writing an essay in college, grammar gives you this tool to present yourself in the best possible light.

She makes a very good point. It is very well written by Mary Divine, and explains the situation much better than I.

My point in writing this post is simply this: I believe America is dumbing itself down! I know the English language is always changing. However, I do not believe we need to change certain things just to accommodate the laziness and ignorance of some of our population. This is a very complex subject, and I could go on and on. But I think you get my point.

Please feel free to share your poor grammar stories in the comments portion of this blog.

As always, I look forward to your comments.



P.S. I want to thank my mom, Colleen Patrick, for showing me this article.