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JOE SENDS HIS BEST

SEPTEMBER 14, 2021

JOE SENDS HIS BEST

 

This is a bonus.  Not my usual musings.  It’s a gift from Joe Martin.  Many of you knew Joe.  Joe the friend, father, husband, brother, banker, community servant, author.  Joe who made us laugh. Made us think.  Joe who lived for 12 years with ALS.  Joe who started the JoeMartinALSfoudation.org.  Joe who changed lives.

 

This week I received a package of notecards, created by the amazing people at Joe's Foundation.  Each cover has a personal message, taken from Joe's book ‘On Any Given Day.’  I asked if I could share the messages.  Permission granted, and here they are:

 

·         Love Life, and the people important to your life, without condition, without expectation.

·         Build Joy out of the materials you find within the day, with the help of those who are here to be on your team.

·         Let your determination be contagious, expanding geometrically as you add it to the determination of others.

·         Insist upon festivity, and never miss a good cause for celebration.

·         Make your will to live your will to love, creating a regenerating cycle of power.

·         Let laughter embarrass fear and stupidity, let it heal the hurt in others.

·         Keep your sense of purpose intact, in sight, and in focus.

·         Hope in each moment of every day because more things are possible than you can imagine.

·         Have faith that God will let you know about the next life when this one is done.

·         Until this life truly ends, understand that on any given day – on this day – the possibilities are endless.

 

It’s been 15 years.  Joe’s words still challenge and inspire.  Take one word from each message and you will see: Love, Joy, Determination, Celebrate, Live, Laughter, Purpose, Hope, Faith, Possibilities.

 

Thanks, Joe – we needed these reminders.

 

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STRENGH IN NUMBERS

SEPTEMBER 12, 2021

Around Labor Day my brother and I laughingly recall our first experience organizing a group of youngsters.  We urged them to stand up, or in this case sit down, for their rights. Fact is, it was about our rights too. And we needed their support.

 

In England during WWII, farm workers were serving their country. Youngsters between the ages of 10 and 13 were taken out of school during harvesting to pick the potatoes. Hard work. Long hours.  Our pay - the princely sum of ten shillings a week; around one dollar.

 

Farmer Waring, our stingy boss, decided one week he would pay us with potatoes, instead of cash.  This was not OK with my two brothers and me. Apart from lugging the spuds home on the bus, we needed cash.

 

The rest of the 30-kid crew rallied around. We called a strike.  We sat, grim and dirty faced, at the end of our potato rows.  Despite Farmer Waring roaring at us ‘Get off your arses!’ – (imagine that today) no one budged. 

Result: A win-win. The kids got cash. Farmer Waring got his potatoes.

 

Arriving home, we shared our exciting day.  We were asked ‘How did that make you feel?’  It made us feel good.  Made us feel proud. Made us want to do more.  And that, we were assured, is worth more than ten shillings.

 

The lessons: No matter your age, it takes courage to challenge an injustice. There is strength in numbers where there is a common goal.  The proof: Study longtime friends and partners. If the cause seems right, they add their strength. They look for win-win solutions. They care what is right, not who is right.

 

 

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LAUGHTER - STILL GOOD MEDICINE

SEPTEMBER 6, 2021

When was the last time you had a real belly laugh, where your sides hurt, and tears rolled down your face?  You laughed until you got hiccups. It felt so good.  If you’re like most it’s been a while.

 

Where is the wise humor of Erma Bombeck, Bob Hope, Carol Burnett? Or Groucho Marx with his one-liners: Why do they call it rush hour when nothing moves?   Sorry I just laughed.

 

Life, and I do not say this in jest, is a serious matter right now.  We almost feel guilty if we’re caught laughing.  What will people think? Why is she laughing when things are so unsettling?  How could she be so thoughtless?

 

I come from a family that enjoys laughter. We laugh at ourselves, each other, old photographs, family memories.  I can't say we never laughed at another person, or said anything irreverent. We did - until we heard a reprimand from mother that usually ended with ‘God bless the mark!”  Which meant be careful what you say or God will – almost certainly – heap that same affliction on you.

 

Given the grim daily news, where do we  find something to smile about or a reason to laugh out loud? Pull out the family album. Call a sibling or friend and trip down memory lane with them.  Watch the antics of young children.  These are our connectors; they give us reasons, and permission if needed, to enjoy laughter.

 

A good laugh is relaxing, decreases stress, releases endorphins – the body’s own feel-good chemicals, even temporarily relieves pain and creates a sense of well-being.  Some doctors agree if they could bottle laughter, it would be a magnificent healer.

 

We’ve all had days when we simply could not laugh. Perhaps we lost a loved one. Maybe we received bad news.  So many things can knock the spirit out of us.  Our challenge is to not let those days become our every day.  To heed the poets, song writers, and physicians - and make a joyful noise as soon and as often as possible.

 

The sound of joyful laughter is still good medicine.   Let’s hope for and seek out reasons to increase our dosage of this much needed elixir.

 

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FOCUS ON WHAT YOU CAN DO

AUGUST 29, 2021

 

The last few days I have watched the Paralympics with awe, plus a decided degree of disbelief. How do they do this? Why do they do this? What makes these men and women so amazing?

 

The scenes are transformative. Teams from seemingly every nation competing and cooperating.  There are medals to be won, and the athletes are proud to receive them.  What every athlete who made the team tells us is they have already won what’s important – their independence.

 

When asked how they acquired such seemingly impossible skills; without exception they said: I focus on what I can do, not what I cannot do.  I focus on what I have, not what I do not have.  I focus on being a participant in life, not a victim.  And, because so many people have given so much to me, I focus on what I can give back.

 

Take Susannah Scaroni who just won Gold in the grueling 500-meter track and field, wheelchair.  Now 30 years old she had a spinal cord injury at age 5. Asked how it felt after all her years of practice, of advocating for the Paralympics to receive equal recognition as the Olympics - she said I just want to have every person feel equal to their abilities so they can grow.

 

All the athletes give credit to their families, friends, and coaches. They thanked the ones who did not immediately rush to pick them up when they fell. Or, if they were sightless, did not remove obstacles they bumped into. The ones who anguished whether to help an athlete tie his shoelaces with his toes.  The patient ones. The ones who allowed these athletes to grow, to improve their abilities, reach their potential.

 

These elite athletes teach lessons for all of us.  So, on our marks … focus on what we can do – we might just surprise ourselves. Perhaps not Gold, but we’ll be in the race, and that’s something.

 

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OBSERVE WITHOUT JUDGING

AUGUST 23, 2021

 

Ken Burns is on my most appreciated and most admired lists. He brings us a glimpse of history without his personal opinions and judgement.  A rare gift.

 

Burns’ documentaries are about real people, places, and times.  His research is meticulous. The photography is graphic, painful, and honest.  Most of his cast, brought to us through the magic of preservation, lived in the places and times depicted. They include saints and sinners, rich and poor. We’re shown triumphs and tragedies, accomplishments we are proud of, and events that make us avert our eyes

 

What makes Burns’ documentaries spellbinding is his ability to observe, document, and share - without judging.  He delivers the real story behind the story.  The lives he shares are made personal.  We become part of the story – that could be my grandmother; that could be my son; that could happen again if we’re not careful.   He presents the facts, showing warts and all, in a way that immerses us in what we see and hear. How or if we judge is up to us.

 

Thinking of observing without judging made me think of how children learn to judge. They aren’t born judging.  They learn it from observing the adults in their lives.  Children are powerful observers and mimics.

 

Thanks to Ken Burns I have learned more about what we as a country have survived. And, what we still need to do.  I haven’t yet learned how to observe without judging.  Perhaps if we could master that skill, we could more easily accomplish what we still need to do.

 

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CONVERSATIONS - MEMORIES

AUGUST 15, 2021

 

 

 

CONVERSATIONS - MEMORIES

 

It’s Sunday morning.  One year ago my Sunday morning would often include lively telephone conversations with my brother John, and sisters - Marie and Kathleen.  Sadly, we lost all three this past year. This morning, I am reliving fun and fond memories and recalling lots of their sage advice.

 

My brother and sisters each in their own way was a lifeforce.  Never a whine, rarely a criticism. Conversations were filled with laughter, remembering ‘when or who,’ and planning the revival of the gray panthers. Despite, or perhaps because of, a fairly austere childhood we would usually recall how lucky we were to have had great parents, each other, and good lives.

 

With an ocean separating us - what kept us close over the decades?  We decided it was, primarily, three things.  Being taught to share.  Experiencing the dignity and rewards of work.  Never taking anything or anyone for granted, including each other.

 

We were nine Hunt siblings. Sharing and looking after the younger ones was just what you did.  The dignity of work was ingrained and contributing earnings to the family coffers was an ego boost.  We took nothing and no one for granted because our early years were WWII years in England when things could change in the blink of an eye.

 

Our parents warned us, without apology: ‘The only thing we will leave you is a good name.  Look after it.”  We took that warning seriously.  We believed our greatest legacy would be our children and grandchildren – and would say to each other, with some pride – so far, so good.

 

Why am I sharing my Sunday morning musings? I don’t know. Maybe it’s because I miss my Sunday morning chats. Maybe it’s in case we need reminding to stay in touch with family and friends, no matter the distance.  My brother Jim and I still enjoy our transatlantic conversations. 

 

We’re told life has no guarantees.  I disagree.  To have conversations you’ll recall with a smile, to give with warm hands, to create good memories.  You will never regret these actions.  Guaranteed.

 

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KNOW WHEN TO FOLD

AUGUST 9, 2021

Watching the Olympics with friends has led to some interesting discussions.  Along with breathless wonder at the athletes’ skills and endurance, the conversation inevitably turned to quitting.  Is it OK to quit, or is it letting down your team and country?

 

 For me, at the Olympics, Simone Biles exemplified compassionate courage. In everyday life, a hiking friend left the group, with it’s not all about me courage. The leader I admire courageously stepped aside. Each of them decided to quit. Should we criticize or admire?

 

Before you answer that question, consider it takes zero experience to be a critic.  It takes years of observation to recognize authentic reasoning.

 

To quit means to stop and let go of what you are doing.  Sometimes that’s the only choice. Sometimes it’s the best option.  The gymnast believed she would hold back her team.  The hiker said ... go ahead, I’ll slow you down.  An unselfish leader saw the need for change.  The words they use are telling: Don’t knowingly hold someone back. Go ahead. I’ll follow at my pace. To grow we must try something new.

 

From our earliest days we’re taught quitting is weak, quitting is not an option. We discover as we mature that there is a difference between quitting and giving up. Quitting means taking time to think.  Giving up means resigning yourself to failure.

 

One of my favorite Kenny Rogers songs, is The Gambler:    You gotta know when to hold; know when to fold; know when to walk away and know when to run. 

The key word in this song is ‘know.’   Know yourself.  Know why you are folding. Know what you believe the outcome will be. Know you can always start again.

 

I never thought I’d say this, but sometimes it’s the ones who quit (take time to think) who help us see what’s possible.

 

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A PS to Interruptions and Reminders

AUGUST 1, 2021

I intended to include the final paragraph of Tom Brokaw's book.  It is worth a PS delivery.  Here it is:

 

"I think about mortality in ways I did not before the diagnosis.  It no longer seems a faint distant reality, in part because I've experienced the ruthless nature of cancer.  Simultaneously, at age seventy-five, I've moved into the neighborhood of life where there are few long-term leases.

 

 

It is not enough to "rage, rage against the dying of the light." It is also a time to quietly savor the advantages of a lucky life and use them to fill every waking moment with emotional and intellectual pursuits worthy of the time we have left.

 

Life, what's left,

Bring it on.

 

Tom Brokaw

two six four oh

 

INTERRUPTIONS & REMINDERS

AUGUST 1, 2021

 

Friends tell me I am one of those exasperating people who believe if I find someone or something interesting it’s inevitable, they should share this interest. Not so.  I’m discovering that, in general, we need a common denominator to grab our attention - shared pain, mutual mission, potential united joy. It must be personal.

 

This week I am REreading Tom Brokaw’s book, A Lucky Life Interrupted, subtitled ‘A Memoir of Hope.’   Brokaw shares stories from his lucky life.  He talks, in depth, about his diagnosis, treatment, and living with multiple myeloma.   When I read the book in 2015, I found it a good read but remembered nothing I had read.  It did not grab me emotionally, or as something that affected me.

 

Six years later I spend longer on each page.  Now, when I read of his treatments, I see faces of friends and family.  I pause, admire their courage, and wish I had understood better what they were going through.

 

Brokaw talks of the need for a Pathfinder when we are faced with confusion and challenges.  Not just, he says, during MM or other serious medical issues, but in everyday life.  He likens this to the Pathfinders of WWII Airborne troops who, on D-Day, jumped in early to show other troops the best path to shore.

 

In the book favorite memories are shared – fishing, family trips, the birth of children and grandchildren.  Despite a life of global fame, and days spent interviewing the world’s most powerful people - it is the everyday moments he remembers. 

 

Nelson Mandela is high on the list of those Brokaw admires. He says, especially now, he recalls Mandela’s words when he was released after 25 years in prison: The Mind cannot be shackled.  Absence of self-pity.  Let’s talk of the future, not the cruelties of the past.

 

Before MM came to call, Brokaw’s eldest daughter asked, “Dad, we’ve never really had anything go wrong in our family.  I wonder if we could handle it.”   They’ve answered that question with a positive yes.  They’ve proved that even the strongest fighters need someone in their corner. And, that some interruptions are reminders that what we do today become the memories we store for tomorrow.

Carpe Diem.

 

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WE DIDN'T KNOW WE WERE LEARNING

JULY 27, 2021

Recently, in The Charlotte Ledger, I read an obituary for an obviously much-loved music teacher.  I did not know the gentleman. It drew my attention because it was not the usual obituary.  It was mostly remembrances from his former students; many of them now with High School students of their own. 

 

The former students wrote about lessons that influenced who they are today.  None has become a famous musician; most have not pursued music.  Along with music, and understanding lyrics, this teacher taught that important bit extra.  One student summed it up: “He nurtured creativity, confidence, and compassion in thousands of young people. He guaranteed he would live forever in this world.” What a legacy.

 

These students make us ask – who impacted our lives?  What did we learn when we didn’t realize we were learning?  No man or woman is self-made.  The question is - who helped make us who and what we are?

 

 I began recalling the individuals who, I now know, influenced me – in big ways and small --reaching back as far as memory would go.  The list is long, very long.  It includes a mail carrier slogging through the snow.  It includes family, friends, teachers, bosses, artists, construction workers, air raid wardens, bus drivers, even a musician on a plane.  They shared, either by example or with words, lessons that would, unknowingly, become part of my life.

 

The musician on the plane:  Listen to your inner Geiger counter, it will rarely lead you in the wrong direction.  The mail carrier: I made a commitment.  The artist: Please do not color inside the lines.  The air raid warden: I will lead you to a safe shelter.  The bus driver: I trust you – you can pay tomorrow.  Bosses:  We appreciate you.  Family:  Help your brother and sister.  Friends: I’m listening.   Teachers:  Good, but you can do better. Construction worker:  The foundation is important; we build from that.

 

Sometimes it’s not a person’s voice, it’s a choice that became a defining moment.  Growing up my grandson played a lot of baseball. He was excellent. The pros were mentioned. He did not become a professional baseball player. Were his baseball days wasted?  Not at all.  What he learned, while he did not know he was learning, was patience, and a remarkable ability to get along with all manner of people.  Learning, no matter the situation, topic, or teacher, is never wasted.

 

We have here. We have now. We have memories.  It’s interesting to recall the voices and examples we learned from and heed the new voices insisting their way into our lives. Look what happened because of one special teacher. 

 

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