The Lost Principles

I had a friend whose son was getting ready to go off to his freshman year of college. We drove him up to his college and we intended to stay up there for three days. During the five hour car ride there, he kept insisting that we leave after we dropped him off. We told him that we were definitely staying over for at least one night. After we moved him in we took him to dinner and walked around campus with him. I watched his body language and I realized that even though he had lobbied for us to leave in the car for five hours, he was glad we stayed.

This story is not unique. Parents today have a terrible time when their children leave home. That’s because they know deep down that they haven’t done enough to prepare their children for independence. Children today are not given enough basic responsibilities as they grow and aren’t prepared for all that lies ahead in their lives. These children haven’t learned enough about survival out in the dog eat dog world. They are emotionally immature.Emotionally mature people have certain characteristics that make it easy to recognize them. What are these characteristics and what does an emotion-ally mature person look like?

Emotionally Mature People are Respectful

People who are emotionally mature is respectful. They don’t live and die by the saying…I’ll give respect when I get respect. They are respectful to everyone regardless of how they are treated. They have an appreciation for the rights and privileges of another person and therefore can accept differences of opinions gracefully.

Emotionally mature people have a built- in set of values that won’t allow them to use their words or actions to be disrespectful to anyone. Emotion-ally mature people enjoy another other people’s successes and are ready to offer praise to others for their accomplishments. Emotionally mature people know how to respond to authority and know how to work with their employers regardless of whether or not they like their boss.

When I was a young teacher, I was very immature emotionally. I had my Masters Degree in administration when I was 25 years old. I thought I had all the answers. I believed every boss I had was an idiot. I wanted to be an administrator so I could be the boss. I applied for one administrative job after another both in and out of the school district where I worked. But no one would hire me. I didn’t realize the reason I wasn’t being hired at the time. However, later I learned why I hadn’t been offered a job. It was because during the interview process, the interviewers who were all administrators themselves and they detected my “know it all” attitude. They were wise enough to know that a “know it all” attitude would not make a good administrator.Since I had tenure as a classroom teacher, I thought I could say and do whatever I wanted. I was rude and discourteous to my supervisor. I actually bullied him. I remember walking into his office one day and seeing him literally panic. To me, it looked like he was about to break down in tears. I felt proud of the power I had to intimidate this man.

My administrator asked me to take an extra class because I had so few kids in my other classes. I said, “I’m not doing it. If you think you can assign it to me, I’ll go to union and register a complaint against you.” He started begging me to do take the class. At this point, my assumption was he had  been told by the principal to get this done and I refused.

I was a nightmare as an employee. I acted like I was the boss. My poor attitude reached incredible heights when I would go out for lunch. I found nothing wrong with having a few drinks and then going back to school to teach children in the afternoon. Luckily, I happened to read a biblical verse that hit me like a bolt of lightning. It said that those who are responsible in the little things will be given the bigger things.

I remember sitting quietly after I read these words. Finally, I understood how wrong my attitude had been. I said to myself, it’s time to grow up. It’s time to be a man. I put myself into my boss’s place and I knew I had put him through a living hell by just dealing with me on a daily basis. I went to my boss very respectfully and apologized for my attitude. I told him that I would do anything to help him. Never will I forget the look of pure relief on his face. Also, I became a contributor at faculty meetings, stopped listening and contributing to rumors and gossip in the faculty room. I did anything that I was asked to do with a nice attitude.

Continuing to apply for administrative positions, I was called for interview with a district superintendent. At the conclusion of the interview, the superintendent asked me for a current reference. I did something that I hadn’t been able to do during any of the previous interviews: I gave him the name of my current supervisor..the man who I had apologized to for my disrespect and who had been on the receiving end of my horrible attitude. I gave my supervisor the power to decide if I was going to become and administrator or not. My supervisor was such a good guy. He only remembered that I apologized to him and that I was now showing him the respect he deserved. What a class act he was. He could have used that opportunity to really put the screws to me. But he didn’t. Instead, he gave me a wonderful reference. I got that job! If I hadn’t grown in my emotional maturity during this time period, I never would have become an administrator; A job that I so desperately wanted.

The next observation that I have made about emotionally mature people is that they are respectful to their parents. I have worked with hundreds of students who were discipline problems. The one thing they all had in common is that they were rude and discourteous to their mother and father. The next observation that I have made about emotionally mature people is that they are respectful to their parents. I have worked with hundreds of students who were discipline problems. The one thing they all had in common is that they were rude and discourteous to their mother and father. These students almost went out of their way to bully their parents and were always telling them to shut up. Most times the students treated their parents like they were second class citizens. People who are emotionally mature have respect for the position that a parent has in their life. They respect their parent’s age and their opinions.

My parents were very tough to deal with. Even as I got older, I always viewed them as somewhat meddling. The bottom line: They were my parents and, if nothing else, I owed them respect. I always have concerns when I observe young men or women treating their parents with disrespect. I know somewhere down the road they will regret their actions. Unfortunately by that time, it may be too late.

Next The Principle of Honesty

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I Fight Authority and Authority Always Wins

As a young boy I always had a fear of authority. I don’t mean the police, I mean adults other than my parents. There was always some authority figure who was correcting me in the community or in school.  Since my father was the owner of a pretty popular bar in a very small town, I was well known in the town, and I knew a lot of adults. If I was involved in some stupid behavior on one side of town my parents found out through the grapevine very quickly.  My parents never questioned the guy who told them about my behavior, regardless of whether or not he was drunk.  They would always question me, because I was the kid, and they believed the adult. It always seemed like I was found out one way or another.

The other thing that never failed was if I was told not to do something and I disobeyed, something bad always happened to me as a result. I don’t mean like getting yelled at by my father; I mean something really bad would happen that was a direct consequence of my rebellious attitude.

As kids we all waited for the summer not because we were going on vacation with our families, but because it was a time to play baseball, drink soda, hang out, and ride our bikes all over town. I always had a pretty decent bike; it was fun to ride. I liked to ride my friends’ bikes sometimes, but for some reason my father had a problem with that. One day (I was 11 at the time) I pulled up in front of the bar riding my friend Johnny’s bike. I put the brakes on with my right foot and the bike didn’t stop. It only stopped when I used my left foot. My father was watching this entire scene.  He said, “Jimmy, I don’t want you riding that bike; it doesn’t have a coaster break.”

I said, “Yeah it does, you just have to use your left foot.” He said, “Are you right handed or left handed?” I said, “Right.” He said, “Well then, you’re always going to use your right foot to brake.  If you’re on a bike that has the brake on the left side, you’ll try to stop using your right foot, and then you won’t be able to switch feet and stop fast enough.”  Well like all kids I heard but I didn’t listen. One warm summer night my friend Johnny pulled up on his bike, and I asked him where my other friend Izzy was.  He told me Izzy was up the block. My bike was in the back and I was too lazy to get it so naturally I asked him if I could use his, and he said yes. I took the bike; rode up the block, saw Izzy and told Izzy to come on down. I turned around and started back down the block at a pretty high speed. No sooner did I start when Izzy’s sister Elizabeth stepped in front of me. I slammed on the brakes, with my right foot of course.  The bike didn’t stop. I crashed into her pushing her up against a brand new car that was parked on the street. Oh, and did I mention that the bike didn’t have any rubber handgrips either? The medal handlebars were dragged across the car denting and scratching the paint finish. The owner came out of the house and asked me where I lived. I pointed down the block. He proceeded to walk with me down the street, through the bar, and upstairs where my mother was sleeping on the couch snoring.  I woke my mother up, and she was shaken to find a strange man standing in the living room. We all had to go downstairs and up the block to take a look at my art work. I was so frightened I didn’t know what to say or do.  I asked my mother, “Are you going to tell dad?”  Of course, I knew she was going to tell my father, but I just thought I’d ask. I was thinking, isn’t anybody going to help me.  I didn’t mean to do it. But, I was told not to ride that bike. I walked into the bar and in his own way one of my father’s drunken customers tried to comfort me. Dinny O’Rourke one of my father’s best customers Dinny was a four packs of cigarettes a day man, a guy who spent all day in the bar paying my father’s bills. We always knew when he was there because his asthmatic cough filled the place with a lot of noise and a lot of germs. He said, “Hey Jim, are you all right?” I said in a quivering voice, “Yeah.” He said, “Good, as long as you and the girl are all right, don’t worry about anything. Then he said with all of his drunken bravado, “You should have told me what was going on with that guy when he came  through here to tell your mom what happened.   I would have thrown him the hell out.”  I felt like asking him if there was any room at his house where I could stay for a while.

I crawled upstairs and went to bed. I got up early the next morning and slithered out of the house before my father woke up.  I went up the street and met up with Izzy and asked him how his sister was.  He said she was fine. I sat there with him and talked with him about how I knew I had to go home and deal with my dad. He said he would go with me. I walked into the bar, my father was in the back kitchen, and I made a made dash for the upstairs door. Izzy followed me, and as he was getting ready to close the door a voice cried out, “HEY ISRAEL, IS JIMMY WITH YOU?” Jimmy, that’s what he always called me when things weren’t going too well. I poked my head out and said, “Hi dad.” He said “Come here.” I slowly walked to the back and stood before the judgment seat of God. Well not really, but that’s what it felt like. He asked me the definitive question. “Did I tell you not to ride that bike?” I said, “Yes.”  He said, “So why did you ride it?”  I couldn’t come up with an answer. You know, he didn’t even care about the car that I wrecked.  He didn’t even mention it. He was really upset with me because I didn’t listen to him. I disobeyed. It destroyed his trust in me. He told me to go upstairs; I was put into solitary confinement. Izzy said to me, “I guess I better go home.”

This was the first time I was grounded. There wasn’t much to do up there, but I made due. I watched TV and spent a lot of time being ignored by my parents. They didn’t disappoint me either.  They were the experts at the silent treatment and withholding a parent’s love when things went wrong. I used to think as I got older that they wrote the book on conditional love. After about two days of this I got a call from my grandmother, my father’s mom. I was so happy to hear from her. She asked me if I would come over to her house and help her clean up the backyard. I figured, well it’s my dad’s mother He would want me to help her. I didn’t mention to her I was grounded, I didn’t ask for permission from my dad to go; I just left the house. Another mistake.

I rode my bike over to my grandmother’s house. She was about 90 years old, and partly blind. She moved around pretty well though. She had fallen down a long flight of stairs about a year earlier, just dusted herself off, and basically walked away without a scratch. She was a tough bird – definitely from strong stock. As I was cleaning her yard that day, I stepped on one of the broken pickets from her fence that was on the grass.  I stepped right on a nail that was sticking out of the picket. The nail was rusty. It only punctured my foot. I checked my foot and found no blood; I figured that was a good thing. I rode my bike home and immediately started to have some trouble walking. I quickly got to the point where I couldn’t walk at all. I didn’t tell my parents, because I was petrified of getting in trouble for leaving the house. I woke up the next morning and still didn’t tell my parents.  I sat around all day because of how much my foot hurt.  I went to bed early and was in a lot of pain, and I mean a lot. I was moaning. My mother came into my room very late at night and found me laying there crying and really scared. She asked me what was wrong. I told her I stepped on a nail at Gram’s the day before and that my foot really hurt. She pulled the covers off of me and there were red stripes going up my leg. I didn’t know it, but I had blood poisoning.

You have to understand that everyone in town was one of my father’s drinking buddies including Dr. Downs, the town doctor. Very early the next morning my father went over to get him. The only worry was whether or not he was going to be sober. Well he was hung-over, good enough; my father drove him over to the house. He came up the back door with his black bag and with his son, a car mechanic. To me he looked like Jack the Ripper. He took one look at my foot and said, “First.” What did that mean? Then, he washed his hands in the kitchen sink using dish detergent. He told my mother to have me lay flat out on the kitchen table; all I could think of was for what. My mother was at the top of the table and my sister was at my side. My sister said to me, “Remember Bonanza the other night, when Little Joe was shot with an arrow and Hoss had to pull it out.” I said, “Yeah what about it.” She said, “Well before Hoss pulled the arrow out he gave Joe a big stick to bite on.” She handed me a dish cloth and said, “Use this.” I dropped it on the floor.

My mother said to the doctor “What are you going to do.” He said, “I’m going to cut his foot open.” That didn’t seem to upset her at all. He pulled out a spray can and started to spray my foot. My mom said, “What’s that.” He said, “Ethyl-chloride.” My mind flashed back to all the times I had watched the Mets on TV.  I remembered how  when one of the players was hit with the ball the team trainer would come out and spray the player’s hand or arm with ethyl-chloride. It didn’t take the pain away it just held down the swelling and allowed the guy to stay in the game. I thought Ethyl-chloride that’s not going to help, he’s going to cut open my foot, and this is the best he’s got. He pulled the scalpel out of his bag and held it like he was getting ready to cut into a piece of steak and started to dig that thing into the ball of my foot. I started to scream like hell. My mom picked the dish cloth up off the floor and shoved it into my mouth to hold down the noise until Dr. Mengela was done. He wrapped up my foot with a gauze bandage collected $10.00 and left.  I still don’t know why he brought his son. Maybe he was worried my father’s car was going to break down on the way to our house. I forgot to mention that bike problem that I had was put on the back burner for a while, the bottom line was my father took all the money I earned working for my grandmother to help pay for the damage I had done to the car. Not a bad lesson and something that needs to happen more today if there’s any hope for our children to respond correctly to authority.

John Mellencamp’s lyrics in his song “The Authority Song” could never be truer. The chorus of the song goes like this, “I fight authority and authority always wins.” I fought authority, I didn’t listen to my dad, and it almost cost me my leg and maybe even my life, and in the final analysis authority won. Sometimes we think we have a choice when in reality we don’t. Sometimes, even adults think they have a choice about how they respond to authority in their in lives. Often we think these choices are small and they don’t matter, but they really do.

There is a true story about a man who went to his closet one day and had to make what he perceived was a small a decision, do I wear a regular necktie or a clip on tie. He made the choice to wear the regular necktie. He left the house and began to drive to work, and immediately got a call on his CB radio. You see the guy was a police officer. There was a robbery in a store in his area. He drove to the store to investigate and found the perpetrator still in the store. The police officer ended up in a fight with the guy, and was strangled with his own necktie. What do you think the dress code was for police officers? A clip on tie was standard. This man chose to violate authority when he decided to wear a regular necktie to work that morning. The ends result in 15 minutes it cost him his life. He made a seemingly small choice which had astronomical consequence.

Authority is designed to help and protect us.  Somebody has to be in charge. In a family it’s the parents, in society it’s the police and the government, and on the job it’s our boss. We can fight authority if we want but, as the lyrics to Mellencamp’s song go, “I Fight Authority and Authority Always Wins.”  There is no doubt that when we fight authority it is only a matter of time before someone loses.

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I Don’t Care Who Hears What I Say: A Haunting Attitude

Many years ago a wonderful friend of mine asked me what the smallest part of the body is. I was very young and probably very stupid at the time and I responded with “Duh, a finger.” He commented to me, “No it’s the tongue.” He also said to me that although the tongue is the smallest part of the body it can do the most damage. I never forgot the conversation that I had with him; unfortunately he has since passed away and I miss him dearly. I could sure use a lot more of his advice and teaching. Our words can really do some damage. Damage sometimes that can be life long, and sometimes we don’t even know what we’re doing, probably because we just were never taught how to shut-up.  Kids and adults can shoot their mouth off and think that they are being funny, or that they’re standing up for themselves when in reality they may be doing more harm than good. I was watching a baseball game very recently and watched one of the players go crazy over a called third strike. This is a grown man.  He had to be restrained by 3 other players and the manager. Of course he was thrown out of the game. He was also suspended for three games right in the middle of a pennant race. I guess he really showed them. What a dope.

We also like to have laughs at someone else’s expense. My philosophy is if we both aren’t laughing it’s not funny. Kids today have a real problem with behavior like this. They say things, get a laugh and really hurt the feelings of another person. I don’t even think that they are aware of the fact that people are listening and not everyone is impressed with their wit, and that they are creating a negative image of themselves in the minds of other people.

That wonderful friend of mine who talked to me about the tongue was also full of illustrations and stories that were inspiring and instructional. He illustrated this societal problem with a true story that I always refer to as the “Deaf Boy Story” and it is worth sharing here.

There were two boys who were brothers. One of the boys was deaf. They had a friend who hung around with them all the time.  This friend was the biggest jokester on two feet. He was always telling jokes or making fun of someone or something. One day the three boys were headed out of the house and this jokester started to make fun of the way the deaf boy spoke. Well the deaf kid couldn’t hear, and the brother gave a half hearted laugh and they left the house. No harm no foul? The deaf kid didn’t hear so no one got hurt. No one else heard right?  No one heard except the deaf kid’s father who was reading the paper in the den.

Let’s fast forward the tape. At the time of this incident these two boys were sophomores in college. Two years went by and they both graduated with degrees in business administration. They both went on the job hunt. This jokester had an interview with a large insurance company. He had to go through one more phase of the hiring process. He had to meet the Vice-President of the company. Who do you think the Vice-President was? The deaf kid’s father, and the only perception that he had of this young man was that he had made fun of his son. It cost him……..the job. People hear and they watch too. You never know when you are going to need someone or something. The things that are the greatest desires of our hearts are the things that will be withheld from us because of our past words or actions. Self-control is important and if your tongue, a one ounce body part, has more control over you than you have over it, it will cost you when least expect it. You never know.

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Bare Feet and White Flour

              

Have you ever wondered why your parents did some of the things that they did. I did lots of times. My dad had so many regimented activities that I thought he had a screw lose or something. I’m only going to talk about two here because there are too many to put into one essay. I really spent time observing my dad as a kid and listening to him, and it wasn’t until I was about forty that I realized some of the benefits of his behavior and very recently some of the real benefits of his behavior. My dad had an unbelievable fear of getting a cold. He came home from WWII with malaria and tuberculosis. He was always cautious of sharing food, towels, cups, and silverware. Any watermark on silverware in a restaurant was sent back immediately.  I remember one time in a restaurant in New York a fork went back three times. Some people send food back he sent the silverware back. It got so bad that one guy sitting close to use told my dad that the he thought that the waitress was on Candid Camera. If you sneezed you were accused of trying to bring a cold into the house, to try and kill him. He was hospitalized on December 27, 1967 due to a re-occurrence of the TB and was sent to the infirmary at the veteran’s hospital in East Orange NJ for 3 months. When he came out that’s when anything and everything could give him a cold. Two things were absolutes, cold feet and white flour. I never saw my father walk around without shoes or slippers on. He wouldn’t walk three feet without putting on a pair of slippers. If you sneezed he would always ask you what you ate. My sister, my mother, and I thought he was crazy. Bare feet and white flour would make you sick and if you got sick, well as he put it, “If I get a cold I am finished.”

All of these things I observed always stuck with me. When I was about 40 years old I started to battle my weight. Always watching my calories and trying to stay in shape. The Atkins diet started to become very popular along with other diets that restricted carbohydrates, and other foods that contained you guessed it, white flour. Exactly what the old boy was talking about 30 years ago. Suddenly everyone had a carbohydrate allergy, was gaining weight, had type-two diabetes, high blood pressure, and all kinds of health issues because of white flour. I started to watch my white flour intake and I started to lose weight. The stuff I loved as a kid was something that could now kill me. The stuff that my father said could make me sick was making me sick.

Recently I was walking around the backyard with a pair of flip-flops on. I have a tendency to drag my feet when I walk primarily because my feet are kind of flat, something that I also inherited from my dad. I walked from the shed to the concrete walkway and slammed my right foot into an Adirondack chair. I know I broke the middle toe, at least it looked broken. The next day passing through the garage I stubbed the same toe on a hand weight in the middle of the floor. I got into the car in agony looked down at my foot which had the same $3.00 flip-flop on it and I could hear my father say to me, “Will you please put your slippers on.” This isn’t the first time I stubbed that toe but it is the first time it dawned on me that my father knew me because I was just like him. He didn’t want me to go through the same agonies that he had gone through. He didn’t want me to get fat or stub my toes he just had a strange way of letting me know. I don’t think he ever gave me the reason why he did what he did, that’s probably why it took me thirty years to figure it out on my own. If I could ask for something I would ask that my two daughters learn the reasons why I do what I do quicker than I learned things from my father. There’s a question that kids ask all the time “Why do we have to do this?” Sometimes by the time that gets figured out it’s too late. So put your slippers on and have a piece of whole wheat toast, you’ll be glad you did.

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The Baby Boomers: From Black and White To Color

Before the 1960’s, most people watched television in black and white.  Looking back at what society was like 50 years ago, it seems like people looked at life in terms of black and white also.  Things were either right or they were wrong.  There wasn’t too much in between. Some of the things we viewed as wrong were disrespectful children, smoking pot, and sex before marriage.  Some of the things society viewed as right were children not talking back to their parents or teachers and conservative dress.  If you want to look back and see exactly what society viewed as right versus wrong, just watch some retro television and you’ll get the picture.

After WWII a new kind of generation was born in the United States. Because of the after effects of the War the United States experienced an economical boom, which resulted in high income jobs, (relevant to the time in history) with unemployment rates being almost non-existent. Education was also enhanced by the government with universities and colleges prompting people to get a college degree. Education was cheap, and was readily available. In fact, many took college courses to open up higher paying job opportunities and because of this lifestyle many people became financially secure.  This financial freedom allowed people have more children and there was a significant increase in birth rates. People who were born during this period are called baby boomers and were born between the years of 1946-1964.

To me it seems like things really changed during this generation. Dr Spock came along, and his book became a child rearing bible for many people.  Parents changed their approach to raising their children.  It started to become in vogue for parents to be less authoritarian and more liberal in terms of discipline. The result; the baby boomers themselves took this to an extreme when they began to have children of their own. They took this more liberal mentality and kicked it up a huge notch.  Baby boomer parents believed that their children had the right to decide everything.  This included when they got fed, what they wanted to eat, what they wanted to wear, and what they wanted to say and do and it became the idea that at three years old children were asked to do things rather than being told.

For baby boomer children things were no longer black and white.  Nothing was totally wrong anymore, and everything was a combination of colors.  Parents couldn’t establish rules in black and white because it might hurt their child’s self esteem and kids began to feel good about who they were becoming for no apparent reason.  The idea came into popularity that parents have to “respect” their children.  The concept of respect is wonderful, but it was taken to a ridiculous extreme.  Respect for children came to mean allowing them to say and do anything they wanted.  Baby boomer children no longer learned self control in words and actions.  This actually resulted in them not showing respect for anyone else but themselves.   Basically, baby boomer children became extremely selfish, self-indulgent, arrogant, and demanding.  Everything was about feeling good no matter what the cost. The end result, baby boomers have the highest debt and the poorest health with largest waistlines. The way they deal with relationships is if you don’t agree with me I am not talking to you and that means if we are married or not with the divorce rate being higher than what is reported. The research points to the fact that baby boomers get divorced later in their marriage. Their parents stayed together at all cost while the boomers hung on until their kids were grown.

We are now dealing with the children of baby boomers. They are being referred to as the millennial generation. Only time will tell what their problems will be.  One thing that seems for sure, that the days of right and wrong and black and white are gone forever.

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