The lessons we teach (or not)

Affection. That’s what our nation is missing.

No warm fuzzies. No hugs. Very few compliments. Everyone would appreciate a pat on the back. A smile. Holding hands. A high five. Especially after the game.
Instead, we don’t like each other. We really don’t like each other. We’re teaching our young people to hate.

And I’m not even talking politics. (Yet.)

The football classroom

Look at two of last weekend’s high-profile college football games here in the Midwest. University of Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh, upset at a referee’s call, got penalized during the game against Ohio State for throwing his stat sheet on the sidelines. Unsportsmanlike conduct.

Although it didn’t happen in this game, college players sometimes get penalized for celebrating too much after scoring a touchdown. Also unsportsmanlike conduct.

You’re penalized if you’re too angry; you’re penalized if you’re too happy. No emotion allowed. Just hand the ball to the referee and move on to the next play.

I should have been a football player. I’ve learned to bury my emotions deep in my heart, keeping them to myself. Is this what we want in society? Really? A bunch of robots playing a game before 100,000 fans and a screaming television audience?

What then?

Oh, the athletes are supposed to play hard for three hours or so, then make nice afterward. It doesn’t always work that way. I’m not sure that’s what affection is anyway.

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh, left, yells at the field judge during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Ohio State, Saturday, Nov. 26, 2016, in Columbus, Ohio. Ohio State beat Michigan 30-27 in double overtime. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)
Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh, left, yells at the field judge during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Ohio State on Saturday. (The Associated Press)

After the game, Harbaugh bitterly blamed the referees for his team’s double-overtime loss. No taking responsibility himself. No thought that perhaps Ohio State made one or two more plays than U-M did. He forgot about his team’s three turnovers, leading to two OSU touchdowns.

I lost respect for Harbaugh after that. Blaming the refs is not leadership. But that’s what the impressionable young people at U-M see from the most prominent authority figure in their lives. The rest of us see that example, too.

In another game last weekend, Penn State ran up the score on Michigan State because, apparently, the Spartans did that to the Nittany Lions last year. Revenge is a good motivator. That’s another message our young people are being taught. He did it, so I can too.

Integrity, anyone? Will America rise above this?

The politics classroom

We certainly didn’t, and still haven’t, after the presidential election three weeks ago. Some people still haven’t gotten over it.

How did we nominate, much less elect, a candidate with no political experience who speaks first and thinks second?

This is who we are as a nation. Angry. Vengeful. Upset when things don’t go our way.

We got what we deserve.

Where do we go from here?

A thankful heart

We just celebrated Thanksgiving. I wonder how thankful we really are for our freedoms, our full stomachs, our jobs (for those of us who have one), our families.

My family celebrated the holiday at Mom and Dad’s house. Ten of us arrived from five states to enjoy the day together. We have different lifestyles and political views, but we put all that aside and had a great time. We found common ground around a wonderful and full dinner table.

Pass the turkey, please. And save some room for pumpkin or apple pie.

We are now in the Christmas season. Is it all about Black Friday and Cyber Monday?

I hope not.

I wish we liked each other more. I think that would solve a lot of problems.

We might have nominated presidential candidates we actually like. We might realize that students who attend the University of Michigan and Ohio State University are more alike than they are different.

The pastor at our church in Michigan, now retired, was a U-M graduate and a strong sports fan. Several of us in the congregation were Michigan State graduates, and several others were Ohio State grads. We had fun in the fall and winter cheering for our schools’ teams. None of us stopped attending church just because one team lost or another team won.

We like to tell our children that sports is a great place to learn teamwork, responsibility and authority. I don’t see those lessons being reinforced anymore, once children get old enough to know better.

The world does not resolve around sports. Or politics. It really doesn’t.

A new champion will be crowned in each sport next year. We will elect a new president four years from now. Nothing that happened this November will last forever.

A little affection might help us see that. But that means we’d have to get along with people wearing the other team’s colors.

If we liked each other, perhaps we’d spend more time in face-to-face conversations and less time on social media. I’m not one to initiate conversations very often, so I’m as guilty of this as anyone. I could do better.

Agree to disagree

Just because I like you doesn’t mean I agree with everything you stand for. America has a very hard time with this concept. I know several gay people, for example. I do not support that lifestyle. But a gay person has likes and dislikes, a job and hobbies, hopes and fears … just like I do. We’re not as different as we make ourselves out to be.

I’m not anyone’s judge. Neither are you. God will judge each of us in our own time.

Let’s hug. Shake hands. Root for our teams, then break bread together.

We can do it.

We have to be intentional about it, make a conscious decision to get along with each other. It’s worth the effort.

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