Lessons from COVID-19 changes

Things I have learned or discovered (in no particular order) since the coronavirus stay-in-place orders became commonplace in mid-March, nearly two months ago:

I-275 in Michigan

  • I miss driving. With few places to go, my car sits in the garage most days. But driving relaxes me. With my various volunteer activities, I routinely drive all over Northeast Ohio. I recently went for a drive with no destination in mind, just to get out of the house and hit the road. (The feature photo in this blog was taken on that drive, in Vermilion, Ohio. I took the photo above this paragraph in October 2018 on I-275 near Detroit Metro Airport.) We live in a beautiful country.
  • I discovered the only television I watch is live sports. Football, college basketball, baseball, tennis, the occasional NASCAR race … whatever is in season. With all of that gone for now, I don’t watch TV. At all. My wife watches a few shows and sometimes a movie; I’ll peek downstairs to see what’s on, but that’s about it. Instead, I read books and spend too much time on social media.
  • Speaking of which, too much social media is bad for me. It’s easy to get caught up in the online issues of the day and the frequently off-the-wall defenses people make for nearly any position. A friend the other day compared mail-in voting – the loss of freedom, the potential for fraud, how dare they take away my right to vote in person! – with what the Jews faced under Hitler. When I told her to grow up, she accused me of being rude (which I was, I suppose). Unfortunately, such exchanges are all too common on social media these days.

FB

Some people post meme after meme after meme spouting their political views, and if I dare to challenge one of them, nothing happens. I’m convinced that very few people actually think about what they post – they just mindlessly do it, and cannot defend their own viewpoints. I have un-followed several friends who would otherwise flood my news feed with nothing but one-sided political diatribe. These fights just aren’t worth the effort.

  • The first social-distancing lesson I learned, ironically, was how much I need physical touch. I watch two elementary-age brothers once or twice a week for a single mom who’s a nurse. They have a trampoline in the backyard. We play tag on it (it has sides so we don’t fall off), which gets tiring for this nearly 60-year-old guy in a tight space. We sit down and rest after a few minutes, giving each other a hug while we watch the birds or squirrels or the two preschoolers on the playset next door.

When I inferred that I enjoy physical touch with two young boys, perhaps you cringed. We have sexualized touch to the point where all touch is viewed – or felt – through that lens. We miss so much because of that.

There’s a feeling I can’t explain about the father-son touch that I hadn’t experienced since my own sons were little (they are in their 20s and 30s now). The boys and I don’t talk about it, but we all know it’s there. When their mom comes home from work, they give me a hug before I head out the door.

Love takes many forms, and we’ve lost this in our culture. It took a pandemic that separated all of us for me to re-discover this.

zoom life group

  • I hadn’t even heard of Zoom until seven weeks ago. I’m involved in several Zoom video calls a week now, most of them church gatherings or a Bible study group I help lead. Even the technologically challenged among us have figured out how to do this. One advantage is connecting with folks in other parts of the country who couldn’t join a meeting if we were doing it in person.
  • Throughout this pandemic, I have seen true leadership in the public arena. I have never been more grateful to live in Ohio than I am now. Our governor, Mike DeWine; lieutenant governor, Jon Husted; and public health director, Dr. Amy Acton, not only are plotting a reasonable course for the state to follow through this stressful and uncharted period, but their communication has been off-the-charts outstanding. They hold a press conference at 2 p.m. every weekday, offering updates and advice, and taking questions from the media. They duck no question. They implore patience, and explain why it’s necessary. They accept responsibility.

dewine-acton-husted

Gov. DeWine has said multiple times that he has an advisory group of 20 business owners across the state, offering their input on how to open up the state again. DeWine, a Republican, mentioned that he is in regular contact with the mayors of seven cities – all Democrats – to get their take on what’s going on. He communicates frequently with four previous governors to get their wisdom. He has formed and talks with various other task forces and community groups. Through Dr. Acton, he seeks the latest medical advice available.

He’s not afraid to change his mind. One day last week he ordered customers in all stores to wear a mask. When he got strong push-back about that, the next day he retreated a little to say wearing a mask is “strongly recommended” and “a best practice,” but that wearing a mask would not be mandated by the state. He took flak for bowing to political pressure, but he listed at least a half-dozen reasons for changing the policy, and took ownership of the original decision and the change.

That’s leadership. Thank you, Governor. When this state needed you, you stepped up with your calm, almost monotone demeanor, listened to the best advice you could, and then led. And continue to lead.

  • I miss hugs.
  • I discovered how flexible my weekly schedule is, which is a huge change for me. For most of my working life, I was a newspaper copy editor – editing and designing the same pages every day, every week, with the same deadlines. The content changed, which made the job exciting, but the structure was the same every day. I liked that dependability.

Now that I’m retired, I don’t have that structure anymore. I set my own schedule. And with COVID-19, the schedule I had carefully crafted went out the window overnight – as did yours, I’m sure.

red cross

These days, I have more time to exercise. To volunteer at Red Cross blood drives, which I’ve been doing on and off for five years but which I can do more often now. To help our friend with her kids. To read. To think, and to write. To call my quarantined parents every week, even if I can’t visit them. To keep in touch with friends through texts, emails, calls, Zoom chats and the occasional letter.

  • Most “news” sources aren’t trustworthy and need verification. Once upon a time, news media competed to see who could break a story first. Today, I don’t believe any story I see the first time. I didn’t even believe that Don Shula, the NFL coaching great, died this week until I saw it from multiple sources.

So much of what passes for news these days is little more than veiled – or not so veiled – opinion. I choose my news sites carefully, and read and watch multiple sources. This is the only way to figure out what’s truly going on. Rather than disparage the media, which many of you do, I look for the nuggets in them – and the nuggets are there.

  • As this state begins to open up, I see two extreme responses. Protesters want the state opened immediately and completely. Others are so afraid to return to work in a public setting, they are threatening to stay home even if they are forced to return.

This summer could get very interesting.

Media is (are) …

Many of you love to criticize the media. But what is the media?

Wrong question, actually. It’s not “media is.” It’s “media are.”

Media are plural.

Media, by definition, refers to more than one form of communication.

Back in the day (not so long ago), media had three forms: newspapers, television and radio. We got our news from one or more of those sources.

I worked in the newspaper business for about three decades. I refer to this often in my blog because it’s a big part of who I was, and still am.

Newspapers

Here’s a story I haven’t shared in awhile. I worked for an Upper Peninsula weekly after graduating from college in 1982. The owners/editors were a father/son (the son still owns and runs the paper); the father was a retired University of Michigan journalism professor, where he taught for more than four decades. He never stopped teaching; that job was like a paid internship for me.

A former board member of the ACLU, Mr. Maurer – as a sign of respect, nobody called him by his first name – had liberal views on life, which many journalists do. But he didn’t force his views on this naïve just-starting-out born-again-Christian reporter.

Instead, he drilled this into me: Believe whatever you like. But tell me why. Defend yourself. Think it through.

That’s a lesson I wish all 330 million of us Americans understood. When I got to The Saginaw (Mich.) News in 1985, where I worked for 24 years, I saw that lesson lived out. We sought other viewpoints. We wanted the views of the common man and woman: When the City Council made a decision, how did it affect the people who live there, who are affected by the decision?

We challenged our readers to think about issues, on our news and editorial pages. Did the Council make the right decision? If not, what options do you as a citizen have?

Our news editor was never satisfied, seeking other viewpoints on every story. He drove us nuts, and worse. But we were good. Oh, were we good.

I don’t think we realized how good until the newspaper fell apart in 2009.

Television

We in the newspaper business liked to critique TV newscasters. Our paper printed around lunchtime, and we accused the local TV station of literally reading our stories on air during their noon news.

TV news offers a different perspective. Back in the day, it could report news as it happened – a house fire, for example, showing video of the flames. The newspaper had deadlines hours away, so we had to do more analysis beyond the immediate fire – cost of damage, effects on the residents and the neighborhood, things like that.

And TV producers knew, and know, their audience: lots of weather and sports. Especially weather, if a storm was brewing. That’s what we talk about.

Radio

I’ve also enjoyed listening to news radio in the morning. In Saginaw, WSGW-AM 790 was, and still is, a great source of news. Here in the Cleveland area, I sometimes listen to WTAM-AM 1100. Especially when I was a driver for a day program that served adults with developmental disabilities, I’d put on WTAM for at least a half-hour to get the morning’s headlines – news, sports and weather.

Radio also offers something else that proves important to commuters and drivers: a traffic report every 10 minutes. Every so often, those reports affected my morning drive. Crashes, backups, wires down, flooding here and there … whatever affected traffic.

Radio, like TV and newspapers, knows its audience and serves its purpose.

So, what happened?

News gets cloudy

The World Wide Web (remember that term?) happened, followed by social media.

Newspapers, TV and radio have kept their missions throughout the media sea change, for the most part anyway. Newspapers have changed the most, adding digital platforms to basically become 24-hour news operations. The newspapers themselves point to a moment in time, with analyses and columns to try to make sense of the day’s events.

Radio hasn’t changed too much in format. Television is all about ratings, and since we love to talk about politics, that’s what the national news networks report on. With bias.

This is where the “news” gets cloudy. If your politics are conservative, you watch FOX. If your politics are liberal, you watch CNN. You might watch the “opposition” just to complain about it – not to learn anything from it.

Social media exaggerates this trend. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, others – we see only what we want to see.

We block people who don’t agree with our politics. We complain – a lot, multiple times a day, using memes that we don’t even write. We refuse to consider other points of view.

Then, we complain the “media” shares only bad news.

Media are, remember?

We choose our media sources

If you’re listening to or reading only one media source, that’s on you. Media proclaim every viewpoint under the sun, depending on the source.

So, what is “news” anymore? Does anybody seek both sides, or multiple sides? When the national debt skyrockets to heights that paralyze the average American, for example, is there anyone who tries to explain what that means?

I see memes blaming people for not taking coronavirus stay-in-place orders seriously. I also see photographs of empty New York City streets. As a nation, I think we’re doing very well. Traffic is minimal on local roads. People in public wear gloves and/or masks frequently.

Public gatherings are nearly non-existent.

Where do we get our news about the virus? Do we seek more than one source?

firedHighres-678x381
Image by Lenny Ghoul/thenewsblender.com

 

Our president either ignores or fires experts – not just medical, but on every issue of consequence – and has done so during his entire presidency. I don’t watch his news conferences. I know the “media” have to, but the true leaders of the virus effort are the nation’s governors, Republican and Democrat.

What was President Trump known for before he became president? “Your fired.” He’s still doing that. Put that on his tombstone.

Oops, I showed my bias in how I consume the news. We all do that, you know.

Our governor has a 2 p.m. news conference every day on https://ohiochannel.org/. I’ve watched a few of those, and they are filled with facts and good information. Our local community college also has a microbiology professor who provides daily updates with graphs and charts, speaking in a homey, down-to-earth manner. He’s great.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rz-l38SmvHU

Don’t just tell me what you believe. Tell me why.

In your own words. Not with a meme, please. Put some thought into it.

 

Cover photo: Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine gives an update Feb. 27 at MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland on the state’s preparedness and education efforts to limit the potential spread of COVID-19. (Tony Dejak/The Associated Press)

We often form opinions without thinking them through

Garth Brooks helped expose the true heart of our country.

Not by his music, but by the T-shirt he wore.

He donned a Barry Sanders jersey during a Feb. 22 concert at Ford Field in Detroit. That shouldn’t have been controversial: Barry Sanders is the best football player ever to wear a Detroit Lions uniform.

Those of us with strong ties to the state of Michigan know this, even if we aren’t diehard football fans. Apparently many people outside of Michigan are clueless.

We assume, wrongly

Instead of researching who wore No. 20 on the Detroit Lions, many people on social media assumed something else – and then wrongly judged the country singer for wearing a “Sanders 20” jersey.

Thankfully, Barry Sanders and Garth Brooks – both Oklahoma State University alumni – had fun where others had hatred. Sanders tweeted to Brooks: “Hey @garthbrooks, want to be my VP? #20For2020.”

Brooks tweeted back: “I would run any race with you! #Number20for2020 HA!!!”

The reference, of course, is to Bernie Sanders, the self-proclaimed democratic socialist seeking his party’s nomination for the U.S. presidency.

The source of our divide

Why are we so divided politically these days? This is a relatively recent phenomenon. We used to get along with each other, at least tolerating each other even when we disagreed. As a newspaper copy editor, I often disagreed with the political views of many of my co-workers, but I didn’t hate them for it – and vice versa. In fact, I’ve never seen better teamwork, before or since, than I did in that mid-Michigan newsroom for the two decades-plus I worked there.

We had a common goal: Put out the best product we possibly could, every single day, weekends and holidays included. We were good, and our circulation figures showed that.

Until the Internet came along and took away the bulk of the newspaper industry’s income. The newspaper where I once worked now is a shell of what it once was.

Social media, in the minds and pocketbooks of many, has replaced newspapers as the primary news source.

The “media” is us

Not only that, everyone now thinks he or she is a journalist. And every one of us has a platform – often multiple platforms – to display our work.

Except that you’re not a journalist. You aren’t. Expressing an uninformed, judgmental opinion without researching or thinking the issue through is not journalism.

Far too many of you hated on Garth Brooks without knowing what you were writing about.

That’s what this country has lost with the decimation of newspapers.

Polls routinely show that most of you distrust “the media” today. “Media” has many platforms. “Media” is you.

Yes, you. We like to say there’s no such thing as government money; it’s taxpayer money, which is your money and mine. Same thing with “media.” The media you hate is created by you.

The newspaper media, which continues to shrink in volume and influence, isn’t around much anymore to ask the tough questions, to play the watchdog role on local (city, township, school board), state and federal leaders. Our politicians can say whatever they want with few repercussions.

So can you.

What’s to stop you?

Only the truth.

A little research goes a long way

News flash: Barry Sanders and Bernie Sanders are two different people. Barry Sanders wore No. 20 in a Lions’ football uniform. Bernie Sanders is running for president in 2020.

Why is this rocket science? Have we become that illiterate?

We judge everyone and everything far too quickly these days. Our political narrowness has even entered the sports world.

Referees are judged. Rather than try to let them do their jobs, we judge everything they do. Video evidence many times is inconclusive, especially in NFL games – which means the reviews last several minutes and still can’t figure out the correct answer. We’re judging inches for a first down. And pass interference. Seriously?

Getting sick over a virus

News flash: NFL refereeing is not an exact science. We are ruining the game by trying to make it one.

And we are ruining the country trying to turn all of life into one big science experiment.

And we, on our social media platforms, can’t even get science right.

We panic over the coronavirus because we think it’s out to get us, that it’s going to take over the world. Travel and tourism are disrupted. The stock market just had its worst week since 2008. Any human being of Asian descent is suspected of carrying the virus.

Wash your hands, people. We’ll get through this. Don’t be so quick to go into panic mode, judgmental mode.

For example, just a little research on the virus, from Live Science, reveals this:

 

Coronavirus is a large family of viruses that includes many different diseases. SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes the disease COVID-19, which is the current scare), does share similarities with other coronaviruses, four of which can cause the common cold. All five viruses have spiky projections on their surfaces and utilize so-called spike proteins to infect host cells. However, the four cold coronaviruses — named 229E, NL63, OC43 and HKU1 — all utilize humans as their primary hosts. SARS-CoV-2 shares about 90% of its genetic material with coronaviruses that infect bats, which suggests that the virus originated in bats and later hopped to humans

https://www.livescience.com/coronavirus-myths.html

 

I learned a few things just from that paragraph. There are many coronavirus viruses, and it appears the current scare originated in bats. And while the death rate from COVID-19 (2.3 percent, subject to change as more research is done) is higher than from the flu (0.1 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), it’s still not worthy of panic mode.

Precautions, yes. Panic, no.

Not all of life is science

When we react to science, sporting events and a Garth Brooks concert in the same way – well, Houston, we have a problem.

Sports should be – and once were – an escape from real life. Concerts also are a time to lift our spirits and enjoy an emotional high. Illness is real life, with scientists doing their best to find real-life solutions.

Anger, finger-pointing and panic are not appropriate responses in any of those arenas. We’ve lost our moral compass.

You may not agree with me, but a big part of that moral compass came from newspaper reporters and editors. We kept your emotions in check by pursuing facts that our 50,000 readers, including you, could judge for themselves.

That moral compass is nearly gone. With it the moral compass of our country is fading, replaced by the vitriolity of social media.

I’m not sure how to solve this one. But of this I am pretty sure: The solution won’t be found on the Internet.

God’s affection at Christmas shows up in July

Hollywood would recast the Christmas story … A civilized person would sanitize it. No person, however poor, should be born in a cow stall. Hay on the floor. Animals on the hay. Don’t place the baby in a feed trough; the donkey’s nose has been there. Don’t wrap the newborn in rags. They smell like sheep. Speaking of smells, watch where you step.

“Because of Bethlehem Love is Born, Hope is Here” by Max Lucado, page 131

 

This describes my workplace. Perfectly.

I work with developmentally disabled adults. Some of them are not sanitary, and make it difficult for the rest of us to be sanitary. I won’t get too specific, except this one example: I drive some of these individuals in a wheelchair-accessible van. One individual I drive wets himself, through his clothes and adult Depends, and the bench seat where he sits. He does this a couple of times a week, at least.

It smells in there. I’m constantly cleaning it and spraying Lysol.

I can’t keep a full roll of paper towels in the van; he takes it apart and puts his hands all over it.

Jesus was born in a place like that.

Messy. Unsanitary. Possibly even unsafe.

At the day program where I work, washing my hands is not a simple chore.

This is real life. Some of these folks don’t know any better.

And I stay.

God came to me – and you – in a place just like this. He didn’t arrive in a climate-controlled hospital room like our three sons did, surrounded by nurses and doctors who made sure each was healthy before they sent him home.

Thank God for hospitals.

But Jesus never saw one, and I don’t work in one either.

 

lucado

You, like Joseph, knocked on the innkeeper’s door. But you were too late. Or too old, sick, dull, damaged, poor, or peculiar. You know the sound of a slamming door. So here you are in the grotto, always on the outskirts of activity, it seems.

Page 133

 

I’ve been fired twice, relocated once (I quit first, though), and downsized once, all in the past 10 years. I’m hardly unique. Nobody works in the same job for an entire career anymore: My two oldest sons also have seen their jobs phased out – and neither is 30 years old yet.

Both have landed on their feet. One has landed his dream job; the other has a decent position, but still isn’t where he wants to be.

Both make more than they spend.

Because my wife has a good job, we do too. I provided for our family of five as our sons grew up, but those days are long gone.

I knocked on the innkeeper’s door, but I don’t have the passion, drive and self-promotion to thrive in today’s job market. Nor am I willing to relocate again. AARP asks me all the time about age-related job discrimination. Maybe that plays into it, or maybe it’s just me.

Old, dull, damaged, peculiar … especially peculiar. I don’t have the “presence” that employers are looking for. I don’t come across as enthusiastic with all these great ideas on how to improve your company.

I was a copy editor, for heaven’s sake. Behind the scenes. Making you look good. It’s never been about me.

Even newspaper executives don’t get that anymore, if they ever did.

So, my newspaper career is done.

And I’m in a smelly, unsanitary day program for developmentally disabled adults.

I’m glad I’m there.

Because, hopefully, I can make a difference.

 

You do your best to make the best of it, but try as you might, the roof still leaks, and the winter wind still sneaks through the holes you just can’t seem to fix. You’ve shivered through your share of cold nights.

And you wonder if God has a place for a person like you.

Find your answer in the Bethlehem stable.

Page 133

 

I was looking for something to read the other day and found this Max Lucado book on the shelf. We received it as a gift for a monetary donation we made, obviously around the holidays, to a radio station we listen to.

I’m reading a Christmas book when it’s literally 90 degrees outside.

The timing is perfect.

Fifteen years ago, I didn’t dream about being where I am now. I had a great job in a wonderful town with great friends and plenty of community involvement.

Life happens, as we all know. Society has changed a lot in the past 15 years.

For all of us.

And not always for the better. Right?

Depends how you look at it.

I’ve met many wonderful people in the past decade or so since my life got bumpy. I’ve joined Facebook and LinkedIn, meeting new people and reconnecting with long-ago friends. I’m in a job that tests my patience sometimes, but that’s how I learn patience.

 

It really comes down to that: God loves us. The story of Christmas is the story of God’s relentless love for us.

Let him love you. If God was willing to wrap himself in rags and drink from a mother’s breast, then all questions about his love for you are off the table. You might question his actions, decisions, or declarations. But you can never, ever question his zany, stunning, unquenchable affection.

Pages 134-5

 

This thought is timeless, for all people, for all seasons.

It’s why I get up a few minutes early every morning and spend a little time with God, just me and Him, before the day begins. Get right with God before punching in at work, before reading all your Facebook emotions, before doing yardwork or exercise or whatever else I’ll do today.

Start the day right, and the rest of the day has a better chance of turning out well.

Whatever that means. When something goes awry, there’s a lesson to be learned, a trial to endure or patience to reveal. God’s affection never wavers.

That’s the point of Christmas. And we don’t have to wait until December to experience it.

Majoring in minor issues

My outlook on life is changing a little bit these days.

I’m much more detached when reading or watching the news. Politics, especially at the national level, doesn’t interest me much anymore.

I’d rather deal in real life.

Politics

For those of you who live and die by what the Democrats and/or Republicans do, I’m sure you won’t understand.

As a newspaper journalist for about three decades, I followed politics closely, because it sold papers.

Does it still?

Perhaps that’s one reason why what newspapers print isn’t the talk of the town anymore. Their editorial pages, as they have always done, focus on politics and not much else.

Not even government. Politics.

There’s a difference.

I rarely read any editorial page columns. They are so predictable. They say the same thing every day, using the issue of the day to promote their agenda.

Most of them these days slam President Trump. I get that.

But how many times do you have to say it?

Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un seemed to have an actual discourse leading to a summit, where they would talk about nuclear weapons, among other things.

The summit apparently fell through.

That was interesting, though.

But decades of mistrust can’t end in a few short weeks.

Maybe someday.

For the most part, the national discourse majors in minor issues.

Is kneeling during the National Anthem before NFL games really an issue worth dividing the country over?

Are school shootings really about gun control, or is something deeper at work there?

Do thoughts and prayers actually work? Do they change our outlook on life?

Sex

What’s the point of the #metoo movement, actually? Is it women’s rights, or is there something bigger at work there as well?

We are a sex-crazed society. We are massively messed up, and we all know it.

Exhibit A: #metoo.

Exhibit B: The divorce rate.

Exhibit C: Sex outside of marriage, including among teens, is not only normal, it is expected.

Exhibit D: Pornography is out of control in this country.

Exhibit E: Rape, sexual bondage, date rape …

Exhibit F: Clothing choices. How much cleavage is too much? Only for women, of course.

Exhibit G: Gender identity. Just the fact that we’re talking about this means we don’t know who we are anymore.

I don’t even have to quote statistics. You understand all of this because you experience it, or you know people who do.

But we won’t talk about it.

Not in a way that actually solves anything.

How do we expect to resolve the #metoo movement without talking about the role of sex in society? If sex outside of marriage is normal, why are we surprised when many men (and women) push the limits?

Nearly every song on the radio is about sex, some more blatantly than others. That’s been true for decades. I frequently listen to an oldies’ station that plays songs from my teen years. Talk about politically incorrect …

And yet we still play them. And listen.

Escape

Why are video games so popular? And illegal drugs? And porn?

Those are escapes from real life.

Real life is full of anxiety and stress. We don’t know how to solve real issues. Relationships. School. Jobs.

I’ve done the whole job search thing, and it’s not designed to bring out the best in anyone. It’s not even designed to connect passions with talent with careers. It’s all about being in the right place at the right time.

Some people say there’s no jobs out there. I see “now hiring” and “drivers wanted” and “positions available, all shifts” signs all over the place.

On the other end of the spectrum, highly technical jobs go unfilled because not enough of us are trained for them.

Most of us would prefer a job/career somewhere in the middle, something more than minimum wage and something that doesn’t require an advanced degree that we don’t have time for or can’t afford to get.

Are most of us left behind?

Dreams

I mentored a fourth-grade student in inner-city Cleveland this spring. He has no concept of a long-term future. All he thinks about is getting dissed by a classmate, for which he gets in trouble. He lives with his grandfather. His mother and two older sisters also are in Cleveland, but he doesn’t see them often. His dad is in Arizona, and my student hopes to move out there with him this summer. Cleveland is too violent, he says.

People are people wherever you go, I told him.

If he leaves Cleveland, will his life magically get better?

I doubt it.

How does arguing about President Trump’s tweets solve my fourth-grader’s lack of focus and maturity? How can he learn not to respond in anger when things don’t go his way?
His family is broken. His school is trying, but isn’t reaching him. His teacher can do only so much.

He got suspended recently for cussing out the school principal. Seriously.

Seriously?

A good friend of mine is a Big Brother to a teenager in another nearby city. That teen also lives in a broken home. Some days, he doesn’t feel like going to school, so he doesn’t.

Is there no big picture in this life?

No goals to aspire to?

No dreams?

Respect

In the mentoring program I’m involved in, we’re not allowed to talk about politics or religion. Too divisive. Yes, they are.

But is that how we solve problems, by saying that certain subjects are off-limits?

I thought democracy meant all issues are on the table. By discussing, even debating, issues, we understand what’s too radical and what actually works.

We don’t know how to talk issues without talking personality. How can we talk about sex without condemning those who practice sex differently than we do? Can we disagree and still respect each other?

That’s what we’ve lost in this country. Respect.

For teachers. For parents. For the boss. For the mayor. For the police.

For ourselves.

I’m right. You’re wrong. The world revolves around me. I can set whatever rules for my life that I want.

And we wonder why we’re so messed up.

A motorcyclist passed me the other day in a right-turn lane. Another vehicle and I were stopped, waiting for traffic to clear before proceeding on to state Route 57, a 45 mph highway at that point. The motorcyclist passed us in the turn lane and roared onto Route 57 before the other driver and I could move.

So much for “look out for motorcycles.” It goes both ways, you know.

Or, I wish you knew.

Faith

So, what is the big picture? How is my outlook changing?

While I can’t talk about my faith in school (unless my student brings it up first, of course), that’s where the answer lies. Not in your perception of faith, or mine, but in real faith.

In a God who wrote the big picture. Who wants the best for us.

Discipline is good, sometimes. My student doesn’t understand that. Most adults don’t either.

Good parents do understand that. Children need boundaries. If you’ve had children, you know this.

So, why do we think that we don’t need boundaries as adults?

Political boundaries change all the time. You and I think differently, so the boundaries I set may not work for you, and vice versa.

If we don’t like them, we can change them.

Why will we not look up? Put the video games down, look away from the porn, turn off the music. LeBron James and Steven Spielberg make far more money than you and I will ever see, but are they the best role models? Do they have all the answers?

When I talk about faith, I don’t even mean in a pastor or the Pope. Their interpretations of faith aren’t always right, either.

The best role model? Jesus Himself. And we killed Him.

If Jesus walked the Earth in the flesh today, we’d kill Him again. I’m sure of it.

We still don’t get it.

We’re searching for love in all the wrong places.

Haven’t heard that song in awhile.

Giving thanks, every day

Things I am thankful for today:

 

Good health

The ability to donate blood (most of the time) www.lifeshare.cc

A good job with a supportive supervisor, a great staff and flexible hours

Hector, the student I mentor in Cleveland

Monopoly, his favorite game (and Robert’s at the center where I work)

Greater Cleveland Volunteers http://www.greaterclevelandvolunteers.org/

The American Red Cross www.redcross.org

Interstate 90 (I spend a lot of time on it)

Interstate 480 (a great connector to places I go)

Good friends, locally and across the country

My wife

Our three sons

My parents, who are still doing well in their 80s

My sister

Good health throughout my family

 

Jesus Christ

The Bible

Discernment

Insight

Silence

Quiet time nearly every morning for decades

Pittsburgh-based Summers Best Two Weeks, a summer camp where I gave my life to Christ in 1975 www.sb2w.org/

 

Our two cats

Our previous cat, Paws

Coffee in the morning

The ability to write

The ability to edit, including my own copy

LinkedIn www.linkedin.com

Facebook www.facebook.com

The Christian Blog Collection

An Internet hearts game https://cardgames.io/hearts/

A good book (I’m reading Hamilton, which the Broadway musical is based on)

Re-connecting with high school classmates

Seeing some classmates at a picnic last summer for the first time in more than 35 years

 

Food on the table, something I never take for granted

A place to call home

Money in my wallet

My 401(k), future pension (I hope), future Social Security (I expect), as secure a financial future as I could wish for

Ability to tithe

Ability to be financially generous at times

Going out to dinner with my wife every Sunday after church

 

Time to walk/jog once or twice a week

Jogging in a warm spring or summer rain

Working up a good sweat

Colorful fall leaves

Cold winter air on my face

Good balance on an icy bridge

Buds on trees in the spring

Deer

Birds overhead

Occasional turkeys on the property at work

 

The lawn mower we bought in 1988 that still runs

The 21-year-old car I drive

The Chevette I drove for 18 years

My work van, which has 193,000 miles on it

A sweater my grandmother made for me that I still occasionally wear in winter. Grandma died in 1980

Our nearly 33-year marriage

July 24, 1975: The day I gave my life to Jesus

The red Schwinn bicycle I rode as a child (I still have it) www.schwinnbikes.com/

An indestructible hand-crank pencil sharpener that sits on my bedside table

My Indian Guides vest (it’s a tight fit, but I can still put it on, sort of)

Our card table, which was our first dining room table back in the day

 

Michigan State University https://msu.edu/

Classes that challenged me to think

The Magic Johnson-led basketball team that won the NCAA championship my freshman year

The beauty of the campus

University Reformed Church, where I met and married my wife https://www.universityreformedchurch.org/

Bailey Hall, the dorm where I lived all four years at MSU

 

Ames United Methodist Church, where we raised our children http://ameschurch.org/

The Ames softball team

Playing on that team with all three of my sons

The opportunity for my wife and I to both be leaders in that church

The youth directors who taught our sons so much

Sunday School classes

The 12-week membership class, which I helped lead for awhile

Small groups, one a couples group and the other a men’s group

A summer Bible study or two

Monday night basketball in the church gym

The structure and accountability of the United Methodist Church http://www.umc.org/

The chance to serve on a couple of statewide committees through the church

 

The Saginaw County CROP Hunger Walk, which continues to raise thousands of dollars to feed hungry people locally and worldwide https://www.crophungerwalk.org/saginawmi

Ultimate Frisbee on Saturday mornings

The annual Thanksgiving morning Ultimate game

Playing Ultimate in 8 inches of virgin snow

Mom’s Thanksgiving dinner (no matter how the Lions did)

 

The Saginaw News, where I worked for 24 years http://www.mlive.com/saginaw/#/0

Accountability, with respect

Proofreading to keep mistakes out of the newspaper

Participating with News employees in the federal summer lunch program, thanks to the leadership of one of the reporters

A clear mind on deadline

 

The beauty of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula http://www.michigan.org/hot-spots/upper-peninsula

Snowplows in winter to keep the roads clear

An engine heater in my Chevette on sub-zero January mornings

Pickford, my first home after college http://www.hsmichigan.org/pickford/

The Wallis family for frequently inviting this single guy over for Sunday dinner

Learning to drive in a region with no traffic lights and only a few blinker lights

 

Friends everywhere I’ve lived

Brothers and sisters in Christ everywhere I’ve lived

Wonderful co-workers at all of my jobs

Opportunities to volunteer in the communities where I’ve lived

The future hope of Heaven https://www.gotquestions.org/heaven-like.html

 

I could update this list every day. What are you thankful for today?

The other side of the story (and it’s always there)

Driving 65 mph on a 60 mph four-lane divided highway the other day, a SUV zoomed by me in the passing lane as if I was standing still.

That’s not unusual, unfortunately. But for once, I saw justice. Five minutes later, there the SUV was, parked on the side of the road with a police car, lights flashing, behind it. I twiddled on by, saying a silent prayer of thanks for the officer doing his job.

I think outside the box. I know what the rules are, and how to break them. I also know when not to break them.

Such as speeding 20 mph over the posted limit. That’s putting his life in danger, and mine.

So, what rules do I break?

As a driver, I frequently roll through stop signs. I’m constantly checking traffic in all directions and obviously if the coast is not clear, I stop. But if no one else is around, why waste gasoline by stopping? I slow down, but I roll through.

My wife doesn’t like that. I frequently do it anyway.

As a journalist, I fudged deadlines. If a reporter was cranking out a crime story as deadline was approaching, I waited, my heart often pounding but silently. Or, just as often, the reporter turned the story in on time, then came to me as I was finishing laying out the page and said he had an update – perhaps a crime suspect was just arrested.

Write fast, I said. My fingers fly on the computer keyboard when they need to. I’d get the updated story in the paper, with a new headline if necessary.

Every so often my boss lectured me about missing the deadline. I never apologized because I knew there was a fudge factor in there. The pressroom liked to have that flex time, but occasionally I tapped into it.

My job was to get the latest news into the paper, whatever it took. This was pre-Internet days, when newspapers were the primary source of community information.

As a copy editor, I became an “expert” on a variety of subjects. We had to communicate knowledgeably and in everyday language about taxes, school budgets, road construction, why companies hired or fired people, politics at all levels, and every other issue that came up.

If a reporter wrote a story that I didn’t understand, I assumed our readers wouldn’t either, and I would either re-write the story in clearer language or ask the reporter for clarification. This was my job.

I’m not a college professor, researching one topic for years. I learn about new topics nearly every day. I can research a subject for a couple of hours and write knowledgeably about it.

As a journalist, I never claimed to write the final word on any subject. No newspaper writer or editor does. The purpose of the newspaper was – and still is (or should be) – to get people talking. Not to provide all the answers, or even the “right” answer. To get you to think about an issue, and maybe do something about it.

I’ve tried to write this blog that way. When I express a viewpoint, I never claim to have the final word. If you disagree with me, that’s fine. Let’s talk about it. Respectfully. With dignity.

That’s what America has lost with the decline of newspapers and the rise of social media. Respect and dignity.

United Airlines is taking it on the chin and many other places over the forced removal of a passenger from a flight on Sunday. But the only person who actually broke any laws in that unfortunate scenario was the bloodied passenger.

You’d never know that by reading social media.

For the other side of the story, from a pilot’s wife:

https://thepilotwifelife.wordpress.com/2017/04/11/i-know-youre-mad-at-united-but-thoughts-from-a-pilot-wife-about-flight-3411/

Read it before you comment on any story regarding that incident.

Journalists understand that there’s more than one side to every story. Our editor in Saginaw, Mich., would ask for another viewpoint in just about every story we wrote. He drove us crazy. When will he ever be satisfied with a story? He rarely was.

We grumbled behind his back all the time, but because he drove us so hard, we were good. Very good. The public did use our articles as talking points. Community leaders were held accountable.

I came across the following sentiment recently:

 

“I’ve said this a million times before … I’ll say it a million times again before I die and I’ll be right every time.”

~ a Facebook friend

 

A journalist would never say this. Neither will I.

People say and do things for a reason, even things you or I don’t agree with. Get inside their skin and ask why.

Like nearly all journalists, I’m skeptical about a lot of things. I ask a lot of questions. With an open mind.

Sure, I have a bias. Everyone does. I see life through a certain lens; perhaps you see life through a different lens. That’s fine. We’re different. Not better or worse, just different. We can complement each other, if we both want that.

Here’s another sentiment I found not too long ago:

 

“Humility is terribly elusive, because if focused on too much it will turn into pride, its very opposite. Humility is a virtue to be highly sought but never claimed, because once claimed it is forfeited.”

~ John MacArthur

 

Because journalists are constantly learning, asking questions, seeking answers, we have a humility that we never talk about.

Thanks for listening. I look forward to hearing from you, today and in the future.

I have social media friends who are politically left and others on the right, and everywhere in between. I like that. Sometimes, you make me uncomfortable. That’s a good thing. I’ll challenge your position, and you have the right to challenge mine.

But again, let’s do it with respect. Argue my viewpoint, not my right to have that viewpoint. Stick to the issue. Don’t make it personal.

There are at least two sides to every story. No exceptions.

That’s how we separate “fake news” from what’s real. By talking it out.

With respect.

We might actually teach each other something.