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Archive for the month “April, 2016”

Someone’s Knocking At The Door

Very rarely does someone knock on our door anymore.  Back in the day especially growing up when someone knocked on the door it was with excitement that we answered it.  Who could it be?  Opening the door we were surprised to see my Aunt Ethel, Aunt Lucy, or our old friend Margaret (who was in her 80’s but got around like a 20 year old.)  Their visits were always fun and made our day a little better!  Of course it was like the old TV show “Let’s Make A Deal” too.  The person behind the door wasn’t always a loved one.  Sometimes the Jehovah’s Witnesses or the Fuller Brush Man would be there.  In other words sometimes we got zonked when we opened the door.  A zonk on Let’s Make a Deal was when the curtain or door was opened and behind it was something nobody could want.  Still we took our chances with the door in hopes that behind it was a nice surprising visitor!

These days when someone is knocking at the door it is almost always a zonk.  If they suspect that someone is home they start pounding louder if there is no reaction to their initial knock.  When I do answer the door I find myself barely having my head sticking through the opened door as the rest of me hides behind it.  I use the door as kind of a shield.  It protects me from the person trying to sell me something I don’t want.  The person tries to get me more comfortable with them but that door block is hard to negotiate around.  I try to be polite as they make their sales pitch.  The knocking is an interruption to my life.  I don’t think I have ever made a major purchase from someone going door to door.  Occasionally I will take their card as they tell me to call them if I am interested.  It is a polite way to end the visit without seeming rude.  Finally I close the door on the product that I can’t live without.

I guess that is the problem with door to door sales in my view.  Before opening the door I have already made up my mind that I’m not interested.  Having to overcome that is almost always too heavy of a burden for them.  Getting past that trust factor and into my pocketbook is a monumental task.  If they really have a product that I just can’t live without, how have I been able to live without it all of these years?  If I truly wanted to fix a problem I’m more apt to buy a product from a local store where I could always take it back.

I have a very basic cell phone where I can make and receive calls and text messages.  Lately I have been seeing an ad on TV about buying an application for a smart phone.  If I had a smart phone I don’t think I’d be interested in this app.  It is a doorbell app that lets you answer your front door wherever you are.  You could be on vacation in Hawaii and answer your front door. You actually see the person at the door from your phone and you can talk and listen to them. Of course in the commercial it is guys up to no good thinking that you are not home.  The commercial ends with the two would be burglars running from the front door after the brief conversation.  This product is trying to take advantage of the defensive attitude we have today when someone knocks at our door.  I have never had someone try to get into my house while I was pretending nobody was home.  If this product is so necessary, why hasn’t that happened before?  I guess it is  like an extra insurance policy that makes us less fearful and more at ease.

We don’t get surprises from our telephone these days either.  They used to have a radio station back in the day that would make phone calls for prizes.  You had to answer the phone saying “I listen to WYYY”, to win.  It was a genius way to advertise!  I used to laugh when I called my best friend only to have his mom answer the phone with that statement instead of the traditional hello.  I’m sure she never won any prizes but she should have been paid for all of the advertising she did for the station! Now days that marketing scheme would never work as we pick and choose who we want to talk to by using Caller ID.  Come to think about it we used to receive more calls from friends back in the day.  With the advent of Facebook and the use of email friends don’t call much anymore.  It is almost a dreaded sound when the phone rings these days  It seems to ring a lot but very rarely is it anyone that knows us.  These calls go to the answering machine and it is very likely that no message will be left.

The point I’m making is that we are not easily surprised anymore.  There is not a feeling of excitement like there used to be.  We are not willing to take the chance of going to the door or answering the phone because we already know who it is.  Instead of quickly opening the door we tend to peek unsuspectingly out another window of the house to see who it is.  Usually by the time we find out that the person at the door is a loved one we have to race to the door and catch them before they have driven off.  If Jesus is knocking on your heart’s door don’t be defensive.  He is like a surprising visit from a long lost friend.  Run and catch him before he leaves.  Invite him in and fellowship with him.  His offer is eternal life and you don’t want to shut the door on that!

My Little World and Yours

It seems that whenever I talk about my job or where I work with others the question always comes up.  At my age I guess it is inevitable.  “When are you going to retire?”, they ask.  To be honest I just don’t know and I’m being truthful.  An old high school teacher told me a few years ago when I ran into him before a football game, to keep working as long as you enjoy it.  That advice has stuck with me.  When talking to retired people through the years it isn’t the job that they miss. They always tell me that they miss the people.  Retiring has a direct effect on our little world.  A part of my little world consists of the people that I see every day.  Simply put retiring would change all of that.  Sure I could arrange to meet them for lunch now and again, but it wouldn’t be the same.

Maybe that fact and the old teachers advice keep me going.  I do enjoy my job and the people I work with and see every day!  I do like the fact that I can do something that is needed and other people count on me to do.  When work is piling up and it seems I can’t seem to catch up someone will always mention how all that work is job security. Once in awhile I make jokes about job security.  When I get back from lunch or a walk down the hall for instance I sometimes find someone sitting in my chair. They might be re-programming my computer or just taking a load off of their feet on a social visit.  At these times I might quip how you just leave your desk for a little while and already someone is taking your job!  The other day a lady was having trouble with her card that unlocks the door.   We all have to swipe our cards to gain access now and hers seemed to not be working.  She swiped it three times and nothing happened.  I made her burst out laughing when I told her “that’s when you know that you’ve been fired.”  Though I might joke about job security the real issue for me is after the job security.

My dad had a hard time with retirement.  I’m sure it wasn’t the actual job that he missed but he did miss the people.  He had a lot of friends that he worked with through the years.  He worked tons of hours and those people that he saw every day became a big part of his life and world.  Suddenly after he retired all of those people were gone.  Retirement forces people to re-invent their world and some are better at it than others.  For some it is not easy to get into their little world.  It takes time and effort to be a true friend and a lot of people have closed off their true friend path.

Bill Russell the old time Boston Celtic basketball player once stunned a sports writer who wanted to be his friend.  “We cannot be friends”,  “Frank,” BilI said, “We can be acquaintances but I can’t give you enough of a commitment to be your friend.  Frank was astonished that someone could define friendship so personally and admired the fact that only a select few could get into Bill’s world.  I overheard a conversation the other day as someone mentioned how bad they were at remembering names.  She mentioned that she knows she could be so much better but she doesn’t take the time to listen closely when introduced to someone else.  The other person quipped that sometimes you have to make the determination if it is worthwhile to remember their names.  Maybe if you see them often the effort becomes worthwhile and you try harder.  I found it interesting that someone would actually admit the thinking process that we all probably go through.

Family Isnt Always About Blood

Through the years I think we all get protective of our little world.  We care about our family and friends and sometimes have a hard time letting someone else into our circle.  To truly be in that circle not only do they have to know the good side of us but the bad side of us too.  It is only then that they can accept us for who we are.  In an environment like work it is much easier to get to know someone.  You see them every day and after awhile they feel more comfortable around you and vice versa.  You begin to develop a closeness to those people and many times they become a part of your true friends.

I played softball for years and those same type of friendships developed.  There is something about seeing people consistently and working together as a team that brings people together.  They appreciate you for what you can do for the effort and you appreciate them for the same reasons.  Last year was the first year in 25 years that I didn’t play softball.  Our team was getting older, our bodies started failing, and our desire waned .  After all of those years our team broke up.  Surprisingly I don’t miss the game that much.  It was fun while we played at a high level but the thing most missing these days is not seeing those teammates every week that battled so hard with me.

2008 MASA F Qualifier 003

It seems to me that in retirement we need to build some of those same relationships.  Although we don’t see people naturally through work, there are plenty of activities that we can become a part of that will help us meet new people and special friends on the way.  The key to doing this is a little word called desire.  The old saying, “If it is to be it is up to me” applies.

When I worked with people’s finances the company that I worked for emphasized working in people’s warm markets.  Warm markets were defined as people that knew and trusted us.  All of us have a limited warm market but the people that we know have other people in their warm market.  The company was all about hiring new people and working in their warm markets.  This same principle is true in making new friends too.  Meeting new people often comes from friendships with people who introduce us to new people in their world.  These are people who we will remember their names.  Often times we find that we have plenty in common and they let us into their little world.  As our new friends start to trust us we can share our faith and enjoy their friendship too!  The friendships that we let flourish expands our little world along with our enjoyment of life!  So in my mind the real question is not when are you going to retire but are you open to adding friends to your little world?  If you are you may retire from a job but you will never retire to the possibilities and enjoyment that life still has to offer!

It’s A Puzzle

It’s 6 am on a workday and I was done sleeping.  Usually I don’t get up until 7 but something was on my mind.  It was the moon shape of Babe Ruth’s head.  You might think that is a crazy thought but it was part of the puzzle I was helping to put together.  Normally I leave the puzzles to my wife.  Every now and then I will attempt one and become frustrated when I sit there for 5 minutes without successfully putting together a piece or two.  This puzzle was different.  It was about sports legends from museums in North America.  In other words it was a subject I knew plenty about!

This puzzle was 1000 pieces and like all of them there was a picture of the finished product on the box.  Coming home from work on my lunch hour I found myself sitting down at the table and attempting to put a few more pieces together.  The same thing happened after work.  Instead of becoming frustrated because of my lack of success I became addicted because of my surprising proficiency!  I found that it was relaxing as it took my mind off of everyday things and put it on the task at hand.

Babe Ruth 1948 - 1949 Leaf Baseball Card #3 Reprint Grade MINT for ...

As I was laying there before I got up I had this thought.  Why don’t I work on the Babe Ruth part of the puzzle?  After all there was nobody who had a head exactly like the Babe.  I once heard someone describe it as looking like a happy catchers mitt.  On the box picture he was looking up following the journey of the ball he had just crushed.  Who would have thought that years ago this would be the man who saved baseball?  At the age of 7 his parents placed him in a home for incorrigible boys.  They decided that his actions were so bad they couldn’t raise him.  It was called St. Mary’s Industrial School and was a training school for orphans, incorrigibles, delinquents, boys whose homes had been broken by divorce, runaways picked up on the streets of Baltimore and children of poor parents who had no other means of providing an education for them. He was being trained to be a shirt maker and tailor.

From the day he was admitted at age 7 until the age of 19 he was in and out of that school.  It looked like his future would be as a tailor until fate took over.  Little did he know that the puzzle to his life was coming together.  You see George (his real name), had a proficiency for hitting a baseball.  It was discovered and nurtured by a big strapping administrator of the school named Brother Mathias.  Brother Mathias was 6 feet 6 inches tall and took a liking to George.  The school had different teams and at a young age George was allowed to play on the best one.  He was a pitcher back then and became known as the best pitcher in the school!  Jack Dunn the owner of the Baltimore Orioles who at that time was a minor league team came to the school and signed George to a contract.  He had to agree to be his legal guardian to make the deal happen which he did.  Teammates would see Dunn coming with George by his side and would say “here comes Dunn with his babe!”.  The nickname stuck and he became Babe Ruth.  After 5 years of pitching and getting traded to the major league Boston Red Sox it was decided that Babe was too good of a hitter to only play one in every 4 or 5 games.  They made him into an outfielder so he could play every day.  The Red Sox owner Harry Frazee needed money to fund one of his plays (he also owned a local theater) so he sold Babe to the New York Yankees for $125,000.

Baseball had a very serious problem when Babe was traded to the Yankees.  In the 1919 World Series between the Chicago White Sox and Cincinnati Reds it was discovered that the White Sox had sold out to gamblers.  Eight of them agreed to lose the series for an agreed upon sum of money.  When this unthinkable deed was brought to light baseball was looked on as crooked.  One of the big reasons people became interested again was the many home runs that Babe Ruth was hitting.  His go for broke swings started a new trend in the game.  Instead of bunting and playing base to base players started playing for the big inning and swinging for the fences.  Baseball became respectable again and a big reason was Babe Ruth!

In the pile of puzzle pieces I saw his moon face.  It couldn’t have been none other.  Suddenly I was finding his gray uniform in the mix of pieces.  I found I enjoyed working on a single subject and working with colors.  My son is really good with shapes.  He amazes me how he can sit down and put 4 or 5 pieces in based on their shapes.  He has a knack for seeing a shape and matching it quickly within the pile of puzzle pieces.  I do not have that talent.  My best attribute for putting this particular puzzle together was my knowledge of the subject.  Some of the outlying pieces had little facts about the athletes.  For instance Jessie Owens 1936 Olympics, or Mark Spitz 7 Gold Medals, or Ted Williams a .406 average.  All of these little facts helped me know the area that the pieces went in without really being very good at putting puzzles together in general.

After working on the puzzle for awhile I’d find that I would go into a slump.  In other words I’d sit there getting frustrated because the pieces were not going together.  It was at those times I would get up and get my mind on something else.  Sometimes we can dwell on the situation so much that we get bogged down.  It is good in those situations to just step away.  That happens at work sometimes at the end of the day.  There are times when by 5 pm  things seem like a scrambled mess, but a good nights sleep and a new day brings clarity to the situation.

After I walked away from the puzzle my wife kept working.  A few minutes later she called for me to finish the puzzle.  She had graciously left 7 or 8 pieces out for me to complete the puzzle.  It took a little trial and error but I was able to fit the pieces together and all of them were there.

Now I could see the completed puzzle picture.  There were many figures representing numerous stories similar to the Babe Ruth story I mentioned.  From Joe Louis, the great boxer to Red Grange, the galloping ghost of football, to John Wooden, who guided UCLA to 10 NCAA basketball titles, and so many other incredible stories!   The fun part about piecing this puzzle together for me was the memories each little figure represented.  I remember so many of these people and observed many as they were accomplishing the feats that would make them famous.

God has a puzzle of all of our lives too.  It isn’t a puzzle that he is figuring out however.  It is a faith puzzle that comes together when we trust him with it.  It’s easy to get frustrated when our pieces don’t seem to fit together.  Sometimes we try to force pieces that don’t fit only to discover that this conduct directly affects other pieces.  While things don’t always go together like we think they should, have faith that all of the puzzle is there!  Instead of being frustrated we need to just step away and leave it with God.  When our puzzle is all together we will marvel at how all of the pieces fit perfectly and how each trial on the trail helped to make our puzzle complete!


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