Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Leading pre-schoolers

After I locked my keys in the car last evening I saw a great example of leadership by a young mother.

As soon as I locked the van door I realized my mistake. I carry a spare key in my pocket appointment book but I had taken the appointment book out and left it in the van while I was in an meeting. And I hadn't put it back in my shirt pocket. So I had not only locked my keys in the van but also my spare key.

Thankfully I had my cell phone on my belt loop. I called my true love who agreed to bring a second set of keys.

After I finished shopping I sat on a ledge at the front of the store. I was a bit irritated because I didn't even have anything to read.

But soon a young woman with two boys, ages three and four, and a girl, age two, came in.
A bit later as they approached the check out I saw that each of the boys was carrying two big bags of chips and the little girl was carrying a single big bag of cheese curls.

What a great idea, I thought. Even at that young age each child played an important role in shopping. She lifted the little girl up so that the little girl could place her bag on the check out counter.

At the check out the young woman mentioned to the clerk that they were having teen boys over. While the mother was checking out, the two boys promptly climbed a nearby railing. The mother calmly suggested they get down and didn't make a big deal of it when they took their time getting off the railing.

She did not use a shopping cart, making it necessary for each person to carry some of the groceries.

As soon as she was through the check out line she gave each boy two bags of chips and the boys hustled out the door ahead of her, each carrying their load.

She gave the little girl two bags but when that proved to be too much she took one bag back and carried it with the bottles of ketchup other items she was carrying.

Taking young children shopping is always a challenge but that young mother turned it into an opportunity for each child to play an important role.

Leaders exist to make it possible for each person in the group to have a hand in helping the whole group thrive.

That young mother was a great leader.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

On art, torture and trust

I just came from the Plow Creek common building where we are holding an art show and reception for one of our most senior members, Jim Harnish. Folks are wandering through the common room admiring a life time of pottery and ceramic pieces Jim created.

After the last Evergreen Leaders workshop a participant lent me a book he thought I'd like to read: The Blindfolds Eye: My journey from torture to truth by Sister Dianna Ortiz.
Sister Dianna was one of thousands of people who were tortured in Guatemala by the army in the 1970's and 1980's. Sister Dianna, a nun, was raped repeatedly and burned 111 times on her back during a 24-hour period at a police station before she escaped. Most of those who were tortured were killed.

Torture was used as a strategy to break trust in small groups on the left. They chose unknown people like Sister Dianna to torture in order to send shock waves through the small groups they were part of, according to the US ambassador to Guatemala at the time, Thomas Stroock. Now declassified documents clearly show that US officials were working with Guatemalan officials to cover up the torture that went on including the torturing of Sister Dianna, an American who was teaching children.

Plow Creek is a community built on trust. At the common building there are seven tables filled with a variety of ceramic and pottery pieces that Jim created over a life time. Jim is in his early 80's and in poor health but he was smiling and joking with his relatives and friends who came to the reception.

As Jim's health has deteriorated he has needed more and more help with the simple tasks of life.
This takes deep trust on his part and deep trust on the numerous Plow Creek people who each week lend a hand in caring for Jim and Donna. His wife, Donna, has been incommunicado and in need of 24-hour care since a stroke six years ago.

Torturers destroy trust and life. While too many governments were torturing people Jim Harnish was living a communal life at Plow Creek and creating art.

Artists and lovers like Jim build life and trust. I am delighted that we can honor one of our elders today, one who has given his life to building art and trust.

Now I am going to go back and rejoin the party.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

The day I became a diehard Cubs fan

Friday it happened. The moment I became a die-hard Chicago Cubs fan.

On Wednesday they lost when their relief pitcher walked in the winning run in the bottom of the ninth.

On Thursday they lost in the top of the ninth when an opponent hit a blooper that the second basemen over ran.

Then on Friday in the top of the ninth with the bases loaded, Cubs ahead by one, and one out, I unloaded my wheelchair to go into the Met to swim.

I paused to listen to the next at bat. Cubs announcer, Pat Hughes: "A sharp liner back to the mound. He throws to first. Oh no, he threw it into the stands...two runs score...Philadelphia takes the lead...I think it bounced of the base runner and into the stands."

Hughes was right. When the pitcher threw to first base to complete the double play and finish the inning, the ball hit the helmet of the base runner and flew into the stands.

I sat in my wheelchair and laughed. This is art, I thought, absurd art maybe, but art nonetheless. The Cubs have turned losing into an art.

I grew up in Minnesota, a Twins fan, and moved to Illinois in 1977. Over the years the Cubs have slowly grown on me but I wouldn't have called myself a diehard Cubs fan.

But at that moment, when I could laugh, recognizing the absurd beauty of that play, one that may never again be duplicated in baseball, I knew I was a diehard Cubs fan.

When they win it's great, but when they lose like that, it's beauty.

Go Cubs.