Friday, June 27, 2008

Righting Wrongs Reveals True Nature

There are some sounds you never want to hear. The grating pitch made by the metal sunshade your son is dragging down the side of someone’s car is one example. Sure, it would have been easy to just ignore the damage and walk away. No one was around to witness the incident, right?

Wrong. There were witnesses. Three, to be exact: me, my daughter, and the aforementioned, spatially-challenged son. Could I, as a responsible parent, allow this to go unreported? Not if I ever wanted to hold the high ground in future ethical discussions. And with a 13-year-old, you KNOW there are going to be a few of those in our future. So, we left a note. The bottom line: it was the right thing to do.

This is just one of the moments that life gives us to teach by example. These lessons are rarely taught in the controlled environment of the classroom. Usually, it takes the messiness of reality to bring them home. Oddly, it seems my wife, Beverly, and I have had a number of these opportunities lately.

When the friendly, neighborhood traffic cop pulled Beverly over, she was sure she could slide out of it. She was on her way to church, after all. But she WAS speeding. And those same witnesses were sitting right next to her just waiting to sop up this latest “do as I say, not as I do” moment. So instead, she accepted the admonishment of the officer – along with a $100 speeding ticket – and went on her way.

But teaching moments don’t always end with the event. What we discovered was that follow-up is just as important as the incident.

A few days after the car-marring episode, we spoke to the owner. He got a couple of estimates for the repair and we were floored. Who knew that auto body repairs are following the same meteoric rise as the price of crude? (Oil-based paints, I guess.) My knee-jerk reaction was, “No way! We’re not going to pay that. Let ‘em sue us!” We even considered that perhaps the “victim” was looking for a way to cash in. But a little reflection convinced us that we did, indeed, need to make it right, whatever the cost. Doing the right thing ain’t always cheap.

Likewise, Beverly could have contested that speeding ticket, taking up the court’s time and hoping the officer wouldn’t show. But what kind of lesson would we be teaching then? “Take your lumps… unless it really hurts. Then it’s okay to try and weasel out of it.”

When all is said and done, honesty won’t always save you any money, and may even cost a bit more. But your conscience will be clean and your integrity intact. When you take the chance of being honest, you open yourself up to unexpected downsides. “No good deed goes unpunished,” is the old adage. But in the end, it boils down to karma. Live your life in a responsible, ethical manner, and your integrity will – more times than not ­­­– attract positive situations. If, on the other hand, you’re always looking for the angle, don’t be surprised if you find that folks around you are trying to pull a fast one on you, too.

Every situation is just bursting with teachable moments. Even when something less than pleasant crosses your path, look for an opportunity to set an example for those who look up to you. Congratulations! You’re a teacher! Or, are you the student?

Friday, June 13, 2008

Kicking the Summer Heat

It’s the bottom of the final inning. The home team is down by 2, with runners on second and third. Two outs. The pitcher stares down from the rubber with malice in his eyes. The wind up… the pitch… It’s a curve. The ball is popped up in the air just over second base. The center fielder dashes up to make the grab.

“No play!” comes the cry from the umpire. “The pitch was too bouncy. Strike three on the pitcher. Yer outta the game!” Pandemonium ensues.

A little league baseball game? No. Softball? Nope. This is the high-pressure world of neighborhood Kickball, as played in Frisco’s Duncan Park, near Curtsinger Elementary, once a month.

If you haven’t played kickball in a while, you should give it a try. It’s truly a game that equalizes the field between big brawny dads and their fourth-grade daughters. Trying to blast the ball over everyone’s head usually results in a pop fly that hangs in the air long enough to consult with the center fielder on the wind direction, grab a drink of water, then saunter over and catch the ball. Meanwhile, you can’t under estimate the difficulty of pegging a three-foot tall kid racing down the base path from 30 feet away with an oversized ball with a penchant for flying off at odd angles.

The Curtsinger Husband Community Kickball League (CHuCKLe) is the brain child of Bryan McNary (along with his wife, Darci, and their two daughters, Bailey and Kinsey). This outgoing, gregarious, database programmer – and self-professed “King of Kickball” - decided that he was tired of seeing people in the neighborhood that he didn’t know. He’d run into folks at school events, nod politely and move on. This wasn’t good enough. So Bryan started sending out invitations to come play kickball. It started out with a few close families but has now grown to include people from all over the Plantation Resort neighborhood. At the last event, Bryan rounded up over 30 moms, dads and kids of all ages. (Note: Members of the first two groups could also be included in the later, based on their behavior.)

Frisco suffers from the same malady that afflicts many bedroom communities. Parents get up in the morning and head off to their jobs, then spend their evenings in keeping up the household, helping with home work and other home-bound tasks. We rarely take the time to step outside and greet the people living around us. Throw in the ubiquitous rear-entry garages, and we may never even SEE our neighbors, much less greet them. I applaud any effort that brings us closer together as a community, even if it’s only for an hour or so once a month.

As we move into the hazy, lazy days of summer, I challenge all of my fellow Frisco-ites to find ways to get out and mingle with the folks in your neighborhood. Here in North Texas, most of us endure the summer months locked away in our air-conditioned homes. But it doesn’t take much to get out and scare up some activity. If necessary, wait until the evening hours when it cools off. I recall when we first moved to Frisco, we were invited to a block party around the corner. Now, nine years later, we’ve been getting together with the same group of people at least twice every summer. A couple of grills pulled into the street… some lawn chairs strewn about… Beverly’s famous “Texas Caviar.” These are the tastes of Texas summer that I hope my kids remember throughout their lives.

Oh and, by the way, if anyone thinks they’ve got what it takes to challenge CHuCKLe, bring it on!