Okay, I have a confession to make - when I was very young, and by that I mean several months younger than the age of two, I was traumatized by the letter "Z."
Now I know what you're thinking; and it sounds ridiculous, right? But I knew that the letter "Z" was out to get me - and I had proof.
First of all, I was convinced that the letter "Z" was a real, live animal. And I knew this for a fact because I had learned that on Sesame Street. Here is living proof:
You can see my point, can't you? The letter "Z" obviously had a mind of its own; it had an attitude, it was reckless and passive aggressive, and it seemed to bring out the worst in Kermit the Frog. There was no mistake about it in my mind: the letter "Z" was a nasty character, and it was something which I wanted nothing to do with.
And yet, the letter "Z" had somehow followed me home, and it was living in my backyard. I saw it there - every day - lurking just outside the sliding glass door, and watching my every move.
But what was even more unsettling for me was the fact that my parents, who were supposed to love me, would plop me down in my high chair and turn it so that I was facing outside. And there I would sit, staring at my nemesis, who wouldn't move an inch. The letter "Z" was sizing me up, and I knew that it was waiting to see if I would fall asleep in my high chair... and then it would attack. So I kept my eyes open, and I never took naps in that house. Oh sure, that meant that I was cranky toddler, but that wasn't my fault; I was a victim of my circumstances, and my parents needed to pay for their transgressions.
Thankfully, I no longer live in that house. Our family moved, and the letter "Z" did not appear to have followed us. But I remember vividly what that terrifying scene looked like every day, and here is my feeble attempt at an artist's rendition...
You can say what you want, but I'm telling you the truth - that letter "Z" was out there; and somewhere in the back of my mind, I'm sure that it still is.
A friend of mine recently shared the following article on Facebook about a study that was just published by Dr. Roy Lewicki and others at the University of Ohio on the subject of what constitutes an effective apology:
The Six elements of an Effective Apology, According to Science
While the information contained in Dr. Lewicki's study is certainly relevant, it is more or less a rehash of the material which Dr. Gary Chapman presented in his book The Five Languages of Apology: How to Experience Healing in All Your Relationships, which was published ten years ago.
Five of the six points in the OSU study's "new research" are directly lifted from Dr. Chapman's points - and they are almost verbatim quotes. To show just how closely Dr. Lewicki's points are to Dr. Chapman's, I will present the OSU study's list in the first column below, and then I will present the matching points from Dr. Chapman's book in the second column:
|OSU Study ||Dr. Chapman's Book |
|1. Expression of Regret ||1. Expressing Regret |
|2. Explanation of What Went Wrong ||n/a |
|3. Acknowledgment of Responsibility ||2. Accepting Responsibility |
|4. Declaration of Repentance ||4. Genuinely Repenting |
|5. Offer of Repair ||3. Making Restitution |
|6. Request for Forgiveness ||5. Requesting Forgiveness |
That being said, the OSU study ultimately draws the wrong conclusions; the OSU study suggests that there is one formula for apologies which works in all situations, whereas Dr. Chapman's book demonstrates that what is most-important in an apology for one person may not be for another.
For example, taking responsibility is of paramount importance to me, but not so much for my spouse. However, requesting forgiveness is extremely important for her, and yet Dr. Lewicki suggested that you could leave out the request for forgiveness entirely. If my wife and I were to follow the OSU study's recommendations, she and I would be apologizing to each other in ways that do not align with the other's communication needs, which will undoubtedly result in additional strife at a time when effective communication is most critical.
In contrast to the OSU study's conclusions, Dr. Chapman's recommendation is that each partner in a relationship learn their partner's expected form of apology and strive to address their partner's needs when expressing their apologies. Attempting to pigeon-hole the communication requirements for every relationship based on a single formula as the OSU study suggests is ludicrous.
So ultimately the OSU study is heavily plagiarized from Dr. Chapman's pre-existing research, and yet that study still manages to arrive at an incorrect outcome.
I just re-discovered this story: my son was a senior in high school when he flew to San Francisco on a choir trip. And even though his flight was leaving Seattle around the same time as a flight which I was taking somewhere else, he didn't want to ride to the airport with me. His exact words were, "I'd rather go with people that I can talk to." (This is a teenage way of saying that I was just not cool enough to be part of his entourage.)
However, after I had arrived at the airport and was calmly waiting for my flight to depart, my wife called to tell me that our son realized when he arrived at the airport that he had left his boarding pass and all of his money for the trip at home. I called my son, who informed me that he had already picked up a new boarding pass from the airline, but he didn't have a way to get the money from home. Feeling sorry for him and ignoring his earlier diss about the ride, I agreed to drop by an ATM and pick up some cash to give my son at his gate, which was in a different terminal of the SEATAC airport.
After finding the nearest ATM and withdrawing the requisite funds, I headed off to catch the airport tram to the terminal where my son was waiting for me. I was already en-route to his location when a thought suddenly dawned on me: why in the world was I hand-carrying the cash all the way to his gate, when he was the one who had forgotten everything?
Once that notion had registered completely in my mind, I called my son and told him to walk to the tram station in his terminal and meet me there. As the tram pulled into the stop near his gate, I saw my son and one of his friends waiting patiently for me to arrive. I hopped off the tram, gave my son the cash, took a quick photo of him, and then hopped back on the tram before the doors were able to close - mission accomplished.
In the end I may have saved the day, but I still wasn't cool enough to give my son a ride to the airport.
Finally a book comes out that would have helped my children understand part of their childhood..
Here are a pair of photos of my dad and brothers with me, and there is a difference of 25 years in between the two images. I stumbled across the second image as I was going through some old photos, and it was taken in 2011 at my daughter's wedding. The first image I have posted on Facebook before, and that photo was taken in 1987. It's kind of amazing to see what the passage of time does...
I don't know what the deal is with those other guys who all appear to have aged, but I haven't changed a bit.
I will admit, I have done a lot of crazy things in my life. It's pretty amazing that I haven't earned a Darwin Award by now. I drove cars way too fast when I was young; and I lost control on more than one occasion. (Once I spun the car so many times that gravel had managed to embed itself through the bead on the tires; when the tire was flat the next day, we found a bunch pebbles inside the tires.) During my tenure in the Army, I did some pretty foolish things, too. Before the end of the Cold War, I snuck across the border into East Germany - and I did so on more than one occasion. Oh sure, everybody in my unit had done that at one time or other... but still, sneaking undetected into Communist territory just for the rush of trying not to get caught is kind of... stupid. All told, I've avoided more vehicular catastrophes than I can remember: I've gone free climbing at night, I've rappelled from helicopters, I've been scuba diving with sharks, I've jumped over rattlesnakes in the desert, and I've survived a host of other reckless, ill-advised, and/or dim-witted decisions with regard to my personal safety.
But what has scared me the most in my life is when my first daughter was born. I know a lot of people make jokes about how becoming a parent is terrifying, but that's not what I mean.
My wife and I married very young - just out of high school to be exact - and we became parents when we were still quite young. In fact, I was a few months short of my 20th birthday when our daughter was born. I only mention my age because it made everything harder; I had no real life experience to judge the seriousness of any situation. So when we arrived at the hospital prior to the birth of our daughter, everything was new to us.
Thankfully my wife's good friend was there; she was a pediatric ICU nurse, and she helped keep things running smoothly for us. (And of course, by "us" I mean "me.") After my wife had been in labor for several hours, she apparently still had several hours ahead of her. With that in mind, my wife's friend told me that she and I were pretty worthless hanging around the delivery room, so she said that she and I should head to dinner.
However, when we got back from dinner, complete chaos had erupted in my wife's hospital room. Medical personnel were running all over the place, my wife was wired up to all sorts of equipment, and everyone's face had an expression of dire seriousness. When a nearby nurse finally had a moment to describe what was going on, she explained that our daughter's heart rate had dropped in half - from 140bpm to 70bpm. If the doctors didn't operate immediately, our daughter would die. So before I really knew what was happening, I found myself decked out in surgical scrubs and being quickly escorted down the hall and into a densely-packed operating room.
Watching a cesarean section was... well... it's hard to explain; I experienced a range of emotions. Under other circumstances watching surgery would be fascinating, but there was something that was really unnerving about watching someone cut open my wife with a scalpel. Added to that was the knowledge that both my wife's and my daughter's lives were at stake. And that part was especially terrifying.
There's a scene in the movie She's Having A Baby where Elizabeth McGovern's character is having a cesarean section while Kevin Bacon's character is nervously waiting outside the operating room with both sets of their parents. It's a heart-wrenching moment in the movie, but even more so for me because I more or less lived through that same experience.
The end of my story is that the surgery was a success; both mother and daughter recovered from their ordeals. Thirty years have come and gone since that fateful day, but I have never forgotten what if felt like to realize that I might lose everything that was important to me. I have never felt more helpless. Or more petrified.
I seldom talk about this, but it was on this day three years ago that our family lost my father-in-law, Terry Wetmore, to Alzheimer's Disease. My father-in-law was truly a second father to me; after my wife and I were married, Terry quickly became one of my closest friends. No matter the situation, the two of us would trade jokes back and forth - perhaps a little too often - and often to the chagrin of everyone else around us. Terry was a successful businessman in his younger days, and in his latter years Terry and my mother-in-law were part of a clown ministry that performed around the world.
The first indication of Terry's battle with Alzheimer's Disease was forgetfulness, and as his symptoms gradually progressed over several years, we found ourselves trying to help him process his fears and frustrations as he fully realized what was happening to him. I cannot imagine how terrifying that must have been for Terry, and it was extremely painful to watch his slow descent from a successful and self-determined businessman and loving grandfather into a growing fog of confusion.
As the months slipped by, Terry became progressively disorientated; for example, on more than one occasion he would plead with me to take him home, and I would have to gently remind him that he was already there. Eventually he could do little more than sit and stare at the world around him with an empty gaze from eyes that could not process his surrounding environment. One of the worst parts about Alzheimer's Disease is that each day passes and you are gradually robbed of your loved ones in spirit, even though you still have them physically.
I have a cousin who is living through similar circumstances, and during one of our conversations I mentioned that I am certainly no expert on how someone should go through this type of situation with a loved one. But I told her that I learned to appreciate the good days that we had near the end, and one particular event came to mind. My wife and I were visiting with my in-laws at a time when Terry's existence was rarely more than sitting in his favorite chair and watching television during his conscious hours. My mother-in-law invited my dad over to join us for dinner, and as the five of us relaxed around the dinner table, Terry miraculously emerged from his usual lethargy and became fully-engaged in the conversation. Terry was behaving more like his old self – he was joking with everyone, he was firing back at my dad’s ubiquitous one-liners, and he was referring to me by an old nickname which he had fashioned for me during all the years that we had known each other.
This was a wonderful moment in time; but it was all-too-brief, and sadly it was the last of its kind. Terry’s return to normalcy lasted for just that evening, and even though the weeks ahead had periodic episodes of lucidity, we soon had to put my father-in-law in a nursing home because his day-to-day needs were too much for my mother-in-law to take care of on her own. Terry’s health declined rapidly over the next several months, and he passed away within the year.
There is hardly a day that goes by where I do not think about how much I miss Terry. Brief moments like the dinner that I described were unexpected blessings, and they are wonderful memories that I will treasure for the rest of my days. Events like that are the way that I choose to remember Terry's latter years, and I am so thankful that I have a lifetime's worth of deeply-cherished reminiscences of him from our younger years.
Today my wife and I are celebrating our 30th Wedding Anniversary, which is the single-greatest and most-important adventure upon which I have embarked in my life. I remember when my wife and I were newly married and we would meet couples who had been married 30 years; I would think to myself, "Wow – that's such a long time." But now that I'm the one who has been married that long I think, "Wow – that sure went by fast."
But truth be told, I cannot take credit for the length of our union - I married someone who is an infinitely better person than myself. Seriously. Anyone who can put up with me for a mere afternoon is a miracle-worker, which probably elevates my wife to sainthood.
That being said, sometime around our 25th wedding anniversary I started getting questions from younger couples like, "What's your secret?" and "Why has your marriage lasted so long?" Let me be very clear - I am not an expert on marriage, and in general I am not a person who should be emulated; I am wholly aware of my many shortcomings as a human being, and I am overtly cognizant of my failures as a husband with regard to holding up my half of our relationship. (I always mean well, of course - but I am just as flawed as the next guy. Some days I simply forget to take out the garbage, or empty the dishwasher, or whatever. [Darn. I'm so ashamed.])
However, if I can't be a good example of a husband to anyone else, perhaps I can share a few of the things that I've learned from being a bad example. To quote the good people at Despair.com, perhaps my purpose in life is to serve as a warning to others:
With that in mind, here are some of the reasons why our marriage has endured, what has helped us over the years, and some of the lessons that I've learned the hard way.
I'd like to start things off by answering the question that I seem to get the most: "What is the secret to a long-lasting marriage?" Okay, if you're taking notes, you might want to write this down, because here it is:
Point #1 - Don't Get Divorced.
That's it. Period.
You could stop reading right now because you've already got the main takeaway from this blog. Now in case anyone thinks that I'm making light of this situation, I'm actually being perfectly honest. If you decide that divorce is not an option, it affects every part of your partnership. In our journey together, my wife and I have gone through incredible peaks and valleys - surviving both good and bad times - and many of these situations would have ended other relationships. In the past 30 years we have gone through everything we mentioned in our vows; we have endured sickness, health, prosperity, poverty, joy, adversity, etc. In the end, facing these seasons together and surviving side-by-side to live another day as husband and wife has bonded us together in ways which resemble the closeness of combat veterans. Collective perseverance yields intimacy.
I understand that there are situations where divorce is the only option; for example, when your spouse walks out on you, or your spouse is abusive and refuses to get professional help. When I talk about refusing to get divorced, I am speaking to those of you who get up one day and decide that you don't want to be married, or you claim that your spouse "just doesn't understand you anymore." When these feelings happen, you have to work your way through them. It takes conscious effort, but you made a commitment and you should not quit simply because you are wondering whether the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. Walking out on your marriage because you're bored or you don't want to do the work is little more than cowardice.
To be honest, the fact that my wife and I are still together is a much greater testimony to my next topic:
Point #2 - Christ.
Yes, I know - invoking the name of Christ is considered "Politically Incorrect" these days, but it is a simple statement of fact that my wife's and my faith has helped us weather countless trials and tribulations. So I don't care if it's an unpopular to talk about Jesus, because faith works. Don't argue with success.
Over the years I have learned this next valuable lesson:
Point #3 - Fighting Is Not Worth It.
I have to be brutally honest about whether my wife and I ever fight, and I sincerely wish that I could say we never quarreled. But the truth is - we used to bicker. A lot. In the early years of our marriage we fought like cats and dogs. And on that note, the unfortunate reality of our situation at the time is inescapable: I was 19 years old when I married my high school sweetheart and best friend, who was only 18 years old at the time. We went from kids to couple overnight, but only in the legal sense - maturity didn't show up until many years later. (Perhaps it still hasn't. Hmm. Probably best not to digress on that point.)
I would love to say that my statement about how "fighting is not worth it" was due to some grandiose epiphany which I arrived at through years of soul-searching and mature contemplation of our relationship. But the truth is much simpler, my secret to avoiding arguments boils down to one single concept: laziness. Seriously, fighting took way too much effort, and we eventually learned that it was better not to fight. Here's what an argument looked like in our house - we would disagree about something, which would escalate into a maelstrom of heated and hurtful words thrown back and forth between us. Eventually we would reach some form of resolution, but once the dust settled from the actual argument, we had to endure days of coldness as the two of us figured out how best to rebuild all of the trust which we had destroyed during the argument. It dawned on both of us that it took a great deal of effort to work up the anger for an argument, and the emotional trauma that we experienced was exhausting after our disputes had ended. Once we had realized that valuable lesson, both of us learned to recognize when we were hurtling toward another squabble, and we'd agree to skip over the major conflict part. It sounds easy enough, but it took us years to figure that out.
Now please don't get me wrong, I am not suggesting that we never disagree, nor am I insinuating that we do not defend our opinions passionately when we hold opposing positions on important topics. The truth is - we still differ on any number of subjects, but we both realize that nothing is worth losing our marriage. Together we have endured destitute poverty, years of work-related separations, the births and deaths of several family members, and raising three children to adulthood.
Throughout all of our combined experiences, I have vividly retained the following critically-important fact:
Point #4 - Always Remember Why You Married Your Spouse.
My wife and I were friends for several years before we ventured out on our first date. In fact, by the the time it occurred to either of one of us that we should be more than friends, many of our friends already thought that we were dating and were rather sick of the subject. (They're probably still sick of the subject, but after 30 years I really don't care. :-P)
Kathleen is my best friend, and we still hold hands when we walk together in public - which is how life should be; she has been the predominant character in all of my experiences as an adult, and she has been a major part of my life for almost 35 years. My wife is truly my better half, so why would I gamble all of our collective memories and life experiences by failing to remember the simple fact that I am sharing my life with the most-important and most-loving person whom I have ever known? If I fail to keep these thoughts in mind, I risk destroying everything. And that would make me a pretty selfish jerk. (Feel free to quote that to my face if it ever looks like we're headed for trouble.)
Point #5 – Be Self-Critical.
Believe it or not, you are not the perfect spouse. The folks at Despair.com got it right when they published a demotivational poster which reads, "The only consistent feature of all of your dissatisfying relationships is you."
While they were just making a joke, it should be noted that there is a lot of truth to that statement. More often than not, you will find that the source of unhappiness in your relationship is your attitude and not some shortcoming on your spouse's part. Every once in a while you need to step back and take a good look at yourself before lecturing someone else about their behavior.
I should probably mention one last thing before bringing this blog to an end:
Point #6 - A Good Marriage Takes Work. A Great Marriage Takes More Work.
Somewhere around our seventh year of marriage I decided that I wasn't content to have a 'Good Marriage,' I wanted a 'Great Marriage.' Unfortunately, I had no clue as to how we should go about creating such a thing. With that in mind, I decided to read at least one book about marriage each year. Some of those books have been great, and others I've tried hard to forget. A few books I have re-read years later; this has usually been an amusing experience for me, because I often discover that some part of a book which I thought was silly and chose to ignore at the time was eventually learned the hard way. In any event, there are a lot of good books on marriage out there, and you may think that some won't apply to your situation, but you have to be willing to try.
Two books which have been life-changing for me have been The Five Love Languages and The Five Languages of Apology by Dr. Gary Chapman; these two books probably changed all of my relationships with everyone I know - spouse, kids, parents, extended family members, friends, coworkers, etc. There are lots of other great books which I have read, but those two are a good start.
In closing, I may not be the best role model for a husband, and I have made more than my fair share of mistakes. But I have learned a thing or two along my journey from the cradle to the grave. I take no pride by admitting that most of my life lessons have been learned the hard way, so you can consider my advice from two perspectives: if I have been an idiot from time to time throughout our marriage, perhaps my advice isn't worth anything. On the other hand, if I've made enough mistakes as a husband to finally realize several of the most-important things to remember in a relationship, perhaps you can learn from my errors.
On Tuesday morning, October 28, 2014, my good friend Kenny King passed away after a long battle with cancer. Kenny was a loving father and husband, and he had been one of my closest friends for almost 20 years. I was honored to speak at his memorial service, and I wanted to share the notes that I used during the service.
Proverbs 18:24 teaches us that, "One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but a true friend sticks closer than a brother (ISV/NIV)." Matthew Henry explains this verse in his Commentary on the Whole Bible in the following way: "In our troubles we expect comfort and relief from our relations, but sometimes there is a friend, [who is unrelated] to us, the bonds of whose esteem and love prove stronger than those of nature, and, when it comes to [trials], will do more for us than a brother will." I cannot think of a better way to describe my relationship with Kenny King, for even though I have a younger and older brother by birth, they were stuck with me against their will; whereas Kenny adopted me by choice.
Kenny and I met in December of 1995 when he and I were hired by Microsoft in Tucson, Arizona. We were hired the same day, and our employee IDs show that he was technically hired six people before me. (Because of this, Kenny loved to point out that he had an hour or so of seniority over me.)
We were both hired as part of a newly-formed team which was to provide technical support for the same Microsoft products, so we went through all of our "New Hire Training" together. And it was there that I learned several important things about Kenny.
First of all, I learned that Kenny knew all of the best places to find Mexican Food in Tucson. He would organize team lunches, and he would lead a group of trusting coworkers to some of the strangest, hole-in-the-wall eating establishments which I would never have discovered on my own; yet he could convince everyone that we were going to be fine.
Which brings me to the next thing that I learned about Kenny: for those of you who never saw Kenny at work, he had a superpower - Kenny was an amazing leader. It never ceased to amaze me that you could throw a dozen people in a room with a problem to solve, and somehow Kenny would wind up being the guy at the whiteboard putting the plan together. He never asserted his role as a leader; people naturally wanted to follow him.
But I also learned that Kenny had a rather interesting sense of humor, and let me explain by example: in the first few days of training for phone support, we were required to go through several "Role Playing" exercises in front of our peers, where one person would coach another person through a common task (like making a sandwich). I was assigned to talk Kenny through the process of changing a tire, and I coached him through locating his tire iron, raising the car with the jack, and removing the tire. Everything seemed routine, but suddenly Kenny started yelling, "Oh no! My car is rolling backwards! You forgot to tell me to set the emergency brake! My car just crashed to the ground! Where's your manager?" Some people in my situation would have been horrified, some would have been offended, and others would have been furious - but I thought Kenny was hilarious. And at that moment, I realized that he and I were going to be great friends.
Kenny and I worked together for a couple months, but then I quit the team in order to help create another support team which was working on cutting-edge products for this new-fangled thing called "The Internet." As part of my new responsibilities, I was setting up several UNIX-based servers in a lab, and since my UNIX skills were a little rustier than Kenny's, I would ask him to drop by and help out. After a few days of "borrowing" Kenny for his expertise, my colleagues and I decided that it would be better to just "steal" Kenny. We gave him no choice in the matter; we simply told Kenny that he now worked with us, and he agreed to it. This proved to be a fortuitous change for both Kenny and me, because a few months later the products for our newly-formed team were some of the fastest-growing technologies in Microsoft.
Shortly after our one-year anniversary with the company, life handed us an interesting predicament: Microsoft announced that it was closing the support site in Tucson, and we needed to find other jobs within the company. Because our products were in such high demand, we had our choice of locations. With that in mind, (and I am somewhat ashamed to admit this publicly), the first person I asked - even before my spouse - was Kenny, because I wanted to see where he wanted to move. Kenny replied, "I don't know - where do you want to move?" And that was the humble beginning of a plan the two of us hatched which brought us to Texas. (I moved here first, and Kenny arrived a few days later, so I claimed that I had seniority in Texas.)
Believe it or not, Kenny and I came up with the following proposal: since Microsoft would give each of our families a one-bedroom apartment for a single month as temporary housing, we asked Microsoft if we could combine our benefits and move our two families into a two-bedroom apartment for two months. This meant moving our wives (who had never met) and our four children (who had never met) into 1,000 square feet of space for sixty days. Kenny and I thought that if we were such great friends, then our wives would get along, too. (We're guys - we can be stupid like that.) But as it turns out, our families did get along, and the group of us became great friends. We eventually bought houses around the corner from each other in Lewisville where we were neighbors and our kids grew up together. Kenny and I often carpooled to work when we were on the same team, and our families spent countless days passing back and forth between our two houses for birthdays, barbeques and holidays.
My wife and I became members of Grace Community, and we brought Kenny and Gloria to a variety of church events. It was on those occasions where people like Pastor Richard and Ladonna and a score of other wonderful people loved on Kenny and Gloria and their family so much that they couldn't help but fall in love with Grace, and they eventually became part of this congregation, too.
When Microsoft moved my wife and me to Seattle several years ago, our oldest daughter, Rebecca, was completing her degree at TWU in Denton, so she chose to stay here in Texas, and she moved in with Kenny and Gloria for about a year. Kenny became a second dad for Rebecca, and it is with extreme gratitude that I tell you that Kenny's wisdom and encouragement helped shape the person my daughter has become.
As most of you know, Kenny had several great passions in life: Christ, his family, fishing, golf, and - of course - the University of Arizona. When I moved back to Tucson last year, I began taking graduate classes at the U of A, and as I walked around campus, I started sending Kenny photos from various U of A landmarks with innocuous statements like, "Guess where I am and you're not?" and "Wish you were here?"
In the weeks that followed, I began to call Kenny every week or so when I had a break between classes to catch up on life. (Since the U of A mascot is the Wildcat, I would refer to our conversations as "Kenny's Weekly Cat Call.") We discussed a variety of topics, and when Kenny was diagnosed with cancer, our conversations naturally turned to discussions about his treatments and his health. But the subject that Kenny discussed the most was his family:
- KJ, Kyle, and Keynan - please believe me when I say that your dad was so proud of the three of you. Every week he filled me in on every detail of your lives, and you should never doubt how much he loved you all.
- Gloria - it was always evident to everyone who knew Kenny that you were the most-important person in his life, even though he sometimes told people that he was the most-important person in your life.
A verse that I have been reminded of these past few days is 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14: "Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. (NIV)" Because of Kenny's faith in Christ, I know that we will see him again, but for now my heart has a tremendous hole in it which only Kenny could fill.
Kenny was one of my closest and dearest friends, and I miss him terribly. And yet I have to remind myself that it is only my personal self-interest that wants Kenny here, for Kenny is where God called him to be. Gloria mentioned last week - and please forgive me for paraphrasing - that she knew Kenny would be healed completely, even if it was not during his time on earth. So I am thankful today that Kenny has been healed, and I look forward to being reunited him when God calls me home. Although God called Kenny before me - so Kenny will probably claim that he has seniority.
Earlier today I saw a link to an article by Allison Benedikt titled If You Send Your Kid to Private School, You Are a Bad Person. With a catchy title like that, I couldn't resist following the link in order to read what the author had to say about parenthood.
Before I continue, I should point out two important facts: 1) my children's formative years were spent in a mixture of both public and private education, and 2) at the time that Ms. Benedikt published her editorial piece, neither of her children were old enough for school, so any of her admittedly-judgmental opinions were made from the relative safety of someone who has never had to face the harsh realities about the topics which she was discussing. Ms. Benedikt's self-admitted ignorance at the hands of public educators provides little evidentiary support for her thesis statement, and unfortunately she is too blinded by her own hubris to realize it. No - it is not the well-meaning parents of children in private school who are bad people, it is self-righteous and judgmental people like her who are bad people.
I vehemently disagree with Ms. Benedikt's overall premise; it is not the parents who have realized that public education is a failing system who are ruining one of our nation's most-essential institutions – our present educational system is ruining itself. Most parents with school-age children are all-too-aware that public education is depriving their children of knowledge that is necessary to succeed academically. A perfect example is when the overly-vocal and seldom-intelligent actor Matt Damon abandoned his idealistic rhetoric demanding public education for everyone else and placed his own children in private schools. At some point in the not-too-distant future, Ms. Benedikt will be faced with the choice of whether to sacrifice her own children for the sake of her principles, or to choose what is best for her children based on her maternal instincts.
I also passionately object to anyone who insists that I should not turn my back on any failing system and subject my children to a negative environment in the hopes that the system will improve for future generations. My children are not a social experiment, nor am I willing to gamble with their lives. I do not care if Ms. Benedikt and her ilk intend to fix the schools of the future if the methods to achieve those goals cheat my children in the present.
By the way, each of my three children started in public school until my wife and I realized how poorly they were being educated. After three failed attempts with public schools, we moved each child into private school for their primary education to give them a better foundation, and then we returned them to public schools for secondary education. This system helped each of our children immensely, all of whom have now graduated college and embarked on successful careers.
Without getting deeper into an unintentional political rant, this private versus public school debate illustrates much of what is wrong with most socialistic policies; many "public" institutions fail because they become so weighed down by unnecessary bureaucracy that they can barely serve their primary purpose. Public education is not failing because parents are pulling their children out; public education is failing because we do not pay our educators enough, and we do not provide adequate resources for our schools. While it is true that our taxpayer dollars are simply not paying enough to take care of all society's educational expenses, we also have a system that is so top-heavy with needless bureaucrats and inundated with policies which occupy entirely too much time. As a result, our nation is not seeing a sufficient return on investment. What's more, the measures that the Department of Education has implemented to standardize education and hold teachers accountable for their results have been complete failures.
But that being said, here are a few of my grievances with the various excuses that I have personally heard from public educators:
- Overheard from public teachers: "We cannot be expected to teach your children everything; parents need to be involved, too." I whole-heartedly agree with this statement - parents MUST be involved in their children's education; this should always mean that parents are involved in their children's studies at home, and this might mean that parents should volunteer at their children's schools if that is possible. But I have seen this statement used as a cop-out by far too many public school teachers who wasted our children's valuable classroom time with unnecessary endeavors and sent our children home with a mountain of homework after receiving no classroom instruction, thereby leaving the parents as the sole educators. If this is to be the case, then why do we need teachers? Why shouldn't I just homeschool my children and dispense with the transportation to and from school so my children can meet with a disengaged educator?
- Overheard from public teachers: "We cannot be expected to personalize education for your child." The implication here is that your child is left to fend for himself or herself academically. This is a classic example for one of the primary causes of public education's many failures: people are individuals, and everyone learns differently. In our society we are REQUIRED to accept everyone's individuality – it's what we call DIVERSITY. It doesn't matter what color skin you have, whether you are a man or woman, which religious beliefs you embrace or reject, etc. Everyone is a distinct person, and we must accept their uniqueness – which SHOULD include each child's learning style. But apparently our societal adoption of tolerance and diversity does not extend to public school educators, who appear to have adopted "sink or swim" and "one size fits all" attitudes toward individualism. How barbaric and antiquated can these "teachers" be?
I'll get off my soapbox now, but I'd like to discuss one final point – as I mentioned earlier, Ms. Benedikt's children are not yet old enough to attend school, which prevents me from taking any of her self-righteous drivel seriously. In my opinion, her lack of personal experience in this matter disqualifies her from passing judgment on parents who actually have to decide what is best for their children; close-minded and emotionally detached fools with no personal stake in this debate should be ineligible to weigh in on the issue.