June 16, 2019

ROLE MODELS: HOW / WHERE DO ATHLETES FIT?

 “I am not a role model. Just because I can dunk a basket ball does not mean I can raise your kids.” Charles Barkley

 As troubles mount for Blade Runner Oscar Pistorius and Lance Armstrong’s status continues it plummet, we can use these events as a reminder to be careful in our choice of role models.  

Look at the following names and think about the good, the bad, the ugly actions for these athletes and coaches. Now look at the listed transgressions. Then insert letters (may be more than for each person) by the names. Many may get more than one letter.

ROLE MODEL ANSWERS Download

Name Letters Name Letters
Lance Armstrong   Kobe Bryant  
Tony Dungee   Lenny Dykstra  
Carlton Fisk   Dwight Gooden  
Chamique Holdsclaw   Marian Jones  
Michael Jordan   Bobby Knight  
Ray Lewis   Peyton Manning  
Mark McGuire   Joe Paterno  
Walter Payton   Michael Phelps  
Pete Rose   O J Simpson  
Pat Summit   Mante Taeo  
Tiger Woods   Mike Tyson  
Danica Patrick   Billie Jean King  
Minnie Minoso   Oscar Pistorius  

 Behaviors
A – Cocaine/Pot Use                                      
H – Illegal Performance Drugs
B – DUI / Drive under Influence                      I – Lying
C – Illegal Financial Activity                            J – Murder
D – Ignoring Crimes                                        K – Unfaithful to Partner
E – Meanness                                                 L – Sport Gambling
F – Stupidity                                                    M – Violence
G – Rape
X. So far so good, worthy of admiration What makes you believe the person stands out?

It’s easy to look towards popular culture role models, like athletes, coaches, singers, artists, celebrities, as our heroes to fill our idealistic desires. We see them; we believe because we want to and maybe we even need to believe. They compete, often win, may give to charity, and speak for social justice. Some overcome serious illness. Many, even with misdeeds, remain charismatic; they often sound great in interviews. Good sports we think, good winners and by golly our person, our hero.  

Sir Charles had it right: he is not to be our role model. Even if he lived an exemplary life we cannot know, we never know these people — only their personas.   

Admire abilities. Look for your role models closer to home. Look within your family and circle of friends.  Jim Rohn, author and motivational speaker, says, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Be careful who you are with and let go of disappointments.

We know the goodness of our family and friends. We know that their influence on us can be enhanced through understanding their imperfections and  their humanness.  Still, be picky on your choices.

If you read It is Not About the Bike by Lance Armstrong, you can learn from it.  It would make a good book of fiction; alas Armstrong wrote it as truth.  

A good number of public figures are terrific and do good things.     Just remember you don’t really know them and probably never will.

Sir Charles was also wrong:  it seems fair for athletes and for each of us to strive to be role models for others — because that striving is also right. Some athletes and coaches are great    people; we just can’t be sure of which ones. I bet there are some in that list you really like eh?  

Well for me, Minnie Minoso, my first athletic favorite, is still (as far as I have heard) ok!

Bill

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr Challenges

Celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr Day and Black History Month 2013

I now present the essence of what I wrote, when our church celebrated the Dr. King holiday in 2012, and I was privileged to speak to the congregation the Unitarian Universalist Church.  

For me, it was helpful to review my history with Dr. King; it was emotional to read my experience and his words as we honored his memory 

It is the1950s in Elkhart, Indiana; Minnie Minoso is my favorite athlete and the colored boys are often opponents in baseball, basketball and football. I had no knowledge of Martin Luther King.

Toward the end of the 50s, Dr. King joins the bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama, founds the Southern Christian Leadership Council and studies with Mohammad Gandhi. He leads the executive committee at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and his home is bombed. He receives his Ph.D in philosophy and is on the cover of Time Magazine.

In the 60’s, the Negro Elkhart Blue Blazers are my teammates, Gale Sayers my favorite athlete. Keith and Kerry are my friends and teammates; we never speak of race, civil rights, Malcolm X or Martin Luther King. President Lyndon Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act in 1964. 

Dr. King demonstrates and is often arrested. Laws change; lunch counters, schools and buses are desegregated. I sweat during football practice as King delivers “I Have Dream” before a crowd of 250,000. I have no memory of discussing the speech.

King is Time Magazine’s Man of the Year and wins the Nobel Peace Prize. There is a serious attempt on his life; Black Muslims stone him in Harlem, four girls are killed in a church bombing; and Malcolm X is assassinated. 

In 1966, I attend DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana — a nearly all white school. I am introduced to the Temptations, Smokey Robinson and other Black musicians. As riots and protests continue, Dr. King continues his work in Chicago, in the South and ultimately in Memphis. One march King leads in Tennessee turns violent — definitely not his intent.

In 1968 as I lay in intensive care at Robert Long Hospital in Indianapolis, Indiana, I watch television.  News bulletin: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr has been assassinated. Across the country, black people riot. In Indianapolis, Bobby Kennedy talks to a crowd of how we share humanness. No riots, just tears. I am moved. Indianapolis is safe.

1968 is a tough year. There is interest in Eldridge Cleaver, Stokely Carmichael and the movement of Black Power.

In 1969 I am back at DePauw and take a class on Black History in the United States (perhaps the first ever at DePauw). The teacher is a black man from Indianapolis Crispus Attucks High School. We learn about contributions of black people, well beyond sports and music. I hear about Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, Frederick Douglas, Rosa Parks, Langston Hughes and many others but, as I remember, we do not study Dr. King.

At DePauw, I gain further awareness when I am privileged to attend a lunch with Mayor Richard Hatcher, the first black mayor of Gary, and another with Dr. Percy Julian, a black American Research Chemist. Dr. Julian had waited tables at DePauw in the 1930s and now the DePauw Science Building bears his name.

As a new social worker in the 1970s, I visit the King Memorial in Atlanta when it is just a plan with bulldozers moving dirt to make way for construction.

Taking a hiatus from Dr. King until 1986, I remember the contentious process as Congress declared his birthday a national holiday. There are FBI investigations and tawdry stories about him which added to my interest in Dr. King. For me, it is great our country will honor a black man — still I am unaware of the depth of his contributions.

After the National holiday was set, I began to more fully understand and feel the strength of the man and his speech.

In 1963 Dr. King delivers his speech “I Have a Dream.” He eloquently states: “This is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.” He notes that white and black have a tied destiny.   (Read entire speech)

 “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal. I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from all corners of our country.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, ‘Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

Eventually the words of Dr. King spoke to me deeply. It was as if I could now hear, inside of myself, words that I wanted and want to say and that I stand for. I could not and cannot understand how these words do not speak to everyone.

As I lay in my hospital bed on the last full day of Dr. King’s life, he speaks at church in Memphis; he tells of the privilege of being alive at this time as we grapple with history.
(Read entire speech)

We are interconnected. Similarly we are privileged to be alive on this day.  

King spoke of injustice and financial inequality. When he was involved in the Sanitation Departments dispute with the city of Memphis, he said, “Somewhere I read (Yes the crowd responds) that the greatness of America is the right to protest for right”.

He spoke of the collective financial power of poor people to protest. “If you do not help the sanitation worker what will happen then to you?”

That night in Memphis Dr. King talks of the nearness of death and  that the New York assassination attempt was so close to being fatal.  

He spoke as if knowing he was making the final statement of his life.  As he concluded, with generous Amens, go ahead and applause, Dr. King offered:

Well, I don’t know what will happen now; we’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter to with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life – longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over and I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land. And so I’m happy tonight; I’m not worried about anything; I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.

These are the last formal words that Dr. King ever spoke.

My journey with him continues as I work to fully incorporate his teachings.  

Here are my basics: Work for economic and social freedom for everyone and maybe I too can be free. If we do not help others what are we here for? Language of nonviolence is dramatically different than silence. Learn to better appreciate and understand people both similar and different from yourself.

Challenge yourself to live your life fully, so you may be able to say on your last day: “I have been to the mountain top… of doing right with my life. Mine eyes have seen the glory of knowing that I have tried and struggled well.”

 

Bill

 

  

Welcome to the Field of Social Work

On July 20, I was privileged to give a brief talk to the 2012 summer graduates of the Ball State University School of Social Work program. Following is the essence of the speech to 20 students that will be entering the “Field of Social Work.”

“Seek to make your life long and its purpose in the service of your people.” Chief Tecumseh

Hello, I am a Social Worker. I want to formally welcome you to the field of Social Work. You now have your degree; I expect you are relieved and excited. You have graduated from a quality School of Social Work at Ball State University. Some have that first job lined up and others are looking — wondering where and when it will be.

Some years ago when I decided to become a therapist, I told my friends and family that I would enter the School of Social Work at the University of Tennessee. They said “Are you Crazy?” They did not understand the field and frankly neither did I. The truth is, I knew that working with people and adding value in terms of direct improvement of life was necessary for me. I knew Social Work would help me in that process. I wanted to be a psychotherapist (or as my son says psycho therapist). So off I went to the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.  I earned the Master of Science, Social Work degree that allowed me to practice psychotherapy.

In the school we talked about “What is Social Work?” Our definition was (and mine still is) “A Social Worker is what a Social Worker does.”

Partly, though I did not own my place in the field. The prestige was not great and I found I would call myself a therapist and identify as a Social Worker only occasionally. 

Then 20 some years into my career, I had occasion to present at a meeting for the Indiana Chapter, National Association of Social Work. NASW an organization I had not been a member of for years.

I was moved by the depth of involvement and the dedication of many I met at that first meeting. The saying a “Social Worker is what a Social Worker does” was relived with honor. It is a field with depth of character and nearly endless variety of involvement in the process of helping others. Shortly after I (re)joined NASW and am a proud member today.

In the 37 years since I earned my degree, I have worked with 9,000 different clients and completed about 34,000 hours of face to face contact. You are at zero.  Your numbers will accumulate soon.

Use your hours well. Each hour is important and, no matter what, the hours will add up.

You will have all these opportunities to practice. Be careful what you practice. How you practice will affect the rest of your career. You are in the field because you want to serve. Remember the quality of care you provide to the humans you work with must be job one.

You will be seduced by numbers of quota and production. While it is the case that agencies must financially survive, it is more so the case that we must serve with quality.

The helping field is growing and filled with clear research that shows we add significant value. We do not, however, have the marketing ability that drug companies have and must contend with the idea that solving problems is as presented on the drug advertisements. Just take a pill and the pill they advertise results in immediate rather passive progress.  

You have learned the importance of relationship with your client. If your clients trust you and you can help them find hope, they will do better. Hope is necessary in all of our lives. The research or relationship is clear. Relationship as rated by the client is highly correlated with successful outcome. In fact, we know that when you see your MD, if you have confidence in the MD, the medicine will work better. Honor those relationships episode by episode. Often the provider who does relationship well, but provides placebo treatment, is more effective than the provider with poor relationship who provides the so called “correct treatment”.

You will be pointed to doing more paper work than you can imagine. You may need to do that to keep your job. Do not let that get in the way of treating the humans you work with honorably and respectfully.

There is a movement in the field to do concurrent documentation. This involves looking at a computer screen and typing as you ask personal questions of human beings. It seems to me inherently disrespectful.  

Always respect your clients. Always remember your goal is to help, even as your organization may (WILL) insist certain information needs to be collected in way called “timely”.

As you do your hours, remember you are practicing? What you do you will get better at, even if you are doing activities that are not helping. If I practice for hours and years at bad golf swing, the hours of practice help me ingrain that bad swing.

In your first two years, you will create a basis for your habits of practice. You are looking for the best habits at working with people and will be seduced with the idea that paper and numbers are more important. Productions, timeliness of paper, quality of paper, in that order, are the most likely forms of feedback you will get from your supervisors. Your priorities must have clients at the top.

Research shows that helpers with lots of experience are not much better than new folks. (So much for my years of experience!)  In part this is because some start out and develop bad habits. They think they are doing well because their colleagues like them, they do great production and good paper work; their reviews will then be outstanding. Some though never improve the quality of their care; they just complain about the clients and the tough case load.

NEVER complain about clients. The tough clients, I suspect, are the essence of why you are in the field. Many of the poor helpers think they are better than average. In the field of therapy, quality varies from 20% effective to 70%. Which do you prefer to be?  Always strive to improve and find ways to do that. It is important that you find ways to measure your progress. It is important that you work with other helpers that also want to improve.

Keep a Treasure Chest — way to remember successes and those that have been appreciative — for times you get discouraged.

So go forth and pay attention to the words that are often credited to Chief Techumsch:

 “Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life”…

“If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself. Seek to make your life long and its purpose in the service of your people”..

Read entire Tecumseh Poem from Act of Valor the movie (2012)

I am a Social Worker. We need your help. Congratulations and welcome to the field!”

 Bill

We Are Penn State

“There is no pillow so soft as a clear conscience.” French ProverbIntegrity from Dictionary
“Character is much easier kept than recovered.” Thomas Paine

Did these Penn State events that unfolded last week make you aware of your humanness? Do you now think more of integrity? Much as we said “We are all New Yorkers” at the time of 9-11, it seems true that “We (too) are Penn State!”  We all have a heightened awareness of integrity and of the necessity that our children must be protected. We know winning is that important!

Some of the winners we make into icons. Paterno, Rose, Tiger, Ali, Armstrong, Sweetness, Marion, Magic, OJ, Kobe, Knight, ARod — the list goes on to be much longer. These and others have been on pedestals only to fall, as pieces of their lives have been revealed to us.
In our minds, we have this idealistic picture,  an image of what we want them to be. We lift them up and believe they are more than athletes or coaches.
NBA star Charles Barkley once pointed out that it is up to parents and family to be primary role models, not sports figures. Don’t we agree with that simple statement? It is a guarantee that some of the current icons will also fall and remind us their integrity is not as we imagined. It seems to happen frequently.  We make it about home runs and yards gained, often forgetting sportsmanship and honesty. It is fair for athletes to be role models but important to remember that family and friends need to be primary in that status.
It’s important to remember we never know who those icons are — not really. We are Penn State.
We are up if our team wins; down if it loses. We project grand meaning on victory and and may be depressed with defeat. We buy team gear often with a player’s name on the back; we attend, watch and listen to all that talk; money flows to the teams and the media.  Big time college coaches are paid princely fees, more than Nobel Prize winning professors and more than their so called boss, the president of the university.
At times, it seems people believe if their team wins, they are somehow a better person and, yes, better than someone who supports a losing team. People have been injured inside and outside of stadiums because they wore the wrong hat. Professional athletes often make huge amounts of money; even as we now know, they are not necessarily good role models (see Kobe and A Rod). Though athletes may do significant good, as Armstrong has, we can’t be sure of their broader behavior or of their integrity. They are just humans.
Competition is part of our culture. Of course we want to win. We must however be careful of this desire to win doesn’t include uses the tools of cheating, of looking other way, of protecting bad behavior, of protecting the institution — all in the name of winning. Penn State is not the first, nor will it be the last, to disappoint in the name of victory. We are Penn State.
We want the winners and the icons. JoPa was an icon to many. Yet how can some of those same followers explain that six years ago they wanted to fire him. They were losing and the football team seemed to regress. Fickle aren’t we? We are Penn State.
Iconic coaches routinely walk out of lengthy contracts, breaking their word to the college, to the players, accepting a better deal elsewhere. Then this same iconic word breaker is, in fact, welcomed with open arms to the new school and demonized at the old.
The next school and fans rationalize the coach’s integrity. Promises are made again and sometimes the same coach repeats the behavior, for the next better deal.  What does this tell our students, our society about the place of trust and honesty? Winning at any (moral) cost is too often the norm. We are Penn State.
Hours of talk radio, listening to analysis of the sport of the moment. Do we put too much on to winning?
How bad is it? The lead story on Monday morning is typically a poll asking us: “who is the best team?”  People vote; people call in with blather; media jockeys talk endlessly about whether the poll was right or wrong; they give opinions incessantly. Gosh it’s a vote, not a game! We are Penn State.
I say support victory with sportsmanship and integrity. Penn State is now more attuned to this goal. In this way I hope — We are Penn State.
Crisis breeds opportunity. Penn State will likely grow and improve through this event. Is that not the case in life too? We rarely welcome the crisis; yes the growth is always optional. Pick the growth!
Hold Penn State accountable, forgive and allow and let them grow. Help them protect their children as we protect ours.
Root for your team and understand that  sportsmanship and integrity, can and need, to participate fully as teammates.  We are Penn State.
Bill


What is your responsibility if you witness or suspect child abuse?
Indiana’s law (http://www.pcain.org/indiana_laws.asp) says you must report. Some schools, businesses and agencies have rules that say you must talk to your supervisor. That’s ok, but reporting incidents directly to authorities is still your responsibility. A supervisor is twice removed. The supervisor did not see or hear the event but rather hears it. from you. Also a financial part is now included as too often the supervisor wonders if reporting would somehow hurt business (what if the abuser is a best customer).
If you suspect child abuse or neglect report it immediately to: Child protective Services or law enforcement. If something is happening now…call  911. Protect our children.

Civility and Mental Health

 “Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it.” Strength to Love by Dr. Martin Luther King

Four recent events remind me of civility and its relationship to our mental health.

  1. A picture of President Barak Obama sent on face book. He’s at his desk in the oval office dressed in Muslim garb with these words “I am not a Muslim.” Was the sender being uncivil, trying for humor or what was the point?
  2. There is the tragedy in Tucson. It is not understandable on so many levels.
  3. The Tucson memorial service where the President spoke.  The invocation, by Carlos Gonzales, was given in the American Indian tradition, rather than the Christian tradition. The invocation included a wider view of spirituality with words that did not exclude anyone. I thought it was beautiful. Listen to the invocation at Freedom’s Lighthouse.
  4.  January 17th, the celebration of the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King.  It was Dr. King that taught non violence . . .  taught that we can be civil as we stand up in disagreement. Dr. King also made it clear that we should stand up for what we believe is right.

In The Measures of Man, King said “Man is man because he is free to operate within the framework of his destiny. He is free to deliberate, to make decisions, and to choose between alternatives. He is distinguished from animals by his freedom to do evil or to do good, and to walk the high road of beauty or tread the low road of ugly degeneracy.”

Certainly Dr. King spoke in terms broader than Mental Health. Still the fact remains, hatred and mean spiritedness is unhealthy for both giver and receiver. How can we use this freedom that King speaks of, in a healthy way that respects and benefits all? How can we stop and use our ability to deliberate and choose so that we walk the high road?  How can we understand that being civil to each other is also being civil to ourselves?

At the same time, understand that when we disagree peacefully, respectfully it is in service of both parties’ mental health. In fact, it seems most respectful to speak our opinions, to give others the opportunity to understand those opinions are and to presuppose they are up to the points of view. We expect others to choose the high road but is it not up to each of us individually to start the process, not wait on it?

Take this time to reflect and consider what you stand for and what you want to say. Yet consider also fully understanding other points of view. Can you include the possibility for different points of view, even as you consider yourself right?

We shall overcome some day.”

Bill

Listen My Children…

“Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” Stephen R. Covey, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

“Listening looks easy, but it’s not simple. Every head is a world.” Cuban Proverb

 

Listening can connect you with the speaker. How do you listen? With one ear, while thinking about your next words, eyes darting around a room?  Or do you look at the speaker, with actions of nods and verbal expressions that show understanding and appreciation for what is being said?

As I finish grading papers for a graduate level Social Work class, made up of young and not so young adults wanting to become professional Social Workers, I am reminded of the power of listening. The class, The Professional Social Worker, focuses on learning specific skills of deep and accurate listening. These skills challenge the desire to interrupt, interpret or advise.  

During practice lab, students rotate through the roles of practitioner, client and observer to increase listening ability. These basic listening skill are designed to understand, to focus, and to a lesser extent move towards a solution.

During the role play, the practitioner practices listening, the client talks of a real problem, and the observer gives feedback on attending skills used.  The essence of the effort for the practitioner is to reflect in a way that the client is likely to feel understood.  I observed eye contact, head nodding and heard reflections of feeling, reflections of content and questions for clarification, often starting with “what I hear you saying is ..?”    

Through the weeks, all practitioners showed progress in growth   of skills. More interesting was that many “clients” also improved. This process of being a client, of being heard, for 10-15 minutes for several weeks helped. The sessions, for some,provided a safe place for personal understanding, professional growth, and individual focus including reporting back on how they were doing.

Listening to understand is a powerful foundation for change and for enhancing relationships. Couples often seek therapy saying “we don’t communicate”. Typically that means listening is infrequent.

As families join together during this holiday season, review your listening skills. Try listening to understand; it can be powerful for you and loved ones. 

Bill