February 21, 2019

Jackie Robinson: The Right Side of History

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.” Martin Luther King

Jackie and Me
Indiana Repertory Theatre
Indianapolis
Playing through February 16

Playwright Steven Dietz adapted Jackie and Me from the book series Baseball Card Adventures by Dan Gutman. Dietz recants the Jackie Roosevelt Robinson conversation heard between his 7-year-old white daughter and 6-year-old black son, a recent adoptee from Ethiopia. 

His daughter, the family baseball historian, tells her brother about Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier and adds “But if you were black you could not play.” The brother counters, “Why not? I play. I play ball.” He goes on in his newly learned language: “I have mitt; I have bat; they not stop me.”

I cannot help but hear my granddaughters, Zoe and Reese, in his voice. “I can do it. I play ball, they not stop me.”  Yes the nature of youth — not encumbered with prejudices, limitations, or beliefs. Thankfully they trust they can do or be anything. Unfortunately they learn limitations from the actions of others.

Dietz’s daughter ultimately gets frustrated with her new brother and says “Yes you could play the game. But you could not dream.” At this early age, she gets the nature of prejudice and understands the limitations of our dreaming.

How do we continue to learn from history? How do we avoid the preconceptions and prejudiced judgments of the past? How do we keep our dreams alive and create a country with equal ability to dream and to achieve? Jackie and Me centers on Joey, a white youngster of today. Joey is researching for a book report — wanting to win the top prize of theme park tickets.  He is transported back in time as a black youth to 1947, where he wants to learn about Jackie, the black baseball player.  Of course, the history lesson is expanded beyond his ideas of baseball.

Joey is thirsty and walks up to a “whites only” fountain. As he is chased away, imagine how he feels realizing he is black! Then he meets Rachel Robinson and sees Jackie again. Anger, disbelief, frustration and eventually courage — Joey learns to deal with a mix of emotions as Jackie and Rachel Robinson show the way with pride, patience and perseverance.  

Dodger teammate Dixie Walker did not want to share the field or the club house with a black man. At the same time teammate Pee Wee Reese, a Kentuckian, responds differently standing with Jackie in the face of racism. Eventually, Walker quietly offers that he was “just brought up that way and had little choice in his beliefs.”

How often do we say or think: “that’s just the way it is / just the way I learned / just the way he/she acts?” We may even add: “I can’t do anything about it / I can’t change it / I just want to mind my own business.”

COURAGE — General Manager Branch Rickey and player Pee Wee Reese display bravery to stand up for the right side of history. Rickey signs Robinson. When Pee Wee Reese accepts Robinson to the team, it helps other teammates adjust. Baseball adapts, the world doesn’t end, and black players become part of major league baseball.   

Dr. King said “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.  Work continues towards his Dream.

So in 1947, while racism did not stop, they all play the game together with a “new norm” for baseball; the country takes a giant step toward the right side of history.

May each of us, individuals, parents and grandparents, practice genuine tolerance, teach acceptance and demonstrate decency that reflects the encouragement of children’s dreams for accomplishment regardless of race, religion or sexual orientation.

Bill

(Some information from IRT playbill)



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.

Living: Defining Age

“May there be just enough clouds with your life that you have a beautiful sunset.”  Grandma Viola Stouder Frederick

Have you thought of how you’d like to leave this world? If given the choice few people would choose a long and lingering illness. Some indicate an accident with instant death; others prefer not to wake up from a good sleep.

Aunt Charlotte, 93 years old, was my dad’s sister. She lived life with graciousness and joy. Married 65 years, her home was on the farm belonging to her husband’s family — an Indiana historic farm, recognized in this way because for over 100 years it was owned by the same family. Aunt Charlotte raised her two sons on this remarkable land; she  continued living in that big house until a few years ago. She then moved in with her son, and only early this year moved to more restricted living.

Over the last several weeks of her life, Aunt Charlotte gave her children and grandchildren a gift. They had the chance to say good bye. Even as she struggled   with memory, she maintained a connection with the people closest to her. As the grandchildren hugged her goodbye, they knew she knew them. She waved them out the door.

The story of her passing is most pleasant. She gathered with other residents for lunch. As she ate, she began to feel a bit tired. Returning to her room, she lay down for a nap. The staff found her later in the forever sleep. It seems a good way to die, in a natural sleep.

Aunt Charlotte loved the big farm house and the farm itself. Her pride  of that farm and it’s beauty was in part because of its age. A winding dirt road led up to the two story farmhouse; large trees in the front yard overhung the path and bathed it in shade. I loved the wraparound porch, where you could look through the trees   and see the mailbox setting a bit askew on the county road. The house had additions and of course the old now unused well. It had a junk pile, some sheds and the Hoosier icon — the barn with a rusty basketball hoop on the side.

She, like my Uncle Bob, had this twinkle in her eye, this appreciation of the day even as days of her life were often full of work with the farm and family.

In the 1930s, years before she married Uncle Paul, my aunt and my mom were good friends. My sister’s middle name is Charlotte; I always knew she was named after Aunt Charlotte. My cousins are only now aware of that connection.

The vision of mom and my aunt as good friends is a pleasant way to think of them. It reminds me of the spirit in mom  when she was at her best.

Fred and Jay, my cousins, tell stories of their mother with the respect, a little awe, and a lot of love. I treasure the image they offered of her turning in the hall and waving good bye for the last time to her grand children, just days before she moved to her sleeping space and her death.

How do you define old? How you feel? How you see people? How is life at a given moment? Ninety-three is certainly considered old.  In a way Aunt Charlotte always felt old to me, after all she was 30 years my senior. The other side of it was when I got to those ages I understood them differently. Still my perception was of her with energy, smiles, love and a zest for life.

My gerontologist friend, David, and I had a brief debate about use of the word “old”. On the one hand I suggested that word not be used, at least not as an excuse to not do something. I say do not focus on age but rather pay attention  to what your body and your mind tells you; if it says do not throw a ball because of risk of injury — don’t throw a ball. But do not say “I am too old to throw a ball.” Attend to the awareness, here and now of your body and mind. Don’t say aloud or silently: I am too old to play ping pong, or too old to dance.

David counters to honor the word “old”. It is part of our natural progression. He challenges me to use it in a healthy way contrary to society’s underlying push to first become an adult as soon as possible and then remain one forever. He adds the word “old” in this society has become an undesired state of being, a word we avoid as in “don’t become old.” If you wonder how society does this, check much of TV programming and advertising. David wondered aloud “at what age do we become old” and wears that tag for himself with honor and   humor. He challenges the notion “you are only as old as you feel” while I think there is much wisdom in the idea. I have met people that at 40 seem “old” and others at 75 that do not. Either way, it begs for the definition of what “old” is for each of us and similarly how can we honor, not avoid the term.

So lessons from my ancestors are to do and do daily. Maintain as often as you can that twinkle in the eye which comes from appreciation of challenging life with the best every day. Much of the twinkle is from doing both the work and the fun of life.  Be with your family, play, dance, work and recognize the interconnection.

It is nice to be here.

Bill

Aging: Keep a Twinkle in Your Eyes

Summertime — it’s for the great outdoors, baseball, parks and family. During this season, families often travel to visit grandparents or go back to home towns. This includes seeing aunts, uncles, cousins — the young and old.

When it comes time for a family reunion, there’s a question of going or not. It’s not because of seeing them, but rather the change of routine, drive, and getting there. Always glad that we went and typically feel enthusiasm once we hit the road.

How do you handle those trips? Awareness, interest, eventual joy?

Over the past six weeks, we have experienced definite joy and discovered treasures of life in unexpected ways. Here’s one of our riches.

About a month ago, Uncle Bob (Bobby as my mom always called him) came back to Indiana for his 70th high school reunion. Think about that – 70 years after high school, at age 88, he makes the trip. His visits back are infrequent. He came from California accompanied by his son Dan.

I know little of Uncle Bob’s life except for brief contacts over the years and stories from the family. He lived in California after military service in World War II. When I visited California in 1962, he took us to Disneyland and Knottsberry Farm; then to his garage where he schooled me in ping pong.

Uncle Bob always seemed, as I remember, to have this gleam in his eyes, this joy of living. He and his wife had a zest for life, finding ways to stay active and connected. In retirement they square danced their way up and down the California coast. Certainly Uncle Bob had struggles. His wife had a prolonged death and recently his only daughter died. It was a shattering time for him.

So Uncle Bob was in Syracuse, Indiana to visit the old farm, for his school reunion and for our family reunion. Dan and I had a catch; it seemed we took up where we last left off as boys in 1962.

But Uncle Bob was the attraction on this Sunday. As I ask how about a brief catch, he says no that arm does not work that way anymore.

Then with that twinkle, he asks if I know how much Ping Pong paddles cost. Responding with a guess of $40-$50; I ask if he has one. He nods yes and I ask how much his cost. He holds out two fingers; I fall for it with “oh you paid two dollars for yours?”  “No, he chuckles, $200.00.”

This is his special paddle; the one he uses to play his son every week as they continue to compete and tease each other about who is the best ping pong player. Uncle Bob and Dan have been playing for years. At 88, Uncle Bob is still playing.

Uncle Bob also uses his expensive paddle to play other residents at his retirement village. His arm does work in that way! And he continues the regular ritual of square dancing; saying “it’s a good way to hold a woman.” Then with that telltale twinkle he adds that he has a female friend.

The consistent gleam in his eye, continues to say “It’s good to be alive. It’s nice to be here.”

I found treasures and another day of happily ever after in that Sunday reunion; I also felt more educated on aging.

Find ways to enjoy yourself. Take advantage of the summertime. Be with your family, play, dance and cuddle. Enjoy the days of your life the best you can.

Bill

Dynamics in Family Relationships

 Setting Limits with Family

“If there is no struggle there is no progress.”  Frederick Douglas

“Hard work pays off in the future. Laziness pays off now.” Anon

Mixing personalities with ups and downs of daily life, family relationships are tough work. Setting limits and sticking to them may be a key to grow loving, caring, and healthy relationships.

The tough part of parenting is often not the giving but rather the restricting. I remember the Time Outs for my son or daughter. Their response was often stomp, stomp, stomp; then annoyed looks when Time Out was over.

Somewhere in the back of my mind I hoped they would say “Thank you. I appreciate the lesson and know the restriction was out of love to help me grow.” Of course it never happened. The restrictions are the tough part of parenting and often the tough part of helping. We want to give to help, not restrict to help.

When I see a parent involved with an adult child, the parent often thinks that giving more presents, more money, and more physical time is the only way to “help”. Eventually they might feel as if what they do is never enough.

Helping may be saying “No” and sticking to it. This is particularly true with money. The parent may have given money time and again. The receiver’s first response to this gift is often a loving one, a thank you and appreciation. Yet the lesson of how to earn, plan and spend then comes slowly.

The receiver’s expectations just increase in terms of amount and frequency. In these situations, true helping is saying “No.” Sure, remember to also say “I love you” and “good luck” but remember the key  is setting the limit and sticking to it.  Although the immediate response to “no more” can be the equivalent of stomp, stomp, stomp, the long term benefits can be quite positive.  Still this immediate response is not rewarding for the giver of “No.”

 In the long run, it’s worth it. Responsible adults are more likely to develop. The relationship may  eventually improve when the basis is no longer giving of money or things but rather the deeper appreciation of meaningful connection.

Bill

Re submitted from early October 2010

Gratitude Revisited Thanksgiving 2010

Thanksgiving is my wife’s favorite holiday.  In part, it’s the meal and in part,   we are with people we care about. Presence is foremost, presents are not expected.

Revisit the Happiness/Gratitude and the Three Good Things blog from October 25:
www.solutiontherapycenter.com/2010/10/happiness-and-stress-part-2/

 During holidays at many dinner tables, people talk about thankfulness.    At our home, it is both interesting and loving. Sometimes it feels a bit rushed; maybe we are a bit embarrassed or we are thinking about the food getting cold.    We   start  with a prayer   of thanks  expressed in a broader sense for our health, our homes, our safety, and the food.  

Then each person presents a more personal gratitude. At times, to offset the intimacy there are comments like the child who was grateful to “not be the turkey”.  Even with the humor the tone is always about people and relationships. It is never about stuff. Sometimes a tear is shed. We speak of those that are present at the table, of those that are  present elsewhere and of those present in spirit only.   

We quickly realize   this gratitude is wonderful to give and to receive. It can be overwhelming and, it seems, a different kind of nourishment. If we thought about it more, and expressed it all, the food would in fact be quite cold when we got to it.  For me, gratitude for people and relationships grow in importance as I gather years.

Take time this Thanksgiving and, maybe, more often to sit with gratitude and  share it with others.

Enjoy the food too.

Bill