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“the cows were quiet last night”

I was working with my Malagasy team in a small Toby (village open to those with special needs) back in the mid-1980s. This village was very poor which was why we were concentrating our efforts here. The way we did our work was set up tents right in the middle of the Toby and sleep in them for the week we were on site working on various things like housing, water supply, gardens, handicrafts, etc. Houses were made of what was available which was reed covered roofs and mud-covered reeds for the walls. They were not sound-proof.

Meals we’d share with those we were working with. So both my colleague, Noel, and I were surprised to hear the villagers asking each other during breakfast about how noisy the cows had been that night? Cows, we thought? There are no cows in this village as it’s far too poor to afford such a thing. There were cows in a neighboring village, but that was too far away to hear even on a quiet night.

So we talked to each other about it as the villagers said the cows hadn’t been too noisy which was good as they’d had trouble sleeping the night before. And then, seeing some very discreet sideways glances we realized the “cows” they were talking about were he and I and the noise was our snoring!

* stuck, part I

It happens. You’re cruising along, thinking things are going pretty well then all of a sudden–you’re stuck. As in no movement forward and backward’s not a possibility. And here you are. What next? What next is the whole getting unstuck part of things.

If you’re driving a car, SUV, etc. stuck means you’ve taken your vehicle to a place it’s not designed to make it through. Or it can make it through but not taking the route or speed or angle you chose.

In real life next is generally getting out of the car and assessing the situation. As in where are you stuck and what is it going to take to get you out of here? Can you do it on your own or are you going to need some help?

Then it’s working on the getting out part. If you can do it on your own or you have to because you don’t have a choice it’s possibly shoveling dirt to free up your tires so they’ll get proper traction again. Or digging down a mound that is blocking your path. If it’s more complicated than that, where you’re going to need some help it’s then seeing who’s available. If there’s no one around you may have to wait awhile.

One reality is sitting there and fretting about it isn’t going to help. Neither is getting back in the car and just spinning your wheels. In fact almost without exception that’s only going to make it worse. Sometimes you may not have a choice and will need to work on it yourself, slowly a process that is. But if you’re really stuck then getting some help will be useful.

* time

Time — what to do with it? For many this is determined by work plus whatever else a person chooses to add to the mix. When there’s no work then there are holes in it all. Holes which are difficult to figure what to do with? Does a person simply look for anything? What about the meaningful part of it all? Is that still allowed? If so, how? If not, how?

Time — sometimes we don’t have enough of it. Sometimes way too much. Some people seem to have more of it than others. Some enjoy the passage of time, others don’t. Some are very good at remembering what’s happened over time, others not so much. Sometimes time is coming up, sometimes it’s running out. It can be short or very long.

Time — one of those things that’s inherent to life. As long as we’re alive we have it. Once we die who knows? But it’s no longer something our bodies have here on earth. As for any other type of presence? Not that those of us who are alive can detect anyway.

Time — when you think of it there’s an amazing number of ways we describe what is really just one thing. Which moves forward at whatever rate you want to give it. In much of our world is divided up into smaller and smaller parts–millenium, centuries, decades, years, months, days, hours, minutes, seconds. All composed of seconds, the basic building block. For many of us anyway.

Time — for most this is divided into work and what one does when not working. So if not working all of a sudden things get a bit disjointed. As there’s a big hole in the day. Filled with questions of what to do. Take any job? Wait for something meaningful? If so, how? If not, how?

Time — too many questions.

* circles

Once upon a time, there was a circle. Not all that different than a lot of other circles. Slowly rotating. Most of the circles turned about the same speed, looked the same and seemed to have the same types of people on board them. But there were some differences. From some of the circles, there were sounds of laughter. Others, sounds of crying. But for most, it was just regular conversation. Sometimes some heated voices. Other times words of kindness.

But there was a difference. Because from some of the circles there were words of disdain, condescending and belittling words. By just a few, but they were there. And while in some circles, most actually, when these words were spoken others spoke up to quiet these types of words, saying discussions, even heated ones can happen without them. However, in some circles, there were those who seemed to have a “survival of the fittest” concept of how a circle should be, almost Darwinian. And so while there were soft words spoken to encourage those speaking belittling words to find other ones to share, instead, there were also things shared by those surprised, even hurt by these sharp responses. When they expressed surprise about it they were told anything from “just ignore it and move on” to “if you can’t take it just go elsewhere.” These were said, again by just a few, in many cases the same ones actually. And so some did go elsewhere. Which didn’t seem to bother the vast majority of that circle at all. Though there were a few who spoke up.

One day a wise man came and looked at the circles, observing them silently for some time. Watching and listening closely.

In the end, he asked another who was also carefully observing it all:
“I’m told some of these circles are made up of Christian?”
“Yes, that’s true.”
“What distinguishes them one from another then?” asked the wise man.
“I wish I knew,” said the other. “See that one where people are being made fun of? Told to take it or leave it? They call themselves Christians.”

We can do better, people.

In fact, we’ve been taught to do better because we’re called to do better. It’s a Jesus thing.

[this in response to a “Christian” Facebook group where a few members came close to being abusive in their posts to those they disagreed with–while almost everyone else just looked on]

* high & dry

I worked overseas in Madagascar for 10 years. It was an amazing experience of which I’ve written of some of my experiences on other blogs. Here I will use something which happened to one of my colleagues to think through some thoughts.

At the end of December each year our little groups of American Lutheran missionaries plus a few others would gather together for about a week. There were 2 ways for those of us living in the capital city to get down to the place where we met. One was a somewhat risky 3-day drive over roads that weren’t that anymore. Mud, sand, bridges under water were all part of that trip. Each way. The other way was to get on a 737 and fly for an hour. We took the latter but some of my colleagues drove each year.

One year on this trip a colleague was driving at a fairly good rate to get through some fairly significant mud when he ended up hitting a stretch where the mud in the middle of the road was clay and firm and the ruts were deeper than normal so by the time he stopped moving he was fairly far into a stretch which guaranteed he would be stuck awhile.

This is how I feel these days. I’ve worked hard during my career and have been able to do some good things in a variety of settings for several different organizations. But I’ve also been let go several times for different reasons even though I’ve done well for with those who hired me.

Plus I’m no longer young (61) and I’m guessing many view me as over-educated (PhD in Adult Education).

But I’m innovative (a lot), I enjoy working with people, I am very good at networking and since I’m eclectic and have done several different things for 10,000 hours or more (community, leadership & organizational development, evaluation, higher education), I have a variety of ways to be of service to an organization I work for.

But here I am, high and dry. I did indeed get 3 interviews several weeks ago. My assumption has always been if I can get to talking with people I can do well. This time not so much as none of the 3 turned into anything.

What to do? I have no idea.

* left behind at Boarding School

My parents taught at a boarding school for missionary kids (MKs) so I lived at home while an MK which made me very different than most of the rest of the kids there who lived in a dorm. However, as a high school MK I finally began to see the poor little oh so young first and second graders left behind when their parents went back out to their “stations” where they worked. Sometimes these little ones were left standing out in the yard alone as their parents drove off, leaving them behind. One of the saddest things I’ve ever seen.

I had no idea of what to do about it but what I would do is go down every once in a while and visit them during school in their classroom. Making a show of sitting down in one of their little chairs and then picking up and putting their little desk in my lap. Talking a bit with them (our Elementary Ed teacher was a very patient lady who allowed me to do all this). They really enjoyed this. I don’t remember doing more than this which obviously wasn’t much. Wish I had. Especially now as I have a better understanding of all that was going on within those dear little ones. For some I know, now 50+ years later, this experience still continues to haunt them.

* Sunday mornings in Manitowoc

All in all a very nice day!

Happy Sunday morning

It’s Sunday morning. The sun is out, the birds are chirping and, since we finally have had some rain, the brown everywhere is starting to change to green (OK, just a few blades of grass thus far).

Sunday mornings have always been a special day for me. As a little boy living in Manitowoc, WI not just waking up, but waking up and getting dressed in “nice” clothes–which I’ll claim now, anyway, I enjoyed doing. Then waiting for Sunday School. We could walk to church so that’s what we did quite often.

I enjoyed Sunday School, fascinated with the technology demonstrated by flannel graph. And then to church with the family all seated in a row together. Our church in Manitowoc had kneelers, so that was of interest as well. They were nice and soft so it never felt like we used them enough.

Then it was home to a nice meal mom somehow always cooked while she was at church–how did she do that?! And then an afternoon of fun followed by the wonderful world of Disney on TV that evening.

So as I reflect on it all at this point in life, some 50+ years later, it was a day which began with Sunday School and worship which was also a very special family day. A great combination!

* disappointments

Disappointments come in sizes from quite small to very huge. Just “quite small” because if they get too little they’re not really disappointments. Very huge because some are crushing.

Sometimes disappointments are totally self-inflicted, sometimes they’re totally due to others. Most of the time it’s some combination of the two. I really hate the self-inflicted part. But I’m quite good at it.

How to recover from disappointments? For me it takes time. And good friends to hear me out–generally it’s their listening more than any advice they give, at least initially. Not that their advice isn’t good, just that I need to be able to talk it out first.

And if every disappointment does have compensation? Then that does help. It just takes awhile. Which is the hard part. Or one of them anyway.

* “purple squirrels” & innovation (not!)

One of the more mysterious hiring practices these days is the concept of “purple squirrels.” As in “there’s a lot of possible candidates for any job, just wait for the perfect one to come along.” The purple squirrel if you will. And yet there are several problems with this idea.

A second issue relates to innovation which argues that you need as much diversity around the table as possible. While an organization might identify their “purple squirrel” as someone with this diversity, the tendency is much more likely to ensure a good “fit.” To pick someone who matches up well with the other team members.

One is it can take quite a while to find this person. Sometimes so long it, in the end, isn’t worth it.

So all of you hundreds of of recruiters out there who faithfully read every one of my blogs (not!), here I am. Full of the diversity you need. Let’s have a chat. And soon!

* interviews!

I’ve had a few! Hurray! Just 3 short phone interviews thus far but evidence that I am actually sending out resumes to people who are looking at them. (When I get too many “no’s” in a row I begin to wonder.) So far just 3 with no follow-ups requested yet. And there may not be any.

Yet another set of unknowns in this journey that I really don’t so much enjoy. “Too many questions” like from the film “Sneakers.” So I’m working to fill up my days with things to do. Still sending out some resumes but much more selective about it. Trying to intersperse some writing as I feel like it which has died down from the intensity I had for awhile. (Will that come back? I don’t know.)

There’s something missing in this process. There shouldn’t be such a drastic shift from busy working to nothing. There’s so many places that could make use of folks even for a short time me thinks. Matching projects to those “in the gap.” Something to do?

[unfortunately none of these interviews went any further–disappointing much]