Saturday, December 03, 2011
It’s early on a Saturday morning. It’s cold and in many ways I’d rather be on the couch with a cup of green tea watching CNN. I’m not. I am dressed, showered and ready to go. You see this morning along with the local YMCA, Joan and I, as Owensboro Noon Optimists are hosting a Breakfast with Santa, complete with picture taking, face painting and sanitary wipes so Santa’s new suit doesn’t need cleaning later next week.
Some of you are golfing today, some shopping, some hiking or running. We are all doing what we need to do to stay active and healthy. My kids are grown, my granddaughter is two hundred miles away and I don’t “have” to do this. We want to. For many of the kids, this will be Christmas. There won’t be many presents under the tree for them. We figured, along with two moderately reluctant daughters, that we could give up a Saturday morning to make life happier for someone else. There isn’t a price tag on a wide eyed smile and I also have decided there is no tangible present in this world that has the same value these raucous, happy kids have in my heart.
I’m not doing this to feel better about myself and the world around me. I am doing it because when the day is done, even if it’s infinitesimal, I’ll be a much better person because I gave something I have to give and that’s my time.
So many of you do the same.
Wednesday, November 30, 2011
This is a cautionary tale…………….
I’d be stating the obvious if I told you the job market was tight. In a phrase it’s a “buyers’ market.” Hundreds, sometimes thousands of people are competing for a few positions. The marvels of job posting web sites have narrowed the world to what sociologist Marshall McLuhan called a “global village.” No longer are employers bound by the restrictions of time and space. The click of a mouse button and an active Skype account can set up interviews all over the world for little or no cost. If you should be fortunate to become a finalist for one of these coveted positions the field of vision narrows. Do you have a Facebook account? Better peruse it carefully for pictures you’ve been tagged in. Be sure they aren’t something that would be scaring a potential employer away. A few days ago I reluctantly deleted a friend from my Facebook account because they punctuated a political rant with lots of inappropriate language. I wonder what a potential client might have thought had they read that posting.
But I digress
My phone rang one day last week and on the other end was a human resource intern who had been given the chore of checking references on three finalists for a management position with his company. One of the finalists had used me as a reference. You’d think I’d be flattered. Actually, I was alarmed. The candidate had never gotten permission to use me as a reference.
Let’s pause here for a moment and clear up a misconception. When validating employment information on a former employee, I am bound by some restrictions. I have to stick to what’s factual – Date of hire, date of separation, attendance, things like that. The scope is very narrow. This creates limited liability for the company providing the information. It’s all factual and can’t be disputed. When I was an HR Director I had a laminated sheet for myself and my staff that was read back verbatim any time employment was being verified. If, however, you cite me as a reference it means you are telling someone I will attest to your character, your abilities and other subjective information. I am bound very loosely by what I say and the scope of the questions a reference is asked are very wide.
You might understand why I was taken by surprise. I had three options and two of them were negative. The first was to give a less than glowing reference, which is what would have happened if I’d continued the call. The second was to politely decline to be used as a reference. I took the second option. The third would have been to give a false reference and I patently refuse to do anything like that. The person on the other end of the phone didn’t quite know what to say and I suspect the person who’d used me as a reference without my knowledge was removed from consideration for the position.
Be sure you “Dot all the I’s and cross all the T’s” when you are conducting a job search. In over thirty years of experience I have found it’s rarely lack of qualifications or education that disqualify someone from a job it is usually the intangibles, the seemingly small things that cause an employer to look elsewhere. As I said earlier, it’s a buyers’ market. Many of you have children just entering the workforce. Many have student loans to pay back and are looking for a solid position where they can use their education and develop new skills. The people you use as references are giving a potential employer insight into who you are in the workplace. It can make or break an excellent opportunity.
I stopped giving references about twenty years ago. One of the company’s vendors, who I’d gotten to know well, asked me if she could use me as a reference. A recruiter called me and launched into a list of question. One of the final questions was “On a scale of one to ten, evaluate the candidate’s appearance.” I paused for a moment. The recruiter asked me if there was an issue about the candidate’s appearance. I asked what he meant by the question. He wanted to know what I thought about “how she looked.” (This was starting to get creepy.) I told him she was well groomed, dressed appropriately for the work place, etc. He wanted to know if I “found her visually appealing.” I ended the conversation and called the vendor, told her about the conversation and what I’d said. As it turned out she had just sent a letter to the company asking them to remove her name from consideration, so all’s well that ends well.
Sometimes you never find out the “real reasons.” That’s why this is a cautionary tale…….
Monday, November 28, 2011
When Joan goes into work early on a Monday I’ll always shoot over to McDonalds and get her a cup of coffee after I drop her off. This morning the line was long, even for a Monday. People were impatient. Maybe it was the realization that for some a long holiday weekend was over or maybe the cold and the rain dampened some spirits. The hugged each other’s bumpers hoping that their actions would make the line move quicker. This McDonalds sits in the middle of a strip mall. There are at least three ways you can approach the drive thru line. As I waited my turn I saw a truck about ten cars ahead trying to slip into the line. No one would allow it. They moved closer to each other sending the alleged interloper a strong message: “You aren’t cutting in front of me!!!”
Call it coincidence, call it providence, call it great fodder for a blog, but just a few minutes earlier I had read a short inspirational piece that prayed this question. “Would you invite all the people you went to church with to your home for dinner?” It went on to talk about how we sit in Church or espouse a certain doctrine and when we have a chance to put it into practice we seem to have forgotten where we put that wonderful, glowing belief. I have to confess I am guilty of feeling this way, more often then I’d like to. So here was my chance to do so!!
I honked the horn and waved and allowed the alleged interloper to slide into line in front of me. Thank goodness I was in a car and it was raining or based on the sound of the car horns, I might have been stoned to death for letting them in ahead of me. Car horns beeped and I can only imagine the language. The person I allowed in line ahead of me rolled their window down and yelled back a “thank you.”
My wait in line this morning was maybe three minutes longer than it could have been, but within those three minutes I received a reminder of what I truly believe is all about. It’s about the significant acts of kindness that make a small but meaningful difference in other people’s lives. Like my fellow drive thru patrons I had right on my side. The interloper should have gone to the back of the line suffered with all the rest of us. But maybe, that very small act of kindness made the difference in their day and the day of those whose lives were affected by it. Some call paying it forward, some call it doing the right thing. I am beginning to believe it should be called a way of life.
Whether we embrace Christianity or not we are preparing to celebrate a season that is marked by kindness and generosity. For my part I can quote you Scripture until the cows come home, enter into thorny theological debates with you all day and all night if you’d like but as a friend of mine is fond of saying “That and $1.59 buys you a Coke.” What I have come to believe was put to the test in line at McDonalds this morning. Beneath the subterfuge of my self-righteousness lies the spirit encapsulated by the inn keeper long ago. He was the person who let a poor pregnant woman and her husband sleep in his stable, because they had nowhere else to go. They had no way of paying or repaying him but it dawns on me as I write, that very small act of kindness most likely made that man, the first Christian in thought and deed. There was no award or reward, just a natural outpouring of kindness to someone in need.
Saturday, November 26, 2011
I am not a cat person. I don’t dislike them or anything like that but I am more of a dog guy. Give me a dog to roll on the floor with or throw the ball with in the yard and I am good to go. Dogs are goofy and slobbery. Cats are sedate, dignified and at times a bit aloof.
Mickey came into our lives six years ago. He replaced Jessica who’d been with us for over twenty years. Mickey was the first “non-stray” cat in our lives. Maggie got him from Animal Control after Jessica passed away. I believe each animal has a personality all its own. Mickey’s was diplomacy. He wasn’t a “jump on top of you, meow, meow let me lick you” cat. Mickey would creep up on my lap and would lay there all regal looking, simply purring. I’d find my hand stroking his back. After a bit whatever was bothering me was gone and so was Mickey.
Mickey didn’t like to be bothered. When he was ready to interact with you he would let you know. If you bent to pick him up and he wasn’t in the mood to be picked up he would bite you, shake his fur and walk away. I never found out what would happen if you tried twice. Mickey seemed to be the most confident of all creatures. He knew who he was, what his role was and didn’t try to ever force the issue.
A few weeks ago Mickey didn’t seem “right.” He was a bit lethargic, stopped eating and drinking regularly. His meow became weak. Yesterday we were told Mickey had pancreatic cancer that had spread to his lungs and lymph nodes. What the vets originally thought was asthma became a death sentence. This morning Joan and I took him to the vet, very early. I couldn’t stay in the room. Joan stayed till he went to sleep.
Mickey reminds me that the routine things in life are the things we take for granted most often. The Mickey’s who plop on your lap, provide comfort and relaxation are the things in life we suddenly miss the most when they are gone. My memory of him will be sitting in my office window anytime it was open, sunning and licking his fur.
Some days things seem to go from being so great to having this small cold hole, right in the center of your tummy. RIP my friend.
Thursday, November 24, 2011
You came because you were tired of being overweight or out of shape. Maybe it was those last ten pounds that separated you from a whole new world of clothes hopping. Maybe it was the because you were tired of needing oxygen when you walked up the stairs . Maybe it was a lot of things. But you came. Maybe you purchased The Spark, read it religiously, joined teams that suited your needs and made progress.
But, why did you stay? What keeps you coming back day in and day out? Many of you have reached your goals and gone on to be support to others like me. Many of you are like me and are still struggling after that first heady rush of success. Why are you here?
Come closer. I’ll show you.
Go to your Spark page and look at your buddy list. I don’t mean the cursory glance, I mean look at those beaming and often goofy faces. Each one of us has a story and a purpose in each other’s lives. Each of us sustains and fortifies each other on a daily basis. If you gave me truth serum I would tell you that you are as much a part of my life as anyone who will sit around the table and anesthetize themselves with turkey today. You fall into the category of “BFF.” I keep a binder with your wisdom to me in it. When the days get dreary and hard to take, I open it and I think of you and how much you care and give of the precious time you could devote to other endeavors. But you come here, like I do, and you help other people.
That’s why you stay. It’s part of your core belief system. It flows out of you naturally and sincerely and it puts you in the rarest of all groups. You love because you love. You love because you have felt how amazingly healing love can be and how it touches every dingy and dusty corner of your existence. God, however you perceive him or her to be gave you some very specific gifts or talents and you are using them. Maybe you’ll use them better in the future but you are learning as you go and you share that love, that encouragement with us and we are better for it.
When someone asks me to define true spirituality or religion if you will, I direct them here. It’s not about the building you sit in on a specific day of the week or the passages you can memorize. Oh, they help, but when the rubber hits the road, it’s your amazing ability to be there for us when we need you most.
So when I get in the car here in a few to go enjoy a meal with my family and extended family, you will pass through my mind, each of you. I know who you are lol and today I am thankful you choose to share your love with me.
That’s why you’re here. And I am glad you made that decision.
I love you.
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