When you grow up in the city like I did, your neighborhood usually has a neighborhood bully. Ours did. His name? Boomer! I don't know if he was born with that name or if he earned that name. All I know is that for the little kids on our block, Boomer was like the original terrorist. He would beat us up for nothing, he'd take our stuff, and generally intimidate us. But one day I got tired of it - he had taken my White Sox cap. Sure, I was just a little guy. Sure, I was no match for him. But I walked boldly down our street to where no kid dared to go - to the corner apartment building where Boomer lived. I went to the back porch, knocked on the door, and asked for my hat back. You say, "My, what a brave little boy." There is one detail I left out - my father went with me. And that made all the difference. See, Boomer was bigger than I was. But my father was bigger than Boomer was!
You may not be able to tell over the radio - but I'm not a very big guy. Oh, I'm big inside. But outside, more of a Volkswagen than a semi. Which makes it amazing that both my sons ended up playing line in football. That's usually where they put the monsters. Actually, we used to joke that linemen wore their IQs on their jerseys - you know, like 75. But it was brawn more than brains they needed to either hold the line while their opponents were trying to move them or to break through those gorillas on the other side of the line. There are just a few simple instructions that every coach wants every lineman to learn and live by. Our guys heard this one all the time - "Keep your feet moving." No matter what. Even if it feels like you're going nowhere. Even if you're getting hammered. Even if you think it's doing no good. As long as you keep driving - as long as you keep your feet moving - you're making a difference. The alternative - getting knocked down.
It's been almost 80 years - but there's something about the sinking of the Titanic that fascinates us. Latest evidence - the incredible success of the blockbuster movie, "Titanic." I've always found the story of the last hours of this supposedly unsinkable ship to be a haunting story. People representing just about all the kind of people that there are, knowing many of them will probably die,facing the reality that, at best, half of them will get into a lifeboat. The ways people handled those terrifying hours on a sinking ship tell us so much about what we are really like.
If you've got a tie that's gone out of style, hang onto it. It will probably be back in style eventually - and you can be cool again. In fact, a lot of clothes are in, then out, then eventually back in again. But it's not just clothes - it can happen to toys, too. For example, that classic toy - the yo-yo! They were popular when I was a kid! And, no, they weren't made out of stone back then! But they say the yo-yo is actually making a comeback! In this age of computers and high-tech video games, a lot of kids are interested in that little round wooden toy at the end of the string. It's great. And they're learning the same old tricks - they're doing "walk the dog" and "around the world." I feel like I'm in a time warp! I never could master all that fancy stuff. But there was always one thing I could count on with my trusty yo-yo - when it got to the end of the string, it started coming back to me! Unless, of course, it wasn't attached.
If you're like me, you turned on the water this morning and never gave it a thought. You probably didn't grow up in the middle of a desert, then. Some years ago Hollywood produced an Oscar-winning movie about the life of the legendary Lawrence of Arabia. After some of the victories that made him famous, this British hero took some of his Arab friends to Paris with him. since they had grown up in the desert, they were amazed by the running water in their hotel room. On the day there were packing to go home, Lawrence found them trying to remove the bathroom faucets. They wanted to take them home with them - so they could have running water back home! Lawrence explained to them that the water actually came from the reservoirs in the mountains outside the city, not from the faucets. They thought the water was coming from what it actually was coming through.
Not long ago, I saw two police cars, blazing down the highway, lights and sirens going strong. Chances are, they didn't decide to go wherever they were going - the dispatcher did. All day long, an officer cruises in his car, listening to the crackle of that police radio. Then suddenly he or she hears something like this - "Unit 3 - disturbance at Franklin and North Ave. - respond immediately." And he's off! Just because the dispatcher told him to.
I have some friends who live near this industrial area - steel mill type of industrial. You could take me there blindfolded and I'd know where I am. The mills produce this distinctive aroma - OK, smell. OK, stink. All day long you can smell this sulfur-like, rotten eggs type of odor. When you go there for the first time, you sniff and say, "What's that?" Funniest thing - the people who live there answer, "What's what?" They have lived around that stench so long that it doesn't even register anymore. It's gross - but they've gotten used to gross.
Several years ago our whole family had to go for blood tests - the doctor said it was time to check everyone's cholesterol. Which means needles. Which meant one of our sons decided to leave us for a little while. He had just had some blood drawn, and he said, "I'm feeling a little weak." Yup. He proceeded to pass out. Now he might have been the strongest person in our family - but each person's reaction is different to this little exercise. A few moments later he came to and muttered that famous question, "What happened?" Then he passed out again. Later, he told us what he remembered from opening his eyes that first time - his mother's concerned face - and, in his words, "seeing this real old nurse." It's funny how strong those just-waking-up impressions are.
I guess those TV talk shows must run out of material sometimes. You can tell they're desperate. I hardly ever see them, but one day not long ago I turned on some talk show that demonstrates my point. They had four women on the show who were - lets say, average looking. But they sent them backstage for a while to get what's called a makeover. That woman puts herself into someone else's hands - someone who can skillfully change her eye makeup, her coloring, her lipstick, her hairstyle, her wardrobe. And voila - out comes this no-longer-just-average-looking person. The difference can be amazing. Funniest thing, though - I've never heard of them giving a man a makeover. Although some of us could really use one.
When Walt Disney animated the story of Snow White, he created seven memorable - if short - characters - the Seven Dwarfs. Yes, you can be short and memorable. No, I'm not going to ask you to name all seven dwarfs - I don't think I can. But I can remember that little song they sang on the way to work. Now, they didn't exactly work in a climate-controlled office building. They worked in a mine all day. But each day, they would merrily march off to their job singing, "Hi-ho, hi-ho, it's off to work we go." What a great way to approach your work each day.
Anyone who can tackle their responsibilities with a song is no dwarf. He or she is a giant!