North Dakota's a long way from Wuhan, China. But our friend Wes has been seeing more and more customers wearing masks in the local Walmart. He says he's going to start telling them "to calm down." Thinking of how fear can spook the stock market, he commented, "Then I'm going to thank them for destroying my 401(k)."
If the emergency room folks had asked me to rate my pain that day on a 1-10 scale, I would have said "22." It was the worst pain I'd ever had.
My shoulder had "exploded." My rotator cuff was totally wrecked, and that day the pain suddenly erupted.
That led to multiple replacement surgeries, from which I am fully recovered today. Although I'm still tempted to start sobbing every time I see one of those "shoulder work ahead" signs on the highway.
When the shocking news of Kobe Bryant's sudden death broke, it really hit like losing someone you knew.
I see it in the Native American young people who are so much a part of my life and my work. Like Amy. She's an overcomer - depression, abuse, trauma. For her, basketball has offered relief from reservation despair. She says, "Kobe inspired me."
A lot of our Native "sons and daughters" proudly wear their Kobe jersey. Because he "inspired" them. As one young Native leader and friend said, "It looks like we're all in a state of mourning."
There's a Nativity in every room of our house. That was my wife's #1 order for Christmas decorating. Decorations are fine. Lights are nice. Nativities are mandatory!
So we have all kinds. Big mangers. Small mangers. Native American Nativities. A cowboy creche. An Eskimo "Bethlehem." The cast is pretty predictable. Mary, Joseph and the baby are there. So are the shepherds and those Wise Men. Sometimes a cow. A donkey. A sheep.
Our granddaughter couldn't have been more than three that Christmas. Suddenly she appeared in the living room, carrying a long, empty wrapping paper tube.
"What's that for, angel?"
"I'm a shepherd," she announced emphatically. Silly me. Of course she was a shepherd. I should have known from the "shepherd's staff" in her hand.
My parents told me they were the "magic words." But they would often have to remind me, "And what are the magic words again, Ronnie?"
I still need a reminder. "Please." "Thank you."
Actually, "thank you" can be almost magical. Because like valuable collectibles, those words are getting to be pretty rare.
I got to visit my very intelligent grandson on the campus of his new college last week. Wall-to-wall with students like him. I got to use the three big words I know.
He's a freshman there. No, he's a '23. Every student I met was a number. From 20 to 23. It's like part of their name. "Emily Smith, '21."
I saw the sign on the door of a convenience store. On Halloween.
It said, "Please remove your mask before entering." That makes sense. Just in case a mask is meant to conceal someone who's there for more than candy.
But not all masks are for Halloween. The kind that never come off. The masks that people wear all year. They present the person I want you to think I am. And conceal parts of me I don't want you to see and that I don't want to face.
I like labels. In a grocery store. It's good to know what you're about to put in your body.
I also don't like labels. On people. Because - unlike the grocery labels - they don't tell you what's inside.
In our very confusing, very complicated, very combative world, we find it easier just to put people in convenient categories. Often based on flawed stereotypes. "If I know your 'tribe,' I know you." Not necessarily. I've been wrong too many times about a person because of some category. Then I got to know some members of that "tribe." And found out they were so much more.
A lot of guys introduce their wives as "my better half." My Karen was more than that. I've told many people, "She made my half so much better." She really did. In so many ways.
My girl has been in heaven for over three years now. I really miss her. Her laugh is irreplaceable. Her unpredictability made for lots of crazy moments. Her curious mind made her always interesting to be with. Her walk with God made her wise and magnetic. Her hugs and prayers and insights helped me navigate many storms.