Name, Image, Likeness”

The freedom for college athletes to make money by sponsorship opportunities has begun. While that is an on-going active discussion concerning how being paid through an NIL will affect college sports, some folks are preparing for NIL’s seeping down to high school or even lower athletic programs. One of those folks who is getting prepared for that seepage is Henry Jolly III who has two sons he is packaging in order to take full advantage of the NIL’s. Jolly has created a family logo, “Born to Go Pro” and his sons wear headbands that read “Jolly Boys.” The boys are 9 years old.

According to the Washington Post,  Jolly has taught his boys that everything they do is part of their brand — from the way they play to their shoulder-length brown braids, which their father has made clear must be allowed by any middle school or high school coach recruiting them. He curates their social media feeds, spends hours editing their YouTube highlight videos and sometimes wears a T-shirt he made with the logos of seven youth basketball rankings websites, all of which have rated his sons the top second-graders in the country. The father is quoted, “That’s part of my strategy: Build their name up, build the expectations up, build their skills up, build their bodies up, so that by the time they get to high school, these companies are going to pay them to play. We want to do it as early as possible. I believe we’re going to be the pioneers.”

The seep of money invaded the NCAA during the 1930’s and has, in my opinion, ruined the game. Instead of learning through sport, we now have “How much can I make?” By today, the seepage has slid lower, and we have parents all over the country like Henry Jolly III. While he is free to parent as he wishes, his parenting skills remind me of a meeting some years ago when administrators were discussing possible actions to help a struggling student. As we examined the comments and actions of his father a fellow administrator observed, “To get a dog you need a license, but anyone can have a child.”

A book I read has the  following words: “For the love of money is the root of all evil:…” Sadly, those words are often mis-quoted as “Money is the root of all evil.” If quoted correctly and followed we will view money as what it is- a commodity to be used by us, not use us.

Our Teetering Democracy

In my recent re-reading of Ordinary Men, Christopher R. Browning’s study of the Nazi’s final solution in Poland, I read a reference to T. W. Adorno and his work after WW II with colleagues in Germany. Browning’s book is a close examination of ordinary men mostly from Hamburg who were drafted into Reserve Police Battalion 101. The unit was sent to Poland to be executioners of Polish Jews, and Browning examines how such ordinary men as teachers, lawyers, and common workers could become active participants in the Holocaust. Thus, he refers to Adorno’s research to offer some explanation as to how ordinary men became killers for Hitler. Adorno and his colleagues tested for a “authoritarian personality” that was tested for by the so-called F-scale. The scale, as quoted by Browning, list the following characteristics for the “authoritarian personality:” 1.Rigid adherence to conventional values; 2.submissiveness to authority figures; 3.aggressiveness toward out-groups[sic]; 4.opposition to introspection, reflection, and creativity; 5.a tendency to superstition and stereotyping; 6.preoccupation with power and “toughness’; 7.destructiveness and cynicism; 8.projectivity (the disposition to believe that wild and dangerous things happen in the world); 9.and an exaggerated concern with sexuality.

Not a historian or sociologist, I am, like many Americas, concerned for our democracy. Through my layman’s eyes I see frightening parallels to America today and authoritarian regimes of the past and present—look no more than Victor Orban speaking recently at the CPAC convention. My concern for our country, even worry for our democraccy, is one factor that drove me to re-read Ordinary Men, which I had last read at its publication. While I found that I had remembered the premise of Browning’s study, I found forgotten gems like Adorno’s F-scale.

While the dependability of the F-scale can and is debated, I found it of interest because I see some of the 9 listed characteristics as markers for some folks in America today. For instance, re-read number 4. It seems to me that our country is too full of people who only read or listen to or watch the information that re-enforces what they already know or believe.  I  see too many folks in our country as being too quick to believe only what they want to and will not take the time or energy to examine what they read, see, or  hear.  

A small book on my reference shelf is titled Study is Hard Work, written by William Armstrong in 1956. While a bit of the book is dated, its title and premise still holds: To seriously study anything is hard work. Yet I fear that much of our modern world like the Internet and our frequently lazy educational system (multiple-guess questions that a machine will grade) have contributed to our cultural propensity to be like number 4. So many of us have become such lazy citizens that we now believe in the popular advertisements that begin with such words as, “Get what you deserve….” Lazy citizenship and thinking that we deserve anything not worked for and earned is the type of thinking that certainly leads us into number 8 above.

The adage, There are three sides to every story-my side, your side, and the truth- should be thought of every time we read, see, or hear information from an elected official or someone running for an elected office. One does not need to become cynical but being suspect of information received will help us all to be better citizens. To question information will either cause it to be dismissed or  or make it stronger. Let’s all become thinking/questioning citizens and not ordinary men. Let’s save our teetering democracy.

Hope

Two articles from last week’s reading resonate with me—one from a religious magazine written by a minister and the other in a major newspaper written by a columnist.

The columnist writes about “feelings of hopelessness and self-hatred [that] can leave you to live with a smoldering rage.” He writes that the problem facing Washington, D.C. is not one of moral failure but “public health problems coming our way at the point of a gun.” He asks, “But what are we doing about what we already know about the forces driving violence?”

The minister shares her need for heaven, but not the heaven “beyond clouds, harps, and chubby baby angels.” She objects to “Our culture’s images of heaven [that] are so saccharine, so sentimental, so boring.”  What she wants is for us to have a heaven with the “possibility of actual peace, reconciliation, and abundance for all.”

Both writers want the same thing—an assurance for a better world, one free from hate, poverty, chronic pain, violence, and more. They both want a world of justice, one full of hope. But how do we give hope to those who suffer from the massive violence of our country-the violence not only of guns, but the violence of injustice, the violence of a low-paying job, the violence of chronic pain, the violence of addiction,  the violence of believing that this is all there is? If we can give citizens hope, then they will more likely be equipped to fight the obstacles of modern-day life.

One writer’s obvious way to combat the ills she faces in her personal and cultural life is her religious faith and “The hope of heaven is the glimmer of steady light that guides and protects me in the valley of  the shadow of death.” Her hope drives her days.

However, the newspaper columnist tells us that “The exposure to violence does something to you.” It is that violence lived and seen daily that probably causes there to be “no hope in the future to drive the day,” so why not gravitate to the easy path of drugs, guns, wanton sex, and alcohol that make life something not cherished but something cheap and expendable?

How do we give hope to such a life as that? We can’t by ways of large government programs. They can help, but we should have learned that large government won’t succeed because we have tried for years to give hope to downtrodden members of our communities through that channel.

I grew up in a single parent household during the segregated south of the 1950’s and 60’s. My mother hemmed washcloths in a cotton mill and reared 6 children. We were poor. We were White. But we were not trashy because our mother demanded of herself and us children. She once told a sister that she, a fine-looking divorced woman, could have spent every weekend at the beach, but she stayed home with her children, doing the hard work of a single parent. She made us go to church, and she had expectations  of us. She parented us. She was not perfect, nor were we, but we all grew into professionals who contributed to society. She showed us “hope in the future to drive the day.”

Governmental programs, as churches and schools,  help individuals succeed. However, when an individual faces the brutality that some of us do each day, that person needs an adult to guide him or her as if lost in a dense forest. A map of that forest is like governmental programs—it can help, but it can’t offer encouragement at each step and turn the same way as that of a guide. The guide not only leads but gives hope, and that kind of hope can only be built from the intimate involvement of an adult who gives unconditional love at each  step on the path through the dense forest. We all need maps, but we also need guides who will help us, not hinder our journey. And the best guides are parents like my mother who did the difficult work of guiding and encouraging.

This kind of hope comes from a belief that there is more to life than what is seen. It comes from a belief that there is something larger than self—call that something whatever suits you, but real hope comes from believing that each of us is a part of a larger existence. This kind of hope will give a future to drive each day.

My Modest Library

As a life-long reader I was interested in a recent article in a major, national newspaper that focused on how nine contemporary authors arranged some of their bookshelves. I looked at the photographs and read some of the text. But I became disinterested because I had never even heard of any of the writers much less read any of their books. I pasted a copy of the article to my four sons and two never responded and the other two laughed at (with?) me. So, I placed all the communication about the article in my trash folder and forgot about it until this morning.

My modest library holds a vast range of books that are arranged by topic. The religion shelves hold books by Thomas Merton, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Elaine Pagels, C.S. Lewis, and other examiners of our spiritual selves. The western section is loaded with Wallace Stegner with many other lovers of that land such as Terry Tempest Williams. The shelves dedicated for Black studies have books by Gloria Naylor, Langston Hughes. Ernest Gaines, and other writers who are brave enough to investigate race in America. The four-tiered lawyer’s bookcase holds prized first editions and some are signed such as the treasured  copy of W.S. Merwin’s last book, Garden Time. Next to that collection is a closed cabinet with English writers. Some loved first editions of Thomas Hardy’s poetry sit on the top shelf beside a modest collection of J. L. Carr. There is shelf space for nature books and political ones and biographies. It is a small, personal library, but I am pleased with it and continue to add to its growth.

So what’s the rub concerning those nine writers and their libraries?

While I did enjoy reading some of their explanations for how a  particular shelf was arranged it still rankled me that I had never heard of any of them, so I went to Google and read of their successes and awards. It should be an humbling experience not to recognize the name of a best-selling author, but I felt none of that. In fact, I felt no negative sense for not ever having heard of any of the nine. I began to wonder if I am illiterate concerning current, popular authors. Am I a snob in by reading choices?

None of us,  I suspect, want to be illiterate about anything and never to be accused of snobbery. But what does this self-examination of my reading choices say about me? Discerning. That fits! We all are given gifts by our Maker and discernment is one of those gifts. So, while I may not know of or have read any of the nine authors in the article, that fact says nothing about them and their writing, but it reveals that I am a discerning reader who unlike other readers does not choose to “try anything” to read. But then,  there is still the chance that sometime in the future I will pick up a book by one of them and bring it home, read it, and find it one to keep and place it on a shelf in my modest library.

A Better Way

Some years ago I led a men’s Sunday School class in Woodstock, VA. When we were studying Job, a member of the class shared an experience he had had during the week. He was a supervisor for a company that performed maintenance on I-81, and his crew and he were working on exit ramps. Tim explained that English was a second language for most of his crew, but some of the workers were better speakers of English, and he managed to communicate with them all in order to get the work done. One day during a morning break, one of the crew approached him and asked in an almost timid way. “We’ve been wondering, Mr. Tim, what religion you are, if you’ll tell us.” Tim explained that he had never discussed religion with his crew, but he told them what Christian religion he belonged.

Our class had a great discussion about Tim’s story and how, even though he had never proselytized to any member of his crew, they had sensed, by his words and deeds, that he was religious. They just didn’t know of what religion, but were curious.

Many times through the years I have recalled Tim’s story and what it means for us  Christians. In Matthew 5-7 we are given the Sermon on the Mount and later in chapter 28 we are given the Great Commission. That seems to me to be quite a bit of directive on how to live if we are Christ followers. However, if these words prove difficult to follow, Edgay A. Guest states it all easily enough in his poem The Better Way:

I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day;

I’d rather one should walk with me than merely show the way;

The eye’s a better pupil and more willing than the ear;

Fine counsel is confusing, but example’s always clear;

And the best of all the preachers are the men who  live their creeds;

For to see the good in action is what everybody needs.

I can soon learn how to do it if you’ll let me see it done.

I can watch your hands in action, but your tongue too fast may run;

And the lectures you deliver may be very wise and true,

But I’d rather get my lesson by observing what you do.

For I may misunderstand you and the high advice you give

But there’s no misunderstanding how you act and how you live.

The current political chatter from some elected officials who suggest that we adopt Christian Nationalism as our new way of doing things has caused me to once again recall Tim’s story. Take a moment and think about it: Language is somewhat of a barrier, but the crew and Tim overcome that issue to accomplish the necessary work. How? They do it because Tim followed the words of Jesus and Guest: Be kind, be patient, and show generosity. With those virtues present, language became secondary in order to accomplish complex tasks.

It seems to me that we don’t need Christian Nationalism or any other man-made creation to help us in our complicated lives. As a Christ follower I try to adhere to the words cited above in Matthew believing that that is the better way; but if not that, just follow those of Guest and watch wonderous things happen.

Terry Lindsay

This morning Chris, the youngest son, called to tell me that his father had died earlier in the morning. His father and mother Jeannie were vacationing at Rehoboth Beach with other family members. Mr. Charles T. “Terry” Lindsay was 87 years old, the same age as Norman Maclean when he died. That is, if any is, a good age to die, and his age should tell you a great deal about him because it means that he was of a certain time and culture.

Terry Lindsay was born about ten years too late to technically belong to the “greatest generation” as defined by Tom Brokaw in his book. But he was a child of that generation, and he learned from it. And he learned his lessons well because he lived the life and values in which it believed:  Dedication to family and friends; A sound work ethic built on fairness and honesty; Duty to civic organizations; and so much more.

In the late 1970’s I was a young and inexperienced teacher and wrestling coach in Alexandria, VA. Herb Soles, the head coach and I, had committed to participate in a newly begun wrestling tournament of independent schools in the state. When we became aware that the fledgling tournament had no permanent and rotating trophy for the winning team for each year, I decided to  approach the father of one of our young and promising wrestlers. So, I nervously went to Terry’s  automobile dealership office to ask for money.  I fumbled in my explanation for the need for a trophy, but he instantly caused me to relax by asking in a calm voice, “How much do you need, Roger?” I admitted to not having any idea of the cost involved. In his reassuring voice Terry told me to go buy the trophy that we wanted and send him the bill.

Terry Lindsay and other contemporary parents of his generation and kind may not have been members of The Greatest Generation, but they were great parents with which to work. They were always present in the education of their sons, but never in the way. They always supported us teachers and coaches by allowing us to do our jobs while they did theirs-we taught their children, and they earned the money to pay the bills. They gave their resources without meddling in how those resources would be used. They shared and supported our educational vision for their sons. They were cheerful.

Retired now many years, I have no knowledge of how parents are at such a school as the  one where I worked in the 1970’s. But I hope that they have many Terry and Jeannie Lindsay’s who share the joy and responsibility of giving children a sound education.

Danny’s Letter

Some years ago the high school wrestling team I was part of wanted to honor our coach, Bob Mauldin. With the help of his wife Donna and our spouses, we planned a surprise tribute for him, and about 80 old wrestlers and spouses attended. It was a success, and our beloved Coach was surprised—at being the main guest and by words admirable spoken about him after supper.

The spoken tributes for Coach Mauldin varied-some serious, others full of humor, but all centered on our coach and how he had influenced our lives as boys then later as men. But one talk stands out, and when I received word yesterday that Danny had died after battling cancer, I thought of him and what he said and did that night.

Mementos are usually privately kept, stored away for reasons known only to the person placing the small item away in a secret place. Even if the memento is a flower or clover leaf placed between the pages of a book, it serves a role in someone’s life. As J. L. Carr observes in his novel of memory and lost love, A Month in the Country, someone in years hence may purchase a book at a sale and later find a dried Sara van Fleet rose carefully placed between two pages. But no wonder, most folks put seemingly insignificant things in private places as reminders of someone or a time or both which was special but is now past.  But the memory of the importance signified by the memento lives as long as the memorizer.

As I recall, Danny was the  last speaker at Coach’s tribute. Watching him walk to the microphone, I noticed that he was still rather small, like the wiry wrestler he was those years ago.

He then shared how when he was a soldier serving in Vietnam he received a letter from Coach. Danny did not share with us the contents of his letter, but he did explain the importance of Coach’s words to him, a young man far away fighting in a brutal war. Coach’s words were a salve to his soul Danny said, and with that Danny reached into his hip pocket, pulled out the letter, and then thanked Coach for writing him and said something like, “It’s your letter, Coach, and now I give it back to you.”

            Most mementos are private, but at Coach’s dinner we all were witnesses to a memento of one of us, shared publicly, who is now dead as is the writer of the letter. While we do not know the contents of the letter, we were given the privilege of acknowledging a gift to one of us from our Coach  Mauldin. The white, small, and crumpled envelope held a message to Danny, one that he had cherished, carried,  and held close for years. His  public sharing of it told much, but most of all it was a witness of what we all do—hold seemingly insignificant things like cloverleafs or flowers dear to our selves. Danny shared his beloved memento of Coach with us.

            I think Danny saw his talk as a thank you to Coach, which it was, but it  also spoke of holding close what is dear, no matter from whom or from what circumstance–even if only a Sara van Fleet rose between the pages of a book.

Congratulations for not Robbing Banks

In the first round of the 1925 U.S. Open of golf, Bob Jones prepared to hit a wedge shot out of the 11th hole rough. He inadvertently touched his ball with the wedge, causing it to move slightly. He penalized himself one stroke. The officials could not verify that the ball had moved, so they left the one-stroke penalty assessment up to Jones, who was adamant that his ball moved. A one-stroke penalty that no one, but Jones, had witnessed. After regulation play Jones was tied with Willie Macfarlane, and he lost the 18-hole playoff to him. When folks congratulated Jones on his honesty he replied, “You might as well congratulate me for not robbing a bank.”

In today’s climate, I think of Jones often because I read or hear of so many people wanting to glorify a person for doing his or her job, to perform the job as is in the job description. No person should be given extra applause for doing what is required or needed. That is why he or she is there in the position—to perform by overcoming obstacles and difficulties encountered in doing the prescribed work,

As a wrestling coach, I reminded my charges that iron sharpens iron, a paraphrase of Proverbs 27:17. Those three words were printed on the back of our team tee-shirts. The wrestlers understood that the best way to help a teammate become a better person and wrestler was to be a hard surface on which to sharpen. In so doing, both became better.

All cultures need heroes, folks to admire for their integrity and courage and grit. However, let’s not set the bar too low. After all, if we do we might as well congratulate someone for not robbing a bank.

            Griner

Being captive in any jail or prison must be awful and even worse if the confinement is in a foreign country. Visits from loved ones probably are rare, if not impossible, and the government under which you are being held may not be a “friend” of the United States. Your only contact with other Americans is likely someone who works at the American Embassy, which is a relationship built on politics and diplomacy, not love. It’s necessary and appreciated, but not warm and fuzzy.

Brittney Griner has been imprisoned in the Russia for four months and just pleaded guilty.  According to Reuters and Russian media reports, she told the judge at the second hearing of her trial, “I’d like to plead guilty, your honor. But there was no intent. I didn’t want to break the law. I’d like to give my testimony later. I need time to prepare.” Griner explained that she had packed in a rush and the vape cartridges made it into her bag by accident. If found guilty Griner could be sentenced to ten years imprisonment.

As a seasoned college, professional, and Olympic basketball star, Griner surely knows that it matters not if a player intends to commit a foul, but when she does commit a foul, the official blows the whistle, and a penalty is assessed. The act, not the intent, is called.

Griner and many others have pleaded to U.S. officials to help her. She even sent a letter to President Biden asking him to intervene. But she admits to the foul of breaking Russian law. She was entering Russia to make money doing what she does well and says that she packed in a hurry. What? She wants us to believe that she rushed her packing for an extended period of playing basketball in a foreign country. I doubt her veracity in this explanation.

Yes, she is a fellow American and should be helped as much as possible, but  not  at the expense of Paul Whelan who, I have no doubt, has languished since 2018 in a Russian cell on a false charge. He needs attention first.

Griner calculated on her fame. A bad calculation, I think. She now pays the price for her act of breaking Russian law.

Bows after the  Clouds

As my wife Mary Ann and  I watched the black mass move in from the northwest, we realized that the meteorologist had been correct: A large storm brewed in the eerie late afternoon quiet of a hot summer day. The black mass continued to roll over the land and the lake and soon its wind came. Each sudden and violent gust removed leaves and limbs from trees, made big sways in the tall pines, and caused the wind chimes to rattle. At times a lull came as if the wind was resting before the next blast of fierce wind. We watched, hoping that rain would come with the dark wind to bathe our dry garden. We watched and turned on lamps earlier than usual because the coming storm had  shut daylight out with its roiling mass. But soon enough our hope was fulfilled, and we saw the rain, then smelled its richness as it covered trees, shrubs, flowers, every thing.

This is my fourth week of another storm in my life. After twenty careful years of life in my wheelchair, I developed a pressure sore because, very ill with COVID, I sat in the same position on a sofa for over a day. Boom! A massive pressure sore on my tailbone and buttocks. A  pressure sore, like so many situations in life, is easy to get into, but difficult to get out of. And, like some of those things in life that, as Dr. Clarence Jordan writes, “tangle us all up”, they can be deadly. However, Mary Ann and I have treated it with diligence and respect: For the past four weeks I have been in bed on one side or the other except for three short sitting breaks each day. The sore heals, but slowly, through medical care and a releasing of any pressure.

After we ate dinner last night, we watched the storm and smelled the rain’s fresh scent. Leaving lamps lit, we went to our bed to watch a movie, a ritual begun to pass the bedtime caused by the pressure sore. During the movie the storm raged-its rain, thunder, and lightening reminding us of its presence. But after we had watched the movie and were letting the dog out, we noticed a red-orange glow in our front yard. Looking westward, we saw the sky aflame as if it and the lake were on fire. We watched nature’s show, realizing our insignificance compared to what we were seeing. Then, as the bright sky faded into the dark of night, we went to sleep. The next morning we received a photograph from our neighbor Doug in which he shared a photograph he had taken while we were watching the western sky: A double rainbow suspended in the same type of red-orange glow, but this one was  in the east sky, over our split of the lake. We had seen one but not the other.

There are many epic stories of floods that destroy ancient civilizations. However, my favorite is the story of a solitary man who built a boat while being ridiculed by his peers. However, after the flood destroyed all but what  he had taken on his boat, he is made a covenant. And as a reminder of that promise, a “bow” will appear in the clouds.

Storms bring good and bad, but I like to remember that after storms come “bows” and that is a promise in which I have faith. Like the double rainbow Doug photographed, we have been promised, and that will not be broken