UNWELCOME VISITOR – Rich Paschall

45 Comes To Town, by Rich Paschall, Chicagoan

The day after being booed at a World Series game and listening to chants of “Lock Him Up,” the Tweeter-in-Chief came to another place he is not welcome. The Supreme Windbag came to the Windy City to hurl insults and hate at the locals. By the way, it is believed that the term “Windy City” came about as a description of past politicians rather than anything to do with the weather. If that belief is true, than he fit in with the liars of another era.

He likely felt it was OK to insult us. No dignitary met him at the airport. They would not want to be seen with him. None showed up to his hate filled speech later in the day. We have to hold ourselves to a higher standard, methinks.

The orange one probably took great delight insulting the city he was visiting. After all, President Obama lived here. Hillary Clinton is also from this area. Anything to do with those two politicians is likely to bring baseless insults from the one who never took the high road in his life.

Chicago Water Tower (Photo credit: Nicholas G. Mertens)

We have been down this road before when number 45 promised to “Send In The Feds” to deal with the violent crime here. Although there is crime here, just like any major city, it is nothing like the resident of the White House claims it to be. Imagine, if you can, the following insult claimed by Trump while in Chicago:

Trump: “Afghanistan is a safe place, by comparison, that’s true.”  

Obviously, it is not true. BBC research pegged the death toll in Afghanstan at 2307 in the month of August due to violent crime. That is about the number for the last 5 years combined in Chicago. Yes it is too high here, but it has come down in each of the last three years without help from any federal troops.

Trump: “Chicago has some of the toughest gun laws in the United States.”

False. The restrictions are actually less now that a decade ago. Attempts by the city to strenghten guns laws end up in court. Fights against the city are often led by the NRA.

Trump: “I’ve done more than any other president has done for the police”

OK, you be the judge.

The orange one claimed that Chicago was embarrassing to the nation due to the crime here. If that is true, there are many other cities providing the orange one with greater embarrassment. USA Today puts Chicago at number 21 on the list. Their statistics and methodology are well explained. Indianapolis is at 13.

As methodology changes for studies, sometimes the order of cities changes on the list. This may depend on the size of cities included, the type of crime classified as “violent,” and the source of the figures. Most use the FBI numbers in their rankings. World Atlas puts Chicago at 17, while Indianapolis climbs to number 10.

If we are just talking about murder rates per capita, then Chicago is 24th on the list, while two Indiana cities are higher. I mention the Indiana cities because it is the home state of the vice president. I don’t hear Agent Orange promising to send troops to help out Mike Pence.

If Chicago is not at the top of the violent crime list, as the supposed leader seems to suggest, than the real problem is not Chicago. It is gun violence in America. The president and the Republicans certainly do not want to tackle that issue. The NRA might stop contributing to their campaigns.

The vindictive one does not seem to want to do anything presidential. Instead he continues to try to divide Americans through insult and accusation. Our recently elected mayor was having none of it and responded:

The Superintendent of Police Eddie Johnson responded to the lies and insults against the city, the police force and the superintendent himself. He came to a press conference with the facts and conducted things in a professional manner, including thanking those police for doing their job protecting a man who was busy insulting them.

Chicago is a world-class city with big city, urban America problems. Its challenges are worse than some but better than many. Rather than taking vindictive potshots at one of America’s best, a leader should be lending a helping hand here and to the many other cities where help is needed. Perhaps it is the lack of support or the volume of protestors that has the orange one riled up. He received about 13 percent of the vote here in 2016. His performance here recently makes it unlikely he will do any better next time around.

SOURCES: 25 Of The Most Dangerous Cities In America, USA Today, August 14, 2019.
The Most Dangerous Cities In The US, worldatlas.com, October 21, 2019.
The 30 cities with the highest murder rates in the US, The Bismark Tribune, April 15, 2019.
Gun rights lawsuits take aim at Illinois, Chicago, by Dahleen Glanton, Chicago Tribune, March 8, 2012.
Is Chicago worse than Afghanistan? Fact-checking President Trump’s critiques of the city, BY  AND , wgntv.com, October28, 2019.
See also: SEND IN THE FEDS, “The Streets of Chicago,” by Rich Paschall, SERENDIPITY, February 5, 2017.

WHO SAID LIFE IS FAIR? – Marilyn Armstrong

With shock and grief, I hear the wailing of betrayed youth. They have made the awfulest Big Discovery.


Life is unfair.


You work hard, perform brilliantly yet wind up bruised and forgotten. Then again, you might find yourself famous, rich, and covered with honors. It’s not cause and effect, though we like to think it is … until the economy, health, or other people betray those beliefs.

The younger me knew — with 100% certainty — that work, talent, ambition and determination were magic. The older me learned you can do everything right, follow all the rules and then some, and it still doesn’t work out.

bankruptcy

I did it all. I worked hard and with more than due diligence. I smiled when I wanted to snarl to keep that critical positive attitude. I was creative. I gave it my all.

I did okay, but while I worked hard and put in overtime, I watched the suck-ups, second-raters, and those who worked cheaper if not better, move past me. I came in early and stayed late while they went to meetings and took long lunches. If I’d gone to more meetings, would that have changed the outcome?

Somehow, I doubt it. I can’t be someone I’m not, though I sure did try. It’s out of my hands. I’m a passenger on this bus and it’s a long ride ahead of me (I hope).

Former belief: Play by The Rules, give it your all. You are bound to “make it.”

Current belief: Do the best you can and hope for a bit of luck and a boss who really likes you. Oh, and a company that won’t go bankrupt before you get paid. If not, enjoy life. It’s the only one you’ve got.

We tell our kids if they do it all right they will get that pot of gold. We don’t tell them that work sucks. Most of their bosses will be morons who know less than they do and have less talent.

But we also were right. They will earn a reward: the satisfaction of knowing they did their best. It’s a big reward. Everyone can count on it and no one can take away.

We have to try. If we succeed and for a while, we get a piece of the good stuff, at least enough to feel it wasn’t a waste of time, that’s great. For some, it just doesn’t happen. Bad luck? Wrong attitude? Crappy economy? Not quite enough talent?

And you have to know that trying may not be enough. You also need talent and luck and good timing.

Sometimes, you need a better agent.

I no longer believe in inevitable triumph. There’s always a chance you’ll make it to the top and it’s fantastic if the magic works. For me, realism has replaced optimism. Everyone’s best achievement is living up to our best self. If this also turns into a success, I’ll wear your t-shirt. If not, this is an achievement no one can ruin. You can’t control the world, but you can control yourself.

Life’s a roller coaster. You’re up and then you’re down. Screaming, crying, laughing … you go where the rails take you. Life will surprise you and sometimes a loss becomes a winner and will give you moments of unimagined joy.

Rejoice when times are good, but if you must, cope with the darkness. You can learn a lot in the dark.

WHAT TIME IS IT? – Rich Paschall

Does Anybody Really Know? by Rich Paschall

What is the most valuable thing you have? Do you think it is your house? For most people, a house will be the most expensive thing they purchase in their lifetime. Personally, I do not own a house, so this definitely is not it for me. Considering the amount of rent I have paid over the decades, I may have paid for one, however.

Is it your automobile? Certainly the costliest possession I have is the car that takes me around town and to my “day job.” Many people spend quite a lot on an auto. I saw a Corvette at the Chevrolet showroom recently while I waited for my modest Malibu to be fixed. Even though I thought it might be interesting to drive the Corvette just once, I wondered who would spend almost 90 thousand dollars on a two seat auto? It is not your practical car for errands or camp trips.  It does show you have a lot of money.

How about jewelry? There are some pieces of jewelry that cost more than the house I am living in. I guess if you are a rock star or high paid athlete you may think you need some expensive “bling.” Odell Beckham Jr. made his Cleveland Browns debut wearing his 350,000 dollar watch. Yes, I did mean to put in that many zeros. That will surely let all of us know he has a BIG NFL contract.

None of the above, however, is the most valuable possession any of us can have. What is it? You may have guessed the answer already by the title above. It’s time. I don’t mean it is the ability to tell the time with a 350 thousand dollar Richard Mille luxury watch, or a cheap Timex for that matter. I mean the quality and quantity of time itself. We don’t know the time, because we don’t know how much each of us has. No watch will show us that.

And I was walking down the street one day
A pretty lady looked at me and said her diamond watch had stopped cold dead
And I said
Does anybody really know what time it is (I don’t)

My roomie likes to ask me why I never did this or that, and I usually respond that I never had the time to do it. Many of us put off trips and various experiences with the thought that we will do it another time. “I am too busy now,” you might think. But then later in life you discover that time has passed you by and you will never get to a certain restaurant, make a particular trip, observe a special event. Life has turned into a series of “Time Passages.”

Well I’m not the kind to live in the past
The years run too short and the days too fast
The things you lean on are the things that don’t last
Well it’s just now and then my line gets cast into these
Time passages

Often I will parcel out my time in small increments, as if I am accomplishing a lot by doing many things. I will work all day and get home around 6:30. I will work outside until it is almost dark, weather permitting. I will come in and eat and do the dishes. After that I will check my computer for email or ebay sales. Then if I think I have the time, I will designate an hour for watching television. I am usually up each commercial to do something. Then I set up the coffee maker, count out my pills for the next day, organize for the morning and …uh, oh. It’s past my bedtime.

No matter what I am working on the clock on the wall or on my phone or on my computer always creeps in to tell me I am behind schedule.  You can not escape the clock, no matter how hard you try. By adulthood it is just part of us. It started when we were kids, I guess, because we had to be home by 5 or home by dark or home by curfew. In an era before cell phones, when we did not have watches, this time related deadline was tough. Now it seems tougher.

If you like to sit and relax and just clear your mind you may find it hard to do. If you are trying to meditate, let’s say, you may still find yourself peeking at the clock.  In fact you may find yourself some morning thinking you “Should have tried to do some more” but “Feeling like I ought to sleep.” Soon you could be sitting crossed legged on the floor, trying to see if it is 25 or (twenty) 6 to 4 (AM).

In the end what do all the minutes of your life add up to? What do all your experiences mean? Where do all the time passages go? Does anybody really know?

Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes
How do you measure a year in the life?

How about love?
Measure in love
Seasons of love

YOU’VE EITHER GOT IT OR NOT – Rich Paschall

Style, by Rich Paschall

Perhaps you have noticed that it seems to have died out.  You are probably glad of it too.  You did not like it.  You may even have been insulted by it, so it is so long and farewell.  It should be like many style statements we have seen over recent generations.  It is here for a while, then reason sets in.

Of course, we are talking about that so-called “fashion trend” that saw young men wearing their baggy jeans below their rear ends so that we could see their boxer shorts.  I am sure this did as much for makers of boxer shorts as it did for sellers of baggy jeans.  Perhaps these guys have started to realize just how crazy this was.  There may have been some cheap thrill in letting us see their underwear, but as a practical point of view it could not have been dumber.  At least you know these guys were not going to cause trouble.  It is tough when you have to waddle away from the scene of the crime.

Maybe the lack of a Justin Bieber tour helped to kill this idea.  Let’s hope that his next tour (if there is one) does not bring it back, or some equally strange wearing of clothes.  The alleged singer-songwriter stopped his Purpose tour without performing all the shows.  We are not sure of the Purpose or style yet, but we know he is unpopular at certain venues, but I digress …

rollingstone.com

When I was younger we had our strange fashion trends, which I am sure were heavily influenced by the entertainment industry.  If someone looked cool in the movies or on television, then I guess we wanted to look cool too.  I was too young to be influenced by the first wave of the British Invasion.  It did not matter to me what John, Paul, George, and Ringo were wearing.  For clothes choices, I got whatever my mother thought I should have.

As I got a little older I realized, as all kids do, that a little (or a lot) of whining would probably get me a few of the things I liked.  By high school, it was white Levis, madras shirts (plaid) and penny loafers.  I thought this ensemble was cool.  I guess I still do.  For a while, it was “skinny jeans.”  I don’t think we called them that, but they were the type that was difficult to put on and the opening at the bottom of the pants leg was barely big enough for your feet to go through.  I guess we thought we were sexy, like the boys showing off their boxers in more recent times.  Skinny jeans also seem to be quite popular at present, but mostly, it’s young girls.

It was just a few years and then that whole “preppy” look I loved so much was out. A whole collection of things that would not stand the test of time followed.  When skinny jeans gave way to “flares,” that is pants that had wider leg openings at the bottom, and then bell-bottoms we had a whole new look.  Yes, I got those, including the “hip huggers” style.  Those had a lower cut.  Neither my parents nor my grandparents ever wore any such items.

Your wide pants might go with a variety of looks, but maybe not with your Nehru jackets or shirts.   These items may have retained their popularity in India, where they are named after  Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru who served from 1947 to 1964, but they were a brief trend here.  The jackets and shirts with the “mandarin collar” would make you look like a priest if you wore something dark.

Your 70’s hippie look did need “tie-dyed” t-shirts.  I guess those just keep coming back around the style block.  They were always popular with the Grateful Dead crowd and then with Phish, the Grateful Dead for the 21st Century.  I am glad to say I never owned one.  You may think that picture of you with beads, tie-dye shirt, bell-bottom pants and sandals that one of your friends posted on facebook on “throwback Thursday” looks really cool, but I have news for you…

All of this was followed by the regrettable trend we called “leisure suits.”  The polyester creations featured jackets that looked like shirts trying to be jackets.  Unfortunately, a number of pictures of my youthful self in these suits can be found.  My friends who escaped the camera at the time are pleased to point out how unfashionable that look is today, using one of my pictures as an example.  The worst looks were the ones with the leisure suits featuring a polyester, flower-patterned shirts with big collars.  Thanks to the internet and some Boys Club photo albums, I may never live that down.

It would have been easy to be an Urban Cowboy next.  Who does not love a classic American western look?  Following his success in making us all want to look like something out of Saturday Night Fever (which I saw more than once), John Travolta soon convinced us we should change to jeans and ride a mechanical bull.  Yes, the fashion bull kept galloping through our lives and many of us got trampled by it.

It probably would have been better to stick to standard looks that stay in fashion generation to generation.  Frank Sinatra always looked cool.  He has style throughout the ages, even if it was all pretty much the same.  A sharp suit and a fedora hat would have been good, but not as good as a tux with a carnation or other fresh flower and a hat tilted to the perfect angle.

If you do not understand, here’s your primer:

LEADERSHIP – Rich Paschall

What makes a good Leader?
by Rich Paschall

With the election cycle starting up AGAIN, and the seemingly endless Presidential debates we will now endure, it is fair to ask what makes a good Leader.  What traits do we expect a Leader to have?  What do we admire in our leaders?  What qualities do we want to avoid in our leaders?  What generates our respect and our willingness to follow?

Your Vote Counts

It is not enough to say that our leaders should “lead.”  What does that mean exactly?  In a certain sense they all want to lead, but where are they trying to take us?  What message is their leadership style sending?  Are they willing to lead us in a good way?

It is also not enough to say that they should “inspire.”  What does that mean as well?  If they inspire you, I guess you would, of course, want to follow.  Not all inspiration is filled with positive messages or moves in the right direction.  Will we know a good leader when one comes along?

Perhaps at the top of my list would be “trustworthy.”  Can we trust someone to do a good job?  Will they always look out for the best interests of the nation, the community, the local parish or whatever group they are asked to lead?  This trait speaks to the virtue of honesty.  If we trust someone, then we must believe deep down that they are honest.  They will not steal or take advantage of their position.  They will not use their position of authority to enrich themselves at the expense of others.  Do you trust your leaders?

A good leader must also be a “problem solver.”  Every organization will have its challenges along the way and the solutions are not necessarily apparent. This is where a good problem solver is important.

problem solving dogsIt is not that the leader needs to solve the problem himself or herself, it is that they must know the best way to get to the answers that are being sought.  In this regard, leadership might be stepping aside to let someone else handle an issue.

To lead a person must also be self-confident.  In this manner some may come across as cocky or arrogant, which could indeed be the case.  However, one who lacks confidence in what he does can never be a good leader. Indecision will creep in as the dominant trait. Then the leader will find himself following others, falling prey to advice that may not be in the best interests of all.

Which way is your Leader going?

Which way is your Leader going?

Passion is important for those at the top of an organization. I have often seen it at the local level where leaders either do not feel passionate about what they do, or have lost that passion as the years wore on.

Just because you are a good leader in one decade, doesn’t mean that you will be a good leader in the next. Our diocese has a habit of moving successful pastors from one location to another, but success in one place doesn’t mean success at another.  Sometimes a problem arises when the so-called leader does not share the same passion for the next assignment as he did for the previous one.

Leaders must be resilient. They must have the ability to “roll with the punches,” as the saying goes. Some do not take real or perceived criticism well. Their downside begins to show when their side of things indeed seems to be down.

One thing for sure — a leader will face criticism. Not all will agree with everything that is said or done. It’s inevitable. A new leader may enjoy a “honeymoon” period of no criticism, but it won’t last. If you’re President of the United States, for example, you need to know how to deal with criticism.

politicususa.com

A leader needs vision. He or she must have a clear idea of what it is they should do and how they’ll get there. Again, this doesn’t mean the leader has to do it all.  A leader with vision will inspire others to work hard to help a vision become reality. If your vision doesn’t inspire others, you may need to rethink it.

A leader must effectively manage others, especially subordinates in the work place.  This means training, coaching, guiding and building up the resources of the organization, town, state, or country through hard work and careful planning.  “My way or the Highway” is not an effective leadership style, although I have seen some try to use it on the local level.  It is not what any organization needs, and in fact tends to drive away good people.

business2community.com

Problems should be seen as fixable, not something to avoid at all costs. Some so-called leaders would choose the path of least resistance. If they avoid something where there might be even the slight chance of failure or disappointment, they are not leading at all. This is like the “prevent defense” in football.  Sometimes that prevents you from winning.

A good leader also is a good listener. I’m sure you’ve heard “no one learns anything new when he’s talking.”  A leader knows when and how to listen.  A leader knows which questions to ask to get the information to understand the issues and seek the right course of action.

One time I sat down with a local pastor to discuss an event that he felt did not go well in every aspect.  At least I thought it was going to be a discussion. Instead it was an unpleasant hour listening to his negative point of view of certain aspects of the event. I’m not sure he listened to anything I said. He could just as well have had the conversation over coffee with himself.  I’m not sure why I bothered to talk at all.

Are your leaders listening?  Do they care what you think?  Will they serve your interests? When local and national elections come, what traits should your elected officials have?  As you join community organizations, what traits do you want to see in their leadership?

JUDGMENTAL PLATITUDES – Marilyn Armstrong

I am more than one judgmental platitude over my limit. So here’s a short list of aggravating nonsense people spout when they have nothing intelligent to say.

“God never gives you more than you can bear.”

Not only does God (via the bible or any other sacred text) never say that, but it’s not true, whether God is or isn’t the giver. Life gives us all kinds of things we can’t bear. Heart attacks. Unemployment. Losing your home, your kids, your loved ones, and finally your life.

This goes back to the fundamental false belief that we — individually — control our personal destiny. People who say this stuff are also people who have never been faced with an overwhelming issue that they cannot solve.

Moreover, if you say this to someone who is really suffering, you are an ass.

“Age is just a number.”

No, it isn’t. It’s a stage in life. The time where you can’t do what you did when you were younger not because your head is in the wrong place, but because you’ve got arthritis, maybe a heart condition, or whatever else life and DNA have dropped on you. Such statements include layers of not-so-subtle judgments as if you are weak because you have “given in” to age.

If you tried harder, you’d be younger. How does that work? I’d really like to know.

“Everything happens for a reason.” 

Does it now? Including disease? Financial disaster? Death on the highway? What might that reason be?

“Everything works out for the best.”

Tell that to the person getting fired, evicted, dying, in mourning. Don’t stand too close when you say it. It could be dangerous to your health.

“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

What doesn’t kill you, doesn’t kill you. You get to live a while longer. Maybe it will make you stronger, but it is just as likely to cripple you.

Soldiering on is not valor or bravery. It’s simple survival.

“It’s mind over matter. You can do anything you want to do.”

This is the biggest lie parents tell their children. Closer to reality is that you can do anything you want if you have the talent and an opportunity. Not everyone can do anything they want.

Film at eleven!

Mind over matter as in “conquering pain by thinking it away?”

If it isn’t your pain, you have no idea what you’re talking about. Saying this to someone in real pain may actually pump enough adrenaline into their system so they leap from their wheelchair and kill you. No jury would convict them.

“For every cloud, there’s a silver lining.” 

Do I need to dignify this with a response?


Skip the judgments and please, if you have nothing to say, skip the platitudes. If all you have to offer are clichés, shut up. Please.

TURNING SUCCESS INTO FAILURE – Rich Paschall

Thinking Small, Rich Paschall

Some organizations think big and do big.  You may know such organizations.  You may wonder how they accomplish so much.  How can a social service agency, school, church, or park district pull off grand events with a small budget and a small staff?  Yet, there are quite a number that do it.  What is the difference between the successes and those that think big and fail?  What is the difference between thinking bag, and those who just think small?

Image: Mashable.com

Image: Mashable.com

Many think big but fail because they aren’t willing to do the work.  They want to be triumphant, but they are just hoping it will somehow happen. They rely on others stepping up to do what they should be doing.

The truth is that those running an event must step forward. They need to recruit volunteers to do what needs doing to guarantee success.  Some leaders are willing to do this, but many others rely on dumb luck. Dumb being the operative word. It’s the dedication to the task that’s important, not luck.

You have to work harder to find potential leaders and willing workers than in years past. So many things compete for our attention. Life is busier than it used to be … and then, there are the apps on our phones, tablets and laptops. We may not be willing to devote the large chunk of time required to make a successful event. If it took five calls to get two people to help out 20 years ago, maybe it takes 10 calls now. Or 20. Is the organization willing to do it?

In many cases, the answer is no.

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Being reliant on Facebook calls to action and church bulletin messages will likely get you nowhere.  It’s the personal touch that matters.

Text messages and email blasts don’t have the personal touch you need to win volunteers. We are in the digital age and can contact a lot of people quickly by email, social media, and text messaging, but it’s not a reliable road to success. Such messages get lost in the myriad messages that are posted every day.

So, we actually have to talk to people if we want to get their attention.  We have to pick up the phone.  We have to meet them at events.  We have to stand outside of Church, school, wherever and shake their hands.  Even in the digital age, or maybe exactly because of it, we must reach out to people personally, if we want to help a project meet its goal.

UU Church 47

Then there are those who think small from the start.  They see the modern-day task of making a success so daunting that they prefer not to tackle it at all.  These types of “leaders” obviously are not the ones who brought the organization along over the years, but they are certainly the ones to stall it in its tracks.  Saying it is too hard, or it can’t be done, or people will not step forward anymore is admitting defeat from the outset.  It is also proof that they are in the wrong business.  There is a choice to meet the challenge or run from it.  Some choose to run.  Let them go.

Recently, I was involved in an alumni event that found the organization itself dragging its feet on a number of issues.  When the night of the event came, after months of planning meetings, things did not go smoothly.  Nevertheless, it was the largest alumni event they had in decades. Yes, decades.  Were they happy with this?

Because of its shortcomings, the pastor promptly declared it would have been better to run an event for 50 or 60 people than this event for 250 — which was much more work and went poorly. The pastor was upset.

Was it personal embarrassment?  No, because he didn’t work on it. Unfortunately, he was looking for ways to place blame rather than looking for how to make events better in the future.

People who step into leadership roles but who have little leadership experience, are likely to torpedo your efforts. Those who have their hands full already and see an event as too much additional work, will likely trip you up. Those who are afraid of embarrassment and will only accept success — never failure — will only minimally succeed. They’ve already set limits on their potential success. Worse, they have unknowingly limited the likely success of the organizations they are supposed to lead.