Posts Tagged ‘relationship’

          Although it sounds cliche, pay-it-forward is the approach I take in most things I do. This especially applies to teaching and working with youth. I guess it’s my way of paying tribute to the people who saw beyond my mistakes and through my insecurities and

Courtesy of Google Images 

poor self-image. These people consist of the “others” in my life. The ones who had the heart and foresight to look past everything within myself I perceived to be negative. The ones who refused and refuted my excuses, who saw and drew out qualities and abilities I didn’t know I possessed.

          The “Why” statement for my life is this. “I want to help young people not make the same mistakes I made…to help them discover, develop, and deploy their own value and sense of purpose in life. I want every youth with whom I have contact to know they are valuable and have purpose and something meaningful to offer this world.”  I am confident that emulating and honoring the memory of loving, supportive “others” in my life is the strategy that will propel me to success in my endeavor to make a difference in the lives of young people.

          I consider myself to have achieved success and happiness in life. For this, I am grateful to God and appreciative for the “others” He has placed on my path. I know,

Original Art by Joe

without doubt, that every measure of accomplishment I have achieved or will ever obtain is due, in no small part, to the “others” who have answered the call to pour and sow into my life. One of my prime goals, now, is to honor my “others” by answering my own call to be an “other” to as many people as I can. From my perspective, this is how we overcome evil by doing good.  And…isn’t this exactly what the world we live in needs?

          When we fight hatred with hatred, hatred wins. Hate focuses on what is negative…the differences between us. Not only that, it thrives and feeds on negatives and differences. Love, on the other hand, looks past the negative and promotes the positive. Love sees how we are all similar and how we are all connected. Love is what motivated the “others” in my life to look past my differences and negatives. The love OF “others” FOR “others” is the only thing that will make a meaningful difference in our world. I know I now have a responsibility to those who have sown into my life to sow into the lives of others. This is how the movements of Paying-It-Forward and Honoring-The-Others combine to perpetuate the power of goodness. By taking responsibility and showing gratitude for being the beneficiary of the goodness of others in your life.

          And…if you’re being honest, you would have to recognize that you have had them, too. Do some self-reflection. Think about the people who saw good in you when nobody else did. Not even you. Think about those people who didn’t give up on you when everybody else did. Even you. Think about those people who looked past the mistakes and failures, who, when you fell, extended their hand to lift you up one more time. These are the “others” in your life. Write their names down. List their contributions to your life. If they are still alive, thank them. Then… GO…

…do the same for someone else.

Peace and blessings…



It’s unfortunate that band mates will sometimes leave when you start singing a different tune.

We Are Connected Assembly

Courtesy of Alina Felix

It was my blessing and pleasure to take part in this year’s first pep-assembly at Villago Middle School in Casa Grande, Arizona, today. Our theme was “We Are Connected” which is adapted from the book “The 7 Mindsets.”  These are the words I was inspired to write and given the privilege of delivering to 850 middle schoolers and their families and guests in attendance.  Thank YOU for taking the time to read them, as well.

~ Peace and blessings…




We…are connected … let me make this very plain;

Even though we’re all different … we’re really still the same.

Not our age, religion, or the house we live in;

The language we speak or the color of our skin.

Not the car we cruise … or the money we make;

Or a million different ways … people … can be fake.

Yeah, we’re all connected … by the REAL THINGS inside us,

Not the simple-minded pettiness that strives to divide us…

Or, the walls we build up … to protect us and hide us.

Choosing HATE over LOVE … is creating a virus.

We are connected … but, sometimes, it’s hard to see;

When we’re focused on ourselves, what’s mine, and just me!

While demanding our rights … we push others aside;

Display our true colors … and our self-serving pride.

We ARE connected … but until we accept it …

Hostility and hatred … can always be expected.

Yeah, we’re all connected … by the REAL THINGS inside us,

Not the simple-minded pettiness that strives to divide us…

Or, the walls we build up … to protect us and hide us.

When we choose HATE over LOVE … we’re INFECTED by the virus!

In the struggle of life … there is no greater sin,

Than fighting hatred WITH hatred … cuz then, hatred wins.

To counter this punch … love MUST be our choice,

To open up our hearts … and be equality’s voice.

So, get your eyes off the lies the NEWS has us seeing,

And focus on THIS … we’re ALL human beings!

So, open up your eyes to the BEAUTY inside us,

Not the meaningless pettiness that grinds and divides us;

Or the walls we build up … to protect us and hide us.

Choosing HATE over LOVE … infects us with the virus.

We … are connected … there’s great strength in numbers,

So, let your love and compassion … ARISE from their slumber.

Embrace every difference … cuz one MIGHT be…

The doorway to a future … you never could see.

You can learn from everybody … they know something you don’t.

The choice is up to you … you either will or you won’t.

We ARE … connected … we’re all human, for real;

We’re connected by life … and emotions we feel.

Happiness, joy, sorrow, and pain…

THEY’RE all colorblind … THEY see us the same.

But, being connected … gives us people to share…

Our joyful celebrations … or … the burdens we bear.

So, open up your eyes to the BEAUTY inside us,

Not the meaningless pettiness that grinds and divides us.

Cuz the love from above … is right here to guide us.

Choosing LOVE over HATE … is the CURE for the virus!

We ARE connected … despite hatred’s pollution,

if you embrace fifty people … you got fifty more solutions!

Instead of being judgmental … and pushing people away,

Open up your heart … and hear what they say.

We gain so much … from the WISDOM of others;

We’re the HUMAN RACE family … we’re all sisters and brothers.

So, open up your eyes to the BEAUTY inside us,

Not the self-centered judgment that grinds and divides us.

Cuz the love from above … is right here to guide us.

Choose LOVE over HATE … and DEMOLISH the virus!








Recently, a dear friend and colleague lost her precious father to cancer.  I’m blessed to work with a pretty close knit bunch so, needless to say, although not to the same extent, her pain was also ours.  As I reflected on the many times she has shared with us about her special relationship with her dad, the words of this poem began to flow.  The fact that I have four daughters and three granddaughters helped me, I believe, to voice these words from a


Courtesy of Google Images

father’s heart.  The fact that I have lost my precious mother-in-law to the ravages and relentlessness of cancer offers a second, unpleasant voice of experience along with a compassion to console those who are encountering the same.  To my joy and satisfaction, these words were received with heartfelt gratitude and appreciation.  And, now, with my friend’s permission I share them with you hoping they will offer some consolation or inspire some reflection as you face the losses, whatever they may be,  in your own life.

~ Peace and blessings…



Daddy’s Little Girl

There’s nothing quite like a girl and her dad…the bond just can’t be denied;

Through countless troubles and trials she’s had…he’s wiped every tear she has cried.

When all else fails, an immovable rock…He is constant and strong and sure;

Unconditional love measures his talk…his embrace gives her strength to endure.

Her childhood fears all melted away…in the protection of his arms;

Thoughts redirected by his loving sway…she was captured by his charms.

Sometimes he was quiet without a word…he refrained from any speaking,

But still he’d guide by the wisdom she heard… to the answers she’d been seeking.

His character and values are her constant guide…as she carves her way through this life;

But life can be hard so she sometimes hides…overwhelmed by hardships and strife.

In the comfort and solace of memories she ponds… she hears his loving voice;

Affirming so clearly the lessons so fond…directing her to a choice.

No, there’s nothing quite like a dad and his girl…the king on the throne of her heart.

No bond can compare in this whole wide world… no, nothing can keep them apart.

Come hell or high water, through all she’ll abide…for in her heart of hearts she knows;

Regardless of distance, his love’s by her side…no matter how far she goes.

Even in death he is close by and near…though gone from her physical touch;

But somehow joy erases the fear… ‘cause she knows he loved her much.

A lifetime of lessons and memories to sift…come crashing through her brain;

Each one a stair step which gently lifts…her grieving heart from pain.

And, now she daddys_girlponders while deep in thought…the blessing she knows as dad;

What he leaves behind can never be bought…he gave her all that he had.

For of titles, positions, and successes obtained…all coveted by this world;

No greater achievement for her can be gained…                                                  

                                                                           …than to be her Daddy’s Girl.

There is no greater super power than that of a well placed affirmation.

“Stand for something or you’ll fall for anything.”

I love this maxim! It’s a reminder to me that purpose is a source of peace. As an employee of a school district in my community, today I will see the students I have not seen for the past two weeks. Today it’s back to work. I’m excited to see them because teaching them about life is among the causes for which I stand.

I take a stand by “letting my light so shine before men that they see my good works and bring glory to my Father in heaven.” I take a stand by doing my best to affirm to every person I encounter that they have value and they are important. God loves me so I can love them. God loves me so I must!Healing-Broken-Heart

That’s my cause. It’s my calling. Not to preach. Not to organize activities. Not to tell people how important going to church is. But to shine the love of God into the darkness of the world I traverse. Every time an unloved person feels love they can be inspired by the hope that God exists. Perhaps this hope will begin their search. That’s my cause. It gives my life purpose and in that purpose I find peace.

I was told once by a pastor that I was through with youth ministry. I had run my course and it was time to move on to “different ministry.” That was nearly a decade ago. I am no longer affiliated with any church but today I report to work at a school with almost 900 middle school students. I return to work at a school with 40 staff members. I will teach them many of the same lessons I taught in church for over twenty years. That’s what I stand for.

By God’s grace I will do my best to live my life in love for Him and for others. But what about the Gospel message, you say? The Gospel message and the principles of faith in God are more than just sermons. It’s a lifestyle. And, my God ordained job is to ensure that everybody I meet along my journey through life knows that at least one person on earth loves them. In so doing, it just might point them to the Author of love. So, today, as I return to work…that’s what I stand for

…and I won’t fall for anything else.

…Peace and blessings…

~ joe

“Will you JUST hear me OUT!?”

“I just WANT to be HEARD!”

“It’s like you’re not even listening to me!”

“I don’t need your answer. I just need you to understand.”

I can’t tell you how many times over the course of my career I have heard these and similar statements from the young people I have worked with (grown-ups, too).  Heck, I’ve even heard them from my own kids!  Usually, accompanied by some contorted facial gesture, an oxygen diminishing sucking of wind followed by a heavy guttural sigh, and a scene from The Exorcist rolling of the eyes. “GEEZ, DaaaaaaaaaD! (heavy enunciation on the D’s … while rolling eyes) It’s like your NOT even listening to meeeee!” (with clenched fists and gritting teeth)  Oooh.  I just had a flash back!

Everyone wants to be heard. Not just young folks. Everyone.

I have always fancied myself a good listener. However, as much as I like to believe so, it has not always been the case. Not that I haven’t always listened but that I sometimes have listened with an agenda. In the past, I have listened to respond.

Any of you grown-ups out there guilty? Here’s an example of how it has gone down with me. Maybe you can relate.

One day a student came to me with a major problem. Sulking and with the weight of the world pulling down the corners of his mouth and eyes and shoulders, he mumbled…“Got a minute, I need to talk?  Looking up from whatever important thing I was doing at the moment, I gave him the nod. “Sure.” The student fell into a chair and sat with his elbows on his knees and his forehead firmly cradled in his hands. Manning up to fight back tears, he proceeded to explain how his heart was crushed. His life just simply could never be the same because the girl he liked…the girl of his dreams… didn’t like him back.  Suddenly there was no more color in the world…Life had dimmed to a wretched gray-scale… Flowers no longer had fragrance… Food had no taste…His radio channel only played sad songs. He was a miserable mess.

You know the scenario?


Courtesy of Google Images

Having heard this story countless times before, I impatiently listened as his melt down continued. At some point, as he poured out his soul, my mind drifted to my own school days and the unfortunate experiences I had at not being liked back (which I now call wisdom). I thought, “I got through it…eventually. And so can he!” This tragic walk down memory lane occurred all while maintaining eye contact and affirming my attention to his relational roller-coaster with strategically placed nods and “uh-huhs.”

I told you I was listening.

I already had the answer. I knew just what I was going to say. I was ready to fix his problem and I hadn’t even finished hearing it. Boy, was I good or what? I just wished he’d stop talking so I could dazzle him with my incredible knowledge, vulnerable transparency, and the inspiration of my life goes on speech. The very speech to which the love bashed youth ungratefully replied, “I don’t need an answer. I just want you to understand what I’m going through.”  The nerve of the guy! Did he not realize I had just dropped some major knowledge on him? I wish I could remember his name.

Does this sound familiar?

Sometimes parents, educators, mentors, and youth workers have the misguided expectation that we have to have all the answers for the youngsters who confide in us.  We also have the misguided assumption that they want to hear them. To be fair, this expectation and desire generally comes from a good place.  We want to help.  We want to have an impact and inspire the next generation.  We want to make a difference. All good and noble motivation, to be sure. It’s how we’re wired and the reason we do what we do.

Despite the nobility of our motivation, many times we offer answers that students don’t need to hear, don’t want to hear, or are not ready to hear. In these cases, our answers, regardless of how on-point and undeniably awesome they are, can create more confusion than the situation that created the questions. And sometimes, there are no questions. There’s just hurt. In some more extreme cases our responses can cause loss of confidence in us as advisers and even estrangement. Our zeal to make a difference becomes counter-productive.

Over the years, I have adopted the concept of listening to understand versus listening to respond.  I know it’s not a new method and it’s a simple concept. It’s one of those minute to learn…lifetime to master things. Nonetheless, it can be mastered. It just takes practice. This simple practice has worked wonders in my personal relationships at home, as well as, my professional connections. It has equally worked wonders with the students I work with every day.

It’s no secret that kids want acceptance. They want to know they can be themselves without judgment or criticism. Too often, our answers, with all their wisdom, sound to them like just that. Judgment and criticism. Kids just want to be heard and reaffirmed that its okay to feel what they feel. You don’t have to agree with their feelings or opinions. You don’t have to approve of their actions. Unless they ask a direct question, you don’t have to provide answers. And, even then, it’s okay to say, “I don’t know.” Just listen to understand what they are going through and you might gain some insight to their feelings, opinions and actions. You might learn something valuable about them and  gain their trust along the way.

The only way they will ever grow through the emotions and rigors of childhood and adolescence is by feeling those emotions and enduring those rigors. Listening to understand can place you in a prime location to guide them from where they are to where they can go. That’s the opportunity we’re all looking for, right?

I have found over the years that the best way to lead someone down the path to what they will some day be, is to accept who they are now.

Listening to understand is the beginning  and a demonstration of that acceptance.

…Peace and Blessings…

~ joe