Giving makes me feel like I’m living

The above title is a quote offered by Morrie Schwartz, the subject of Mitch Albom’s book “Tuesdays with Morrie.” The book continues to sell with over fifteen million copies sold in 45 countries. It describes Albom’s weekly visits with his favorite teacher and mentor named Morrie.

Albom shared today on CBS This Morning, he was not the only person to routinely visit his mentor. Others went with the goal of cheering up Morrie, but they would leave being comforted as Morrie would invariably ask them about their lives and challenges.

When Albom inquired about this of Morrie, he said “Giving makes me feel like I’m living.” What profound words coming from a teacher. To me, this echoes the term I have used called “psychic income.” Giving to others with your time, ear, support, donations, etc. provides you with a psychic income.

Yet, like with lessons in the book, Morrie’s phrasing of why he gives is much more profound. Albom notes this is the reason his book strikes a chord with so many.

Please honor our teachers, mothers and fathers by paying forward their giving to us. We will also benefit.

No caveats found

Going through my mother’s old things, I came across a book mark that must have resonated with her, as it did with me when I found it. My mother was a teacher in public schools and as a bible study fellowship leader, so even after her death, she can still teach me something.

The book mark quotes Jesus’ words in John 13: 34 – 35, which says:

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you should also love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for another.

In looking at this, three words jump out beside the key word “love.” The first is “commandment,” meaning this is so important it is an additional commandment to the first ten. The second is “everyone,” which means he wants all to see the love each has for another as an exemplar. The last is “disciples,” meaning followers of Jesus should love one another.

Throughout this quote or in adjacent bible verse, I found no caveats. He did not say love only those who agreed with you. He did not say love only those who are heterosexual. He did not say love only people of your race. He did not say love only Christians or Jews, since we have to remember he was a Jewish teacher and referred to often as Rabbi.

In our and our leaders’ efforts to win arguments, we have overlooked what is more important. We need to treat others like we want to be treated. Love may be too strong a word for strangers as we are not nearly as good a person as Jesus, but we should treat each other with dignity and respect. We should listen and hear what others are saying. Winning an argument means little if people are harmed by the outcome.

Have hope not fear

Have hope, not fear. These are the words that mentor and advocate Wes Moore said he wanted on his tombstone during a recent interview at High Point University in North Carolina. They relate to lessons he received as a child.

Moore came to fame when he wrote and did a documentary on the other Wes Moore, who was born to the same circumstances as the author, but made mistakes, was not encouraged and ended up in prison. The author got a Rhodes scholarship and went off to fight in Afghanistan.

When asked what accounted for the differences in the two outcomes, Moore said something simple and profound. He said it is not one thing, it is a lot of things that made a difference. Expectations, encouragement and environment change played roles.

When the author was a smart aleck teen, he was sent to a military school, which he hated. He ran away five times before settling in. What he regrets is he found out his grandparents mortgaged their house to  pay for the school and if had been kicked out, they would have lost everything for nothing.

Moore was quite interesting, but I was left with two comments. As he advocates and mentors young folks, he asks the question, “Who will you fight for?” Be more than just a major, job, or career, be willing to fight for people.

The other is a wonderful quote from entertainer and advocate Harry Belafonte. Belafonte’s reputation as an advocate cannot be overstated. He fought for people. Yet, he offered a selfish reason to go along with his selfless activism. He said rather than getting up and calling my accountant like some performers, I can get up and call Nelson Mandela. Who has the more interesting life? When you fight for the disenfranchised, your life is more interesting.

Have hope, not fear. Let’s fight with hope for a better life for many. If we fight with fear, we will become narrow minded. Plus, if we help others, our lives will be far more interesting. Moore and Belafonte tell us it is so.

The more smug, the less convincing

Over the past several years, I have noticed the more smug* a politician, pundit or public official is when they push back on an issue, the less convincing they are with their argument. The tactic is used to overwhelm the interviewer in a condescending manner, making them look stupid for daring to differ or ask a question.

Our new administration and its supporters seem to be using smugness as a weapon of defense more than any other group I have witnessed. And, as I have noted before, I believe organizations take on the personality of their leader, so they are taking their cue from our President. When caught in a lie, it is never (or as close to never as possible) Trump’s fault or he will try to convince you it is not a lie.

Whether it is Spicer, Conway, Miller, Preibus, Bannon or other officials who have been interviewed, the smugness is brought out like a weapon. “How dare you ask that question or think that way?” is the manner intentionally used to belittle the interviewer.

Yet, the elephant that cannot be ignored in the room is their boss has a very hard time with the truth. During the campaign he is on record as lying about 70% of the time per fact checkers. Not ironically, the fact checkers have revealed he is lying about 70% of the time as President. And, even during his more presidential speech, he had eight or so major misstatements, not to mention the little embellishments. Sadly, this was a prepared speech which could have edited out these misstatements.

But, none of this is new. He has worked with six authors to write biographies and his most popular book, “The Art of the Deal.” In a group interview these authors have noted the man treats truth as a commodity. And, an attorney who worked with him said he lies all of the time, even about inconsequential things. This attorney was amazed at how routine the lying was, especially as he stiffed contractors – Trump would say it was due to bad service, but the frequency of stiffing folks was too common for that to be correct so many times.

So, the next time Trump or one of his spokespeople pulls out the “smug” weapon, listen even more carefully to what is being said and the opinions and questions of the interviewer. Smug does not make you right, it just means you are smug. With a 70% rate of untruthfulness, the odds are the boss is not right and should not be so smug.

 

*Smug is defined as:

having or showing an excessive pride in oneself or one’s achievements:
“he was feeling smug after his win”

synonyms: self-satisfied · self-congratulatory · complacent · superior ·

[more]

pleased with oneself · conceited

Just a thought

Where do you get your information? I ask this because our President seems to get his information from less than reliable sources and then criticizes more legitimate sources for disagreeing with him.

Here are a few questions to ask of your sources:

– if a source of information screams at his audience while his head is turning a very scary shade of red, he might not be a good source of information.
– if a source of information has such a raspy voice from shouting at the wind and name calls everyone who he deems appropriate, then he might not be a good source of information.
– if you get your information from Facebook or Twitter, you need to look carefully at sources cited and use the Twitter feed for headlines only to cause you to dig further on more legitimate sources.
– if you are getting your information from a source that must advertise they are fair and balanced to make up for their bias and inconsistent veracity, then you might want to consider another source for validation.
– if you are getting your information from the current President, stop because he is an unreliable source and has been most of his life.

I encourage you to check multiple sources. I am often asked where I get my information. Several places – PBS Newshour, BBC World News America, NPR, Reuters, and The Guardian. I read articles from my browser feed which come from The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, New York Times, Newsweek, Time, etc. And, my local paper, The Charlotte Observee is a good source for local and state news.

A good sign a news source is reputable is they print errata or correct portions of stories that prove to be inaccurate. Admitting mistakes is a sign of intelligence.

I would also ask people who say inane things about their sources. Our President cites a couple of sources that are known for making things up or creating conspiracies. He even put one on the White House. And, he has actually appeared on one where the host is on record that the Sandy Hook massacre was staged, as an example of his lack of veracity.

Before someone claims fake news, he needs to make sure the things he is saying are legitimate whether it is about his electoral college landslide, voter fraud or unemployment or crime rates.

More wisdom from an astronaut

I have written before of some great advice from astronaut Mike Massimino in his book “Spaceman.” As I read further, I came upon this gem which summarizes what matters most which applies to more than being an astronaut.

Massimino was influenced by the movie “The Right Stuff,” which defined by example what it took to be a test pilot and astronaut. But, after becoming an astronaut and watching his fellow astronauts help him when his father was being treated for cancer, he made the following important observation.

“If you’ve ever wondered what the right stuff is….It’s not about being crazy enough to strap yourself to the top of the bomb. That’s actually the easy part. It’s more about character, serving a purpose greater than yourself, putting the other guy first, and being able to do that every single day in every aspect of your life. People ask me all the time what it takes to become an astronaut. It’s not about being the smartest or having the most college degrees. The real qualifications are: Is this someone I’d trust with my life? Will this person help look after my family if I don’t make it home?”

Massimino notes there are smarter people than he who did not make the cut to be considered. Yet, he had been a great teammate in every thing he was involved with and honored the process by seeking help and learning from others. His education was guided by the goal of becoming an astronaut. Yes, he was also smart, but he said these other attributes were essential.

Reading this made me realize how translatable these vital attributes are to other disciplines. Being a good teammate, asking for help and offering help will carry you far in many endeavors. He noted that previous astronauts, like Neil Armstrong, John Glenn and Jim Lovell were most gracious and giving with their time and advice. That is a lesson for us all and an example to the newer crop of astronauts.

Personal Finance Education is Essential

Attending a recent Board meeting for an agency that helps working homeless families obtain sustainable permanent housing, a thought struck me. We partner a licensed clinical social worker with families to help them on their journey while we offer temporary rent subsidies based on the client’s ability to afford 30% of the housing and utility costs relative to their monthly income,

Much of what these social workers do is help with budgeting for “needs” and prioritizing less “wants.” Yet, another key element is to require the parent(s) to attend classes on personal finance training. We partner with another agency to do just that.

The thought I had is we should require high school students to take a semester course on personal finance. One of my sons took this course as an elective, so I know the curriculum exists at least in our public schools. And, he benefited from it.

This course could run the gambit from monthly budgets to checking/ savings accounts to investments to credit/ loans to ID theft prevention. We are largely a financially illiterate nation. This would help educate people to make more informed decisions.

To illustrate my point, there was an economic study in New York several years ago called “Class Matters.” The study demonstrates that people in a lower socio-economic class ask fewer questions of advisors, bankers, lenders, etc, when they should be asking more. I call it the “suit and tie” effect. This is how people can sign up for mortgages they cannot afford, how they can succumb to predatory lending on car loans or make the mistake of using a pay-day lender. These folks are preyed upon because of their financial illiteracy. This also is one of the reasons for the 2007 housing crisis as lenders provided mortgages to riskier lendees.

I am not saying mandatory personal finance training will end homelessness or poverty, but it will arm our graduates to budget better and ask more questions. Avoiding 23% car loans can impact a budget in a major way.

If you agree, please reach out to your local papers and politicians. To me, this a sustainable and impactful change.