"I asked for a car; I got a computer."

Looking for a commentary that uses big words and ponders the deeper meanings of various topics? Well...you've come to the wrong place. This blog is all about extolling the greatness of Christ, the joy of marriage, the rollercoaster ride called parenthood, the supremacy of the 1980's...and doing all of it at a fifth grade reading level!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

What's wrong with this picture...

One of my co-workers was trolling through facebook today...when they happened on this most unfortunate photo...taken some time in the Spring of 1992. It's a picture of the "leadership" (and I use that term ever-so-loosely) of the Senior Class at Abilene Christian University. Though this picture is of some great men (a doctor, two ministers, and a principal...oh, and Terry Sparks and I are in there, too!), there are also some significant problems.
1. Stephen Bailey's hat (far left) - No hat should look like it has been pressed and starched!
2. Craig Fisher (third from right) - Ah...where has the sweater vest gone?
3. Terry Sparks (second from right) - Acid wash. C'mon...really?
4. Me (far right...and yes, to quote Nirvana, I'm "half the man I used to be): The weave belt only worked if you had enough belt to weave. Unfortunately, I tried to take a belt that actually fit and turn it into something it wasn't.
5. Me (again!): No, I have no idea what was going through my mind when I selected that shirt from my closet. It was probably a shirt my mother bought for me...at least that's my story.
6. Six guys should NEVER look that happy to be hugging one another.
Feel free to chime in with any other glaring atrocities that you might see. Oh...and a special thanks to Brandon Scott Thomas for giving my wife yet another reason to roll in laughter at my expense!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Reflections While Cleaning Out My Hard Drive

I was cleaning a bunch of old files off my hard drive this morning...when I ran across a short essay I wrote for a class I took. When I first came back to work for Abilene Christian University I was bound and determined to complete my Masters degree. Well....at least I STARTED working on my Masters.

Anyhow, one of the classes I took was called Cultural Diversity, taught by the late, great Charles Trevathan. Each student was tasked with interviewing someone of a different race, and find out what they thought about their experience at ACU.

One of our student workers in the Alumni Relations office suggested I track down a young lady from St. Thomas, named Dacia Samuel, and interview her. What a wonderful experience this was...and following is the essay I wrote (got an "A!")

The last time I walked into Sikes Dormitory was in the spring of 1990. While my goals fourteen years later were considerably different than they were back then, the results were the same – I met a sweet, charming young lady.

Dacia Samuel was born and raised in St. Thomas of the Virgin Islands. She had never left the tiny island of 56,000 people nestled in the Caribbean until her first day on the campus of Abilene Christian University. To see this young lady walking across campus one would classify her as African American, but her beautiful Caribbean accent quickly nullifies that categorization. Dacia does not refer to herself as African American. “I’m black, but I’d prefer to just be called ‘Dacia.’”

While she has loved her Abilene experience (“I never knew people could be so friendly,” she says), the West Texas landscape has often caused her to become a little homesick. There are other characteristics of West Texas that cause her to long for her tiny island. Society is much more laid back in St. Thomas. People are not in such a hurry to be on time. For instance, while the sign on her St. Thomas church building says worship begins at 9:00AM, one may count on it being 9:20 before the first “good morning” is uttered.

And though Dacia has a boyfriend here in the United States, she has noted something interesting about men on the ACU campus. “They are so sensitive,” she said with a giggle. “You can’t say stuff to boys here that you would say back home. They get their feelings hurt too easy.”

The number of prejudice moments she has experienced while in Texas have been few and far between. And even the moments she has experienced have been more out of ignorance than meanness or hatred. One particular instance she noted came from the ACU administration. A survey was taken on students’ satisfaction with Chapel. Several students made comments on the survey that a large number of black students routinely disrupted Chapel by leaving too early. An announcement was made at the Thursday “small group chapel” for Essence of Ebony asking for black students to refrain from leaving early. Dacia sited that a similar number of white students may be seen leaving Chapel early as well, and questioned whether they were admonished for their behavior.

Dacia has experienced more discrimination in her homeland than she has in the United States. Though small in size and in land mass, society on the island of St. Thomas remains segregated. The schools on St. Thomas are segregated – white kids go to school with white kids and vice versa. Dacia said that it is common knowledge on St. Thomas that white people go to the movies early while the blacks go to the later movies, and rarely do the races interact with one another

The one place where there is no segregation on St. Thomas is at Church. The church of Christ on St. Thomas is an even mix of white and black people. She loves her congregation back at home, but the worship at her home congregation in Abilene – the predominantly black 10th & Treadaway Church of Christ – makes Sunday morning the highlight of her week. Worship on the island is more reserved than at her experience at Treadaway. “We just sound like we’re full of joy and that we’re happy that God is alive,” she says with a huge smile.

Dacia is encouraged by the lack of prejudice she has witnessed while at ACU. While she expected the transition to life on a predominantly white campus to be difficult, it has been much easier than she anticipated. On-campus groups like Essence of Ebony along with other international students provide a valuable support group for minority and international students. Such groups also encourage Caucasian students to participate in their events. One such event is Chai Café, a weekly event held each Thursday night with the goal of mingling international students with other student groups. Though sparsely attended by Caucasian students Dacia is pleased to see international students attempting to cross cultural lines.

Essence of Ebony is another on-campus group that has created a great support group for Dacia as well as other black students. Dacia sees Essence of Ebony’s commitment to bringing black culture to the ACU campus as a positive step towards increasing racial harmony. However she would like to see Essence of Ebony reconsider their strategy on certain programs. “Essence of Ebony is not exclusively for black students; we want all types of students to be involved with our program,” Dacia said, “but we’ve named things so that only black students will want to attend." In her opinion some of their strategies have been more discriminatory than anything else she had witnessed on campus.

Dacia is not overly concerned by her fellow students’ lack of knowledge of her country. However she grows tired of pinpointing exactly where St. Thomas is located. “United States citizens know very little about the outside world, but they expect everyone to know about their country,” Dacia remarked, adding that ACU students tend to think St. Thomas is part of either Jamaica or the Bahamas.

Dacia Samuel is a sophomore working toward a degree in Management. She is confident, intelligent, well-spoken, thoughtful, and spiritual. Combined with a fabulous smile and a glorious accent, she is guaranteed to be a success in whatever career she chooses. She is not overly concerned with the fact that there are people in her new nation, her new city, and even on her college campus who hate her because of the color of her skin. Instead she chooses to surround herself with people who will support her and encourage her to accomplish her goals.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Other Reasons for RUNNING

I didn't realize it had been so long since I had written anything in my blog...so I apologize to both of you for my long hiatus. Actually...since I work in the world of Academia, let's call it a "sabbatical."

So I was in the locker room the other day, fresh off my four-mile jaunt around the campus, and I'm visiting with a gentleman that has emerged from the pool. "You're a runner, aren't you," he says to me. "I see you running around campus a lot." I nodded in acknowledgment, since I find it uncomfortable talking to strangers when I'm wearing nothing but a towel. "I hate to run," he continues, "but I really enjoy swimming."

He had struck a nerve with me, and caused me to hearken back to one of my most embarrassing and miserable experiences of my adult life.

I guess it all started when I was a child. Being reared in a staunch, ultra-conservative Church of Christ home, I was raised with the understanding that water is to be used for three purposes. They are, in order: (1)Baptism, (2)Bathing, (3)Drinking. Notably absent from this list is swimming...especially swimming of the mixed variety (often referred to as mixed-bathing by parents to ensure that the sinfulness of this dreadful act receives the highest attention).

Long story short, it was the summer before my 8th grade before I learned to swim...and I only learned then as a fit of desperation - I jumped into my uncle's pool, and learned as a matter of life or death.

Fast forward 22 years. Working in the Office of Alumni Relations at ACU is a young man of significant athletic talent and ability who has taken up swimming as a form of exercise. Every day at lunch, while I would run or play basketball, he would swim scores of laps in the ACU pool. He would often encourage me to come with him, but I would decline citing my glaring lack of swimming skill. He told me not to worry - that there were other people with far less athletic talent than I who swam during lunch.

After weeks of encouragement, I finally decided to give it a go. I left the ol' running shoes in the bag in favor of a pair of swim trunks.

This should have been my first indication that I was in trouble...for the swim trunks that I brought were the kind that you wear while running around on the beach or while playing in the pool. They were not the sort of aerodynamic (or AQUAdynamic) swimwear that one wears while striving to swim laps in a pool.

But this does not phase me as I trot into the pool area wearing my maroon floral shorts. There are already folks in the pool, traversing the 25 meter distance with relative ease. Sitting off to the side looking completely disinterested is a young lady in shorts and a t-shirt (with the word LIFEGUARD) across the front. Beside her is a flotation device which looks as though it hasn't been used in years.

I remove my shirt and quickly jump into the pool (didn't want the poor girl to get ill!), and off I go! Since I don't have much experience swimming farther than a few feet at a time, I opt for the "put your head down and go" method. What the heck - breathing is overrated! I reach the end of the pool, grab the wall, and turn to look at the other end of the pool. To my shock it looks as though the distance has multiplied!

Unphased by this revelation I once again put my head into the water, take a good push-off from the wall and start heading back the other way. I'm approximately 2/3 of the way to the wall when my oxygen supply begins to run out. Having watched the summer Olympics my entire life, I feel confident that I know the breathing technique that world-class swimmers use. So I turn my head to one side, take a breath and return my head to the water. Unfortunately, I don't quite get my entire nose and mouth out of the water. In an instant I flew into a panic, coughing underwater while still flailing my arms and legs in an effort to get to the wall. Somehow I managed to reach the shallow end. I stood up to finish the gagging process and noticed that the lifeguard, who previously had been sitting back in a relaxed state, was now sitting at the edge of her chair...like she was watching an Alfred Hitchcock movie.

Paying her no mind, I began my second trip through the pull. This time, however, I opted for the "throw your head from side to side" method of breathing (I don't think that's the technical term for it). Halfway to the deep end it felt as though I was towing a small boat. My strength (or lack thereof) began to give out, so I stopped to tread water for a bit. While doing so, I noticed that the lifeguard was no longer sitting, but was standing beside her chair. Using this as motivation I stuck my head in the water and swam with all my might. Mercifully I reached the wall.

As I once again admired the distance I must travel to get back to the shallow end I looked around the pool...and everything had grown still. All of the swimmers had stopped where they were. It reminded me of a showdown in an old Western film. Two gunfighters meet in the middle of town to settle the score, and the townspeople turn out to watch the carnage unfold. And I felt like the gunfighter that everyone knew was going to catch a bullet.

Once again, I plunged beneath the chlorinated waves endeavoring to cover another 25 yards. But I could feel myself fighting the losing battle. I grabbed the rope that lines the lanes and looked up - I was barely halfway there. The lifeguard, once standing by her chair had now worked her way to the edge of the pool. I ventured forth again - legs kicking wildly; arms flailing against the water like a child playing Whack-A-Mole at Chuck E. Cheese. When I finally reached the shallow end I put my feet down and walked the rest of the way in.

I quickly exited the pool, wrapped myself in a towel, smiled and shrugged my shoulders at the once-again-seated lifeguard, went to the locker room, put on my running shoes, and headed out to a form of exercise that I feel much more comfortable with!