Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Be Prepared

This past weekend will long be remembered in the Saint Louis area -- particularly by those living near the airport when the tornado hit. The terminal's architecture didn't stand a chance against the storm's fierce blasts. Twisted metal, broken glass and open sky where a roof should be -- all attested to the power of 100-mile-per-hour winds as they slammed into the structure. But the airport wasn't the only property damaged. Hundreds of homes and businesses suffered structural damage and, in some cases, complete destruction. Worship was suspended at Good Friday services in many area churches as parishioners headed for structurally safer areas. One congregation emerged from its shelter only to find the roof of its building had vanished. But St. Louis was only one affected area in the country. Violent weather, pounding rains, lightning, hail and strong winds buffeted states from Texas northward. In the process it spawned tornadoes and property destruction across several Midwestern locations.

Unfortunately last week's storms may be merely a nasty preview of damage that spring floods may bring as snow melt and fresh rains swell streams and rivers beyond their banks and levies. As bad as the destruction from this past weekend's storms was, the costs pale in comparison to losses incurred from the Japanese tsunami and the Haitian earthquake.

We have experienced a very interesting weather pattern this past winter and spring with record levels of snow, rain and storms wreaking havoc on people and property across the country. So, it may not be a question of "if" but rather a question of "when" will a disaster impact you and your loved ones? Sometimes we have a few minutes' warning before bad weather hits. Sometimes we don't know about it at all. Either way, we -- and our property -- are vulnerable.

Are you prepared?

We hope so. There is great value in regularly reviewing your disaster plans with your family. This instruction includes everything from having easily accessible contact info for family members and emergency personnel to knowing where to meet in the event of a disaster. It includes having a pre-made "go bag" on hand filled with essential supplies, and it means family members can find critical information immediately when it is needed.

You can find information for disaster preparation from many sources including www.ready.gov, www.redcross.org, and others.

Men, your emergency preparations for your family can mean life or death in a disaster. It is also important your family can operate in a self-sufficient manner should you not be there to provide the leadership they need.

As one of those parishioners who had to find shelter during the church service last Friday, it was a relief to know preparations were in place to provide for our safety.

Men, how prepared is your family for an emergency?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Lessons Learned Turkey Hunting

In certain states, now is the time when hunters head to their favorite spot to bag a big tom -- turkey, that is -- longbeard. Hunters are lovingly cleaning their shotguns, checking their camo and tweaking their calls to gobbler-enticing perfection. After all, there is nothing so tasty as a big tom bagged in the woods. Turkey hunting is also a time to learn some good life lessons.

Patience is key. The turkey hunter may sit still for hours, calling out, only to have his efforts fail. Does the hunter give up? No, the hunter will regroup and try again. Over and over the hunter will call out the seductive calls the tom loves to hear, until such time as the light fades, the season ends or the turkey is in the bag. Patience is the virtue that separates the successful hunter from the unsuccessful one.

Patience is a virtue all men can use -- not just hunters. The man who practices patience will ultimately prevail over the man who charges ahead, trying to outrun everyone else. Sometimes a man has to figuratively sit with his back to a tree, calling out to those around him, luring them in. A man that can sit still and wait for the right opportunity will have more success than the man who can't sit still.

Act decisively. The hunter who lines up his shot, only to hesitate, will find his shot missing the mark more often than not. Once the hunter has the tom in his sights, he must act. He must act deliberately, but act he must. If he waits, if he hesitates on the trigger, he will have nothing but a loud ringing in his ears instead of a nice dinner.

Decisive action is another virtue men should use. Deliberate, decisive action can lead men through the path and pitfalls of life, while indecision and hesitation will often sidetrack and derail a man. Think about that infamous question wives ask: "What do you want for dinner?" The man who answers deliberately and decisively with "steak" will more often than not see a big, juicy steak on his dinner plate. The man who hems and haws around with an "I don't know. Whatever" will likely get just that: some steamed zucchini, a nice bowl of roughage and, if he's lucky, a char-grilled veggie burger -- but no steak.

Use the right call. A "cluck" works to get a tom's attention, a "purr" means contentment and a "putt" sounds an alarm. If a hunter putts when he should purr, the tom flees. Hunters need to use the right call to bring the tom within striking range.

Guys, we need to use the right "call" words for optimum results. If we yell when we should soothe, we hurt those around us instead of helping them. Guys, choose your words carefully and then work on how you deliver them. Saying "I'm sorry" in an angry or sarcastic tone of voice doesn't quite convey a sense of apology.

The best part of turkey hunting just may be the time spent in the woods, however. Sometimes we need to get away by ourselves and recharge. Hunting may not be it for you, but something is. Perhaps it's golf, reading a book, watching a movie, cutting the grass, walking the dog, changing the oil or something else that gets you outside your routine and helps you take time to recharge and be a better husband, father, coach and friend.

I can't wait to get away. Gobble, gobble!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Trust Me

It seems many people in today's world want our trust. Politicians, salespeople, phone solicitors, TV news reporters, teenagers and a host of others pitch themselves as worthy of our confidence. "Trust me," they say, in an attempt to win us over. Once that switch is flipped and our allegiance is given, the other party has made an inroad into getting what it wants: politicians get our votes, salespeople get our money, phone solicitors get our order, TV news reporters get our attention, teenagers get our car keys -- and so on.

The old saw goes like this: "Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me." That seems to sum up our feelings about trusting others. For example, I went to a carnival once and was drawn into playing a "game of chance." Now it seemed as if the game was honest. It seemed as if there were actual winners. It seemed as if it was a minimal risk, so I indulged. It only took the game operator five minutes to relieve me of my discretionary funds. It took my wife less than three more to escort me away from the game before I dug deeper, still somehow sure the contest was basically honest.

These days I enjoy walking through casinos. I admire the architecture as I people watch and eat free hot dogs (at least in the better casinos). What I rarely do, however, is gamble. I simply don't run with feelings of greed and easy money anymore. I've learned to see beyond the mirage that promises a big payout for a tiny investment. I should thank the carnival guy for this, I suppose, but I'm still mad at him. Okay. I must confess: he did teach me a valuable lesson -- made even clearer by an astute wife.

A good friend often quotes this line: "Nothing puts a bad business out of business faster than good advertising." His point is good advertising can and does generate customers, but if the customers are lied to, cheated or have their expectations unmet -- they will stop coming. Furthermore, they tell everyone they know not to shop at that business. Needless to say, the business suffers greatly -- sometimes with irreparable damage being done.

It's easy to see how trust is broken in the political world. Most campaign promises are deemed null and void once the politician is warming a chair in his or her new office. I can be cynical here as I remember the days when a man's word was his bond. In other words, if a man promised something he would deliver. Even politicians back in the day would deliver on campaign promises.

These days, both the business and political worlds are often viewed with deep skepticism. And why shouldn't they be? They've earned our mistrust. But what about your own house? What would it take for your family to mistrust you? How many broken promises would it take before your children begin to question your word? (Just guessing here, but I would think you get like one shot at it.) How many burned dinners would it take for your wife not to trust when you will come home from work? (Again -- just guessing here -- but maybe two?) How many missed appointments, missed trips, missed outings and missed allowance raises before your word carries little to no weight at all?

Trust is a funny thing. It seems solid when you feel people believe what you say. But it's so easy to forget how painful it is when they don't -- and when their reason for not believing what you have to say is because you can't be trusted.

Trust needs to be constantly earned. Once trust is lost it seems it then takes an almost ridiculous amount of time and action before it is restored. Sometimes it never is.

Who do you trust? That's probably a pretty easy question to answer.

Now flip it over. Who trusts you? That's a more important question -- trust me.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

I am Sorry

It has been postulated that the three most important words in any relationship are "I Love You." Important as those are, however, I would venture to guess those three words are probably number two. To me, "I am sorry," should be the number one phrase for any relationship. It may be hard to say, "I love you," but, in my opinion, "I am sorry," is by far harder. When somebody says he or she is sorry, that person is acknowledging a mistake has been made. Whoa! Now how many of us can admit to that?

For example, how many of us would be happier blaming our wives for getting us lost then admit we didn't know where we were going? C'mon, you know what I am talking about. You give her the map, pretty much convinced you already know where you're going, and then you come to a fork in the road. Naturally, you ask her, "Which way?" She stammers and ventures an educated guess. Unfortunately, it's wrong, and you go straight for the jugular, blurting out something like "If you'd learn to read a map, then we wouldn't be lost!" Boy, it felt good to get that off your chest, huh? The problem is whose responsibility was it to know where you're going? Whose responsibility was it to teach her the route? Who is really to blame? So, rather than go off on her, what about taking the responsibility and confessing, "I am sorry. I got us lost"?

That, as we all know, is a bitter pill to swallow.

Not too long ago I left something very important in a hotel room. The item was mine. The item was important to me. I left it. But the temptation when I found it was missing was to blame my wife. For after all, she was supposed to check the room to see if I left anything! No, I had to say, "I am sorry." I was the one who left it. It was my responsibility.

I make mistakes. I am not above taking responsibility for my actions. I mess up and I must confess and ask for forgiveness. It's not easy, but I learned from a master: my Dad.

My Dad's temper was legendary. He could yell, curse and argue with the best of them. One time I witnessed him rattle a store manager into giving him a cut of meat at a reduced price -- even though the ad was wrong, and the manager explained how it wasn't the store's fault. By the time Dad was through "explaining" his viewpoint, he -- and all the other shoppers that had gathered to witness this brutal exchange -- received the same discount. Such was his wrath.

I was on the receiving end of his anger many times growing up. But one thing I always remember is this: most of the time I deserved his discipline, and all of the time he would apologize to me for losing his temper. On one memorable occasion he berated me and banished me to my room with the words, "You are worthless."

That hurt.

Later that evening Dad came into my room, sat on my bed and confessed he was out of line. He explained how he said things in anger -- things I shouldn't believe. I was not worthless; I was worthy. The tears in his voice betrayed his emotion. From that day on I knew that no matter what the words were, he knew I was worthy.

When he said, "I am sorry," he made me who I am today -- a worthy child.

Not too shabby an outcome for three little words.