Category: Philosophy

How you made a difference today, and didn’t even realize it

Photo by Kampus Production on Pexels.com

Everyone knows how badly teenagers want to go to work, how they crave entry-level hourly jobs, and how they long to work in the food service industry. Yep, you’ve picked up on my sarcasm.

American teens are dreamers, and weren’t we all at that age? We wanted to create something, start a trend, build the next big thing, have friends and find adventure.

Depending on your generation, you either worked to build the fastest car, start the biggest rock band, conquer Super Mario Bros., or create the next internet sensation. Flipping burgers? You only did that because you had to.

So, when I dropped my teenage son off at his fast food job, I told him, “You are doing meaningful work today.”

He looked at me a little funny.

“Seriously, you are going to be the bright spot in someone’s day.”

His look became more inquisitive.

“Look, there are people that will soon begin their drive home after a long day. Others will be looking to spend time with family, and others will be eating to find comfort after hearing bad news,” I said. “And they will be coming into your restaurant to find what they are looking for. Feed them well, and be that bright spot.”

“Thank you, Dad,” he replied.

“It takes a special person to undertake the work of feeding people. I’m proud of you.”

He shut the door, entered the restaurant, and I drove off.

Okay, now that I read my own words, it looks a little sappy. Either that, or I just penned the latest “Family, isn’t it about Time” commercial. Nevertheless, I meant every word.

I have recently documented my recent health struggles, so I’m not endorsing emotional eating. However, I will tell you that on more than one occasion, the right fast food clerk, and the right kitchen crew have offered me relief on some dark days. Furthermore, they have fed me on a quick schedule when my time was short. And I appreciated their efforts every time.

Our kids are taught to aim for the stars, to seek careers where they can make a difference, to find meaning, purpose, and significance. They are taught not to settle for menial jobs, but to aim for greatness. Indeed, we want to encourage our kids to reach their full potential, and for most, that’s probably not in the kitchen of a fast food franchise.

But, if everyone is an astronaut, president, physicist, technology pioneer, and entrepreneur, then who will serve our food? If everyone is leading the next great social movement, who is caring for the patients in the nursing home? If everyone is discovering the cure for cancer, who is stocking the grocery stores?

If everyone is a teacher, who is cleaning the restrooms? If everyone’s a doctor, who’s filling the prescriptions?

You see, for our society to function, we need people in every role of our workforce, and our society will become great when every member of our workforce, from the service sector, to retail, to medical, to manufacturing, see their value and the importance of their work.

And the greatest companies in our society realize their role, and communicate their value to their workforce, who then reflect that conviction to their customers. That is why companies like ChickFilA and In-N-Out hold such high esteem in the fast food market, despite McDonalds having more locations. That’s why Whole Foods is such a revered brand, even though their prices are routinely higher than other grocery chains. That’s why Southwest Airlines is successful, despite having none of the frills of the other airlines.

These companies understand the role they play in our society, their inherent value, and they confer that value on their staff, who then internalizes it and represents it before the customers.

So, if you’re reading this, and you work in a fast food restaurant, you made a difference today, and you didn’t even realize it. You either did your job well, and were a bright spot in someone’s day (if so, congratulate yourself), or you did your job poorly and added to someone’s frustration. Either way, you made a difference.

If you’re reading this and you’re a CNA, then please know that you are probably the most important person in a patient’s care. Remember that, and bring them comfort.

If you work in a grocery store, you can greatly encourage someone who may be struggling emotionally, or may be feeling lonely.

If you are a doctor, you can save lives. If you are a lawyer, you can save freedoms. You get the point.

The point is, no matter what you do, you matter. And no matter what role you fill, you are needed, and you are valuable. And no matter what kind of day you’ve had, you’ve made a difference.

Therefore, as we perform our job duties today, let’s employ the words of the Apostle Paul in Colossians 3:23, “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men.” Because when you work, you’re not working for your manager, the shareholders, or even the customers. You are working for God, and His will for you is to do good to others.

May God bless you and encourage you in your work today.

Stay or Hit, The Risk Remains

Few people realize that the success of the Houston Astros was birthed at the Blackjack tables of a Lake Tahoe casino before Billy Beane employed Moneyball to save the Oakland As.

Working as a dealer at the table, an engineering student majoring in statistical analytics noticed a pattern. Whenever blackjack players “hit” when they already had a score of 17 or more, they almost always busted (exceeded 21, thus losing). However, if they hit on 16 or less, they often got close to 21, sometimes winning, sometimes losing.

This student watched as players lost hundreds, if not thousands, by making emotional decisions, hitting on 18, or staying at 16. To consistently perform well, this student concluded that 17 was the magic number. Stay if more than 17, hit if 16 or less.

From this experience, the student learned the value of rational decisions that are data driven. That same student went on to develop the analytics program of the Houston Astros, which was instrumental in the development of the roster that won the 2017 World Series.

That program analyzed prospective players not only by their stats, but also by their experiences and physical characteristics, using patterns identified by analyzing the prior 30 years of MLB draft picks.

The book, Astroball, by Ben Reiter, outlines how the Astros built a perennial winner out of a team that was built and developed, not bought.

Despite the success of the Astros, their trek was not without failures. The Stros often released players who went on to brilliant careers, and retained players who flamed out.

Despite all the data and direction offered by a sound analytics program, the Astros were unable to eliminate risk from the equation when it came to analyzing prospective players.

Which takes us back to the blackjack table. Even if you religiously follow the data-driven wisdom of when to hit, and when to stay, sometimes you bust, sometimes you win, and sometimes the House wins.

Obviously, as The Chaplain’s Corner, this blog is not about how to win at the card table, and I’ve never been successful as a sports writer. Seeing the intersection of cards and baseball, however, I do see some life lessons.

In either of those situations, there is risk. There’s risk in action, and there’s risk in inaction. There are consequences for taking the leap, and there are consequences for staying put.

The Astros took a risk in spending millions to pioneer a new form of analytics for player evaluation. Had it not worked, the team would have wasted a fortune to stay in last place. But it worked, and the evidence is right there on the field.

Had they stayed put, they may have still built a winning team, but they’d likely have overpaid, the way they did in 2005.

In blackjack, taking the hit can win the hand, or it can bust you. Staying will keep you from busting, but it may or may not win the hand.

And in life, you have choices. To change careers. To relocate to accept a promotion. To start a business, invest in the stock market, or to buy bonds.

Maybe the business succeeds, maybe it fails, or if you don’t start the business, maybe you miss an opportunity. The stocks rise, the stocks fall, or maybe you don’t buy and you miss an opportunity. You buy the bonds with a guaranteed yield, but inflation negates your gain.

Risk is inherent in every decision, every opportunity, and every moment in life. Stay or hit, the risk remains.

Fear and avoidance of risk is futile. The reasonable thing to do is to evaluate risk, choose the risk with the maximum upside and minimum downside, and hedge against losses.

But losses will happen. So will successes. The key is to live life, to move forward (even if that means staying) and to glorify God in the process.

So the choice is yours. Stay, or hit?

I’ll Buy Gas Tomorrow, and other Lies We Tell Ourselves

Finish my coffee, grab my bag, climb in the Tahoe with just enough time to make my 30-minute commute, turn the key, before checking my dash to see that, while I have enough time to get to work, I don’t have the gas.

Foiled again!

Foiled again by my fine art of procrastination. Foiled again by my fatigue, pulling into the driveway after a long day to see that I’ve only a quarter of a tank of gas left. Foiled again by my self-delusions of waking up early in order to refuel on my way to work.

Foiled again by my snooze button, by checking my Facebook account before getting ready for work, foiled again by the extra few minutes under the hot water of the shower.

Foiled again!

It’s almost as bad as running into the mall at 3 p.m. on Dec. 24 to complete my shopping list. Foiled by the lie I told myself repeatedly about doing my Christmas shopping after work, or tomorrow afternoon. The store is out of what I need.

Foiled again.

I was going to start the diet and fitness program after the holidays, next Monday, or tomorrow. Yet, there I sat in the doctor’s office with a new diagnosis.

Foiled again.

My former employer Matthew Williams used to say, “The bill always comes due.”

Procrastination doesn’t kick the can down the road, it makes it bigger. And the more you kick the can, the more it compounds with interest.

So if there’s a change you need to make, don’t lie to yourself. You won’t change tomorrow. Change today!

I’m Dying: What I Learned from My Diabetic Diagnosis

“It’s probably no big deal,” my doctor told me. “Any blood sugar reading below 100 means you’re okay. 100-125 means you’re pre-diabetic, and above 125 means you’re diabetic.”

The reading came back on the monitor… 200.

“Okay, so you’re a diabetic. Here’s what we’re gonna do…”

The following words were a series of prescriptions the doctor would recommend, the recommendation for exercise (run 30 minutes per day, four times per week) and a dietary recommendation (no simple sugars).

I wish I could say that this all came as a shock. It didn’t. I wish I could say I am just a victim of circumstance, the recipient of bad DNA. I can’t. I wish I could claim I wasn’t warned. I was.

Two years prior, I sat in the same doctors office after having a life insurance application denied due to a high A1C. Back then, we tested, and I came out okay. Diet and exercise would save the day. I started out well, but I didn’t finish.

Ten years prior to that, I registered a high blood sugar during a visit with the same doctor. I corrected my diet then, returned for a follow up, and was fine.

The doctor warned me that this day was coming. I was told to eliminate fried foods, not to drink my calories (sodas), and to exercise. After each warning, I would start out well, but after a couple of months, the disruptions would get to me, and I’d fall off my program.

A headline involving dying and diabetes may sound melodramatic, but it’s not. This is a terminal illness, but it’s one that can be managed. Diabetes is a disease where your body no longer breaks down the blood sugar. The result is a thickened blood that fails to reach the capillaries, resulting in organ damage. Also, the sugar itself damages tissues within the body.

Diabetics suffer from nerve damage, vision loss, and ultimately heart attacks and strokes, if not managed properly. Once the damage is done, it does not heal. Lost vision does not get restored. Damaged nerve endings never regain function.

My doctor and I have a plan, and I am confident in his ability to help me manage this diagnosis, but receiving this diagnosis has taught me a few things.

  1. The day of reckoning is coming. For so many of us, we know that the consequences of our actions are coming, but we deceive ourselves into thinking that the consequences are far away, and we will be better able to manage those consequences when they finally arrive. This is one of the biggest lies we tell ourselves. Whether we think we are delaying the consequences of poor health choices, or delaying the consequences of our spiritual choices, we tend to put off making the decisions that we need to make. However, the day is coming, and it will come as a thief in the night, at a time when we least expect it.
  2. We must make the right choices today. As I just mentioned, the day of reckoning, when we will receive the full consequences of our choices is upon us, and it is coming faster than we think. We can no longer afford to say, “I’ll start that diet tomorrow,” or “I’ll open that retirement account next month,” or “I’ll start going to church and get right with Jesus next week.” We must make those decisions today. First, we don’t know that we have tomorrow, next week or next month. Our day may creep up on us sooner than we think. Secondly, the sooner we make those choices, the more beneficial they will be for us.
  3. To follow those choices, we must learn to manage the disruptions in life. When my doctor asked me why I hadn’t been able to get my diet in order, I told him about the upheaval in my family, last year’s COVID outbreak at church, career issues, and the ongoing turmoil that I have found to be life. I told him, “I just did not do a good job of managing the disruptions in my life.” We can no longer afford to use those disruptions as excuses, because disruptions are part of every day life. As Agent K said in Men In Black, “There’s always an Achillian Battlecruiser or an intergalactic plague about to wipe out our planet. The only way these people get on with their lives is that they do not know about it.” Over the past few years, we’ve seen economic and political disruptions, and our entire society shut down by a global pandemic. This is the new normal, and such disruptions will continue, in addition to your personal disruptions. We have to learn to manage these disruptions and move forward.
  4. What was death to me has now become life. Prior to my diagnosis, the idea of being fit sounded good, but I was happy being chubby and lazy. Sure, healthy food will make me feel better, and there’s nothing like the rush of finishing an ultra-marathon, but have you ever enjoyed a bowl of Blue Bell Ice Cream and a Netflix movie on an overcast Saturday afternoon? I chose the latter. It was easier, simpler, and more delicious. However, with my diagnosis, I now see that health foods and medications are not a way to a better life, they are the only way to seize and maintain life. With each salad, vegetable, and lean grilled meat, I am extending my life, and with each medication, I am helping my body restore its function. Over the past few decades, churches have sought to sell potential converts on the benefits of Christianity by saying that it leads to a better life. It does. But Christianity is life. Faith in Jesus is the only way to avoid eternal damnation. And just like my diabetic diagnosis came suddenly (but with warning), our last day of life and the day of judgment will come upon us suddenly. Don’t get shocked by a negative test result that day. Turn from your sin and trust Jesus as your Savior.

The diabetic diagnosis can be a life sentence or a death sentence. My doctor told me that in those exact words. And with God’s help, I will manage this disease and live to serve Him well in my life. However, this whole experience has taught me that I need to wake up, and start taking care of what matters, regardless of how I feel. I can no longer make excuses, I can no longer procrastinate. And the same goes for you.

If you have been putting off the decision to turn your life over to Christ, make that decision today. And if you have been putting off your health and financial decisions, you will avoid catastrophes and reap better benefits if you make those choices today. Don’t follow in my footsteps. You have the opportunity to do better.

May God bless you.