Saturday, April 21, 2012

We Need a Few More Optimists

They call it “rubbernecking.” That’s what we instinctually do when we’re driving in a car and pass by an accident. We strain our necks trying to peer out and catch sight of the victims of the crash.

I think we see many analogous versions of rubbernecking all around us.  What is the attraction of so many of the “reality shows” that are on TV today? Why does the Jerry Springer show get good ratings? I went on line to see the story line of some recent Springer episodes: “Lipstick Lesbians,” “I Slept with your Brother’s Boyfriend,”  “Your Husband Knocked Me Up,” and “Out of Control Catfights.” Why do we watch these shows? Why do we care about the lives of pathetic people living wrecked lives? Psychologists say it’s partly because we enjoy feeling superior to others.  When we watch “humilitainment,” as one person called it, we feel better about ourselves at the expense of someone else.

The problem is when there’s a car accident, and when drivers-by rubberneck, the police will tell you that there are often more wrecks, as people aren’t paying attention to where they are driving.

And there’s a parable in there somewhere, I think.  When we become fascinated by the misery of others, when we focus on what is wrong about someone else’s life, it’s easy to lose sight of where we are going.  And when we are swamped by the wreckage of other people’s lives, when we become accustomed to what is twisted and sad, it’s too easy for us to define deviancy down, too easy to set low bars for ourselves about what is right and good.

In contrast, Scripture tells us that “ whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. (Phillipians 4:8)

I will be honest with you. I find that verse challenging. I have a tendency to go right to the negative. My kids will tell you if we’re watching TV, I often make cutting remarks about people, disputing the claims they’re making, ridiculing their motives.  I need-all of us, I think, need—to be in the presence of optimists, people that see the good in others despite their flaws, people who help us focus on what is beautiful and not what is ugly.

Our world needs a few more optimists. I think that’s true of high schools, too, especially at this time of year as we become stressed about A.P exams, final exams, failing, or graduating. When we’re too busy or tired, it’s easy to become cranky, self-centered, mean-spirited, ugly with each other. Let’s work to be the opposite. Let’s go out of way to compliment, to thank, to congratulate, to become people that dwell on what's honorable, pure or excellent  in others. 

I'll be praying for you these next couple of weeks, and especially for you seniors. Work hard. 

Friday, April 06, 2012

An Easter Story

This was Mr. Weber's Easter message to the students of JPII.

Two years ago, I shared a true story with you that deserves a retelling this Easter. It concerns a seven year old boy, dying from a ferocious and fast growing form of cancer:

He had been treated at Memorial Sloan Kettering with every sort of therapy known to science. But nothing further could be done. 

Perhaps they could administer one more dose of some experimental drug, but actually there was no real hope of recovery. And the side effects could only complicate the progression of the disease. 

So the family and the doctors gathered in the little boy's room for a final conference concerning his treatment.

They had tried almost everything, what could they possibly think of next? Finally the boy spoke up in a clear, crisp voice, "What I really want to do is to go home and learn how to ride my two wheeler." 

The bicycle had been a Christmas present. It had those little trainer wheels attached. But before the boy had gained enough confidence to remove the trainer wheels the cancer caught up with him and he was sent to the hospital. Learning how to ride a two-wheeler was the last thought the doctors or the parents would have contemplated. It just didn't seem possible. The boy was already physically weakened, why encourage him to do something that clearly would not be possible for very long even if he could succeed?

But the boy insisted and the resistance of the doctors and his parents melted away under the withering assurances of his clear brown eyes. And home they went. 

Not thirty minutes after they had settled in, they were out in the yard, the boy insisting that his father take off the training wheels and let him have a go at it. 

Obediently, but anxiously, his father took out his wrench and removed the training wheels to let him go. To their surprise, after only two false starts and one fall the boy was able to steer the bike, somewhat erratically to be sure. "And now," he said with mounting assurance in his voice, "Now I want to ride it by myself all the way around the block." Before anyone could stop him, he was off, up the street and around the corner out of sight. There were those few minutes of suspense as the parents, brother and little sister, waited for him to appear at the other end of the block, and after what seemed an eternity, there he was, headed for home, a gigantic expression of triumph and satisfaction written on his face.

When the excitement had settled down, the boy retired to his bedroom, and asked if he could be left alone with his little sister. He had his father bring the shiny red bike into the bedroom. It sat there in the corner, a gleaming symbol of life. Then the boy turned to his little sister and said, "I won't be needing the bicycle anymore. I want you to have it for your birthday. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did." 

Even in midst of life's deepest tragedies, love triumphs. Death is NOT the final word. This is our faith, confirmed in the resurrection of Jesus.

Happy Easter everyone!