BE CAREFUL WITH YOUR JACK STORY

“Imagination is the true magic carpet.”

Norman Vincent Peale, author and minister

 

Chances are you’ve heard of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital located in Memphis, Tennessee.

Their mission is research and treatment of children with cancer or other life-threatening illness. They opened the door for their first patient in 1962. The idea and vision for this special place came from entertainer Danny Thomas. In 1940 Mr. Thomas was facing a bleak future. He was out of money and out of luck. With a young family to support, Danny prayed to Saint Jude asking for help in finding his path in show business. The prayer ended with a promise that if things worked out somehow Danny would create a shrine to Saint Jude.

Danny Thomas became a super successful actor, comic, and producer.

Fast forward to today. St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital treats children from all over the world, charging them nothing and sharing research wherever it will help. A promise made and a promise kept that keeps on giving. Mr. Thomas was awarded The Congressional Gold Medal by President Reagan for this brilliant contribution to the world.

 

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The signature part of Danny’s comedy routine was, The Jack Story.

A salesman is stuck on a lonely country road at night with a flat tire and no jack so he needs to borrow or rent one.

The salesman starts walking toward a service station about a mile away. He’s talking to himself as he walks. How much can he charge me for renting a jack? One dollar, maybe two. But it’s the middle of the night, so maybe there’s an after hours fee. Probably another five dollars. If he’s anything like my brother-in-law, he’ll figure I got no place else to go for the jack, so he’s cornered the market and has me at his mercy. Ten dollars more.”

Danny would drag the story on and on with the worse possible outcomes for his problem. When the poor man finally makes it to the service station the owner asks how he can help.

The salesman explodes. “You got the nerve to talk to me, you robber. You can take your stinkin’ jack and shove it up your …”

Mr. Thomas remarked that in his whole career he never had to say that last word. The audience was so in tune with the story and laughing so hard, he didn’t have to say it.

 

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So what about your Jack Story?

How do you use your imagination?

Albert Einstein said, “Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.”

If you’re going to be a prophet, why not be a positive prophet? Look for and believe that you’ll find the best in people.  And when you need to, you’ll come up with great ideas and see the beautiful possibilities with each sunrise. Most of all, when you need a jack, someone will be more than happy to help you.

 

 

 

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ROOKIE IN RUNNING SHOES

“I am learning all the time.

The tombstone will be my diploma.”

Eartha Kitt, entertainer

 

Rocky Marciano was Heavyweight Boxing Champion Of The World from 1952 until he retired in 1956. He was undefeated in 49 fights and won 43 by knockout. Near the end of Rocky’s career a reporter stepped into the locker room for an interview before a fight. He found the champ reading a book on “How to Box.” Even after devastating every challenger put in front of him, Rocky still felt there might be more to learn.

So what have you learned today?

In his book, Born For Love, Leo Buscaglia, talked about his childhood experience at the dinner table. Leo was part of a large Italian family. After the meal, Leo’s father would go around the table and ask each of his children what they learned today. “And you better be ready to tell him something,” Leo explained. As a grown man in his seventies, Leo often found himself asking before going to sleep,

“What have I learned today?” And if he drew a blank it was off to an encyclopedia to look up some wacky statistic or piece of information so he could satisfy his father’s requirement and get a good nights sleep.

You and I have 100 billion brain cells. And if you want to keep them dancing you need to feed them some new thoughts and ideas. But don’t take my word for it. Former First Lady Laura Bush explains, “A love of books, of holding a book, turning its pages, looking at its pictures, and living its fascinating stories goes hand-in-hand with a love of learning.”

Let me add some exciting news to her words, library cards are free.

Do you have one?

One of the most amazing discoveries of my life was learning that after age 60 I could take classes free at any state university. As a senior citizen at Ohio University, I studied acting, painting, public speaking, writing, history, and half-dozen other subjects. In the near future watch for me at Hocking College. I’ll be the dude with gray hair and a beard in the glass blowing and ceramics class.

And please don’t be concerned about the crash, boom, and bang sound coming from North George Street. That’s me playing the drums and pretending to be Ringo Starr. I’m entertaining my neighbors but my wife thinks I need a few more lessons before I take my show on the road. Learning to play a musical instrument just might be what the good brain doctor ordered.

Hey, look at the clock. Time for me to lace up my running shoes and put in a few miles on the path near my house. I’ve been an avid runner over thirty years and guess what. I still read books and watch training videos on the subject.

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.” Shunryu Suzuki, Japanese Zen Monk

 

 

GETTING OFF THE BUS

“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive– to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.”

Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor

 

For three years I have been working as an aide in the city schools where I live. Most of my service has been at an elementary or preschool. And in every classroom one of the walls is decorated with the alphabet. I still sing my ABCs from time to time and not long ago, while the children were at rest, I started thinking about those letters –  A is for apple, B is for ball, C is for cat, so on and so forth.

Then I started rethinking those illustrations and decided the letter A should be represented by a picture of one of the preschoolers I have been honored to work with. And the letter A should stand for Attitude. You see the young scholar I’m talking about spends a lot of time sitting in a chair for making some unwise choices.  But the next day, when the school bus arrives, he is the happiest camper on the planet. Glad to see everyone and more than ready to start a new day. He does not carry a grudge, not for the teacher who put him in time out or the playmate that snitched on his evil deeds. An excellent role model in the fine art of forgive and forget.

So how do you plan on getting off the bus tomorrow?

Who are you mad at?

Take a tip from my little friend – get over it!

And that brings us to the letter B.

How about B for back bone.

Have you tried anything new lately. My little friends are always up for an adventure. They don’t seem to worry about being too small, too tall, too old or too young. Name the game and they are ready to play. Name the project and they are ready to build. And whatever you put in front of them they find a way to make it fun.

Eleanor Roosevelt put it this way, “The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”

I recall watching a program about American soldiers returning to the beaches of Normandy where they landed on D-Day in the Second World War. They were asked about their struggle on that day and the rest of the war, “Was it worth it?”. Hearing the laughter of children playing near by, one soldier said, “There is your answer.”

And that, my friend brings us to the letter C. It stands for cheerfulness.

What could be more precious than the laughter of children?

And maybe It’s it time to give your funny bone a workout?

Young children have a lot to teach me.  A, B, C,  Attitude, Backbone, Cheerfulness, And I still have 23 more letters of the alphabet to go.

BIG WHEEL AND A BIG DEAL

“If you have a heartbeat, there is still time for your dreams.”

Sean Stephensen, author and speaker

 

My wife and I live in Ohio.

Our grandson lives in California.

2,278 miles from our doorstep to his.

He wants to know how long it will take him to get here on his big wheel.

I don’t have an answer for that but I do admire his grit.

 

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Not long ago we made the journey to visit him for his 5th birthday. Weather canceled two departing flights and we missed a connecting flight by five minutes in Colorado. But weary gave way to joy when we finally landed in LA. And if I have to pick the most exciting event of a week full of adventure, here it is. I took a toilet paper roll and held one end to my ear, the other I placed on our grandson’s tiny chest. A moment later, I was listening to his heartbeat.

 

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The average heart beats 115,200 times a day.  And if you make it to the ripe old age of 80 that adds up to 3,363,840,000.

Wow!

Now, here is some really important information to go along with those numbers. There is no guarantee exactly how long you or I will live and how many of those heartbeats you and I are actually going to get. You can think right, act right, eat right, be right, do everything right and still, no guarantee how long your heart is going to last. Knowing this to be true ought to get our attention. So while we still have a heartbeat, here are some important questions we need to ask ourselves.

Who does your heart beat for?

What makes your heart beat just a little bit faster?

Singers and songwriters know what I’m talking about. Here are a few tunes to celebrate the heart.

You Put The Beat In My Heart by Eddie Rabbit

My Heart Skips A Beat by Buck Owens

Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat by Hermans Hermits

I Left My Heart In San Francisco by Tony Bennett

Heart And Soul by Hoagy Carmichael

Put A Little Love In Your Heart by Jackie DeShannon

Only Love Can Break A Heart by Gene Pitney

Love Me With All Your Heart by The Ray Charles Singers

Heartaches By The Number by Ray Price

Take These Chains From My Heart by Ray Charles

Your Cheatin Heart by Hank Williams

Total Eclipse Of The Heart by Bonnie Tyler

And you can see by some of those titles, the heart gets broken and bruised from time to time. That’s the way the game is played. And if you don’t take a chance on getting your heart-broken, you’ll never find true love and happiness in this life.

 

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It’s a big deal – my heart and yours. And my prayer for you and especially my grandson is that every beat counts for joy, passion, and purpose.

THE NOT SO NEW KID IN CLASS

“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.”

 C. S. Lewis, author and poet

Ohio University, Fall 1973

The first class I signed up for was creative writing. It was also the first class I failed. But I was determined to be called a writer so a year later I took that same class with the same instructor. This time I crossed the finish line with a B. I pressed on and in time earned a degree in communication. What followed was a less than stellar career with the government. Now fast forward forty years.

 Ohio University, Fall 2013

When I found out that, after age 60, you can take classes free at any state university in Ohio I bought a new box of crayons, grabbed my Snoopy lunch box and got on the school bus. Wow! As a wise man said long ago, “The only place change is not guaranteed is a vending machine.” Forty years ago we worked with pencils, pens, and typewriters. Now there were computers everywhere. And in 1973 if you wanted to call someone, you got in line at a telephone booth. Now everyone was talking on a cell phone or bouncing their thumbs off a gizmo. My biggest concern was how this senior citizen would get along with students slightly younger than my children and slightly older than my grandchildren. It became apparent very soon that I had wasted time thinking about it. The years between us quickly melted away and the party got going.

I had a boat load of fun in a class celebrating the history of television and film comedy. What could be more fun than going to school with my life long role models, Laurel and Hardy, The Three Stooges, Martin and Lewis, Abbott and Costello and a whole crew of other zany folks! I studied play writing and enjoyed making a fool of myself in an acting class. After a semester in a painting studio, I had three projects featured in the student art show. But my crowning achievement came in writing class. It was there I put the finishing touches on Buddy Bloom Wildflower, (A Tale of Struggle and Celebration) This book teaches the value of adversity, the joy of friendship and the celebration of life.

While enjoying the excitement of being the not so new kid in class I made a few mistakes with the balance in my piggy bank. Discovering I needed to go back to work, I was told that one of the best part-time jobs for seniors was working in the schools as an educational assistant. So if you’re looking for me now, you’ll find me in yet another classroom – much of the time working with special needs children.

There is still plenty to learn and lots of adventure waiting for this not so new kid in the giant classroom called life. And I intend to enjoy every minute.

A REALLY BIG QUESTION

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”

Helen Keller, author

 

For my own amusement and sometimes to annoy the neighbors, I play the drums.

I pretend to be Ringo Starr, the famous drummer for The Beatles.

In the 1950s and 60s the highlight of any career in show business was an appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. If you landed a spot on his television program you were now a certified star.

Ed was a writer by trade and had no talent for singing or dancing. But it was his show and he brought in acts from all over the world. He had a stiff cardboard appearance and walked and moved like his coat still had a hanger in it. Everyone made fun of him. He would announce the acts for what he called “his really big show” only the word show came out sounding like shoe.

Along with 70 million other people I was watching THE ED SULLIVAN SHOW in February 1964 when The Beatles took the stage for the first time in the USA. They start singing with a tune called All My Loving followed by Till There Was You. Then came a song called She Loves You. It starts this way –

She Loves You Yeah Yeah Yeah

 She Loves You Yeah Yeah Yeah

 She Loves You Yeah Yeah Yeah

 The song was written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney.  When all was said and done they wrote over 300 songs together.

Paul reported that when he and John finished writing She Loves You they sang it for Paul’s father. He liked the tune with one exception. He suggested John and Paul change all the Yeah Yeah Yeahs to Yes Yes Yes.

They decided not to take his advice, The Beatles recorded the tune with all the Yeah Yeah Yeahs in place and the recording like most of their songs became a hit all over the world.

So now I have a really big shoe or show business question for you.

And the act I’m referring to is your life.

What are some things you’re saying Yeah Yeah Yeah to?

Whatever goal you choose for yourself, as long as its legal and doesn’t hurt anyone, I’m your biggest cheerleader.

Here is some really big advice to go along with that really big question.

Be it astronaut, school teacher, or the person who delivers the mail – there is one quality that applies to everyone.

The Golden Rule, “Do unto to others as you would be done by.”

Now if you want to attack me at my weakest point on this rule just mention the word telemarketer. I confess I need to work a little harder on being golden with these folks.

As long as we’re talking about it, I could probably do a little better with the nut case drivers slowing down my commute too.

Now might be the perfect time to take my own advice.

Be kind to everyone.

Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!

THE OTHER END OF THE TABLE

“Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”

Mark Twain, humorist

I have been part of the running community since 1986 – 5ks, 10ks, half and full marathons. And like just about everything else the fine art of running has changed.

With the magic of new fabrics, the clothes have gotten warmer when they need to be and cooler when the weatherman changes the forecast. The colors have gotten brighter and the patterns bolder.  And the shoes are just as magic with new styles to make you run faster.  Technology has steadily added dozens of gadgets and gizmos to the mix. None of this is a surprise. As a frustrated consumer pointed out, “The only place change is not guaranteed is a vending machine.”

But there is one big change that gets my attention every time I enter a race. And there doesn’t seem to be much I can do about it. I’m talking about age groups.

I began my running adventure in the 35 to 39 age bracket.

Since then I’ve shuffled my way through

40-44,

45-49,

50-54,

55-59,

60-64,

Now my home is 65-69.

The late great and very funny Phyllis Diller made these observations on the subject of aging.

“You know you’re getting old if they have discontinued your blood type”

“You know you’re old when someone compliments you on your alligator shoes, and you’re barefoot.”

“You know you’re old if your walker has an airbag.”

So far none of those things have been said to me but I’m prepared with a response if it happens.

I’m not sure who said it first but I agree it’s the best way to think about the clock and calendar, “Don’t count your years, make your years count.”

At most running events, near the registration table where you pick up your number and t-shirt, there is another table. This is where trophies or medals are lined up for first, second and third place winners in each age group.

When the race is over and they pass out the awards, they begin with the youngest age group. I remember when I first started running, at the award presentation the race director would make a big deal about the oldest runner in the pack. This is usually the final award of the day. Now I’m getting closer to that end of the table where the medal for the oldest runner rests.

In the movie True Grit staring John Wayne and Glen Campbell, Wayne needs rescued and he is cussing at the fact Campbell is dead. Suddenly he hears a voice. It comes from Campbell, “I ain’t dead yet you bushwhacker, hang on.”

Wayne gets rescued and Campbell dies shortly thereafter.

Norman Vincent Peale, author of The Power of Positive Thinking said “Live your life and forget your age.”  

That’s my message cowboys and bushwhackers, “I ain’t dead yet – and I look forward to seeing you at the next race.