“I’ve learned so much, so very much about myself in defeat.

 I’ve learned very little to nothing in victory.”

 Floyd Patterson, Heavyweight Boxing Champion

Ladies and Gentleman, after 66 years on this planet, I am proud to present The Best Teacher Award to my dear friend Failure.

Please hold your applause. I have more to say.

Failure and I have been friends a long time. Sometimes he prefers to be called defeat or disappointment. But not for long. The funny thing is he doesn’t suffer when I call him those names, I do. So my old buddy becomes an even better friend when I call him teacher. And I will admit from the get-go that changing his name is not always an easy thing to do.

I bleed.

I cry.

I get angry.

I hurt.

It doesn’t sound like much fun, does it. And for a time it’s not. But ultimately I must get to the magic question, what have I learned from failure?

Now we’re going to discuss some numbers.

I have a social security number.

I have a telephone number.

I have a number on my house.

My bank account has a number.

My blood pressure has numbers and so do my credit cards.

You’ll find a number on the bottom of my shoes and the inside of my shirt.

When I went to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles last week, I was instructed to take a number before I could buy a license plate that has more numbers on it.

And I’m still looking for my lucky lottery numbers.

Like mine, your life most likely includes a lot of numbers.

Now let me tell you about the two most important numbers when we’re talking failure.

The numbers are 714 and 1330.

When Babe Ruth was King of Baseball he had 714 home runs and 1,330 strike outs. Twice as much failure as success.

The Babe explained it this way, “I swing big, with everything I’ve got. I hit big or I miss big. I like to live as big as I can.”

And living big means striking out every now and then.

Travel with me back to grade school.

After ducking out a rear door and running down a street where I was sure no other kids would find me, my eyes exploded in tears. I had just flunked the fourth grade. Devastated, feeling worthless, I pushed on knowing I was branded “stupid” for life.

When my escape route failed and the neighbor’s kids saw me, it got worse. Arrows would have hurt less than their taunts. It didn’t feel like my most shining moment.

But that was long before I heard about Babe Ruth.

Hang a tiny baseball bat on every graduation cap, the game of life is just beginning. Sometimes you’re going to strike out. That’s okay. Your turn will come again. The next swing could bring a home run.

And repeating the fourth grade can make you twice as smart.



My Mother had eleven brothers and sisters. Uncle Frank was the only one still living. When his wife Elsie died he knocked on my door and asked if he could move in. I didn’t want him there but what was I going to say to a lonely old man?

It turned out I was wrong about the lonely part.


*            *            *


“How long have I been living with you, Joey?”

“Three very entertaining months, Uncle Frank. So far you’ve been arrested for trespassing on government property, disorderly conduct, driving without a license and skinny dipping in a public fountain. Did I miss anything?”

“Yes. First, I wasn’t trespassing, I’m a taxpayer. Second, I didn’t start the fight. Third, everyone else was drunk so I had to drive. Fourth, it was hot and we needed to cool off. And by the way, you left out the most important part. I’m having fun.”

“I hope you’re finished, I have to go to work.”

“No, Joey. I’m not finished. I need a favor.”

“What kind of favor?”

“Her name is Tracey.”

“What kind of favor, Uncle Frank?”

“I want you to go out with her.”


“Tracey is my girlfriend’s niece.”

“So why do I need to go out with her?”

“You’ll like Tracey.”

“What does she look like?”

“She has a good job.”

“Uncle Frank, I asked you what she looks like.”

“She drives a nice car.”

“For the last time, what does she look like?”

“She has blue eyes, really pretty blue eyes.”

“She’s fat, right.”

“She has a nice personality.”

“She’s fat.”

Now I had a tough decision to make. Did I want to shoot him? Did I want to stab him? Did I want to strangle him? How about all three?


*            *            *


Friday night, I’m ready for my date with Tracey. Uncle Frank shows up with a shopping bag.

“What’s going on?”

He pulls a shirt out of the bag.

“Here, put this on.”

“What’s wrong with the shirt I have on?”

“Nothing is wrong with it if you’re a monk.”

I tried the shirt on. It was purple with lightning bolts.

“Now you got the smoke rolling – you look great.”

“Remember your promise. This is the first and last date with Tracey.”

“One more thing, Joey.”

“Now what?”

“Clip that hair in your nose or we’ll have to put a hook on it and go fishing.”

“Good bye, Uncle Frank”


     *            *           *


He was right about her eyes.  They were pretty, very pretty. I was right about her size. She was fat, very fat.


    *            *            *


The next morning when I came home Uncle Frank was sitting at the kitchen table.

My shirt, the one he gave me, was torn and blood stained. My face had stitches under one eye.

“Good morning, Uncle Frank.”

He took a long time answering.

“Let me guess,” he said. She didn’t like the shirt.”

“No, Uncle Frank. She loved the shirt.”

“Then what happened?”

“We were sitting in the restaurant. I said I’d be right back. On the way to the restroom a guy I knew from work who saw me walk in with Tracey held his arms apart as far as they would go. Then he said is that what they mean by a double date? So I punched him in the face. The only problem was I didn’t notice the two friends he had with him. I spent the rest of the night in the hospital and at the police station.”

“Maybe you should try a different restaurant.”

“Maybe you should get out-of-town.”

“Don’t worry, Joey. You know what they say.”

“No, Uncle Frank. I don’t know what they say.”

“They say One Monkey Don’t Stop The Show.”

“What does that mean?”

Uncle Frank stood up and saluted.

“I have a new girlfriend.”

“What happened to the one that helped create the mess I got into?”

“I caught her showing the tattoo on her butt to my best friend and now she is my ex-girl friend and he is my ex-best friend.”

“I hope your new girlfriend doesn’t have a niece.”

“Let me put it this way, Joey. She’s gonna love your new shirt.”


*            *            *


I killed Uncle Frank.

*            *            *


“Wake up, Joey. Wake up.”

“Uncle Frank, you’re alive.”

“Of course I’m alive. You must have had a nightmare.”

“What time is it?”

“Time for you to get ready. Here’s your new shirt.”


“You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”

Will Rogers, humorist


With seven letters or less on a personalized license plate, you can tell everyone on the highway who you are or what you are. I recently shared the road with these folks.










Some drivers use their license plates to offer advice.







Some drivers use their license plates to ask a question.




Some drivers use their license plates to tell you how they feel.




Be on the look out for this plate.


That’s me and the MK BLEV stands for make-believe. It’s a tribute to walt disney who said,

“If you can dream it, you can do it.’

If you don’t have a personalized license, no problem. Your smile described by Webster’s Dictionary as, “A facial expression in which the eyes brighten and the corners of the mouth curve slightly upward,” is always available for making a first impression.

When it comes to smiles, no one in my memory could beat Mrs. Keller. She was a teacher at the elementary school I attended. She was smiling the first time I saw her. She was smiling the second time I saw her. She was smiling every time I saw her. I don’t think her face knew any other position. I saw her at the grocery store twenty-five years after my first encounter with her and guess what, she was still smiling. She had given up teaching school but she was still teaching everyone how to wear their face. I thanked her for the special gift she was continuing to give the world.

License plates are a great way to introduce yourself, but the great thing about a smile is that you can take it with you everywhere you go. A few short years after that reunion with Mrs. Keller, I met her niece. She was smiling too! What a gene pool that family swims in. If you’re not smiling, you need to jump in too. True, you may not always feel like smiling – smile anyway. The very funny Phyllis Diller offered this advice, “If you want to wake up with a smile on your face – go to sleep with a coat hanger in your mouth.”

“A warm smile is the universal language of kindness.”

William Arthur Ward

A smile is the light in your window that tells others that there is a caring, sharing person inside.

Dennis Waitley

“…I will forget my complaint, I will change my expression, and smile.”

Job 9:27


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“God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today. Have you used one to say “thank you”?

William Arthur Ward, writer


After six weeks in a cooking class at The Ohio State University, my crowning achievement was to walk away knowing I could bake a batch of date nut bars.

“Care to try one? No? Okay, maybe later.”

Even though, for reasons I haven’t figured out yet, I didn’t learn how to cook like Betty Crocker and Sara Lee, I did enjoy the class. While exploring the pages of a cookbook, I ran across some quotations.

I guess you would call them food for thought. My favorite was this:

“Our days are identical suitcases, all the same size, but some people pack more into them than others.”

While enjoying my next meal in a restaurant, I began to ponder what was in my suitcase.

Before deciding, I took another look at the quote, “Our days are identical suitcases…” it began. It made no mention of how many days (suitcases) we will have. No guarantees. No one knows when they’re packing and unpacking for the last time. If I were taking a vacation, I said to myself, and could only take one suitcase instead of 20 – I know I would spend considerable time figuring out what to take and what to leave behind.

Dreams, goals, time with friends and family – those are in there right beside clean underwear and a toothbrush. When it comes to words, I hope my suitcase holds plenty of thank yous and most important, I love yous. A sense of humor is essential no matter what kind of traveling you’re doing. I put it next to forgiveness. After looking at the quote again, I realized there are some items in my suitcase that I really don’t need. They are worry, resentment, anger, and guilt.

At this point I should have been ready to close the lid and get on with the rest of the day, but something inside me wouldn’t let it rest. I decided to take a survey among friends, family, and coworkers. I handed out 25 questionnaires with the quote and asked people to tell me what it meant to them – what was in their suitcase and what was missing.

Five people didn’t have time in their suitcase to answer. Twenty-four hours didn’t seem long enough but that is all we get in a day. Of the 20 who did respond, most had trouble getting the lid shut and fun seemed to be the first thing tossed out.

Work, school, and other obligations certainly have their place. I vote for a little less anxiety and a little more joy. Come on folks, not all the news is bad. It’s not a round trip ticket we’ve been given.

Smell the roses.

What’s in your suitcase?


“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

Psalm 118:24

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“One cannot get through life without pain… What we can do is choose how to use the pain life presents us.”

Dr. Bernie Siegel, author


One day last Spring, some friends and I visited the Columbus Zoo. As we started our tour, a light rain began falling. We saw two mother kangaroos gently stroking their pouches. One kangaroo turned to the other and said, I sure wish it would stop raining so the children could play outside.”

But seriously folks…

The Bible tells us that it will rain on the just and the unjust alike. Some families seem to get more than their share of rain, especially when it comes to sick children. The Bible also tells God gives us rainbows. What it doesn’t tell us is that sometimes those rainbows start out playing football. At least in this story they do.

Second on my list of favorite football players is my nephew, Jason. He played tackle at The Navy Academy, was captain of the team, and won the “Silver Helmet” award for most valuable player his senior year.

First on the list is Fred Hill, a member of the Philadelphia Eagles. He long ago hung up his football jersey but not before tackling a challenge much bigger than the NFL.

In 1974, while he was pursuing his passion for professional football, it was discovered that his daughter, Kim, was suffering with leukemia. During her long stay at the hospital, Mr. Hill and his family spent many sleepless nights at her bedside and ate countless meals out of vending machines. He saw many other families with sick children struggling with the same needs. Through the efforts of some caring people, the Hills ordeal had a “Rainbow Beginning” I said “Beginning” because the rainbow’s color has not faded in over 40 years.

The beginning of the rainbow started with the news that Kim Hill no longer had leukemia. Out of gratitude, her father, along with his teammates, Kim’s doctor and the McDonald’s restaurants in Philadelphia area opened the first “Ronald McDonald House.”

This home away from home for families who have children being treated in hospitals, provides them a place to eat, sleep, wash clothes, and share their struggles. Since that first house opened with only six rooms, there are now 350 houses in 60 countries with hundreds of rooms. Financed mostly through donations and staffed mainly by volunteers, it is truly as described, “THE HOUSE THAT LOVE BUILT.”

The nearly six years I worked as a volunteer changed my life. Like the other volunteers, I couldn’t do anything about the rain. But like Fred Hill, I found a way to be part of a rainbow offering hope, comfort, and encouragement.


“I have set my rainbow in the clouds…”

Genesis 9:13

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“I don’t need anyone to make a fool out of me. “I’m doing all right by myself.”

Groucho Marx


Starting college as a theatre major, I won a leading role in a play called, The Girls in 509.” I was thrilled my “show biz ship” had come in! I was going to be a star. I didn’t just learn my lines. I lived them. I breathed them. I had them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I took them to bed, the bathroom, and all stops in between. I was ready.

The days of rehearsal seemed to sprout wings and fly. The night before our opening, an invited audience from the Boy’s Industrial School. Tough crowd. If I could make these kids laugh, I knew I could do the same for the general public the following night.

The curtain went up. Everything was going great. The audience was laughing in all the right places.

I was ready to give them a passing grade until we came to one scene near the end of the play. What I was saying was not supposed to be funny, but the audience was laughing anyway. Why? I didn’t have a clue. When the action shifted to another part of the stage, the mystery was solved. The actress beside me whispered, “You zipper is down.” OOPS!

Prior to this scene, I had only one minute for a costume change. The pants I was changing into were too long. The legs were hemmed. As I was pulling them on my toe got caught in the hem, tearing it apart. Trying to make a quick repair by tucking them under, I forgot to pull up my zipper.

I haven’t been cast in a play for a while, but that hasn’t stopped me from playing the part of a fool on a regular basis. Have you ever flashed a big smile at that special someone only to discover later broccoli, and a long list of other items from the menu were stuck in your teeth. I have. OOPS!

One night in desperation I dialed the phone.

A female voice said, “Hello.”

I said, “This is Jerry Snider. I live at 1867 Covington Court – Apartment 37. My furnace is making a weird sound. Karep…karep…karep…chah…chah…chah… it’s not putting out any heat. Can you send someone over before it explodes?”

The kind lady told me she was sorry about my furnace, hoped it would not explode and regretted not being able to send someone over. That was because I had dialed the wrong number for apartment maintenance. I had dialed a private number. OOPS

If you’re human. Every now and then you will slip, stumble, and spill. You’re going to laugh about it later. Why wait? Laugh about it now. Don’t worry about the people laughing at you. Tomorrow it’s their turn to fumble.

Comedian Victor Borge said, “The shortest distance between two people is laughter.”

If you can laugh at yourself, you’re half was there.


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“Don’t carry a grudge.

While you’re carrying the grudge the other guy’s out dancing.”

Buddy Hackett, comedian


Permit me to quote my 12th grade English teacher, Mrs. Schiff, who one afternoon made this promise to our class.

“You will be tricked, trapped, and bamboozled.”

Forty-six years after graduating from high school, I’ll be the first to tell you Mrs. Schiff was right.

I did get tricked.

I did get trapped.

I did get bamboozled.

Not just once but a whole bunch of times.

Life is not fair. Read the paper, watch television, or listen to the radio news – it’s no secret that we humans are pretty good at doing some terrible things to each other. You might as well paint a target on the seat of your pants because people are going to kick you in the pants. Mrs. Schiff told us the truth, but I’m only going to give her a grade of B- because she didn’t tell the whole truth.

Forgiveness is necessary every time you get tricked, trapped, and bamboozled. That’s the part she left out. Maybe she didn’t tell us that part because the lesson had to be learned at the famous “School of Hard Knocks.”

I have been hurt and needed to forgive people.

I have also been the one who did the hurting and needed to be forgiven.

Reminding myself of the “Need to Be” has made the “Need To” easier.

Forgiveness in no way justifies the cruel things people do to each other. You may never get the answer to, “Why me?” or “Why this?”

You will, however, always have the answer to, “What now?”

Hate or heal.

During the early stages of World War II, the Japanese invaded the Philippine Islands. At a place called The Bataan Peninsula, they took 76,000 Philippine and American prisoners. During what became known as, “The Bataan Death March” the Japanese tortured these men in unspeakable ways. Over a third of them never survived the ordeal.

I know of two who did. A friend told me that his father had been one of the soldiers who had endured this living Hell. Although he lived to be 65, a day never passed that he didn’t vocalize his hate for the Japanese. Until his last breath, bitterness ruled his day.

On the other hand, I read in the newspaper about another man who lived through that same Hell. In what had to be the ultimate act of forgiveness, he was now the proud owner of a Toyota dealership – selling cars made by the Japanese.

Now here’s a travel tip for your lie’s journey. The luggage labeled hate, resentment, and anger is too heavy to carry. Do whatever it takes, be it help from a social worker or group – leave it behind. Take along the suitcase marked FORGIVENESS and you stand a much better chance of enjoying the trip.


“For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly father will forgive you.”

 Matthew 6:14

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