It’s Presidents’ Day in the United States of America and what better way to celebrate than to demonstrate the hypocrisy of democracy?
Thousands of Americans are expected to take to the streets to protest America’s current sitting president, one Donald Trump.
That’s fine. I don’t have any problem with Americans exercising a freedom granted them by our Founding Fathers.
I do have a problem with the #NotMyPresident movement, though.
For any American out there who utters the phrase, “not my president”, or uses the hashtag #NotMyPresident, you are incorrect, and likely a hypocrite.
You are incorrect because you do not get to choose your president.
You are allowed to cast a vote for the man or woman you want to serve as your president, but the Electoral College ultimately determines who your president is, based on a collection of votes from every American who casts one.
Thus, you are likely a hypocrite because you celebrate the idea of democracy, exercise the freedoms given to you by our Constitution, and are supposedly fighting for the rights of every American…
…and yet you ignore the 63 million Americans who voted for Trump.
(Yes, Hillary Clinton received more votes, but if you want to argue that the popular vote should be the deciding factor in an election, that’s a separate argument for another day)
The point is, an election was held and your candidate lost. Don’t be a first-grader who runs inside and cries because the result didn’t go your way.
Like it or not, Trump was sworn in on January 20, 2017, and he is the President of the United States, and your president, too — assuming you are a legal American.
If you are not a legal American, you can be expecting a knock on your door soon as the Department of Homeland Security carries out its operation to crack down on illegal aliens.
So, go ahead and walk around and proclaim that Trump is not your president. I’ve got news for you, though … he is. And he will continue to be your president until you leave the country and become a citizen elsewhere, or until the next democratic general election in 2020 when you get another chance to vote him out of office.
The United States of America is a nation built by immigrants.
Native Americans were here first, of course, but the actual foundation of our country was built by those who emigrated from the motherland in an effort to build a better life.
This is not a disputable fact, one which President Donald Trump himself would find difficulty arguing against.
Thus, it gives me great consternation that all across America on Thursday, businesses and schools closed down as immigrants — and many of their supporters — chose to stay home in a national “day without immigrants” protest.
What? Why? What exactly are we protesting here?
“From doctors to dishwashers, immigrants are integral to daily life in the U.S.,” said one person via Twitter, as reported by USA Today.
Many other protesters are speaking out against President Trump and in favor of their “immigrant brothers and sisters.”
And I’m left scratching my head asking, “Do you even realize what you’re protesting against?”
The issue is not with immigration. It’s with illegal immigration.
If immigrants crossed the border illegally and are undocumented residents, they should not be rewarded for that behavior and should not be allowed to stay.
Get back across the border to your homeland and restart the process legally.
Why is that a hard concept to understand? We play by the rules in this country, and if you break them, you’re punished — whether you are a legal, documented citizen or not.
As for the travel “ban” against aliens from select countries … ban was probably the wrong word to use because that implies some kind of indefinite, extended law.
The executive order that Trump signed, which was shot down by the courts, called for a limited “moratorium” on accepting citizens and refugees from select terrorist-infused nations.
A 90-day “ban” for citizens of those terrorist-infused nations and a 120-day “ban” for refugees.
Refugees from Syria were to be indefinitely “banned” until a time when that hotbed of terrorism and instability became stabilized.
Suddenly, Americans feel the need to stand up for the rights of these refugees over a temporary ruling to help secure our borders and keep our citizens safe.
That’s a concept that will never make sense.
If you don’t protect your house and those dwelling within its walls, you cease to have a safe place to call home in the first place.
The first duty of a United States President is to keep our country safe, and when our President feels we need tighter borders so we can gain a better understanding of who is entering our country — whether it be a sincere immigrant looking for a better life or an ISIS terrorist posing as a refugee in order to gain access to our country — it is silly to worry about the rights of foreigners before we worry about the safety of Americans.
I feel like the common expression “safety first” is lost upon all these protesters who want to open our borders to anyone and everyone. Perhaps it was never taught to them growing up…?
But I digress. Back to the main point of this post…
Immigration is something our country prides itself on and President Trump never said he wants to close our borders and never let anybody in.
No, he said he wanted to secure our borders, deport the illegals who broke our rules and make them play by the same set of rules as those entering legally.
If you can’t agree with that simple principle of abiding by a set of rules, then you have little concept of morality — right vs. wrong, legal vs. illegal, lawful vs. unlawful, and common sense vs. naïveté.
I just don’t get it.
This isn’t a debate about rights and freedoms, it’s a matter of common sense.
Has no one heard the expression, “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you”…?
I deeply believe in the United States Constitution and the rights that it gives to, and protects for, its citizens. Such rights protected are the freedom of assembly, freedom to protest, and yes — however stupid and nonsensical it is — the freedom to burn an American flag.
So, it doesn’t peeve me when I see someone exercise one of his or her freedoms so much as it disappoints me that his or her protests are aimed at the wrong target.
While flag burners are intending to send a signal to the government that they are unhappy with what’s going on in the country at the moment, they confusedly are sending an entirely different message…
That they hate, dislike, have zero pride in, or no respect for the country that they habit.
To which, the immediate reply is, “Why the hell are you living here?”
If this country has wronged you so much, why not move to a different one? Why would anybody choose to be miserable? Go somewhere else where you feel their laws better suit your needs.
Wait, what? You don’t want to leave? You have a life here? You have friends and family here? You don’t have to fear for your life that a suicide bomber will blow you up in a marketplace or that the government will tear you from your home and imprison you simply for saying that you disagree with it?
What novel concepts. It sounds like you don’t hate this country as much as your flag-burning portends.
Happening now: a confrontation on the ped mall as people burn an American flag as protest. pic.twitter.com/aPkMdls6oQ
— Stephen GruberMiller (@sgrubermiller) January 26, 2017
You see, the flag is a symbol for this country, not for whoever currently sits in the Oval Office in any given year. The flag doesn’t represent Donald Trump. These are not the United States of Trump, just like they weren’t the US of Obama, US of Bush, US of Clinton … all the way back to US of George Washington.
No. These are the United States of America, for which the stars and stripes of the flag represent. By burning the flag, you’re flipping the middle finger at — essentially — yourself. Because you are a citizen of this country, and the freedom that you are exercising was given to you by this country.
How oxymoronic is that?
That’s like getting a birthday gift from someone, liking it, and then throwing the gift at the face of the person who gave it to you.
You are upset with the President, not the country, so why burn the symbol for the country?
No, the American flag is not a symbol for the President of the United States, but the President can be a symbol for the country. Still, you are upset with the President, not the country, so why burn the symbol for the country?
If you want to send a message that you disapprove of Donald Trump, go protest outside one of his hotels. Go walk around outside the White House or anywhere through the streets of Washington, D.C. Make an effigy of Trump and do whatever you want to it.
All of these — while still idiotic and a pointless waste of time — are well within your rights and they send the right signal — that you are angry with the man in charge, not with the country that has given you everything you have in life.
Don’t bite the hand that feeds you. The country against which you protest and whose flag you burn is protecting you from getting imprisoned or shot dead for doing so.
Why would you turn your back on it and misplace your anger and resentment?
Strong emotions can sometimes cause people to say or do — let’s just call it “questionable” things. This is why I advocate not shooting from the hip and why I encourage people to think before they speak or act.
For instance, exit polls show a large bloc of American voters were “angry” and they broke toward Trump. So, if you are anti-Trump, this is your opportunity to see what raw emotion can do. It put a man that you despise into office.
Because I know that anti-Trumpers are highly emotional right now, I’m willing to tolerate and understand all the protesting that is going on — however ineffectual and futile these protests might be.
One thing I will not tolerate and maintain silence about is a parent’s duty and responsibility toward his or her children.
While reading an article from the Chicago Tribune, titled: “5 arrested after largely peaceful anti-Trump protests downtown,” I came across a blurb about a young woman who brought her 3-year-old daughter to the protest at Trump Tower in Chicago.
The first thing that went through my mind was, “Are you nuts?” Even though the article title says the protests were “largely peaceful” that doesn’t mean protests never break out into violence and danger. On the contrary, they often do.
Furthermore, this woman even admitted “[My daughter is] a little too young to understand all of this.”
So … what exactly is she doing there?
Bringing your child into a potentially dangerous situation is only one thing that rubbed me the wrong way. But it was her next quote that really left me shaking my head.
“The president is supposed to be a role model for children and somebody that they look up to. … I have to be a role model if our president won’t be,” she said.
Wow. Just … wow.
While I agree with her that Trump is not the best role model — and I’ve even said as much as far back to the primaries and throughout the general election campaign — it is not Trump’s responsibility to raise your kids. It’s your own.
“I have to be a role model if our president won’t be…”
No, sweetheart … you have to be a role model, period.
Pope Francis or even Mother Teresa — God rest her soul — could be in the Oval Office and you still would be ultimately responsible for being the first and primary role model in your child’s life — next to Jesus Christ, of course.
You see, it’s not Donald Trump’s responsibility as upcoming President of the United States to be a role model. That’s not his job. His job is to serve and protect the country and ensure the growth and prosperity of America — to help leave the country in better shape for your child than you think it currently is for you.
Now, if you don’t think Trump is equipped to handle that responsibility, you can argue that until you’re blue in the face. I’ve even had my doubts and skepticism about Trump. But that’s not the point of this post.
The topic of this particular blog post is taking responsibility and being a role model in your own child’s life.
If you think Trump sets a bad example, it’s your job to explain to your child why. Tell your child why it’s not right to treat women the way Trump was describing in his “locker room talk” with Billy Bush. Go down the list of offenses that you feel that Trump has committed and explain to your child why you feel these are wrong.
Aaron Sorkin letter
For example, Oscar-winning screenwriter Aaron Sorkin wrote an open letter to his 15-year-old daughter after Donald Trump was elected President Tuesday night. And while I do not agree with everything he says or stands for, I point out this article specifically to exemplify how a parent should communicate the rights and wrongs of the world with their child.
It’s no different than not allowing your child to watch an R-rated movie, making sure they “stay in the yard” when playing ball, looking both ways before crossing the street, instructing them to do their homework and clean their room, teaching them to be respectful to authority, making sure they brush their teeth and go to bed on time, telling them to say “please” and “thank you” — the list of parental responsibilities goes on and on.
It’s a daunting task, to be sure. Nobody said parenting would be easy. I myself have no idea of the tremendous challenges that lie ahead for my wife and me as parents.
But you ultimately have the responsibility to tell your child what is right and wrong. Nobody else does. Don’t shirk that responsibility. Don’t dump it off on someone else.
I love that parents love their children and want what is best for them. That’s the first step. But it doesn’t stop at love.
As a Christian, I believe that Christ is the cornerstone and foundation of each individual’s life. But a child doesn’t even know of Jesus until his or her parents teach and share the Good News with them.
Therefore, whether you are a believer or not … a child’s first and most important source of learning and growing begins within the household, and you as a parent are the President and Role-Model-in-Chief of that particular domain.
And you didn’t even have to be elected to serve.
My wife and I have a baby boy named Everett. He turns six months old today.
Perhaps it is fitting that today is also America’s 2016 Presidential Election Day.
Everett is pure and innocent, unscathed and unafflicted by the evil and corruption in this world. He’s a happy boy who is enjoying the sights and sounds of his surroundings. The biggest problem in his young life is when he wakes up hungry and we can’t get a bottle in his mouth quick enough. Or, when his Baby First TV show goes to a commercial break and he has to sit through a barrage of advertisements featuring humans instead of two-dimensional cartoon characters.
Annoyance with commercials is an ageless feeling, I guess.
When we look into his eyes, just like any parent does their child, we see a dependent little being who is going to rely on us for all his needs for nearly two decades before he develops the tools to take care of himself.
At the moment, he is a piece of unmolded clay waiting to be shaped and sculpted. He’s a sheet of blank white canvas paper ready for someone to fill in with detail. Or, more appropriately, he is a sponge who will be soaking in everything his five little senses can absorb, answering questions along the way such as: “Who am I? Where am I? And what the heck am I doing here?”
This is why, as Americans head to the polls today to elect the 45th President of the United States, I’m on the edge of my seat with anxiety as we await which candidate will be leading the country during Everett’s first four complete years in this world.
I’ve heard candidates for more than 20 years use the rhetorical question, “What kind of country will we be leaving our children?” To me, this never resonated because I haven’t been a parent until this current election cycle. I’ve always shrugged off that question and figured I’d let everyone else worry about that. I wanted America fixed right now.
But it takes being a parent to understand exactly what that means. As a parent, you want the best for your child and you never want to see them go through pain and suffering. More than that, you want to see them succeed and have a better life than you had because it brings great joy to see them thrive.
This is why I am nervous for Everett. I’m not so sure he will be left with a better America than the one his parents or grandparents have had.
The national debt is mounting, as our government borrows and spends money as if it were Monopoly currency. Gun violence seems to be ever-growing and spreading like wildfire. Police officers are under attack and criticized for their handling of a very difficult job, trying to maintain law and order so our society doesn’t dissolve into chaos. Terrorism is alive and (not) well, spreading across international borders and hitting first-world countries. Taxes keep rising and affect our cost of living. Health care costs are through the roof. There’s less spending cash in Americans’ pockets, smaller savings accounts, and weaker and bleaker retirement living.
“…and I think to myself, what a wonderful world.”
What a disaster this election cycle has become. I am disappointed in Republicans and Democrats alike for the two candidates that they nominated. And for two candidates who have such high unfavorability ratings — even within their own parties! — I am just shocked by the “voice of the people” and how we got to where we are today.
I’m not a historian, but this country couldn’t possibly have been any more divided than it is today — this side of the Civil War.
One side of the aisle wants to preserve the Constitution as it was originally intended. The other side wants to rip it up and start from scratch. I’m a firm believer in the Constitution, what it stands for, and what the Founding Fathers had envisioned for this country, but surely there is a common middle ground somewhere.
Certainly we understand as a society that times change and civilizations evolve but basic human rights, morals, and principles are timeless.
What frightens me most of all for Everett and all his future generational brothers and sisters is that this country is growing more apathetic toward religion and faith. By no coincidence at all, I feel our country’s moral standards have gotten weaker and almost non-existent.
Sure, our society is trying to shape up the conversation into one word: tolerance. And as it pertains to disagreements in opinions, personalities and preferences, tolerance is a wonderful thing. But tolerance doesn’t mean we automatically agree with everyone’s demand to do anything they want all the time.
As it pertains to faith and tolerance, our government seems to be more concerned with protecting one’s right not to practice a religion, but has little interest in protecting one’s right to promote it.
Take religious holidays for example.
Our society has an incessant drive to call Christmas trees “Holiday trees” because we don’t want to offend non-Christians. We also can’t say “Merry Christmas” to people because it’s more “politically correct” to say “Happy Holidays” — we might offend a non-Christian otherwise. Or what about certain schools across the country that give students the Friday before Easter off, but they don’t call it “Good Friday” because that apparently offends non-Christians. Instead, they call it a “day of non-attendance.”
If our First Amendment gives Americans the right not to practice faith, it sure as heck gives us the right to practice it. But if we get scorned and rebuked for openly expressing our faith, that’s not exactly promoting religious liberty and “tolerance”, is it?
Religious liberty is certainly being persecuted in this country and is being devalued and belittled in comparison to other forms of civil liberties.
It’s been said that the next President of the United States could appoint up to four Supreme Court Justices, which means the balance of power in the Court could shift dramatically and change the ideals and principles of this country for the rest of my lifetime, as well as a large chunk of Everett’s and other babies and kids in his generation.
I fear where our country is headed and how dramatically different the country might look. For those of us who are believers in Christ, we may be facing an uphill battle to practice and preach our faith in the face of mounting scorn, ridicule and persecution. (Yes, we live in a more civil world where the persecution we face is nothing like what Christians in the first century faced. But, it’s persecution nonetheless).
In addition to the struggle for religious liberty, I also fear the breakdown of law and order in this country as well as rising societal discord and growing disobedience.
The amount of young Americans who “play by their own rules”, fail to exhibit common courtesy, want something for nothing, lack accountability and responsibility, and who are willing to step over their own neighbor to get their hands on whatever they desire, is growing at an alarming rate.
We as parents have a duty to raise our children to be good, moral, upstanding citizens. To have respect for one another and learn to be selfless beings.
That is going to be a very difficult task for current and future parents, but a challenge I’m willing to rise to nonetheless.
Let’s just see how difficult that figures to be when election results are tallied by the end of the night.
I firmly believe in the concept that a person who pokes fun at the foibles of his own kind is not inherently doing anything wrong, so long as the jab is done in good nature. I believe this is an act in humility and an open acknowledgement of fallibility.
For instance, a white person can poke fun at things that certain white people do. Likewise, black people can do the same about black people. Same goes for men and women. I’m Polish, so I can jokingly poke fun at the stereotypes of my heritage in the same manner that a blonde can laugh off naiveté.
With all that said — and not to digress too much — allow me, as a 10-year player in football, to take a jab at some of the current NFL players who are choosing to protest the national anthem.
These “meatheads” must’ve been hit in the head one too many times if they think their protests are being handled in the correct way.
(Yes, with the increased awareness of concussions and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, I shouldn’t make jokes about getting hit in the head, but I’m being lighthearted about it, so sue me.)
I believe in the United States Constitution, its original intent, and the need for America to preserve and protect the rights declared in the sacred document.
For example: I hate guns, I hate the misuse of guns, I hate the idea that private American civilians feel they need to own guns. But I love our Constitution and our Second Amendment to it permits the authorization of possessing said guns.
Similarly, the First Amendment to our beloved Constitution gives us our greatest freedoms of all, including the one I will be discussing in this post: the freedom of assembly, which covers one’s right to protest.
I don’t believe in protesting. Protesting does more to bring awareness and recognition to one’s cause but it seldom — if ever — changes minds or gets things done. But protesting is protected by our Constitution, thus, I tepidly accept the right of protesters to promote their cause, even if I may disagree with its effect.
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick created waves in recent weeks, not just throughout the NFL but outside the sports world as well, when he infamously sat down during the National Anthem as a means to protest “social injustice” in our country.
When asked after that first game why he did that, Kaepernick said:
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”
I have a big problem with that for so many reasons. Let’s run down the checklist.
1) The idea that Kaepernick is protesting the flag and the country is richly ironic. The United States is the greatest country in the world for so many reasons, among which includes the opportunity to be gainfully employed. Kaepernick doesn’t want to show pride in this country, and yet it’s a country that has allowed him to have one of the world’s best jobs, attain celebrity status, and earn millions of dollars, which puts him among the Top 1% of the world.
…how dare this country oppress him! That’s hypocrisy any way you slice it.
2) Kaepernick’s intended target is way off … kind of like his passes. I recognize that there is anger and hatred going on in this country. I recognize that there is still racism in our civilization to this day. I recognize that for a lot of minorities, opportunities still seem more difficult to obtain than for whites.
But for cryin’ out loud … it’s not the country’s fault! It’s individual citizens’ faults. The country does not endorse oppression; it embraces freedom and opportunity for all. But if a racist business owner denies employment for a minority, that’s his wrongdoing, not the country’s. The country does not encourage discrimination. In fact, I think this current administration — led by a black man, mind you — is promoting more equality than any administration in history.
Stop blaming the country for the actions of its citizens. Start blaming the citizens instead.
3) Protesting on an NFL sideline does more to draw attention to one’s self than the cause. Remember what I mentioned earlier: the freedom of assembly — and thereby the right to protest — gives people the ability to draw attention to a cause that they care about. But if your protest says more about you and draws more attention to yourself than it does the cause you’re promoting, then you are not doing it correctly.
One of the principles of Kaepernick’s protest was police brutality, which has been a hot topic in the past few years after the media has reported several incidences of white police officers killing — sometimes — unarmed black civilians.
That’s a fair concern. I don’t think any person — regardless of whether they are in a position of authority or not — should discriminate against other human beings.
The problem I have with this target of protesting is that all police officers have been unfairly lumped in together as being racist and bad humans. I’m disgusted by this notion because I think the vast majority of police officers are good and decent human beings.
Do not let the negative actions of a few parts define the whole.
And as it pertains to Kaepernick — and other NFL players who have joined in protesting the National Anthem — protesting the anthem isn’t exactly drawing attention to police brutality. What do policemen have to do with an NFL game?
Wouldn’t Kaepernick’s time be better served by protesting outside a police station that employed an officer accused of committing a hate crime? That’s an example of attention being drawn to the cause, not to an individual doing the protesting.
Let me conclude this post by saying this: I recognize Kaepernick’s right, as well as the right of any other human being, to protest whatever cause they feel is important. But you’re not doing yourself any favors by putting your crosshairs on the United States of America, a country not responsible for the actions of a few. A country that does not endorse, encourage, promote or permit under law the oppression of any of its citizens. Nor are you doing yourself — or your cause — any favors by drawing more attention to yourself than what it is you’re fighting for.
And that’s my biggest problem with Kaepernick. It’s not his cause that is the problem. It’s his actions that are misaligned and misguided. He can correct that by stopping the protest against a country that has given him so much and instead focus on individuals that are truly responsible for the “oppression” that he’s railing against.
Something tells me he won’t change that.
A lot of things may happen to me in my life, but some just aren’t worth explaining or holding on to.
A week in Cape Cod is quite an exception.
And it’s not the size or extent of the event that matters … it’s the quality that leaves an impression.
The beach is semi-crowded, but the people are hardly noticeable with all the serenity going on around me.
As I write this, seagulls are pleasantly squawking overhead as they circle Saquatucket Harbor, just off the coast of Hardings Beach in Chatham, Massachusetts.
Waves gently crash against the shoreline and the wind ruffles the umbrella that provides just a touch of protection and relief from the blazing sun. It’s been a cloudy morning but blue skies can be seen in the distance.
If I look to the left, I see nothing but clear blue water for miles. Out in front of me are scattered sail boats and standing paddleboarders drifting slowly with the wind. And off in the distance to my right sit a row of lake houses lining a cove, overlooking the massive body of water.
In a perfect world, we’d own one of those houses and spend our summers retiring to the Cape for fun in the sun and some R&R on the beaches and the water.
It’s a dream we’ve talked about for years, and although a house in Cape Cod is not likely in the cards, a beach house in Wisconsin or Michigan near our home in Illinois is very much a possibility.
What makes a lake house such a dream?
Part of the attraction is the beauty and the serenity, for sure. Who wouldn’t like looking outside their windows at a real-life screensaver? Who wouldn’t enjoy catching rays of sunshine, feeling a warm summer’s breeze on their skin, standing in one of God’s majestic oceans — or other bodies of water — and falling asleep to the sound of water sweeping the shoreline?
More than what pleases the five senses, the idea of leaving the hustle and bustle, the speed and the grind of one’s daily life and escaping to a much simpler way of life is about as appealing as it gets.
Just hours ago I had my three-month old boy in my arms wading in the shallows and dipping his feet in the water. I had my beautiful wife sunbathing next to me with family surrounding us, reading books and listening to music. We had a picnic on the beach and we sat and enjoyed our surroundings.
What I did not endure in those peaceful moments was the stress brought on by lunatic drivers, clueless and discourteous passersby, self-absorbed shoppers, and many other of life’s cornucopia of unpleasant social interactions. I wasn’t living by a schedule with places to go and things to do. I was not answering emails and coding websites.
Oh, I love my job — make no mistake about that. But it doesn’t hold a candle to the finer things in life such as sitting my boy on my lap and feeding him a bottle. Or watching my wife walk the shoreline in front of a vast, beautiful seascape.
This is what vacation is. And some will see the ocean as half-empty and say that once the trip is over, it’s back to the daily rigors, the trials and tribulations, the grind and the rat race to which we’re all enslaved.
I choose to see an end to the means, a long-term goal posing as a framed masterpiece, hanging on the wall inside my brain. Life has its ups and downs, its trivial moments and momentous occasions. I choose to enjoy what passes my way while also keeping an eye toward the future. A future with rippling waters, warm sandy beaches, a bright sunny sky and the ambiance created by God that we so often miss due to our short attention spans, which are diverted by life’s menial problems.
As I sit here with sun-baked skin and my son by my side, I dream of a day when he appreciates the finer things in life, finds contentment in the simple things and is grateful for all the gifts that God has given him. Then I will know for sure that my wife and I have done right by him.
But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.1 Timothy 6:6-7 (NIV)
I received a lot of advice in the nine months leading up to fatherhood, but one quote stuck out to me more than all the others.
“The days are long, but the years are short.”Gretchen Rubin
It’s a reminder that despite how difficult the days might seem, through all the crying, lack of sleep, and challenges that accompany being a parent, the years seemingly go by so fast.
Before you know it, you look up and ask, “Where did the time go?”
That’s exactly how I feel looking back on the one month with our sweet little boy, Everett James.
It seems like just yesterday that we hurried to the hospital, checked in, and prepared for the arrival of baby boy Glab. I still vividly remember the first time we heard him cry as he made his way into this world. Tears were instinctive and emotions were overflowing.
I stood by his side taking pictures and marveling at the miracle that he was — and still is — while they cleaned him off and prepared him for mom and dad. Not normally one to want to hold newborn babies, I gladly accepted him into my arms and held him for the first time as we sat by Rachel’s side and had our first family picture taken right there in the delivery room.
Down the hall to the nursery, baby was wheeled with dad in tow. He was weighed and measured, tested and given shots, all with nothing but positive results coming back. He was our perfect little angel boy and I was floating on cloud nine.
In the nursery with Everett, while the doctors were finishing with Rach, I gave our little boy a pep talk. I told him how Jesus loved him, how his mom and dad were crazy about him, and how he already had so many people in his life who cared about him, something he couldn’t even realize. I told him I was going to teach him everything I knew and how I couldn’t wait to play basketball with him in the driveway and share so many great moments with him.
I swear, he was quiet and attentive — as much as a one-hour-old boy could be — the whole time I was talking to him. And if I didn’t know that babies that age couldn’t focus their eyes, I’d say he was looking right at me with silent reverie — but it’s okay, boy; there was plenty of that going in your direction.
The past month since that joyous day has been a whirlwind. We’ve prayed for our boy and our family regularly. Friends and family have gotten to meet him, we’ve taken him for walks and to the store, we’ve brought him to church to be in the house of the Lord and around a loving congregation, and we’ve snapped more photos on our phones than I’m sure either Rach or I have taken in our past year of marriage.
Fatherhood has been everything I could have imagined or hoped for — and it’s only just begun. Just wait until he does more than eat, sleep, and poop, I tell myself.
Little boy has already gotten bigger. Born 8 pounds, 4 ounces, he just topped the 10-pound mark this week at his latest doctor visit. We can also see the growth in his face and hands, and he’s showing more alertness by the day.
We sing to boy — mommy well, daddy poorly — and also read to him and play music for him. Sometimes all of that soothes him, other times he cries and holds up one of his little hands as if to say: “Please! … I’m trying to sleep here.”
Rach and I often talk about the many things we can’t wait to do as a family of three, but we also know how short this precious time with a newborn baby is, and we don’t want to skip the present with both eyes fixed on the future.
Sometimes I catch myself staring at our boy for long periods of time, not necessarily waiting for him to do something cute — although Lord knows he can make the heart melt with a hint of a smile, a facial expression, a sneeze, a hand placement, a heavy sigh, or any number of subtle body movements. But instead, I’m looking at a little miracle from God. A blessing beyond our wildest dreams, who brings more joy to our lives than any possession could possibly do. I look in his eyes and see a whole other side of life not nearly identifiable until I became a father.
And for that blessed gift, I thank God for his abundance of grace and generosity.
Happy one-month of motherhood, Rach! You are doing a terrific job and I’m proud of you for all that you have done and endured.
And happy one-month, little Everett James! I hope we have shown you the love and nurturing that you deserve, because we always want you to know you are loved beyond all expression.
I am a peaceful man by nature and hardly possess a vengeful bone in my body … just make sure you follow the rules of the road, or else!
I believe violence is never an answer to any of our problems with the exception of self-defense.
But one issue that leaves me longing for retribution and resolution is the ongoing threat of terrorism.
In most cases, words are the best method for resolving problems. All other means of conflict resolution are usually escalators that push dilemmas past a threshold, sometimes beyond the point of return. Heck, even words themselves can heighten tensions more than they bring about peace.
But when it comes to fighting terrorism, words are like blowing bubbles at battleships.
How do you use diplomacy with terrorists who care not to negotiate?
How do you speak reason into the minds of terrorists who have far different ideologies and systems of morals than you do?
Terrorists, by both definition and intention, are hellbent on destroying the fabric of our democratic societies and attempting to disrupt the peace and civility upon which our nations are built.
They’re bullies, in layman’s terms. And sometimes bullies need a pop in the nose.
Defeating terrorism and defending our nation’s interests both at home and abroad is the biggest challenge we Americans face today. And when I hear about ISIS beheading Christians at a regular interval, then claiming responsibility for brutal terror attacks — such as the one in Brussels this Tuesday — there’s only one way to respond to those who clearly lack the morals that most peace-loving people do:
Stand up and pop them in the nose.
I’m usually not an advocate for sending our troops into war. For starters, I wouldn’t want to send others into harm’s way when I’m unwilling to do the same thing myself. Secondly, the emotional toll forced upon a deceased soldier’s family is a terrible burden to carry. Not to mention, even those who survive battle could develop long-term mental, emotional and physical ailments.
But our brave soldiers know what they’re getting themselves into. They know that death is a possibility and that serving in the military is not just a scholarship program.
Fighting terrorism is one area where I fully support the use of force. I think it would be in our nation’s best interest — and in the best interest of all democratic nations around the world — to rise up and fight extremism.
For if we don’t fight back now, we are enabling and encouraging the continuation of such practices, and leaving ourselves in danger of losing the freedom and peace we fought many years to obtain.
One of my biggest weaknesses is, and always has been, my lack of ability to make small talk. But I feel somewhat relieved that I’m not alone in this area, for small talk supposedly is a common issue for many Americans, especially introverts like myself.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.
You meet somebody for the first time at a party or other social event, you exchange names and hellos, and then you stand there in deafening silence with a stupid grin on your face and with nothing to say. Inside your head, you desperately flip through the Handbook for the Conversationally Challenged, looking for something to fill the void, but you instead use coughs, yawns, or other body gestures to break up the monotony of the moment.
My personal go-to favorite is to smile awkwardly and audibly exhale while saying “Oh, man” or “Oh, boy” and “that’s funny.”
Sound familiar? Maybe you’ve been there, too. It can be an uncomfortable situation, almost to the point where you want to avoid saying hello in the first place. Sure, you may come off looking like an aloof, antisocial recluse, but at least you aren’t uncomfortable, right?
Wrong. Tucking and running is not the right way to handle this situation. And for as difficult as it is for me to engage in small talk, I’m still determined to forge ahead.
With that in mind, I set out to find better ways to make conversation and came up with the following list of small talk topics. I often find it surprising where a conversation can end up, and how off the beaten path it can get from where it began — and that’s not a bad thing. Sometimes all it takes is one single spark to set your conversation ablaze.
Small Talk Topics
- Analyze your surroundings
There is an awful lot to gain from paying attention to our five senses. Using our senses, we have — at least — five different small talk topics for conversation starters. Do you see something interesting going on? Point it out to the person you’re standing next to and share a comment about it. How about something you happen to hear? Is there a song on in the background that you like or did you overhear something interesting? Are you eating, or did you just drink something? Share your taste sensation with your companion and suggest they try it. Do you smell something good in the vicinity? Even if you know what it is, simply asking someone next to you what that enchanting aroma is will likely get them to respond to you. And finally, if you touch or feel something, share that. Maybe it’s really cold in the room. Or, maybe you share with someone, “boy, they really should turn up the AC in this joint.”
- Discuss current events
If you’re not one to pay attention to what’s happening in our society or country, you should really take a moment each day to do so, because there’s a wealth of information out there just waiting to be shared — thus, the social media movement that we’re living in. Maybe the Super Bowl is coming up and you ask someone if they’re looking forward to it. Maybe you comment about the latest political debate and ask what that person thinks of the candidates — careful with this one. Or, maybe you ask if they’re concerned about the outbreak in mass shootings or the spreading of the latest disease — like the Zika Virus, at the time of this writing. There’s always something going on in the world, thus, there’s always something about which to get — or share — an opinion.
- Offer praise for others
Humility is a lovely virtue that God wants us to exhibit, so try turning the attention away from yourself and offering up praise and compliments toward others. Give someone a compliment on their clothes. If you’ve seen them do something nice for others, let them know. If you’re somewhere where live music is going on, tell someone next to you how great you think the band is. And how about if you’re at an event with your significant other and you’re standing quietly in the corner while she’s making the rounds? Remark to the person next to you how great you think your significant other is at communicating. “Boy, she can really work a room. I admire that about her.”
- Get opinions on food and drink
One of the easiest and best small talk topics is to ask for someone’s opinion about what he or she is eating or drinking. It can work anywhere you happen to be — coffee shops, diners, restaurants, parties, backyard barbecues, etc. “What are you drinking there? Is it any good? I might have to get me one of those. How does that taste? Do you like nuts in your dessert? I’ve got a gluten allergy and can’t eat bread. Did you try the pasta yet? This might be the best latte I’ve ever had. If I eat any more cookies, color me blue and call me Cookie Monster.” There are tons of different variations of questions and comments you can ask — or make — about food and drinks.
- Acknowledge abnormalities
No, I’m not talking about physical ailments and deformities. In 2014, we had a cold wave in this country due to the “Polar Vortex.” My car battery died and I literally wanted to hibernate for the winter. There was plenty to talk about with that abnormality. Just this winter, 2015-16, we are having very mild temperatures due to El Niño. This doesn’t have to be limited to weather, either. The 2016 calendar year is dominated by another Presidential election cycle. Donald Trump is turning into one of the most abrasive Presidential candidates in history. The Golden State Warriors are winning games in the NBA at a record clip. Adele’s ’25’ album broke early sales records. Star Wars: Episode VII was released 32 years after Episode VI. Find something that strikes you as different than the norm and then ask someone about it for his or her opinion.
- Seek advice
People love to give advice — sometimes unsolicited, but that’s a topic for another day. But they’re flattered when someone comes to them for help. Depending on where you are at the moment you are trying to engage in small talk, you can ask someone near you for help. “Hey, how do I do this?” is a good question if you’re doing something constructive in the moment. “How’d you get such a deal on that? Can you show me where I can find this?” Understand and recognize when there is something you don’t know and don’t be afraid to reach out and ask somebody for their advice.
- Ask about work or school
For the most part, people are either in school or in the work force. And even those who are not currently employed might have been employed at some time and are looking for a new job. Work and school are two of the biggest eaters of our time. They are activities that we often spend the majority of our time doing — especially for those who don’t get much sleep. Ask somebody what they do for a living. Ask them if they like it. Ask them what exactly that job does (if you don’t know). Ask them for more details if their explanation was confusing. Ask them how long they’ve been doing it and how long they had been aiming to enter that field. Do they like their job? Do they see themselves there for a long time to come? Just keep asking questions as if you were a reporter or a prospective undergrad studying to enter that field.
- Gather more information
Unless you’re an aimless drifter, nobody wanders into a particular setting without some kind of reason. Ask someone why they’re there. What do they like about the place and what don’t they like? Ask them if, like you, they’d rather be somewhere else. Ask them if this is a recurring event you’re at and if they had ever been there or done that before. Try to find out how long this event or place had been in existence. Are they aware of anything else like it out there? Surely you can’t be an expert on where you are, so ask others around you for more information. And if you are an expert, that’s all the more reason to share what you know about the situation.
- Cover the 5 W’s
Do you remember your high school or college English or journalism classes? (Actually, I think they teach the 5 W’s even earlier than that, but I can’t remember). What I do remember is that the 5 W’s are who, what, where, when, and why. They are the basics of information gathering. Some people even throw how into the mix — but not only is it not a “w”, it’s very closely related to why. Nevertheless, when you are out and about and are looking for small talk ideas, try interviewing someone — informally, of course; otherwise it’s just plain weird. Not only ask them who they are, but ask where they come from, why they’re there, what this place or event is all about, and when they found out about it. The “when” is a little more difficult to work into conversation, but challenge yourself to fill in the blank on that somehow.
- Focus on the weekend
”Everybody’s working toward the weekend” is not just a song title and lyric from the Canadian rock band, Loverboy. Although for most working people the weekend is just two days long, it’s the focal point of our attention — unless we’re workaholics. The majority of people just yearn for Fridays and dread Mondays because they know there is something they’d rather be doing on the weekend. And because our focus is almost always on the weekend, that’s a golden small talk topic to bring up. If you’re meeting somebody on a Monday or Tuesday, ask them how their weekend went and get details. If you’re seeing them Wednesday through Friday, ask them if there are any fun plans coming up for their weekend. And if it already is the weekend, ask them what they did today, or what they have coming up later in the day. The person will either delve into details — usually with enthusiasm and depth — or they’ll reluctantly say “nothing” or “just relaxing.” And even if it’s the latter, you can still remark how sometimes those are the best weekends, and that it’s good to kick back and forget about the rigors of the work week — which, in itself, can lead to an even deeper conversation.
So, what do you do with all this information? Well, if you’re like me, you’re not going to remember it all, so just start with one of those methods, memorize it, and put it into practice.
The other thing you can try is a mnemonic device to help you remember. I came up with an acronym to try to help with small talk. Keep in mind, I have not used this yet, thus I cannot speak to its success rate. But, hey — it just might work.
When trying to engage in small talk, remember the SMALL part of it:
- S: Smile
Approachability is one of the big aids in conversation. If you’re standing off in the corner and don’t look happy to be where you are, you appear much less approachable than if you were standing around others and smiling. People are more receptive to talking with those who are happy than unhappy.
- M: Mimic
Try to copy what others around you are doing. If it works for them, there’s no reason it shouldn’t work for you. At the very least, it shows others that you are engaged with what’s going on and it could always spur them to ask you a question. And if you see or hear others asking specific questions, do the same to those around you.
- A: Ask
One of the cardinal rules of communication that they teach those who are in the dating world — as well as in business and other aspects of life — is to ask more than tell. In practicality, somebody has to talk more than the other because a 50-50 ratio is hard to come by. But make it your goal to ask questions of others because other people — particularly in a casual environment — aren’t looking for someone to talk their head off.
- L: Listen
After you’ve asked someone a question, the next step is to actually listen to what they are saying. Don’t just ask a question as a means of passing the time. Pay attention to what someone is saying and listen for particular words, phrases or ideas that might trigger follow-up conversation.
- L: Learn
If you knew everything about someone, you’d be that person. Whether you’re a teenager on his first date or a married man of fifty years, there is always something new to learn about someone. So, when you are engaging in conversation with someone — even if it’s just small talk — try to pick up on something that you did not know before, and then learn it — in other words, commit it to memory, so that the next time you see that person, you can ask for an update on it. And even if you never see that person again, you have something new to share with someone else.