Thinking Out Loud

January 3, 2019

Worlds Colliding

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:43 am

There’s a classic Seinfeld episode where the character of George, played by Jason Alexander, is concerned that people he knows from one context are invading an entirely separate context. “Worlds Are Colliding!” he announces to anyone who might care.

Seinfeld was a big hit, but was produced at a time when our social media was unknown. Today, I wonder the degree to which George would obtain separate accounts for his “worlds.”


You can imagine my surprise when Leonard, a cousin I hadn’t seen in nearly six years showed up at my workplace. When I say “at my workplace,” I literally mean at my desk. He told the receptionist that I was expecting him and without stopping, pointed down a hallway and said, “His office is this way, right?” to which she could do no more than nod.

I was in a conversation with Jake, who manages our marketing about why our East Coast sales are down and Leonard, without even introducing himself, proceeded to tell Jake that all our marketing in New England is being placed in the wrong media. Jake extended his hand and said, “And you are???” but Leonard just kept talking. Embarrassment doesn’t even begin to describe how I was feeling…

…That evening, Brian, who plays bass guitar on our church worship team unexpectedly walked into our condo tenants’ association meeting and sat next to me with a big grin. The meeting isn’t restricted to voting members so Brian was wearing a name tag that simply said “Visitor.”

“What are you doing here?” I asked.

He said that I had posted online that I was off to a residents’ meeting in our building and since I had told the world what I was doing, I seemed to be asking for company. He even told the association’s Vice President at the door that I had invited him. I like Brian and I would be willing to go for coffee at a moment’s notice, but I didn’t see what he was going to get out of our 45-minute discussion to change two of our bylaws and discuss parking problems. When we reached the latter, his hand suddenly shot up and he started describing the parking problems at his building on the other side of town.

Like Seinfeld‘s George, I was succeeding in keeping my worlds separate. But suddenly the walls were crumbling. In the case of Leonard, I had to use some tough love. My workplace isn’t a family reunion. In the case of Brian, I tackled the problem at the opposite end and got our condo Vice President to be a little more restrictive when random visitors show up at meetings.

For my part, I tried to analyze how much of my life I was sharing with whom. Should my cousins know where I work? Certainly. Why not? Should they know we have marketing issues along the Atlantic seaboard? No. Not at all. Should my worship team members know I’m the Treasurer of our condo board? Hopefully it sets an example of how we should be involved in our communities; how we need to be salt and light. Should they show up at business meetings? No. That’s ridiculous.

Fortunately some of my social media interactions take place on closed pages. But I also believe in transparency. I don’t want to have to block certain people from certain parts of my world. I don’t want to be perceived as having secrets.

But Leonard, I swear if you ever start giving marketing advice to my boss again, I will give him my blessing to call security. And Brian, next time you want to drop over, let’s make it my living room instead of the common area meeting room, okay?


► So how about you? Has social media meant that worlds that might have previously had a buffer zone of separation are now open-access to everyone? Do you have trouble keeping your life compartmentalized? Or is this not necessarily a priority objective?

 

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November 15, 2018

This is For All the Lonely People

Lorne Anderson is a Canadian living in Germany. This appeared on his blog earlier today.

Lonely People

Guest post by Lorne Anderson

As an introvert, I try my best not to overload on people contact. I need space and solitude.

I’ve come to the realization that is one of the reasons why learning German is difficult for me. It is not just that the language is hard, but I was also thrown into a classroom with a bunch of people I didn’t know and expected to interact. Tough to withdraw into your shell in a such a situation.

Despite my preferences, I understand the need for human contact. Living a solitary life isn’t healthy, no matter how appealing it is. When my wife wants to invite someone over, I usually agree. And enjoy myself.

I am introverted, but not shy. I have no difficulty standing on a platform speaking to thousands of people at a concert, as I have had to do from time to time in my radio career. But that is something that comes with the job, not out of my desires.

Most people, I think, crave human interaction far more than I do. And with the social changes of the past 50 years or so, people are getting far less of that interaction than they want or need. As a result, many people are lonely.

I suppose it was inevitable that government would step in to deal with the loneliness problem. The United Kingdom now has a Minister of Loneliness. I seem to recall hearing that other jurisdictions are introducing similar positions. To say I have mixed feelings about that is an understatement.

I applaud that the problem has been recognized, while at the same time decrying the solution. I don’t believe government has the answers to our problems; nor do I believe government is my friend. I’ve worked in politics; if I was lonely it wouldn’t be politicians I was turning to for companionship.

Dealing with loneliness may become one of the central issues of our time. We live in a world where it is increasing possible to be always connected to others through social media. In theory people should not feel lonely, surrounded as we are by so many others.

Yet social media does not bring with it intimacy. It may indeed discourage it. Your posts are there for the world to see. It makes sense therefore to hold back some of yourself rather than let your personality show, warts and all. After all, others may be judging you. Better to put your best face forward. But is your best face your real face? Do you trust people with the real you? And if not, does that holding back take a toll, isolating you and increasing the chances of being lonely. Just because there are always people around doesn’t mean that you have anything deeper than a superficial relationship.

Which is why I doubt that having a Minister of Loneliness can have positive effects, aside from providing jobs for some otherwise unemployable social science graduates (full disclosure – I am a social science graduate.).  Government no matter how well-meaning, isn’t going to find friends for me, or anyone else who needs them. If it tries, I suspect it would fail – despite data mining, it doesn’t know me that well.

At this point I could make some theological observations about human nature and being created in God’s image, which would be relevant but would also make this post longer than it should be. So, I’ll hold back on that thought, maybe for another day.

One basic observation though. I wonder if the cure for loneliness starts with cutting back on or even eliminating electronic communications? Maybe we would be less lonely as a society if we spent more time fact to face and less time face to screen.

It couldn’t be that easy, could it?

 

October 13, 2018

Intentionally Spending More Time Offline

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:05 am

Our backyard. Not really. But this beautiful trail is within walking distance of where we live.

So there’s this thing the kids call “IRL” meaning, “in real life.”

I’ve been intentionally spending time away from my computer. Monday was a great example. A holiday here in Canada, we spent two hours walking with friends in a nearby ravine, followed by nearly five hours with other longtime friends enjoying dinner and conversation.

Seven hours when contact with the virtual world wasn’t possible.

And I never checked my email and social media once, but for the 30 minute break between activities.

Wednesday and Friday were work days during which there was no time to rest. On Wednesday, I ate lunch standing up. It was quite busy.

I used my phone in lieu of my computer to answer some inquiries — I’m getting better at this, but many sites are not mobile friendly — and did check mail very briefly around 1:00 PM; but otherwise my work days are blissfully offline.

Tomorrow is church. I’m still trying to decided if I can squeeze two services in, as I’ve been doing the last two weeks. Not sure if this the new normal or not. There are compelling reasons to go to both. At the first one, we’re beginning a new series that I’d like to catch from the start. At the second, there might be a chance I can help my wife out by playing bass for her worship team (if she lets me do this and still skip the rehearsal.)

Life is better lived IRL.

A few times I’ve been asked how I came up with ideas for fresh blog posts 365 days a year for ten years. While some were repeats, and more than a few were re-blogs of what others had written, I think that the largest percentage were inspired by real life conversations or events. Even if they weren’t direct citations of dialogs that happened, those interactions were the springboard for my thoughts the next morning.

…As you stare at your screen, I know you feel you need to be doing that right now.

But consider the option of just walking away.


IN THE WOODS

Scott, Frederick George

THIS is God's house--the blue sky is the
   ceiling,
 This wood the soft green carpet for His
   feet,
Those hills His stairs, down which the brooks
   come stealing
 With baby laughter, making earth more
   sweet.

And here His friends come, clouds, and soft
   winds sighing,
 And little birds whose throats pour forth
   their love,
And spring and summer, and the white snow
   lying
 Pencilled with shadows of bare boughs
   above.

And here come sunbeams through the green
   leaves straying,
 And shadows from the storm-clouds over-
   drawn,
And warm, hushed nights, when Mother
   Earth is praying
 So late that her moon-candle burns ill
   dawn.

Sweet house of God, sweet earth, so full of
   pleasure,
 I enter at thy gates in storm or calm;
And every sunbeam is a joy or pleasure,
 And every cloud a solace and a balm.

September 2, 2018

A “Charmed Life” in Ministry

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 12:34 pm

For us, many elements of our married life have involved struggle or challenge. While my basic thesis on this is that “everyone has something they’re dealing with;” every once in a while I run into people who seem to be enjoying “a charmed life” when it comes to their vocational ministry career or life in general.

The Free Dictionary notes:

To lead a life characterized or seemingly protected by marked good fortune or luck, without (or rarely) encountering trouble, danger, or misfortune. Celebrities seem to live a rather charmed life, with everything handed to them on a silver platter.

Merriam-Webster offers this definition:

life protected as if by magic charms : a life unusually unaffected by dangers and difficulties.

I write this because I encountered two of them so far this weekend. They weren’t totally flaunting it, but for them, life is good right now.

Perhaps for you it’s not ministry per se, but simply people in your sphere of influence — friends, neighbors, extended family, work colleagues, fellow students, etc. — for whom everything is going g-r-e-a-t.

Here are five things to remember:

▬ Some people have an advantage because of the struggle. The refinement they are experiencing and the learning they are gaining through the challenges makes them better people.

▬ Some people are just good at covering up. They’re the ones whose life on Facebook seems so ideal, and yet the truth of their situation is vastly different from the pictures and picture captions they post.

▬ The key in these moments is to not to succumb to envy or covetousness. It’s not about your life versus theirs but about how you respond to the perceived inequities. In fact, why are you comparing at all?

▬ Life is made up of seasons. Two-to-five years now could find that them and yourselves have actually trade places. Maybe longer. Maybe shorter.

▬ When it’s your turn to experience an outpouring of blessing, don’t allow it to let you become proud or arrogant. Approach the positive seasons of life with humility and thanksgiving.

 

May 27, 2018

Your Choice of Friends

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:21 am

This summer I’ve been asked to be part of a preaching team at the church that will be working through the book of Proverbs. One that has stayed with me over the past few years is Proverbs 13:20,

Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.
(NIV)

Anywhere you see a verse which contrasts wise and foolish or wisdom and foolishness you are effectively seeing a microcosm of the entire book of Proverbs; this is the book’s overarching theme, seek wisdom. It echoes throughout the book in many places including the next chapter:

Stay away from fools, for you won’t find knowledge on their lips.
(14:7 NLT)

Years ago, my parents found me a “youth edition” of The Living Bible’s book of Proverbs called Get Smart. The title is rather pithy — and possibly alludes to a TV show of that era — but this is indeed the message of Proverbs: Seek wisdom. Get wisdom wherever you can find it. Treasure wisdom like a fine possession.

We sometimes use the expression “married up” to describe someone whose life was bettered by finding a companion who could lift them to greater experience and potential. I would argue the Bible is making a case here for “friending up.”

This doesn’t mean we simply toss friendships that don’t meet a certain standard, but at the very least, it demands an awareness of whether our friends are lifting us up or bringing us down. The reason is simple: Wisdom in contagious, but so is foolishness.

Many are the people who would have, at one point said, “I would never say that;” or “I would never go there;” or “I would never do that;” but got talked into something because an influential friend or group of friends was saying/going/doing that particular thing.

We tend to think of peer-pressure and conformity as something that needs to be taught in Sunday School or at youth group. We rarely consider how it continues to impact us as adults. It’s possible that some reading this have heard J. B. Phillips rendering of Romans 12:2 more often than the more traditional version:

Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould, but let God re-mould your minds from within, so that you may prove in practice that the plan of God for you is good, meets all his demands and moves towards the goal of true maturity.

I think it’s important to note that the verse doesn’t say,

  • Whoever walks with the wise is wise and
  • Whoever walks with the stupid is stupid!

No! It goes beyond that and “a companion of fools suffers harm.” We can say that sooner or later, foolish behavior leads to negative consequences. 1 Timothy 5:24 reads:

Some men’s sins are clearly evident, preceding them to judgment, but those of some men follow later. NKJV

The sins of some people are blatant and march them right into court. The sins of others don’t show up until much later. MSG

Time will tell. We see this also in Exodus 34:7b. I know this passage is interpreted many different ways, but I’ll simply toss it into the mix for you to consider:

“…Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.”

I can’t leave this without remembering the warning of Jesus in the Sermon on The Mount concerning the consequences of becoming foolish:

NIV Lk 7.24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

I think it’s also important to remember that to “walk with” or “journey with” people today may mean to journey with them online. Many of us have a great depth of relationship with people online which can affect our worldview or decision-making.

Here are some practical indicators something might be wrong:

  1. when you realize your core group is moving in a direction you want your life to move in
  2. when you find yourself pretending to be someone other than you are
  3. when you feel pressure to compromise (when something that was previously never a real temptation becomes a live option)

Our relationships can set the trajectory for our lives. Someone has put it this way:

Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.

Again, walk with the wise!

April 7, 2018

The Waldos in Your Life

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:15 am

Google is running some type of contest involving Waldo on Google Maps. I really don’t have time to figure out what it is, and when we were in a unfamiliar part of a city this week, my wife didn’t care for having more clutter on what is already a small screen on her phone.

Where’s Waldo? For me that question might be, ‘Where’s Tim?’ Maybe you have someone in your life who has disappeared off the map.

It’s weird saying that in an age of social media. There really is a Tim, I played at his wedding and we have a number of people in common, but getting anyone to actually track down an address — email or physical — has proved elusive. I’ve had people write down my info and promise to find a way to relay it to him. Then, more silence.

Can you imagine people of an earlier generation trying to reconnect before Facebook, or even the internet itself? Would they write letters and wait weeks for replies that might never arrive?

The Salvation Army works with street people. I don’t know if they still do this, but for many years they offered a find service, probably mostly used by family members. Of course, you could also run a personal ad in the newspaper and hope the person had a contact who would read it

A few years back there was also a Dave. I managed the band he played in. I sort of knew the where in this case, but I couldn’t get anyone who was in closer proximity to him to forward an email or even a phone number. We finally did connect. He had never received any of the messages. In one case I discovered a pattern of a Christian leader repeatedly ignoring email, not only on this but many other fronts. I know she’s a busy person, but rude is rude…

…I’ve always believed it’s important to stay connected to the people who knew you when. (Yes, that’s a complete sentence.) I think it keeps us grounded to have touchpoints with people who were involved in various stages of our lives. Perhaps it even keeps us humble…

…So who are the Waldos in your life?

Is locating them an obsession?

Do you ever wonder if they’re still alive?

Have you asked yourself if you did something to offend them that would make them want to break contact?

Is there an important message you want to give them, or something you need to get off your chest?

I hope you find your personal Waldo.


image: Anonymous postcard sent to PostSecret in late 2011 or early 2012.

December 29, 2017

Happy New Year!

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:18 am

This is the fourth of the four stories we’re presented over the Christmas season; two by myself and two by my wife.

by Ruth Wilkinson

At 10 minutes to midnight, Meg was sitting in the most strategic place she could find. On the couch in front of the TV, wedged between the armrest and an extremely affectionate couple. She hoped she was inaccessible, having spent the evening dodging the optimistic Ed, a friend of Joyce’s from work who Meg had heard quite enough about over the last couple of weeks.

‘You’d really like him,’ she thought. Ug.

Joyce had invited them both to her New Year’s Eve party, and Ed had decided, after a couple of martinis, that he did indeed like Meg. And with midnight looming, she wasn’t going to be in kissing range. Not that there was anything wrong with Ed, she just didn’t appreciate being set up and wasn’t going to play. As long as the affectionate couple stayed affectionate, she figured she could relax.

She balanced her drink on the armrest, laid back against the cushion. And yawned. She realized how tired she was.

The TV was set to Times Square. It looked like so much fun. She’d love to go, just once. But it was still on the to do list. Like a lot of things.

Like most of last year’s resolutions. She was going to exercise and eat better (including more chocolate) and call her mother more often and go to church more often and read more books and fewer magazines and and and. Most of which were on this year’s list of resolutions as well.

Next year was looking hopeful. Like a new job, maybe. Steadier hours, better money and more interesting, too. She had a good shot. She and Tony had achieved some kind of detente, which took the edge off a lot of things. Shane was doing well in school and wanted to be a vet. And, if she did say so herself, he was a nice kid. A likeable young man.

And, this party notwithstanding, she might be ready for a social life again. She’d see. No rush.

Because for now, here she was standing in Times Square with thousands of cheering people, wearing her favourite sombrero. She looked beside her and there was Mahatma Gandhi. He smiled at her and said something she couldn’t make out. She shouted, “What?”

The affectionate couple jumped and she woke up.

She smiled a bit, said “Sorry.” In the corner of her eye she saw Ed carrying two glasses of champagne looking for someone.

One minute to midnight, people were gathering around the TV. She fixed her eyes on the screen as the ball started to drop. 10 – 9 – 8 – 7…

•••

At 10 minutes to midnight, Tony surrendered. Shane had won. He’d just eaten his second scoop of the most painfully hot, the most searing, sinus mining salsa his son had ever made and just couldn’t manage a third. His cheeks were burning, there was sweat on his forehead and chin and nose and his tongue was on fire. He coughed and sniffed and waved across the table at Shane who laughed and downed another scoop.

It was almost not funny. Almost.

They’d just turned the TV to Dick Clark in Times Square. They’d watched movies all evening. A Matrix marathon. Shane had them memorized. This was Tony’s first time. They were pretty good. They’d invited Walt to join them, but he’d had other plans. Just as well, Tony figured. He probably wouldn’t have enjoyed it. Too much fighting.

Tony liked the idea about red pills and blue pills. You take a red pill and wake up in a reality you didn’t know existed, but it was more alive, more true than the one you kept living in if you took the blue pill. Blue pill — same old. Red pill — who knew?

Shane asked his dad which he’d take. Tony thought about it. The red pill had its appeal — adventure, a fresh start, the chance to be a hero. But —

He asked, “If I take the red pill, will you still be there?”

Shane frowned, “I don’t know. Maybe if I took one too?”

Hm. Tony thought for a second and then said, “Nah. Too risky. Blue.”

Shane told him he was boring, but he smiled. Tony thought he’d given the right answer.

One minute to midnight Tony poured them each a glass of sparkling grape juice. The ball was starting to drop. They toasted each other and shouted “10 – 9 – 8 – 7…”

•••

At 10 minutes to midnight, Walt was in bed with a cup of cocoa, the new James Bond novel and a plate of shortbread cookies Meg had given him Christmas Eve, baked by herself and Shane. Made with real butter.

Perfect.

The TV was on. Times Square looked crowded and noisy and glaring. He’d rather be where he was, with warm toes and his thoughts.

The boys had invited him to come watch movies, but he’d said no thanks. He’d already seen The Matrix three times. Loved it, but not tonight. Plus, he knew what Shane put in that salsa and there was just no way.

But mostly, he needed to face this one alone.

Last New Year’s Eve, he’d fallen asleep with the TV on and Esther beside him. She woke him up for the ball drop and kissed him and said, “Here we go again.” He replied, “Here we go again.”

They’d had over half a century of new years together. It was so strange for her to not be here. So wrong.

He put away the book and reached for her picture on the bedside table. His favourite picture. Those blue eyes and silver hair and the wrinkles at the corner of her eyes. She would have been a wonderful grandma. A wonderful mom.

He wondered what she was doing right now. Not watching Dick Clark, anyway. Too bad. She’d liked Dick Clark. He used to tease her about having a crush on him. She’d say, “Don’t be stupid” but Walt knew it was true. For a while, anyway.

He looked at the TV and raised his mug. “But she loved me, Mr. Clark. She loved me.”

Oh, God, he missed her. Just knowing she was there. That she was who she was.

He envied her. He’d always hoped he’d go first. Selfish, yes.

He’d never dreaded the new year before. This was the first one. But he really did. Another year of worrying about what the doctor might say, of taking that stupid cane everywhere, of trying not to be a burden to people who weren’t even family. Good people, but they didn’t owe him anything. Another year of being old and tired and alone and, if he was honest, angry. At the world that he was stuck in and the God who left him there.

One minute to midnight. He took a deep breath, squeezed his eyes shut and with his throat tight and his voice shaking, he said, “Jesus, you know I love you, you know I don’t complain much. But I don’t know if I want to be sitting here a year from now just the same, only worse. I’m not doing anybody any good. I’m not accomplishing anything like this. I don’t want to be… Blast, I don’t know what I want. You better know what you’re doing.”

The ball was dropping. …7 – 6 – 5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1

He raised his cup again. And took a solemn sip.

On the screen Dick Clark gave his wife a kiss. Walt sighed, whispered, “Here we go again.”

He turned off the TV and the light and settled down to sleep.

The phone rang.

“Hello?”

A horn blasted in his ear and Shane’s voice, “HAPPY NEW YEEAAAR! Happy New Year, Walt!”

He had to laugh, “Happy New Year, Shane. And to your Dad, too.”

Tony shouted, “Happy New Year, Walt!” and blew his horn again.

Walt laughed again in the dark and said, “Go to bed, already.”

Shane said, “‘Night, Walt. Hey…”

“Yes?”

“I love you, you know.”

It took Walt an extra second or two to say, “I love you too. Good night, my boy.”

He set down the phone, lay silent for a moment and said to the darkness, “You think you’re so smart.”

October 20, 2015

I’ve Become the Absent-Minded Professor

Filed under: Christianity, personal — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:42 am

As life gets busier and increasingly filled with distractions, I find myself ignoring some basics that everyone else might consider routine. It’s not entirely a new problem, but more and more I find myself putting on t-shirts and rugby shirts and anything else in the pullover category inside-out.

absent minded - shirt on wrongI would think inside-out is better than backwards. When I reach that stage, I guess you should lock me up. But it’s just not part of my thought process to say, “Are you sure you haven’t put that on the wrong way?” As long as I’ve shaved, brushed my teeth and am relatively certain my hair isn’t sticking up like some failed Mohawk style, I leave the house. I would spend more time looking in a mirror, but as I’ve noted here before, I’m having a bad hair life, which precluded my career as a Pentecostal minister.

So on Sunday, I ventured out to church. I found a seat in the third row. And I’m not short. And the particular shirt had not one, but three tags. All of which were sticking out. All of to which I was oblivious. After the service I hung out in the lobby socializing people until well into the second service. And then I ventured over to the church where my wife and son were.

“Do you know your shirt is on inside-out?” my wife asked.

Why would she ask that? Of course I didn’t know. Maybe it wasn’t interrogative. She tends to practice an economy of words.

I quickly ran into the little room they use to count the offering, and did a partial striptease, hoping no one would walk in. In my haste, I popped the button on the shirt, and then spent several minutes crawling on the floor looking for it.

So why don’t people tell you these things?

If a man in your church who you know (at least by name) was walking around with the zipper on his pants undone, would you tell him? In that instance, should a man be told by another man or is it okay for a woman to mention it? Isn’t it better to know and deal with it quickly rather than be oblivious?

Years ago, there was another instance in the same church where a woman walked out of the ladies restroom with a piece of toilet paper stuck to her shoe. Nobody told her until either my wife or myself thought she should know. Why did other people hesitate?

I can only hope the answer to that question is that they simply weren’t perceptive, just as I hope my fashion transgression went by unnoticed, or was simply written off as some new style where the name brand tag appears — as it does sometimes now — on the outside.

Or that they simply think I’m an idiot, and there’s no point in mentioning that.


If you see your brother standing in the church lobby with his shirt on backwards or inside-out or his zipper down, set down your coffee and go to him immediately, before he maketh a fool of himself. (can’t remember the exact reference, but I’m sure it’s in the Bible)


Inspired by this, our friends at Flagrant Regard (see comments section) made this meme:

zipper meme

November 13, 2009

College Roommate Advice Wanted

Okay, truth time.   I grew up in a major city and was a commuter student during all four years of university.   Only towards the end of my senior year did I realize what I was missing.   Too little, too late.

So I wanted my son to have the complete experience and a late aunt was kind enough to remember Kid One in her will, paving the way for at least a year of residence.

A pre-admittance survey asked for personality preferences, and Kid One mentioned that he is fairly quiet and likes to retire for bed somewhat early, especially by college standards.   The idea was he would be given a roommate with similar likes and dislikes.

He was.

Words like reticent and taciturn don’t begin to describe the situation.  But then, Kid One noticed the guy was making connections with other people, but only engaging in the most essential communication when in the dorm room with my son.    Like maybe less than 200 words so far this semester.

What’s with that?

REJECTIONWhat started out as a personality trait is now emerging as rejection.   And that’s not a nice thing to do to anybody.

So to those of you who have been in the situation:  How do you get a very withdrawn and possibly hostile roommate to open up?   How do you break the ice?   Is mid-November past the point of trying?

And of course the related question:  As parents, how do you go from being ‘copied in’ on everything at the elementary and high school level to being on the sidelines once your kid enters university or college?    My son’s a nice guy.   I just want to call up his roommate and tell him that.

September 16, 2009

What is a “Friend?” — Crossroads / 100 Huntley Street Saga Continues

Over ninety days since this blog decided to go public with information concerning the absence of the regular hosts from Canada’s daily Christian television program; 100 Huntley Street viewers were informed on Monday of the greater details regarding what has taken place.

I have abstained from following the story in greater detail — despite the blog traffic it brought — because I felt it was being better covered at the blog Bene Diction Blogs On.    Though it concerns me that despite direct correspondence off the blog, I still have no idea who Bene Diction is, I refer you to the latest updates on the story here and here or you can simply view for yourself (high speed internet needed) by going to the Crossroads site and watching Monday’s (September 14) program, advancing to the last seven or eight minutes of the program.  Be sure to select the Monday program.

driver2I think, at this point, the story is sufficiently ‘out there’ that there’s nothing left do at this point than wait for the outcome both involving Ronald and Reynold Mainse, and involving Gordon Driver.   However, I want to look a little closer at the statement made by Ron Mainse, “A couple of years ago, I was presented with an investment opportunity by someone I considered to be a close friend.”

An ‘acquaintance,’ obviously.  A ‘neighbor,’ to be sure.  A ‘recent friend,’ is allowable.  A ‘person we knew years ago who reappeared,’ definitely.   But ‘close friend,’ implies a long term connection which would, if entirely true, justify the deception.

ronald mainsePersonally, I doubt if Driver had any contact with the Mainse brothers during those thirty-plus years he was in California.   The original reports said they ‘discovered’ that each other was living in the same neighborhood, something a true friend would already know.

Of course, it simplifies the story, because the fact remains that Driver is “a charmer” who could talk anybody into just about anything.   So perhaps I should give Ron Mainse back some points for trying to put it more concisely.

But the fact remains that ‘close friend’ really puts some spin on this.   We tend to use this word too freely; talking about “our good friend” so-and-so, when in fact they are an online contact we’ve never met in person.

Facebook has confused the whole ‘friend’ issue, also; but in the interest of space I’ll let you consider that for yourself.

The point is that here we have a case of someone who wormed their way into the lives of some people who normally have some built in defenses against “the public,” and who no doubt did indeed reach their ‘inner sanctum.’    Think Bill Murray in the movie What About Bob. The Bob character is clearly just a patient of the psychologist in the story, but to his family, Bob has become family.

Many have the ability, after only a few minutes, to seem like someone you’ve known all your life; while other people you have known all your life can still remain distant.  Also, many people who are in the spotlight — possibly including your pastor — have so many defenses protecting their personal life from their parishioners that many are just dying for someone with whom they can share their lives more deeply.   Who better than a neighbor whose children attend the same schools as your own?

Still, I have people I consider friends, but that doesn’t mean I would trust them with financial matters, or even share personal financial information with them.

And finally of course, there is the obvious:  Friends don’t expose friends to extreme risk and vulnerability.

So Ron Mainse, why not just state it more simply, as in, “We got charmed and conned?”    Let’s not cheapen the word ‘friend’ in the process.

Photos – upper: Gordon Driver; lower: Ronald Mainse

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