We Are Who We Are When We Are

I said goodbye to a neighbor recently.

He was a complex man. Air Force veteran, Austin Police Department legend, father, husband, and stroke survivor. I never knew him before the stroke. But I often heard stories from his former partners, friends and others who talked about the man he was before.

The same conversations took place at his memorial service and I wish I would have stepped up that afternoon to share my thoughts on the man he was when I knew him. It would have gone like this:

I didn’t know him before his stroke. I never knew him as an active police officer. But I knew my neighbor. I knew the man who often walked with my toddlers to the mailbox and hung out with them and their mom when she was staying at home and playing out front of the house during those monotonous days of child rearing. I knew the man who would always walk across the street and offer to help if he saw me working in my yard. He may not have been able to physically help, but he always offered. I knew the man who continued to contribute to society well passed when others might have given up. The reach of his influence may have contracted, but he still added great value to the those he interacted with on a daily basis and for that, I want to thank him and thank his family. And my only regret is I never took him up his offer to “break him out” and take him to the Hoffbrau for a steak – and he asked often.

I don’t know why I didn’t share my thoughts at the service and can work through that in another post. But, the greater point is that everyone has an impact. I don’t believe his family knows the impact he had on my family during that period of our lives. And my impression was that they believed his value to society was diminished when he suffered the stroke because they were comparing him to the person they knew before that event.

Let’s move past comparisons. We are who we are when we are. Not who we might become because of our “potential.” We are never a “shell of our former selves.” Let’s give grace and acceptance.

We are who we are when we are.

Thanks for listening.

Make Service Your Lens

I was lucky to have the opportunity this week to speak at the Walsh Middle School National Junior Honor Society induction ceremony and wanted to share my thoughts on service. Thanks for reading.

Before I even begin I want to invite our inductees this afternoon to take a moment and thank those who support their growth and development. It’s not easy being a parent/guardian/teacher/principal and none of us would be sitting here without the dedication of others. So let’s take a moment and give them a round of applause.
I want to thank Dr. Agnew and Ms. Zunker for asking me to share a few thoughts this afternoon. I have so many wonderful memories working with many of your older brothers and sisters when I was lucky enough to serve as the assistant principal here from the day the campus opened and for the next five years. If anyone wants the inside scoop of how they acted when they were in middle school, I’ll stick around after the ceremony.

And one free tip before I jump into the meat of my thoughts today. Always thank your family when you’re giving a speech. So, Kelley, Lincoln, and Harrison, thanks for being here to help me celebrate these students today.

But the major reason I’m excited to talk with you all at this event is to celebrate a community that honors the five pillars of NJHS – Scholarship, Service, Leadership, Character, and Citizenship. We’re going to be hearing about each of those in more depth shortly so I’m only going speak about one – SERVICE.

We are the lucky ones. I do believe that hard work breeds luck, but I also believe that the more we do for others without the expectation of anything in return the happier lives we will lead.

So, my challenge to you, new inductees, is to embrace the idea of SERVICE as much more important than hours, projects, a box to check, or something to enhance your college application. Look at SERVICE as a way of life. Look at SERVICE as a lens to see the world.

In every situation you find yourself, whether it’s navigating a crowded Walsh hallway, working in a small group on a project, welcoming a new student, witnessing a conflict between two peers, or being a son/daughter/sister/brother/friend, ask yourself “How can I be of SERVICE?” “How can I make this situation better for those around me?”

And then take ACTION! Go FIRST! Err on the side of ACTION rather than HESITATION! Don’t be a BYSTANDER!

Be GENUINE, take your SERVICE seriously, and amazing things will happen for each and every one of you.

Thank you.