Recycling Rubs Off

My son, Josh, had a student in his public speaking class deliver a speech on the importance of recycling. As visual aids, she had several items one could recycle. When she finished, she gathered up her visuals and on her way to her seat she tossed her recyclables into the wastebasket. I’m not sure she got the point of her own speech.

For many years I felt no inclination to recycle. I hardly knew what the word meant. I am the only one in our family of six adults and three children who disdained recycling. But over time, they have set good examples, exhorted me, and shamed me into being a “greener” citizen.

Recently, I finished a can of mineral water immediately before I went to the pulpit to speak. Two regular waste cans were only a few feet away, but no recycling bins were in sight. Remembering a recycling barrel one floor below me, I sprinted down the steps, tossed the can in the bin, and rushed back upstairs to avoid keeping the audience waiting.

Later I thought of the influence of my family; I had not only changed my outlook about reusing our resources, but the habit was so ingrained in my thinking that I could not bear to throw the can in with the trash.

The lesson?  We can’t help but be influenced by the people around us. We must choose our associates and friends carefully. Habits much worse than being green can rub off on us, too.


One of the most successful coaches in the NBA is Jerry Sloan. He is the fourth winningest coach in the NBA with a record of 1,221 wins and 803 losses. He was the first coach to record 1,000 wins with the same club, the Utah Jazz. He was the longest-tenured coach in any of the top four American sports.

One of the traits he was known for as a coach and player was his intensity.  One of his star players, Karl Malone, said about him when he was in one of his “intense” moods: “I just say, ‘Hi Coach’ just to let him know I’m around.”

He gives new meaning to the word “intense.”  Once as a player for the Chicago Bulls, he got a technical foul for arguing with a referee during pre-game warm-ups.

He was so single-minded about the game that his Chicago coach, Dick Motta, suggested he get a hobby, which he did. With the same intensity, he began collecting antiques and pursued it so avidly that he needed annexes at his home to store them. According to the Wall Street Journal, He called them his “Sanford and Son” hoard.

I’m not suggesting that we carry the trait of intensity to the lengths that Jerry Sloan did. I do believe his success in a profession where the average length of an NBA coach is a little over three years underscores the value of adding intensity to our efforts.


Helping the Homeless

How best to help the homeless who ask for money on the streets of our cities is a never-ending issue. Some see these individuals as scheming to get money without working. This attitude comes from seeing the same people at the same spot each day asking for money. Others fumble in their pockets and pull out a dollar or change and hand the money to the person without speaking, probably thinking, “There but for the grace of God….”

My version of this technique is to give the person  $2.00, ask their names, and wish them luck–until yesterday.

Doug, a middle-aged man asking for money, met me as I was coming out of a downtown Cincinnati Walgreen’s. I questioned him about what he wanted the money for and he said to buy himself lunch. I asked where he planned to eat and he said, “Wendy’s in the next block.”

Instead of handing him a little money, I told him I would take him to buy his lunch. We walked into Wendy’s amidst some stares at the unkempt man with dirty and ragged clothing. I found out as we waited in line that he had lost his job six months ago, spends nights in Washington Park, and has a 34-year-old son whom he never sees. A well-dressed lady in front of us was listening in on the conversation. As I approached the cashier to pay for the cheeseburger, chili, and malt, I saw her give him some bills from her purse.

I left Doug to eat his hot meal in a warm and inviting place. I don’t have the answers how best to help those less fortunate than I. But on this day, I felt good about the action I had taken. And my guess is the lady in front of us did as well.

Practice with All Your Props

Basketball was an important part of the culture when I attended Shawswick High School in Bedford, Indiana. Before the first game each year, our tradition was that the ball team would go out on the gym floor through an aisle made by the cheerleaders and then jump through a hoop that said, “Shawswick Farmers.” (Yes, our country school was the Shawswick Farmers and our chant was “Plow ‘em Under.”)

We rehearsed this procedure several times. The team went through the hoop in alphabetical order, so since my last name started with “B” I led the team and was the first player through the hoop.

The only part we did not get to practice was having the hoop covered with paper,  painted with the message, “Shawswick Farmers.”  We only practiced with the empty hoop.

Of course the band was playing the school song and all 2000 fans were standing as we ran out on to the floor with the cheerleaders creating a path to the hoop.

Although I had gone successfully through the hoop several times when there was no paper covering, the paper was a new experience for me. As I leaped through the paper-covered hoop, I tripped and literally fell through the hoop.  With my slick nylon warm-up suit, I scooted on my knees several feet and stopped just shy of the foul line. Of course this created havoc among the rest of the players who followed. A scene from a “Laurel and Hardy” movie couldn’t have been more slapstick.

I fear in the early part of the season I was remembered more for tripping through the hoop than throwing the ball through the hoop. Practice sessions should include all the props to avoid scenes such as that one.