It's About Them

Young People … Our Greatest Resource

Don’t Wait (Anonymous)

When I first read this, it caused me to stop a moment and realize that we are all responsible for our actions every day, all the time. What a great reminder for taking our own inventory before others do it for us. — JDS

“I’ll tell you a big secret, my friend.
Don’t wait for the last judgment.
It takes place every day.”

June 25, 2020 Posted by | Healthy living, Human Interest, Inspirational, Integrity, Self-esteem, Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

Memorial Day Tribute: In Flanders Fields (Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae)

Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae was a battlefield surgeon during World War I; he served with Canadian forces in Belgium. When a close friend was killed in action, Colonel McCrae chose to conduct the burial service himself.

He noticed that wild poppies grew on the graves of fallen soldiers there in a place called Flanders, and later learned that wild poppies grow abundantly in that part of the world in soil that has been dug up and turned. He later sat down and wrote this poem. But, as the story goes, he was not happy with it, so he crumpled it up and threw it away. One of his medical staff saved it and later asked Colonel McCrae to submit it for publication. The rest, as they say, is history.

The John McCrae Memorial Museum now sits on the site where McCrae wrote this classic poem.

It’s a worthy tribute to the fallen from all wars. 

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders Fields, the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

May 23, 2020 Posted by | adversity, Affirmation and Recognition, Communication, Compassion, patriotism, Resilience, Self-esteem, veterans | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Power of Thoughts and Dreams

Man, alone, has the power to transform his thoughts into physical reality;
man, alone, can dream and make his dreams come true.
– Napoleon Hill

May 12, 2020 Posted by | Affirmation and Recognition, Communication, confidence, Healthy living, Inspirational, Resilience, Self-esteem | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Don’t Forget the Simple Things

Although the “Shelter-in-Place” directive with its double hand-scrubbing and social distancing has created a lot of grief and frustration, it has also caused folks to come back to an appreciation for simple values and activities they couldn’t or wouldn’t make time for before, or that they somehow thought were always there, no matter what. In that respect, it’s been a wake-up call that can do some good for the soul.

Am I right? Here’s a quick story about just this sort of appreciation.

Eddie Rickenbacker, WWI combat flying ace, Medal of Honor recipient and long-time head of Eastern Airlines, was sent by Franklin Roosevelt on a mission to the Pacific during WWII. At that time, Rickenbacker was in his 50s.

When their plane went down, Rickenbacker and his crew were adrift on the ocean in rubber lifeboats for 24 days.

He was later asked what he had learned from that experience.

Rickenbacker replied, “The greatest lesson I learned was that, if you have all the fresh water you want to drink and all the food you want to eat, you ought never to complain about anything.”

April 9, 2020 Posted by | adversity, Affirmation and Recognition, Compassion, courage, family, Healthy living, Law & Justice, Parents, patriotism, Resilience, Self-esteem, Success Strategies, veterans | , , , , | Leave a comment

A FOOT ON THE DINNER TABLE (Dr. James Sutton)

While addressing a group of adults a few years back, I threw them this challenge:

“What would you think if you were at a nice dinner with about nine or ten other folks, and one of the guests puts his bare foot on the table?”

The general consensus was they’d be pretty disgusted. Their facial gestures indicated that, if that happened at their table, dinner would be OVER whether they had finished eating or not.

While addressing a group of adults a few years back, I threw them this challenge:

“What would you think if you were at a nice dinner with about nine or ten other folks, and one of the guests puts his bare foot on the table?”

The general consensus was they’d be pretty disgusted. Their facial gestures indicated that, if that happened at their table, dinner would be OVER whether they had finished eating or not.

“But what if that person had no arms?” I asked.

That changes EVERYTHING, doesn’t it? It takes our preconceived notions and removes them from the picture (and the table).

This describes an experience of mine; one of my table mates had no arms. He ate with his feet. He also drank with his feet and took notes with his feet. He even wrote a book with his feet.

Amazing.

This man, a Canadian, is a very successful speaker on the topic of dealing with adversity. People will listen to this man; he walks his talk.

What an inspiration.

Life sometimes throws us huge challenges. What we DO with them can be a measure of our character, our resolve, and our resiliency.

February 2, 2020 Posted by | adversity, Affirmation and Recognition, Anxiety and Depression, Communication, Resilience, Self-esteem | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gratitude

Here’s a piece I came across recently. It was written by author Melody Beattie. She wrote “Codependent No More” and other powerful books on issues of drug and alcohol addiction, their consequences, and how they affected more than the primary dependent. She has been a powerful and valued resource for many.

 

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.

It turns what we have into enough, and more.

It turns denial into acceptance,

chaos to order, confusion to clarity.

It can turn a meal into a feast,

a house into a home,

a stranger into a friend. ###

December 5, 2019 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

“IT ALWAYS SOUNDED LIKE ME”

I really didn’t know much other music than the country kind before I went into the service. I enjoyed playing guitar, so, of course, my Guitar Hero was Chet Atkins (and still is). In expanding my musical horizons while on active duty, I became familar with the talent and musical insight of guitarist Carlos Santana.

AARP magazine did a feature on Santana recently; his is a beautiful story of hard work behind a driven dream. As a young teen growing up in Mexico, he became very drawn to the sort of guitar blues sound coming out of the US. He shared how he would take his guitar into a closet, turn out the light, and try his hardest to sound like B. B. King, Otis Rush, and the others blues artists he loved and followed.

But he was continually disappointed: “It always sounded like me.” But, as time and talent would prove, Santana’s “curse” became a huge blessing. His distinct style has lasted more than 50 years, and he’s still going strong. In addition to the many hits he created, he has recorded over 40 albums.

Santana Reunion Band

Santana and his wife, Cindy, are very involved in a charity they founded: The Milagro (Miracle) Foundation. So far, they’ve given seven million dollars to over 400 charities that serve the many needs of children.

Carlos Santana stands as an encouragement to us all, but especially to our young people, that, in this world of cookie-cutter sameness, there’s still a place for uniqueness backed by hard work and solid values.###

October 11, 2019 Posted by | Affirmation and Recognition, Communication, confidence, Inspirational | , , , , | Leave a comment

“If You Don’t …” (Adapted from Nora Roberts)

If you don’t go after what you want …
YOU’LL NEVER HAVE IT.

If you don’t ask …
THE ANSWER WILL ALWAYS BE “NO!”

If you dont’ step forward …
YOU’LL STAY IN THE SAME PLACE.

September 14, 2019 Posted by | adversity, Affirmation and Recognition, Communication, family, Healthy living, Inspirational, Resilience, Self-esteem | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

When Love Rode on a Dime (Dr. James Sutton)

Summertime and warm weather take me back to some of my growing-up years in Abilene, Texas. I was always eager to welcome the west Texas summers. School would be out; I could leave my shoes under the bed. One of my dearest summer memories was watching for the mailman to leave something special in our mailbox.

Two Dimes
It would be a letter from my grandmother in Oklahoma. The letter was always addressed to my mother, but my sister and I were not forgotten. There would be two dimes taped to a card inside Grandma’s letter; one for each of us.

These dimes meant one thing: ice cream! If my sister or I heard the ice cream man on the next street over, we’d rush inside to grab our dimes and stand patiently on the curb until he came down our street. If our tastes weren’t too fancy, a dime would be just enough.

Long-distance Love
It was a given that Grandma loved us; we knew that. But using the US Mail to deliver ice cream in the summer was a creative way to send the message. It was long-distance love, and my sister, our three cousins and I experienced it for many, many years.

But something always puzzled me about those dimes. They were ALWAYS brand new and shiny; uncirculated. Many years later, Mom shared with me the story how those dimes always were always brand new ones.

Near the first of every month, Grandma would ride the city bus downtown with her modest check in hand. This was her one, grand journey every month, so she made it count, generally with a number of stops (starting at the beauty college where she got her hair done). When Grandma finally got to the bank to cash her check, she always requested a roll of dimes. She wanted uncirculated dimes, freshly minted. No old dimes for her five grandkids; they had to be NEW ones.

Too Much?
Today it’s possible for grandparents to video chat with their grandkids in real time. Cell phones and the internet give instant access anywhere and anytime, and gift cards can buy just about anything a grandchild could possibly want.

But that’s just the point, isn’t it? I sometimes wonder if we lavish TOO much on our children and grandchildren.

Can expensive gifts cloud a deeper message? Can love be diminished by extravagance? Might we be better off in a time when the heart of the giver was more valued than the gift?
And love sometimes rode on a dime.###

August 6, 2019 Posted by | Affirmation and Recognition, family, Healthy living, Inspirational, Parents | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Flag that Found Me (Dr. James Sutton)

My proudest moment to be an American came when I wasn’t even in America at the time.

It was 1969; I had taken a small group of sailors to a camp in East DaNang, South Vietnam. This was in I Corps; the enemy was close … and active. We were there to assist the First Radio Battalion of the Third Marine Amphibious Force. They were way undermanned and had worked themselves to the point of exhaustion.

We knew these guys; as sailors and marines we trained together in Florida as part of the Naval Security Group. The men I worked with there (one of them became my brother-in-law), and what we accomplished, saved many lives, and are among my most meaningful experiences … ever.

When it was time for our group to cycle back to Japan and let a group of sailors from the Philippines relieve us for a bit, I discovered that the marines did not have tickets to get us OUT of Vietnam, only IN. We had to wait for whatever hop we could catch. We hung around the airport long enough and looked miserable enough (which wasn’t difficult) until we finally caught a flight out on a medivac, a hospital plane full of wounded marines.

We landed for transfer in Okinawa. I checked on flights to Japan for myself and my men, and was told there was an American aircraft headed that way, but it was ready to take off. They radioed the plane and asked them to wait for us, then they shoved us out the door into the general direction of where the planes were and simply said, “Hurry!”

In the dark all airplanes look pretty much alike. We were running down the tarmac, toting our sea-bags, trying to find one aircraft among what looked like hundreds. We were half-lost and exhausted.

It was then that Something told me to look up. A spotlight, or some kind of light, was shining squarely on Old Glory, an American flag painted high on the tail of the craft that was our ride out of Okinawa.

It’s still difficult to put into it words, but the sight of that flag brought an immediate sense of calmness; I KNEW everything was going to be okay. We loaded quickly through the plane’s tail ramp. I made sure my men were taken care of, then buckled myself into a seat … and slept like a baby.

To this day, I cannot explain that light, other than to say it was a gift of Providence in a moment I needed it most, but I NEVER see our flag flying but that it doesn’t remind me of that night so long ago and of a small flag that seemed to find me.

God Bless America and all of our men and women in uniform who wear that same flag, OUR flag, on their shoulder. For them, may it always be a beacon of comfort and reassurance.###

July 3, 2019 Posted by | Affirmation and Recognition, Communication, family, Human Interest, Inspirational, Integrity, patriotism, Resilience, Self-esteem, veterans | , , , | Leave a comment

Reasons to Be Compassionate (Dr. James D. Sutton)

For whatever reason, this little quote captured my attention this morning when I found it in my email:

If you ever run short on reasons to be compassionate, remember there is ALWAYS at least one good reason: It makes you feel better than anything else you could do.

When I read this and concluded I really needed to apply it, it occurred to me that one could substitute many other words for “compassionate” and it will still hold true. Many, many other words.

See if you can think of ten before you leave this blog.###

June 11, 2019 Posted by | adversity, Affirmation and Recognition, Communication, Compassion, family, Healthy living, Human Interest, Inspirational, Resilience, Self-esteem | , , , | 1 Comment

It’s a Little Thing, But … (Dr. James Sutton)

I saw this yesterday as I was walking into a store, and was immediately struck with the notion of just how little some folks care about showing even a tiny bit of kindness, decency, and a respect for others. Their shopping cart was abandoned right next to the cart collection station. It would have taken only a couple of steps to put it on the other side of the railing, yet they didn’t, or worse yet, parking it appropriately never even occurred to them as a choice.

What’s the Thought?

I’ve always felt that what a person says or does, or doesn’t say or doesn’t do, is only a fraction of what’s going on between their ears, the thought behind that action (or lack thereof). And this is the same person that will gripe and complain about prices in the store, yet their little stunt in the parking lot causes the store to send employees out to round up stray carts.

To take this notion one step further, what if this person had children who saw them abandon the shopping cart? What’s the message there?

A Different Picture

To turn this scenario completely upside down, consider the person that rounds up a stray shopping cart and pushes it over to the collection station. What’s the investment there; 20 seconds, tops? Or what if they decide to push the stray cart on into the store and use it? If their kids are watching, what’s the message to them? How many times would a son or daughter observe that behavior from Mom or Dad before they would do the same?

Not many.

Character is built on tiny steps … like being considerate with a shopping cart.

Sure, it’s a small thing, but … ###

 

April 29, 2019 Posted by | Affirmation and Recognition, Communication, Compassion, family, Healthy living, Integrity, Parents | , , , | Leave a comment

“I Wish You Enough” (Dr. James Sutton)

I’ve heard of this concept before, “I wish you enough,” but it seemed to have more impact on me this morning when I received it from my friend, Jim Gentil, in Austin, Texas. The piece really stands as a mandate for us not to wish the world for our children and our loved ones, because a wish like that could destroy them. So think about how we might simply wish “enough” for them.
And thanks, Jim. –JDS

A mother and her adult daughter were saying their good-byes at the security gate as the daughter prepared to fly home.

“I love you, and I wish you enough,” the mother said.

“Mom, our life together has been more than enough,” the daughter replied. “Your love is all I ever needed. I wish you enough, also.”

After the daughter left, the mother walked over to the window were I was seated. She was visibly upset. “Did you ever say good-bye to someone, knowing it would be forever?” she asked me softly.

Yes, I have,” I replied. “Was this one of those good-byes?” I asked, pointing down the concourse.

She nodded, then added, “She lives so far away. I have challenges ahead and … well, the reality is that her next trip back likely will be for my funeral.”

“When you were saying good-bye, I believe I heard you say, ‘I wish you enough.’ May I ask what that means?”

She began to smile. “That’s a wish that’s been handed down from other generations; my parents used to say it to everyone.” She paused a moment and looked up as if trying to remember it in detail; then she smiled even more.

“When we said, ‘I wish you enough,’ we were wanting the other person to have a life filled with just enough good things to sustain them.” Then, turning toward me, she shared the following as if she were reciting it from memory.

I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright no matter how gray the day may appear.

I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun even more.

I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive and everlasting.

I wish you enough pain so that even the smallest of joys in life may appear bigger.

I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting.

I wish you enough loss to appreciate all you possess.

I wish you enough hellos to get you through the final good-bye.

She then began to cry and walked away.

They say it takes a minute to find a special person, an hour to appreciate them, a day to love them, but an entire life to forget them.###

March 7, 2019 Posted by | adversity, Affirmation and Recognition, Compassion, family, Inspirational, Parents, Resilience | , , , , | Leave a comment

GOOSE SENSE (Dr. James Sutton)

As tough as it might be to shed a reputation for being everything from silly to not-so-smart, the goose also stands as an example of some qualities that most folks would stand in line to acquire.

Even a long, slow line.

Take efficiency, for example. Wild geese fly in a “V” formation for a reason as they move to and from warmer climates. In that “V” arrangement, each bird creates an uplift for the one immediately following it. The result: The “V” formation adds at least 71% more flying range than if each bird took the trip on its own.

Yep, there’s quite a bit we can learn (and share) from a flock of flying geese. They make sense … Goose Sense.

GOOSE TIP #1:

When we work at making it easier for those who follow us, even difficult tasks get done more efficiently.

Whenever a bird drops away from the formation and encounters the effects of the increase in wind resistance, it is usually quick to return to its place in the group.

GOOSE TIP #2:

Encouragement always helps.

When geese fly in formation, they honk to encourage those up front to keep up their speed and strength.

GOOSE TIP #3:

No one person should have to do the tough jobs all the time. It pays to take turns.

Wild geese understand that fatigue is part of life, and they handle it as such. Whenever the lead goose in formation gets tired, it drops to the back and lets another fly point.

GOOSE TIP #4:

Stand by your friends.

Whenever a goose in formation becomes sick or wounded and has to leave the group, two others will follow it down to offer help and protection. They will stay with their friend until it dies or until it is able to fly again. They will then set out to catch up with their group, or they will join up with another flock.###

 

February 9, 2019 Posted by | Communication, Human Interest, Inspirational, Resilience, Success Strategies, Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

Humility: A First Step to Greatness (Dr. James Sutton)

Although there are many thoughts on why some folks excel while others struggle, I do believe that, in most cases, the difference comes down to a sense of personal confidence balanced with authentic humility. It’s an “I’m comfortable enough in my own skin that I can step outside of myself to recognize and encourage others” sort of bearing. Some folks seem to be born with that ability, while others develop it along the way. Still others never quite get there at all.

Would this not be a great skill to teach our children early on? And, if we do, wouldn’t we have given them a life-long gift toward lasting happiness, endearing relationships and, yes … success in life’s ventures?

Loved and Respected
Few Americans were more loved and respected than the late Will Rogers (1879-1935). At the height of his popularity, he had the friendship and company of presidents and kings, yet he never claimed to be more than an Oklahoma cowboy that had been blessed with some outstanding opportunities along the way.

That was not gratuitous posturing; he meant it. Those opportunities, however, were available to him because he had the skills to claim them. Isn’t it much the same with all of us?

A Lesson in Humility
Will was quite proud of the fact that a portion of his blood came from the Cherokee Nation, something he was pleased to pass on to his children. The very essence of his character and his humility came to light when, at the highest point in his career, his sister, Maude Lane, passed away. Here’s what he said:

Some uninformed newspapers printed, ‘Mrs. C. L. Lane, sister of the famous comedian, Will Rogers … ‘ It’s the other way around. I am the brother of Mrs. C. L. Lane, the friend of humanity. And I want to tell you that, as I saw all these people pay tribute to her memory, it was the proudest moment of my life that I was her brother.

I believe it was Will’s ever-present quality of humility that enabled him to relate so freely and personally with others, be it face-to-face or in his syndicated column that went out to hundreds of newspapers daily.

His wife, Betty Blake Rogers, shared that, as Will traveled about the country, he enjoyed making stops at out-of-the-way country stores at lunch time. He would roam the store selecting milk, crackers, cheese and lunch meat, make his purchase, then eat his lunch right there in the store while visiting with the proprietor.

“He had a human, friendly way with strangers and a warm curiosity about what other people were doing and thinking,” Betty shared in her book, Will Rogers: His Wife’s Story.

True humility is a precious attribute, indeed.

It will always be in high demand.

 

Reference: Rogers, Betty Blake. Will Rogers: His Wife’s Story. Indianapolis: Bobs-Merrill Co., 1941 ###

January 11, 2019 Posted by | Affirmation and Recognition, Communication, Compassion, Educators, family, Healthy living, Human Interest, Inspirational, Integrity, Parents, Self-esteem, Success Strategies | , , , , | Leave a comment

THE HOMETOWN BATTLEFIELD (Video & Song)

A Navy friend of mine sent me this song and video with the encouragement that it be passed on and shared. In just days it drew over a million hits.

Canadian J P Cormier has done an excellent tribute here to returning veterans that struggle with PTSD. There’s nothing else I can add to his message, other than ask you to please take a moment out of your busy day to experience it fully. –JDS

November 29, 2018 Posted by | adversity, Anxiety and Depression, Communication, Compassion, Counselors, courage, family, Healthy living, Inspirational, Parents, patriotism, Resilience, Self-esteem, Stress, veterans | , , , | Leave a comment

Managing Anger (OURS)

In the years before I retired, I wrote scores of articles on topics related to my work as a psychologist. This morning, I was on the internet reading an article that caught my interest. I didn’t realize until I got near the end of it that I WROTE IT! It’s probably one of the shortest ones I’ve ever written, but some messages don’t take a lot of words.

…………………………………………………………

Too often, the difficulties that come between parents and their defiant children can be reduced quickly by the parents, although it’s not easy. One of these difficulties is anger, an emotion that throws up more road blocks to relationships than anything else.

Stopped by a Tree
I receive a lot of email from parents. Anger at their children is a common tone. I’ve also seen it in my office. Anger is extremely counterproductive to the process of healing and the re-establishment of a working relationship. Anger verifies and often “feeds” the defiant behavior of children and teens, making it worse.

I understand the anger; I can identify with it as a parent. But anger is like a huge tree that has fallen onto a railroad track. It’s going to stop trains in both directions. All progress comes to a halt until someone gets the tree off the track. Who’s going to move the tree? A parent can wait on a defiant youngster to move it. Good luck on that one.

Resolving Anger
Psychologist Dr. Ihaleakala Hew Len teaches about “limits” that exist between individuals and serve to choke out the relationship. (Limits, and how to manage them, is a central theme in my last book, The Changing Behavior Book.) Staying angry is one huge limit. Here are three components of resolving anger (and other limits as well) I complied after learning of Dr. Hew Len’s work:

1. True peace and change begin with me. Anger ultimately destroys the vessel that carries it. Although anger has short-term benefits, it produces devastating long-term pain and difficulty. No one should wait for others to ease their anger.

2. I cannot pass of in blame what is my responsibility to change. This takes a ton of courage and self-examination, but it’s so powerful.

3. I must clear away (clean) the limits that exist between me and others. In other words, it takes more than recognizing the limits are there and that I created many of them; I must take the active step to remove as many of them as I can.

Reference: Vitale, J., Hew Len, I., Zero limits. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2007.

October 31, 2018 Posted by | anger, Communication, family, Healthy living, Parents, Resilience, Self-esteem, Stress | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why Bother? (Dr. James Sutton)

The great lyricist Oscar Hammerstein accepted the invitation of a friend to take a plane ride around New York Harbor in a small two-seater. The trip included a flight right over the Statue of Liberty. They flew so close, in fact, that the two clearly saw the top of Lady Liberty’s head.

What they saw amazed them. Every lock and every braid of hair on the top of her head was perfectly formed, detailed and polished. It was every bit as complete as the rest of her face, arms, body and gown.

Hammerstein and his friend came to the same conclusion in almost the same instant. The Statue of Liberty was erected in 1886, before there were airplanes. Who would ever see the top of her head, so why would anyone bother to finish that part of the sculpture rising over three hundred feet above sea level?

Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi, the creature of the statue, could very easily have saved months of toil and much expense by cutting corners on the part of the statue that no one would ever see, anyway. He elected, however, to leave nothing unfinished.

In staying true to his task, he left us with two legacies: the Statue of Liberty and a model for taking pride in a job well-done.

(Source: “The Spellbinder’s Gift” by Og Mandino; New York: Ballantine Books, 1995)

Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi, the creature of the statue, could very easily have saved months of toil and much expense by cutting corners on the part of the statue that no one would ever see, anyway. He elected, however, to leave nothing unfinished.

In staying true to his task, he left us with two legacies: the Statue of Liberty and a model for taking pride in a job well-done.

(Source: “The Spellbinder’s Gift” by Og Mandino; New York: Ballantine Books, 1995)

October 13, 2018 Posted by | Communication, family, Human Interest, Inspirational, Integrity | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Judging George was Wrong! (Dr. James Sutton)

JUDGING GEORGE WAS WRONG!

I recently finished reading the biography of George Stephenson; he perfected the steam locomotive and really started the railroad as an industry. The reason why we don’t hear much about him is because it took place first in England.

(Did you know the first trains didn’t run on tracks, but rather cast iron plates laid out on the ground. The heavy locomotives kept breaking the plates. Cast iron rails were a little better, but all that improved with the Bessemer process for making rails and bridges out of steel.)

One day a business associate of Stephenson accused him of not being a Christian. It was a challenge that drew Stephenson’s full ire, although some might say that his response seemed to verify the accusation. In any case, that particular confrontation got me to thinking.

As a kid growing up, I was taught two things that were as absolute as I could imagine at the time. One was that it was a terrible, terrible thing ever to tell a lie. Things like murder weren’t even on my radar, so in my young mind lying was the worst possible thing a person could do.

The other thing was that we never know completely what’s on the mind and heart and in the intent of others. Certainly, their behaviors give us a lot of clues; our whole legal system is built on what people DO, not what they THINK. (Otherwise, we’d ALL be in a heap of trouble!)

When it comes to judging and evaluating what others think, intend and believe … well, that’s God’s specialty. And, as far as I’m concerned, He’s the ONLY one that can do it accurately and righteously.

Just of few of my thoughts for the moment. I’ll send them to you on George’s train.

September 17, 2018 Posted by | Affirmation and Recognition, Communication, family, Healthy living, Human Interest, Law & Justice, Parents | , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Few Thoughts on Courage and Patriotism (Dr. James Sutton)

Since John McCain passed away last Saturday, I’ve been wanting to share my thoughts of my respect for him, but really couldn’t put them into words. I’m still struggling with it, I suppose.

Especially as a Vietnam vet, I was always moved by what he and the other POWs went through during their captivity in Hanoi for all those years. But it took on new meaning to me when Bobbie and I became friends with retired Navy Captain Jerry Coffee. We met as members of the National Speakers Association.

Jerry was a POW in the Hanoi Hilton for seven years and nine days. His book on that experience (“Beyond Survival,” published by Putnam), and what he learned from it, was a real eye-opener. Jerry has shared his story from the platform, but, more than that, his message always became personal to everyone in the audience. As he shared many, many times, “We all face adversity at some point; how we handle it matters.”

While in prison in North Vietnam, the POWs followed the chain of command. This was strongly against prison rules, so the senior officers had to be discrete while setting policy and issuing orders. Because of their seniority, these men were set aside for additional punishment.

One of them was Brigadier General Robbie Risner, the most senior POW at the Hanoi Hilton. He was a celebrated hero and top ace in Korea; he had been featured on the cover of Time magazine. That bought him a lot of pain and misery in prison, including ten months of solitary confinement in complete and total darkness. (He later said he held on to his sanity by exercising.)

The highest ranking naval officer was Vice Admiral James Stockdale. He and his wife, Sybil, wrote a book about their experiences at the time, “In Love and War.” It was made into a movie; James Woods played Stockdale.

Stockdale set a model for resistance. On one occasion, when told he would be interviewed by a film crew the next morning, he beat his face with a wooden stool until he was so disfigured he could not be used for that propaganda film. In defiance of the severe and sometimes fatal torture POWs were receiving, he inflicted a near-mortal wound on himself. He was revived by the enemy before he bled to death, but he had made his point. Things weren’t exactly easy for POWs after that, but the treatment of prisoners did improve. Stockdale ultimately was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor by President Gerald Ford. Fitting.

I realize that, in all his years of service, McCain’s five and a half years in captivity were but a small part of what he stood for and accomplished. But I do believe experiences like those five and a half years can serve to help us discern who we are and guide us to a purpose that can live long after we are gone.

August 28, 2018 Posted by | adversity, Communication, Compassion, courage, family, Human Interest, Inspirational, patriotism, Resilience, Self-esteem, veterans | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Message of Encouragement (Dr. James Sutton)

A friend from Austin, Texas, Jim Gentil, sent me this in his weekly message of encouragement. It touched my heart; perhaps it will touch yours, also.

To me, the message here is that, if we are caring, loving people, we should make it a point to be aware of what we have accomplished, be mindful of that work on ourselves still needing to be done, and grateful for the Guidance that has lifted us from where we once were.

This is shared as an old southern American slave’s prayer. The grammar might not be the best, but the message has never been clearer.

“Lawd, I ain’t what I ought to be, and I ain’t what I’m agoin’ to be. But I give thanks that I ain’t what I used to be.”

Amen.

August 13, 2018 Posted by | Affirmation and Recognition, Communication, Compassion, Healthy living, Human Interest, Inspirational, Integrity, Parents, Resilience, Self-esteem | , , , , , | Leave a comment

2%-The Winner’s Edge (Dr. James Sutton)

It’s post time at the track. The sun is shining warmly and a soft breeze wanders through the crowd. The air is charged with anticipation: a million-dollar purse is on the line.

The horses settle in the gate. The starter pauses, then …

“And they’re off!”

The jockeys work for position as the thoroughbreds take the first turn mid billows of dust. The pack thins as they approach the second turn.

In the final stretch it’s a two-horse race. Neck and neck they approach the wire. Man and mount strain for that final burst that creates a winner.

PHOTO FINISH

It’s a photo finish. The winning horse gets a million dollars. (Actually the owner of the horse gets the cash; I suppose the horse gets an extra ration of oats or something.) Second place takes home $100,000.

On this day, as evaluated by the assigned purses, the winner of the race is ten times more valuable than the second-place horse.

Question: Is the winner ten times smarter, stronger and faster than the $100,000 animal?

Of course not! Okay, then what really separated first place from second?

Inches. That’s all; just a few inches.

THE 2% DIFFERENCE

Do inches make a difference? Apparently they do in a horse race.

And in life as well. There are many times when success in life is very much like a horse race. The difference between a marginally successful individual and the one who hits it big is often that inch or two at the wire.

Translated into effort, the difference is only 2%. Research has indicated, over and over again, that just 2% more desire, enthusiasm and effort can bring ten times the results.

So what percentage of the population will ever realize the benefits of the 2% edge? You guessed it; about 2% (or less).

WHAT ABOUT YOU?

What about you? Can you crank it up just 2% more? You don’t have to win by five lengths, three lengths or even one length.

Just a nose is enough.###

July 28, 2018 Posted by | Affirmation and Recognition, Communication, confidence, Educators, family, Healthy living, Human Interest, Inspirational, Parents, Resilience, Success Strategies | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Trouble Tree (Dr. James Sutton)

The truth is, some folks manage their troubles and problems better than others. Here’s a short story about one person’s way of not spreading his troubles on his family. It makes a great point regarding how we could exercise a similar skill, if we really cared to do it. Thanks to Jim Gentil of Austin, Texas, for sharing this powerful little story with me many years ago.

………………………

The carpenter I hired to help me restore an old farmhouse had just finished a very rough first day on the job. A flat tire made him lose an hour of work, then his electric saw quit. As if that wasn’t enough, his ancient pickup truck refused to start.

When I drove him home, he sat in stony silence. On arriving, he invited me in to meet his family. As we walked toward the front door, he paused briefly at a small tree and touched the tips of the branches with both hands.

As he opened the door, he underwent an amazing transformation. His tanned face was wreathed in smiles as he hugged his two small children and gave his wife a kiss.

Later, he walked me to my car. When we passed the tree, my curiosity got the better of me. I asked him about what I had seen earlier.

“Oh, that’s my Trouble Tree,” he replied. “I know I can’t help having troubles on the job, but one thing is for sure: troubles don’t belong in the house with my wife and children. So I just hang them up on the tree every night when I come home. Then, in the morning, I pick them up again.

“Funny thing is,” he smiled, “when I come out in the morning to pick ’em up, there ain’t nearly as many as I remember hanging up the night before.” ###

July 13, 2018 Posted by | anger, Anxiety and Depression, Communication, Counselors, Difficult Child, family, Healthy living, Human Interest, Inspirational, Parents, Resilience, Success Strategies | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

THE FOUR FREEDOMS (Dr. James Sutton)

In his 1941 State of the Union address, President Franklin Roosevelt shared a vision of four freedoms that should be for all people everywhere. They were Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Worship, Freedom from Want and Freedom from Fear. That address, thereafter referred to as The Four Freedoms Speech, was given on the sixth of January. Before the year was out, of course, we were at war.

A 47-year-old father of three in Arlington, Vermont, was so moved by President Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms Speech that he wanted to paint them. His name was Norman Rockwell.

He put together some sketches and approached the US Government about sponsoring the paintings as an encouragement to all Americans and to help the war effort. Unfortunately, he discovered that the Wheels of Progress in Washington, DC, often get bogged down in red tape … lots of red tape.

He waited and waited for a definitive word … he never got it. He then approached the publishers of The Saturday Evening Post. They thought it was a great plan, and things moved quickly from there.

The (1) first painting, Freedom of Speech, appeared on the Post’s cover on February 20th, 1943. A week later, (2) February 27th, Freedom of Worship appeared on the cover. (3) Freedom from Want appeared on March 6th, followed by (4) Freedom from Fear on March 13th, 1943.

The positive response to The Four Freedoms paintings was overwhelming, so much, in fact, that the government finally got excited about it. With the permissions of Rockwell and the Curtis Publishing Company in Philadelphia, publisher of the Post, posters were made of the Four Freedoms and the paintings went on tour to share them with the public and to raise much-needed funds for the war. $133 million dollars were raised. Adjusted to 2018 currency, that comes to just over one billion, nine hundred and forty million dollars. And it all began as a dab paint on a canvas.

Norman Rockwell passed away in 1978, but the paintings of The Four Freedoms have become a national treasure. They have been on tour a number of times, and, starting last month, June of 2018, and through October of 2020, they are on tour again in major cities across the country. The paintings will also be displayed in a WWII memorial museum in Normandy, France to commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day. It will be the first time they have ever left the United States.

Here’s an excerpt from President Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms Speech (January 6, 1941):

In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.

The first is freedom of speech and expression — everywhere in the world.

The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way — everywhere in the world.

The third is freedom from want — which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants — everywhere in the world.

The fourth is freedom from fear — which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor– anywhere in the world.

That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation.

July 3, 2018 Posted by | adversity, Affirmation and Recognition, Communication, Compassion, courage, family, Human Interest, Inspirational, Integrity, Law & Justice, Parents, patriotism, Resilience, Special Occasions | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A 20-Year Father’s Day Tribute (Dr. James Sutton)

For Father’s Day, 2009, I posted on YouTube a song I wrote and dedicated to my father, J. Fred Sutton. He passed away in October of 1998 after a long and difficult struggle with cancer. It’s hard to believe it’s been 20 years.

My sister, Janeane, and I were fortunate to have been born into a family of Christian values and practice. Our parents held strongly to the old values that family was to be cherished, valued and protected.

In my memory, the six years or so that we lived in Abilene (from age 6 to 12 for me) were special to me because we had no extended family there. Unless we took a trip to Oklahoma, where our parents were from, we celebrated seasons and holidays just among the four of us. That, I believe, made our bond even stronger.

This song is titled, “He Was a Good Man,” and he certainly was. In the introduction, I share about the experience of going over to house after he passed away and found that my stepmother (Dad remarried after Mom died in 1986) had his belongings laid out on his bed. It was a life chronicled in just a few square feet. The impact of that impression, of his life laid out on his bed, inspired into this song of love and gratitude from his children.

June 16, 2018 Posted by | Affirmation and Recognition, family, Parents, Self-esteem, Special Occasions | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Responsibility … and a Sardine Sandwich (Dr. James Sutton)

It was a hot, hard day at the construction site. When it was time for lunch, each man grabbed his lunchbox and headed for whatever shade he could find. One man, upon opening his lunchbox, found it contained a sardine sandwich.

“I don’t like sardine sandwiches,” he exclaimed.

On the next day, it was more of the same in his lunchbox: a sardine sandwich.

“I HATE sardine sandwiches,” he bellowed.

On the third day, he opened his lunchbox again to find … you guessed it, ANOTHER sardine sandwich.

“I really do DESPISE sardine sandwiches,” he shouted, as he threw his lunchbox to the ground.

“I can tell you are really upset about this,” said one of his fellow workers. “Why don’t you ask your wife if she would pack something else in your lunchbox, something you actually like?”

“Oh, I’m not married,” was the reply. “I pack my own lunch.”

The Root of Most Troubles

As ridiculous as this little story sounds, it aptly describes the problems and troubles of a lot of folks. Mental health professionals tell us that the majority of individuals coming to them for counseling or therapy are suffering emotional discomfort from circumstances they themselves have created. They then remain stuck in their misery and unhappiness, with their primary method of managing their difficulties consisting of blaming others and offering excuses.

Since blame and excuses have no real power to fix problems (but they can make problems a lot worse), these folks are unable to leave the emotional quagmire that grips them. Their self-talk isn’t good, as evidenced by statements like,“Well, if you grew up in the rotten home I grew up in, you wouldn’t amount to much, either” or, “I’m failing that class because the teacher doesn’t like me.”

In one form or another, I have heard both of these statements many times as a psychologist working with youngsters and adults that had given up. These are prophesies that fulfill themselves. These statements are also evidence of “lazy” thinking, as the people thinking and sharing them are resigned to the fact that the cards are so stacked against them that they are helpless to change anything.

(I don’t mean to suggest that the roadblocks we all encounter from time to time aren’t real; they certainly are that. It’s also true that some get a bad deal early in life. The big difference is a person’s resignation to fate versus a plan to attempt to deal with troubles, if even in a small way at first.)

Responsibility: The Solution

As much as youngsters complain about the obstacles in their way and share how powerless they are to manage them, just try to get them to admit to a sense of helplessness. I promise you, they don’t want to put it in those words, yet it is empowering when they honestly realize that such was their expression. Positive change can start right there; I’ve seen it many times.

A willingness to be honest with one’s own feelings is an all-important first step.

We all know about folks who have bad breaks as a child or teen, yet who have gone on to accomplish much in their lives. What is the difference; what accounts for such a disparity, given similar early experiences that caused others to fold?

The difference is simple, but it can be difficult to put into motion. It’s the willingness to take 100% responsibility for one’s actions, good or bad. It’s no fun at times, but it is empowering. And, like a muscle, assuming responsibility gets better and stronger with use.

Mary’s Big Breakthrough

I was once a consulting psychologist to a residential treatment facility. The public school was across the street, and many of the residents attended it. One girl in treatment there, I’ll call her Mary, was failing high school algebra. When I asked her why she was failing that class, she said (quite predictably), “That teacher hates me, that’s why.” (Sound familiar?)

She agreed to sit down with me and the teacher and address the problem. When the teacher showed her the zeros for homework that was never turned in, the girl’s face lit up. “Those assignments are in my locker!” she exclaimed. “I started them, and didn’t finish, but I think I have them all.” And she did; the teacher was able to give her partial credit, and they worked out a way for her to make up her work.

Although one instance of taking responsibility didn’t turn this girl’s life around at once, it was a great start. She definitely grew in her ability to manage difficulty and challenges.

Maybe even sardine sandwich.###

June 5, 2018 Posted by | adversity, Communication, Educators, family, Healthy living, Human Interest, Inspirational, Parents, Resilience, Self-esteem, Stress, Success Strategies | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

It Shouldn’t Bug You … (Dr. James Sutton)

Have you ever been faced with a powerful challenge, or had to make a difficult decision, and, in the stress you experienced, you found it difficult to do much of anything? Well, in concert with the notion that our kids are watching our every move (even the not-so-good ones), here’s a very teachable object lesson involving something we all are quite familiar with: the housefly.

At first glance, the common housefly falls way short on talent and creativity. It can’t sing a song, dance a polka, or recite poetry.

But just try catching one. This little critter comes with an early warning system that all but assures it will see another day … another garbage can. Near 360 degree vision and unbelievable quickness make a sneak attack on a fly virtually impossible.

 

But a fly has one problem: It can respond to danger coming from only one direction at a time. To catch a fly, simply jam its radar. Come in on it with both hands from two sides. Folks that study this sort of thing say the fly will remain frozen in place because it can’t “compute” an escape. One more candidate for Fly Heaven.

I shared this little tidbit once with a group of elementary students. On my next visit to the school, I asked if any of them tried the fly thing. One bright-eyed fifth-grader shared that he told his father about it.

“That’s the dumbest thing I ever heard of,” was the dad’s reply. About that time a fly landed on the television. The boy, using the new technique, captured the fly and handed it to his father, still wriggling.

Of course there’s a deeper meaning operating here: Human beings aren’t flies. They can take in information from a number of sources, consider their options, and determine how, when and where they will respond.

So, the next time you have a difficult decision to make, try not to let it bug you. Do your best and work it out; don’t freeze.

You’re not a fly.###

May 22, 2018 Posted by | adversity, Communication, Educators, family, Healthy living, Parents | , , , | Leave a comment

A Child’s Humble Gift

The purity of a child’s heart can inspire adults to accomplish amazing, unimaginable things. Here’s a beautiful story, beautiful … and absolutely true. It was first published in the fall, 2002 issue of my newsletter, Reaching Out, although it’s been told many times.

In the early 1900s, a young girl stood crying outside a small church. She had been turned away because it was “too crowded.”

“I can’t go to Sunday School,” she sobbed to the pastor as he walked by. He saw her shabby and unkempt appearance and guessed the reason. He gently took her by the hand, escorted her inside, and found a place for her in a class.

57 Cents
The child was so happy he found room for her. That night she went to bed thinking of children who had no place to worship.

Two years later, this same child, Hattie May Wiatt, lay dead in a local tenement building. The parents sent for the kind-hearted pastor, asking if he would handle the final arrangements.

As her little body was being moved, a worn and crumpled purse was found; it looked like it has been rummaged from a trash heap. Inside were 57 cents and a note scribbled in a child’s handwriting: “This is to help build the little church bigger so more children can go to Sunday School.”

She had been saving this offering for two years. As the pastor tearfully read the note, he realized what he must do.

A Dream Became Reality
The following Sunday morning, the pastor carried the little purse and the note with him to the pulpit. He told of her story of unselfish love and devotion. The pastor challenged the church deacons to get busy on finding a way to make the girl’s gift become a reality.

(To get things rolling, the pastor turned the 57 cents into 57 pennies and offered each of them for sale as a fundraiser. Not only did this first gesture raise about $250 for the project, 54 of the 57 pennies were returned to the pastor.)

A newspaper learned of this story and published it. A local realtor read it and made the little church a marvelous offer. He promised that, if they could raise the money to build the church, he would sell them a parcel of land to build it on … for 57 cents.

Church members dug deeply into their own pocketbooks, plus checks arrived in the mail from everywhere. They eventually raised $250,000, a huge sum of money in those days.

Ultimately, it was a child’s love that created a building for what is now Temple Baptist Church in Philadelphia. It seats 3,300 in the sanctuary, and the Sunday School building can handle all who wish to attend.

The inspiration of the girl’s gift and the influence of her remarkable pastor, Dr. Russell H. Conwell, essentially accomplished the impossible. (Dr. Conwell went on to become the first president of Temple University, but that’s another story.)

Not a bad return on 57 cents.###

May 10, 2018 Posted by | adversity, Affirmation and Recognition, Compassion, Educators, family, Human Interest, Inspirational, Parents | , , , , | Leave a comment

Bitter or Better: A Lesson Worth Teaching Our Children

Kids aren’t adults, of course, but they watch the adults in their lives. Sometimes they even watch them too closely. Our children (and grandchildren) tend to copy the attitudes and behaviors they see right in front of them. How we handle disappointment and conflict with others does matter. We can become bitter or we can become better, and the outcomes easily can reach across generations.
Here’s a story I first became aware of a number of years ago. It makes a beautiful point of how frustration often can be channeled into something very positive. (I shared this story once in a keynote address and was pleased when it was verified by an attendee that had graduated from Berry College.)

………………………………………………..

Today, Berry College, Mount Berry, Georgia, rests on 26,500 acres of small-town environment not far from Atlanta. It has grown since its humble beginnings in 1902, the fruition of a dream of its founder, educator Martha Berry.

Berry School was built to serve needy youngsters, and Martha Berry was said to have the “touch” for turning nothing into something. She knew her cause was a good one, so she was never shy when it came to advocating for poor, but promising, young people.

Henry’s Dime
When presented with an opportunity to meet Henry Ford at an important function, Martha Berry did not hesitate to ask him for $1 million for her school’s endowment. (Hey, if you’re going to ask … ASK!)

History has it that Mr. Ford reached into his pocket and presented her with a dime.

A dime? Yes; one of the richest men in the country donated a dime to Martha Berry’s school.

At this point, put yourself in her shoes. What would you have thought or said to what seemed such an insult? What would you have done? (At very least, I would have shuffled him to the bottom of my Christmas card list.)

The 10-cent Challenge
Martha Berry did a marvelous thing. Without changing her expression, she thanked Ford as graciously for the dime as she would have had he given her the million bucks. Then she went home and went to work.

She took the dime and bought ten cents’ worth of peanut seed and set her mountain schoolboys to planting. They took that crop as seed to plant more peanuts, and then they took the peanuts from the second crop and sold them at a small crossroads store. The peanuts brought in enough income to purchase a piano for the school’s music department.

Mission Accomplished
Martha Berry wrote to Henry Ford explaining how she had turned his dime into a piano. He must have been impressed, for he sent Berry a train ticket and an invitation to be their house guest at Henry and Clara Ford’s home in Detroit. He not only opened his home to Martha Berry, he opened his checkbook.

Martha Berry went back to Georgia with Henry Ford’s check for $1 million. ###

April 25, 2018 Posted by | adversity, Affirmation and Recognition, confidence, Educators, family, Healthy living, Human Interest, Parents, Resilience, Success Strategies | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“If Your Kids are Okay …” (Dr. James Sutton)

This week my mind was brought to focus on my appreciation of first-responders and the awesome job they often do with our children and grandchildren. It’s a pretty helpless feeling to place your offspring in the hands of a stranger, but that’s what we do when it’s someone trained help them, even save their lives.

Those instances are rare (fortunately), but when we can’t do it ourselves, our gratitude for the training and skill of firefighters, law enforcement folks and, of course, medical specialists, can’t be expressed in words alone. This is precisely where I found myself, as a grandfather, earlier this week.s

TWINS!
Twins, a boy and a girl (our fifth and sixth grandchild) were born in the wee hours of Sunday morning, April 8th, 2018. They were born almost 15 weeks premature, so are being watched constantly in neonatal care at the hospital. They are in the excellent hands of nurses, doctors … and God.

Each baby is in a separate room, as each room is filled up with monitors, ventilators, feeding systems, special lamps, etc. It’s a pretty intimidating and scary set-up at first glance, but it is reassuring to know that this equipment in the hands of skilled specialists has worked many, many miracles. We are SO GRATEFUL.

(That’s our grandson’s room in the photo.)

It was encouraging to see our grand-babies kicking, stretching and squirming, especially considering they had gotten off to a rather difficult start in the world (not to mention the stress it put on Mom and Dad at the time). As I write this, it’s about 62 hours since they arrived, and they are progressing as they should, thanks to skilled care and heartfelt prayer.

“IF YOUR KIDS ARE OKAY …”
It all reminds me of something my father-in-law once said to me: “If your kids are okay, YOU’RE okay!” AMEN to that.

And it never matters how young or old your kids are … “If your kids are okay, YOU’RE Okay.”

April 10, 2018 Posted by | adversity, Anxiety and Depression, Communication, Compassion, family, Healthy living, Human Interest, Inspirational, Parents, Resilience, Stress | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment