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Young People … Our Greatest Resource

Put Down Your Tray; Do Something Kind

After 33+ years of working with young people, I’m convinced completely that youngsters learn most from what they see their elders do. Obviously, that can be positive or negative. We live in a world that has plenty of both.

While flying to Phoenix a month or so ago, I witnessed kindness expressed at 36,000 feet. A woman and her husband were sitting a couple of seats in front of me. I could only see the back of her head and a little of her face when she turned, but I would put her age at late 50s or early 60s.

The flight attendant was coming up the aisle with a tray. She spoke to the woman and, from her facial response, heard some bad news. In a gesture of support she carressed the lady passenger’s head and whispered to her. At this point the passenger became tearful. The flight attendant quickly placed her tray in the aisle and used both arms to soothe and support the lady passenger.

 I was touched by this scene.  I might not be totally accurate, but here’s a scenario that is probably close to the truth. The lady passenger’s mother lived in Phoenix and passed away. She and her husband were going there to arrange the funeral and settle her mother’s affairs.

I’m sure the flight attendant had no specific plan to do what she did. She planned on doing something else at that moment, but that plan temporarily went to the floor with her tray. She was spontaneous and had her priorities straight. America West didn’t necessarily hire her for those qualities, but certainly got them as a bonus.

Truth is, she can work wherever she wants.

There will be those times when we should put down the tray and do something kind.

James Sutton, Psychologist


February 25, 2007 Posted by | Counselors, Educators, family, Inspirational, Parents, Self-esteem | 2 Comments

Thoughts on Success–2500 Years Apart

I have always been partial to this quote attributed to Emerson. It well positions human endeavor and speaks of qualities that are attainable by all.

Only recently I came across a website declaring that Emerson DID NOT write this piece and that it is wrong to give him credit for it. I can’t prove it one way or another, but that really isn’t the point, is it? It’s still worth reading, following, and teaching.

“To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

The prophet Micah shared some similar thoughts over 2500 years before Emerson. Micah, a poor farmer, gave us a rich philosophy that is awesome in its simplicity. Its wisdom goes deep. It’s my favorite quote from the Old Testament:

 “He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?”  Micah 6:8

If we can’t do these three simple things, all the self-help books in the Library of Congress won’t be much good to us.

James Sutton, Psychologist

February 20, 2007 Posted by | Counselors, Educators, family, Inspirational, Parents, Self-esteem | 2 Comments

The Wheel Turned

My aunt, my mother’s sister, passed away this weekend. Letha Marie Spangler was 85–a full life. Interesting how she was stricken with cancer in the 60s, yet she outlived her only sister by more than 20 years. My sister was especially faithful to stay in touch with her right up to the end. 

Over the years, I have lost a lot of aunts and uncles on both my mother’s and father’s sides, but the loss of this aunt was different. She was the last surviving member of the family she was born into. That means, as far as my mother’s family is concerned, I am IT, the next in line as the oldest grandchild and nephew.

The Generation Wheel has taken a turn. But what does that mean?

When I got word that my aunt had passed away, my thoughts went back to a time when we all converged at my grandmother’s place in Shawnee, Oklahoma, for a picnic one summer. We went to a place my dad called Boy Scout Park there in Shawnee. I have that day preserved on video. It started out on 8mm film.

(Years ago, Dad would load up the old Keystone projector and show the film on a sheet hung in the doorway. As it got to the end, my sister and I would ask him to run the projector backwards. I remember how we used to howl with laughter to watch our kin “eat” by taking food out of their mouths and putting it back on their plates. And there’s Dad playing “backwards” catch with one of my cousins. He’d put the ball in his gloved hand and it would magically go flying out of the glove and into the air.)

It’s a shame we can’t run time backwards like the old Keystone projector collecting dust in my attic.

It occurred to me that EVERY adult in that grainy, old film is now deceased, one whole generation plus my grandmother.

If there are memories to be preserved, it’s now up to me, Sis, and the cousins.

If there are lessons to be taught, it’s now up to me, Sis, and the cousins.

If there are kindnesses to be passed on, it’s now up to me, Sis, and the cousins.

If there is faith to be planted and nurtured, it’s now up to me, Sis, and the cousins.

There’s a challenge worth the taking.

James Sutton, Psychologist

February 12, 2007 Posted by | family, Inspirational, Parents, Special Occasions | 2 Comments

Guided Missles; Misguided Men

My friend in Georgia, Frank Bird, had this quote from Martin Luther King on his blog today. It captured my attention partly because of Dr. King’s ability to pack a lot in a phrase, and partly because this past week I was in Montgomery, Alabama–ground zero for much of the civil rights movement of the 60s.

 “The means by which we live have outdistanced the ends for which we live. Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. King was killed in the prime of his life–not even 40 years of age. Apparently, however, he lived long enough to leave a mark, and that’s good.

As a kid growing up in Abilene, Texas, I was acutely aware of the problem of guided missles and A-bombs. We had regular A-bomb drills in the school as often as they have fire drills today. The drill I remember the most was called “Duck and Cover,” a drill where you squatted with your face tucked in and your arms and hands covering your head. There really wasn’t much of a point in the drill, however. By 1956, Dyess Air Force Base (the 7th Bomb Wing) there in Abilene was a Strategic Air Command base. Had we ever gotten it in on with the Russians (the ONLY enemy I knew of), Abilene would be one of their guided missle targets. “Duck and Cover” might as well be “Duck and Sizzle” for all the difference it would have made in a real conflict.

Sometimes it seems paramount to human nature that folks struggle to pull themselves free from one mess only to bog down in another. Perhaps if the world stage were more like a children’s playground, we’d all be getter “guided.”

 James Sutton, Psychologist

February 10, 2007 Posted by | Counselors, Educators, Inspirational, Parents | 1 Comment

Time to Pay the Barber

As I write this blog, I have just finished a great trip to New Mexico training child service professionals (mostly teachers) for the University of Nebraska. Tomorrow I fly to Alabama for three days of training there with Nebraska also.

Here’s a piece that came from a memory that popped into my head while traveling between Albuquerque and Las Cruces this past week.Jim and his bike

James Sutton, Psychologist


When I was a kid, parents didn’t fret over their children’s safety like today. There wasn’t much risk and violence, and neighbors looked in on each other and watched each other’s kids. That’s why, as an elementary student, my parents let me ride my bike down to the barber shop after school whenever it was time for a haircut. (I could have gotten a ride, but what good’s a new three-speed English racer if you don’t use it.)

One day after getting my hair cut, I walked into the kitchen and “tested” some of the supper that was still cooking. Walking away from the stove, I put my hands in my pockets.

 “Oh, no!” I gasped. I still had the quarter and half dollar Dad had given me that morning for the haircut. I had walked out of the barber shop without paying the man his 75 cents. I told my father about the mistake.

He wasn’t upset with me, but he walked straight to the phone and called the barber. He explained that we would be coming by his home after supper to pay him for the haircut.

“Oh, Jimmy can pay that to me tomorrow or the next day, Fred,” the barber shared with my father. “I know he’s good for it,” he laughed over the phone. “There’s no need for a special trip.”

“I appreciate that, Mike, but we’ll be by your house after supper, just the same.”

And that’s what we did. I paid the man his 75 cents that night.

It wasn’t the amount that my father cared about; it was the responsibility to take care of an obligation. I never forgot that lesson, thanks to him. My wife and I have tried to instill that ethic into our two children, and now four grandkids. (Well, THREE grandkids for now. The newest one is only four months old.)

There’s a biblical passage that mentions that a good workman is worthy of his (or her) hire. If we’ve done good work, we deserve to be paid. If someone has done good work for us, they deserve to be paid … no excuses.

But the days of 75-cent haircuts are GONE!


February 3, 2007 Posted by | Counselors, Educators, Inspirational, Parents, Self-esteem | 2 Comments