It's About Them

Young People … Our Greatest Resource

There’s No Repairing Some Folks’ Misery

The greatest joy of being a person is the unselfish capacity to interact with others. Still, there are some who seem to want no part of it.

A friend’s newsletter got me to thinking. He told a brief story of a man who complained to his doctor that he was so unhappy. (Interesting, huh, how doctors are supposed to have a pill that will fix ANYTHING.)

“Go out and make three new friends, then come back and tell me about it” the doctor advised. The man left the doctor’s office not too pleased with the “prescription.”

He was back in a couple of weeks.

“Did you go out and make three new friends,” the doctor asked?

“I did,” the man replied. “But it didn’t help. Now I’m STUCK with these three new friends!”

It’s interesting, isn’t it, how folks who are depressed and down often get that way when they shut themselves off from others. They “sour” and soak in self-pity until they are all but paralyzed. At that point, any action at all is a major effort.  

You can see it in children as well as adults. They might not be content in their misery, but they are COMFORTABLE with it. 

It’s not the making of friends that brings the most joy in one’s life. It’s the BEING a friend, the magical capacity to make another person (or even an animal), not myself, the object of my kindness and effort. It’s the stepping down from center stage and putting someone else up there for awhile. And it’s getting BEHIND the spotlight instead of in front of it.

Kids today are no better or worse than they were a century ago. They are simply the results of the cultures that rear them. The day they truly learn the world doesn’t revolve around them is the day the best of life gets going.

James Sutton, Psychologist 

October 27, 2007 Posted by | Counselors, Difficult Child, Educators, family, Inspirational, Parents, Self-esteem | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Those Hands

With the World Series upon us, I thought this piece from my newsletter might be timely. Enjoy. 

James Sutton, Psychologist 


It was early December, 1993. I had just finished a keynote address at a very elegant hotel in downtown Dallas. It was an especially rewarding experience.

“There’s no way to improve on this day,” I mumbled to myself, as I searched for an overhead bin on the crowded plane headed home.

But I was wrong.

I stowed my bag and focused on the task of buckling in. I glanced down the aisle and saw a familiar figure heading for one of the few remaining seats near me in the back of the aircraft.

It was baseball legend Nolan Ryan.

As he busied himself stowing his things, I busied myself picking my chin up from the floor.

Ryan took his place in the middle seat across from me and one row back.  There was just no way I could speak to him, not there anyway. I wanted to tell him how much of an inspiration he has been to me, and that I have used him in many presentations as an example of a solid role model for our young people.

I wrote him a note on the back of a business card and, with a stretch, passed it to him.

He acknowledged it.

I had the opportunity to speak to him briefly as he waited for a rental car. I couldn’t help but notice his hands as he accepted my handshake. There was something quite unique about those hands.

What was unique was there was NOTHING unique about his hands, the hands that could make a 98 mph fastball dance across the plate consistently and effectively year after year. Those hands looked pretty average to me.

The best of Nolan Ryan’s skills were never in his hands, arms or legs, although he stays in incredible shape. The skills that carried his career across the 60s, 70s, 80s and into the 90s were those of commitment, dedication, desire and plain old hard work. 

We can’t be Nolan Ryan; God made only one of those. But we CAN grow in our commitment, dedication, desire and effort. Then, like one of sports’ truly greats, we can deliver across the plate consistently and effectively—year after year after year.

October 21, 2007 Posted by | Educators, family, Inspirational, Parents, Self-esteem | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Will to Carry On

My 33-year-old son got a troubling phone call last week. His best friend in high school had wrapped himself in plastic in the cab of his pickup … then ended his life with a shotgun.

It was interesting to hear how the funeral of a person who felt so hopeless was so largely attended that it took an hour and a half for the attendees to file by the casket.

What would have to happen for a person to feel so bad that not living another day, another hour, another minute would sound like the best plan? The emotional pain would have to be unbearable. Such a person would not be in their rational mind. 

And consider the pain of his parents. These are GOOD and decent people; I know them. How would you EVER get past grief like this? 

It’s hard to imagine, isn’t it? Even under the worst of it, the vast majority of us would find a way to keep on keeping on. 

But that in no way means it wouldn’t be difficult … incredibly difficult. 

This all stood in contrast to me when I stepped into a convenience store near my hotel here in Knoxville. The lady behind the counter was white-headed, bent and stooped. She was 75 if she was a day. But she had an infectuous spirit and a smile and a way with customers that had to make her boss KNOW she could never be compensated for the value she brought.

I don’t know why she was still working; there might have been a good reason.  And there might even be some folks who would resent her filling a job that could go to a young worker. But, frankly, she was doing it ten times BETTER than most folks young enough to be her grandkids.

Joy oozed from this woman. I managed to even get a little of it on me.

And I was better for it.

James Sutton, Psychologist

October 15, 2007 Posted by | adversity, Counselors, Educators, family, Inspirational, Self-esteem | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

An “Oops!” Note Tragedy

My friend in California, Dr. Marvin Marshall, shared this letter from a parent in his most recent newsletter. I’m printing it here with his permission, and direct you to his website, My comments are after the letter.


Dr. Marshall,

The teacher who loves to give “Oops” notes is back this year as my son’s talented and gifted teacher. “Oops” notes are
given out when a child misbehaves or does not have his homework. The notes show a slumped stick figure whose head
hangs in shame and must be signed by the parents.

Yesterday, the 8th day of school, my son, who is mostly a straight “A” student, asked me to sign his Oops note for
not having a quote written down on paper.

My son said the assignment, as he remembers it, was simply: “Bring a quote about achievement to class and be prepared to share it with the class.”

So on the appointed day, student after student went to the front of the room and read their quote from a piece of
paper. When it was my son’s turn, he walked up without a paper because he knew the quote by heart and recited:

     “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”

The teacher said, “Where’s your paper?”

My son said, “I don’t need a paper. I already know the quote.”

The teacher said, “Go over to my desk and get an Oops note.” The teacher said this while he was still in the front of the
class. The teacher knows he is shy and easily embarrassed because she had him last year.

He felt embarrassed and humiliated and went to get the note, which he brought over to the teacher, then waited while the
teacher filled it out and handed it to him.

He sat back down at his desk while his friend next to him hurriedly wrote out his memorized quote, less he face the
same punishment.

The note is sitting here on my desk, waiting for my signature.

What was the point of the activity? I assume to expose them to ideas about achievement and help encourage them in their
advanced math.

What was he punished for? Being able to recite a quote from memory? Being familiar enough with sayings and quotations
that he would already have known a quote about achievement?

It seems he was punished for being too smart. Was he encouraged? Just the opposite; he felt discouraged and

And, by the way, these quotation papers were not turned into the teacher.

I can’t get over the mentality of a teacher who would do this to a child and the absolute end-means inversion of the

What was the teacher thinking?

An extremely frustrated mother.


Her concern sounds reasonable to me, and, from her knowledge of her son, my guess is that he told the truth pretty much like it happened. What really rips me about this whole thing is that the young man apparently did EXACTLY what was on the assignment. The teacher was intending to inspire these students about achievement, yet engaged in a behavior that essentially thwarted not only achievement, but initiative. And all of this is supposed to be a “bonus” because this is a talented and gifted class.

I agree with Mom. What was she thinking?

What would be her best response as a parent? I only know what I would do if it were my son or daughter. I’d sent the note back to the teacher unsigned but stapled to a noted that would say I would prefer to come to school and sign it in the teacher’s presence after I have had a chance to visit with her about the incident. I would be hopeful that the situation could be resolved, and perhaps even some reasonable, relationship-rebuilding action could take place.

I would hope that could be accomplished, but I WOULD’T write down what I intended to say.  

 James D. Sutton, Psychologist 

October 11, 2007 Posted by | adversity, Counselors, Educators, family, Inspirational, Parents, Self-esteem, Uncategorized | , , , | 5 Comments