Martin Luther King, Jr.

“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lives a great street sweeper who did his job well.”

Martin Luther King, Jr. in his speech “Facing the Challenge of a New Age” Address at the Institute of Non-violence and Social Change, Montgomery, Alabama, December 1956

I have always loved this quote by Martin Luther King, Jr. I’ve come to think about it and appreciate it even more as my son grew up and it became clear that he was not going to be able to go to college full-time and instead entered the workforce. He is at a position that would be considered a menial job, but I am as proud of him as if he were in the most prestigious position imaginable. His character is good. His heart is in the right place. He is honest, trustworthy, and giving. So here’s a salute to all those street sweepers, painters, composers, poets, and stockmen like my Josh pushing carts in from the parking lot. You do it well, and there’s more to honor than a title and position.

New Year’s Resolutions …Or Not?

I am hesitant to make resolutions. It’s not that I don’t think they are good things. I’m just not sure that a mere calendar change is an adequate reason (or excuse) to vow to do things that should be happening regardless of the time of year. If something needs to be done, I don’t wait for a new year. I guess it’s a good time to review life and see if the goals are still aligned with who I am now. But I also don’t take things lightly if I say I am going to do them, so I don’t want to set goals unless I know I will be able to see them through. It’s like making a promise to myself, and that commitment shouldn’t be taken any more lightly than if I were promising something to another person. I can easily see areas needing improvement. So many, in fact, that it could be overwhelming to try and address them all. I don’t want New Year’s resolutions to set me up for failure or hang over me with a looming condemnation as days slip by without goals being accomplished. So for now, I am living by general Christian principals without delineating specific and measurable goals. I tend to be driven by nature, and do not lack motivation and objectives I hope to meet. What I need is to live in grace, understanding the mercy of God who created me and knows my heart. I believe God will show me the areas where I should set goals, and only He can help me accomplish anything of true importance. The bottom line for me is that I want to be smack in the center of God’s will for me, and my prayer is that if I stray He will nudge me back to the place I should be. So I guess I actually do have a New Year’s Lifetime Resolution to stay close to God and cooperate with Him when He reels me back to Himself.

Perception is everything

Last night I was talking with my youngest daughter, Beckie. Of her subjects, math is particularly challenging for her, so we have decided that I will work with her every night, so I can maybe catch concepts that are more difficult for her more quickly. Previously, we allowed her the leeway to work independently, and sometimes she would struggle through for weeks before I would work with her.

Anyway, I was stressing to Beckie that this is a transition year, and the schoolwork was going to be more difficult and would require her full attention. If she couldn’t keep up we would have to look into making different arrangements, maybe trying a private school, etc. I thought that I was keeping my voice level and calm. I finished what I was saying and Beckie wandered away.

A few hours later, she stuck her head in my office, and asked if I was in a good mood. I thought that was an odd question, but I said yes, and invited her in. Then she said “If your not in a good mood I can come back later to work on my math with you…” and then I realized that she heard our earlier conversation much differently that I had intended. She thought that I was upset and yelling at her, but I was just trying to explain to her that the expectations were going to be higher as she enters her second year in the high school period.

Math may be hard, but effective communication is much harder!


Bitterness. It is so easy to feel it and so hard to rid yourself of it. I guess like many things, it’s better if you can prevent it than to try to eliminate it once it’s there. When you have a child who struggles, you have a greater likelihood of being rejected or misunderstood as a parent. Besides that, if you are like many of us, you also feel your child’s hurts as if they are personally happening to you. In a real way, we are rejected when our children are, because we cannot fully separate ourselves from who they are – and I’m not sure we should as long as they need us to advocate for them. When a child acts differently from the norm, or in ways that are interpreted in a negative light, it is a near certainty that sooner or later we will get unsolicited advice from relatives, friends, and even strangers. Sometimes we are just given “the look” of disapproval, and that can be as painful as spoken words. The reality is, not everyone can understand your individual situation. Some people take one look at us and decide they don’t even want to understand us. Here’s the rub: if you let those looks and comments get under your skin it will be hard not to become bitter and resentful, and as a result you will be less effective with your child and will feel less contented than if you can rid yourself of bitterness. I’ve been working on this area a long time in my own life, and the most helpful thing I’ve found is to choose to believe that the person making the comment is genuinely trying to be helpful. Often, they have no clue as to what I’ve already tried, etc. but I let them off the hook in my mind. I pray a prayer of gratitude for them that they don’t have to deal with the struggles I do, and then I let them go and let the judgmental comments and poor advice slide right on by.

We are still alive; Hard times

Sorry for the long delay between posts.

Last month we had an interesting experience. A longtime friend who is very well known among homeschoolers as well as the special needs community emailed us. She was scheduled to speak at a conference in Illinois, but her health just wasn’t good enough to allow her a long drive and then the exertion of presenting workshops. So she was looking to find someone to fill in for her. HUMom accepted. Then we found out that she would be doing six workshops over two days. So……

HUMom learned the material from audio and video recordings, edited the handouts and I modified PowerPoint files. For six, one-hour presentations. In two weeks. In short, this was a rather stressful time. Yikes!

All went well, and actually we had a very pleasant weekend. The most difficult part was that there was so much information that HUMom could have probably presented twice as long and still not gotten through everything. Our friend has over 30 years experience with special needs children and has written dozens of books and curriculum. Her name is Joyce Herzog and if you have never run into her or seen her work, I would urge you to look her up at She is a wonderful lady, with a huge heart for kids who learn differently.

The point of this post is that sometimes we are put in situations that are overwhelming and seem much more than we can endure. The demands and the difficult circumstances are just beyond us and we cannot win. I’d like to say that we will all overcome and have success, but that just isn’t true. I do want to say that sometimes we need to look from a new angle or point of view to see what is going on. What if your definition of “success” is only one of many? Outcomes that are not what we wanted or desired can still be useful to help us learn about ourselves or life. Or they can serve to strengthen us or teach us endurance.

I have a few heros in life. One was Lou Gerhig. The epitome of consistent, reliable excellence. Until Cal Ripkin broke his consecutive game streak, Lou held the record for most games played without taking a single day off. Not only that, but he was productive – many years leading the league in RBIs, homeruns, etc. If it weren’t for a fellow named Babe Ruth, Gehrig would have been known as the most prolific hitter of his time. Lou was struck down in the prime of life by ALS, which has come to be called “Lou Gehrig Disease.”

Another hero is Brett Favre and here is the point for all my ramblings. Brett is another Ironman, with the most consecutive starts by an NFL quarterback. He recently retired after 17 year career. Sports Illustrated interviewed him in 2007 when they named him Sportsman of the Year.

“Ask Favre for his own favorite memory, and he is quiet for a moment. “I’ve got so many plays running through my mind,” he says, finally. “The funny thing is, it’s not only about the touchdowns and the big victories. If I were to make a list, I would include the interceptions, the sacks, the really painful losses. Those times when I’ve been down, when I’ve been kicked around, I hold on to those. In a way those are the best times I’ve ever had, because that’s when I’ve found out who I am. And what I want to be.”

Working with special needs children is not glamorous. Often it is not pleasant. Most times it is exceptionally difficult. But, in teaching them, you just may find out who you are. And what you want to be.