Monday, January 26, 2009

Pondering a Paradigm Shift

In 1962, Thomas Kuhn wrote of what he called a “paradigm shift” in his book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Kuhn limited the use of the term to the world of science, and he would later voice great displeasure in the adoption of his phrase to other areas of life and academic disciplines. Nonetheless, his phrase enjoyed a growing popularity and a broadening scope of use. Today the expression maintains its rudimental meaning…a basic shift in the way one thinks about or views a particular topic or situation. (Thank you, Wikipedia, for the research.)

Recently, I experienced a paradigm shift. Let me share it with you.

I am a restaurant manager. One of the hardest tasks of being a restaurant manager is finding good help, people who are willing to be at work everyday and work while they are there. On any given day you can find dozens of people who will accept your employment offer, but who will only come in when they want and stand around while they are there. These are the people I say are more interested in a paycheck than in a job. Our store seems to attract a lot of people who want paid, but don’t want to work for it.

About six or eight months ago, Miro (pronounced “me row”) became of my employees. He spoke very little English, and I spoke even less of his language…none in fact. The General Manager assured me he was a good worker and would make an excellent dishwasher. I took his word for it.

Since then, I have had a few occasions to see Miro work. My problem with Miro was not so much the quality of his work, but my own inability to communicate with him the things I wanted him to do. My recourse was uneducated, but very American. I ignored him. I fussed at him when he didn’t do what I tried to get him to do. I knew he didn’t understand and that added to my frustration. When I would call out his name, he would not answer. I was sure he could hear me because I was only a few feet away from him. I got to the point where I hated to see him at work when I arrived. I assumed he was uneducated.

A few weeks ago, the restaurant was empty. We did not have a single guest in the store and had not had anyone in the store for about 30 minutes. Miro began talking with the employees. I listened. The more I listened the more intrigued I became. The more intrigued I became the more I attempted to communicate with him. This eager attempt at communication precipitated my paradigm shift.

Miro (I can’t pronounce or spell his last name) is from Bosnia. Thirteen years ago he moved to the United States to escape the ravages of his war-torn country. In Bosnia, Miro was a postal worker with 30 years service. He owned his own house. He helped take care of his entire family. He was happy. Shortly after the war broke out he heard his neighbors being killed and knew his family was next. He quickly gathered his family and fled, leaving behind the house he had worked so hard to own…a house to which he and his family have never returned. In the course of his escape from Bosnia, he lost 85% of his hearing to bombs exploding. He managed to get his family out of Bosnia and into the United States. One day, perhaps, he hopes to return home. However, as pleasant as the thought of going home is to Miro, he fears what he might find when he does go home.

My experience with Miro helped to see that I…Americans…am far too caught up in my own little existence. I complain about the cold in the winter and the heat in the summer. I become frustrated with the traffic. I fear the poor economy, the declining dollar, the stock market, and the long lines at Logan’s Steakhouse, but I have never feared for my life or the lives of my family. Bombs are not exploding in my neighborhood. My eyes have been opened to a larger picture of the world and the people in it.

Suddenly, Miro has become more than just a non-English-speaking dishwasher. I no longer see him as uneducated. In fact, now I am the one that seems uneducated. Miro’s life experiences have given him a Ph. D. in World View, and I am just starting my elementary years.

I thought I was well balanced in my view of the world and people. Miro taught me differently. My paradigm is surely shifted. Thank you, Miro. Through what paradigm do you see the world and its inhabitants?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Pondering A Following

I got the first follower of this blog today. I am so excited!!! Never mind that my one follower is my very own wife, and never mind that I called her and asked her to become a follower of my blog (shameless promotion, I know)…I have a follower!!!

If you would like to join my one, highly esteemed follower, then just make the click. It’s simple. It’s fast. Besides, Debbie needs the company.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Pondering The Snow

The snow fell on Southern Indiana last night, and I went into the darkness to discover the light. Here is some of what I found. Although I do not believe a picture is worth a thousand words, here are some pictures because I don’t have time to write a thousand words.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Pondering Meme's: Seven Random Things About Me

Although 50 years old, I am always ready to learn something new. Thank you, Ashley.

Here are the rules:
Tag people with the meme.
Tell them the rules.
If they have a blog, include it.
Make sure the people you tag, know they’ve been tagged.

Seven Random Things About John

1. I cannot stand it when people are impolite to strangers. For instance, one needs to say “please” and “thank you” when dealing with people. Being nice isn’t limited to the people we know. There is nothing more irritating than to hold the door for someone only to have them march right through the door and never even acknowledge your presence or show a sliver of gratitude.

2. I love mustard on corn. It is so good. The next time you have some corn for supper, get the jar of mustard from the refrigerator door and squeeze a little out on the corn. Open your mind. Mix the corn and the mustard. Give it a try.

3. I once bit the head off a chicken. One part of my military training required us to kill and eat a chicken at the end. They didn’t really care if we ate the chicken or not, but they watched carefully to see that we “bit” the head off. After killing the chicken, I cleaned it and made a Chicken and Vegetable Soup. Some of the soldiers put the entire Chicken’s head in their mouth, but I was afraid my chicken would peck my teeth before I could bite its head off.

4. I am a night person. I can stay up much better than I can get up. Some of my most productive work is done in the wee hours of the morning when everyone else is sleeping. Furthermore, as a general rule, I do not like morning people who do not or cannot understand my night person status. These people get up all chipper and loud. If you want to be a morning person fine, but don’t disrespect my night person status.

5. I love reading Westerns. As I write this, I feel somewhat ashamed as I have not read a Western in a year or two. Louis L’Amour is my favorite Western writer. I have all his books, even his first book which was a book of poetry. I would love to get my hands on some of the work he did in Pulp magazines. Although L’Amour is my favorite, I will read anything Western.

6. I eat my food by certain rules. Rule 1: everything has its place on the plate and no other food should violate this place. Mashed Potatoes go here, the steak there, and the mixed vegetables next to the potatoes. Rule 2: Each food item must be eaten individually. I eat salad first, then vegetables, then meat. Sometimes, just for a change, I reverse the order. However, reversing the order will often cause me to become disoriented and irritable. Rule 3: Dessert does not have any particular order. I can eat it before the meal…during the meal…after the meal, and sometimes all three. I do not always have dessert, but I always think about it.

7. I am a storehouse of useless information. One of my curses in life is that I seldom forget anything. I may not always remember the source, but the information is readily available. I think I would do well on some game show. Once, when my children were small, they recognized this amazing talent of mine and started calling me Chief A Lot A Bull.

As a new blogger, I am proud to have had this opportunity to experience the Meme. However, I’m not sure I want to experience it again. Telling things about me like this is not very comforting.

Whose next?

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Pondering 50 Years of Marriage

It’s another cold day in Southern Indiana. The wind is kicking up and cutting right through jackets, gloves, sweaters, and long johns. It is the kind of day that requires finding warmth from steaming cups of coffee or hot chocolate topped with whipped cream. A good wood-burning stove sitting next to your recliner would help as well. It’s the kind of day that found me bundled up in my thoughts, particularly about my mother and father-in-law, Harold and Bonnie.

Fifty years ago (January 5th, 1959) Harold and Bonnie pledged their love and devotion to each other in Holy Matrimony.

They gave birth to three beautiful girls…the oldest is my favorite wife. With God walking beside them they raised their girls to be fine women. They watched their “girls” marry, and then watched as grandchildren and great-grandchildren came along. In addition to their biological children, they also gave hope to more than 50 other children through their service as foster parents. In my mind, there is no greater crown bestowed than the jewel-filled crown of love given freely and abundantly.

Their 50 years wasn’t all rainbows and roses, though. They endured economic downturns, car wrecks and the deaths of loved ones. They suffered through financial burdens. They suffered through chronic physical pain. They suffered through their girls moving away from home and moving away from the area. In short, they suffered through more then their fair share of tough times.

Through both the good times and the troubled times their love for each other continued to blossom.

On this cold winter day, I am thoroughly warmed by the great example they have been to me. They have given me their heart. They have treated me more like a son than a son-in-law. They have taught me to give my heart even when it may be painful. And, they have taught me how to love their daughter through their sterling examples. That isn’t counting the times they have loaned me money they didn’t have, cars they could have sold, and a helping hand that was already weary from a hard day’s work.

The thought of their never giving up on each other, their family, or their friends chases the chill from my body. How refreshing it is to see two people who left father and mother, became one, and are sticking to it with style and dignity. These are people worthy of our praise. These are people worthy of our admiration. These are people worthy of being followed. These are people I wish you could know like I do. These are my in-laws!

Happy 50th Anniversary! I love you and thank you for all that you have been, are, and will be in the next 50 years of your marriage.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Pondering Change

Today it has been cold in Southern Indiana. The snow has fallen, but chose to leave us before covering the ground. The white flakes gently falling to the earth excited me...fasinated me. It seems like only a moment ago that I was complaining about how hot it was. That's change.

I listen to some talk about how if they had it their way it would always be Summer or Winter, etc. Yet, everyone knows that change is inevitable. A wise person once said the only thing that doesn't change is that change happens (or something like that). So tell me why we live our lives acting like nothing is going to change, and yet, striving daily to change things?

We are never satisfied with the way things are. We want change in our jobs, our salaries, our cars, our houses, our health, and on and on and on. I recently turned 50 years old. I didn't want to turn 50. I do not want to think of me getting older, of not being able to run like I used to run, do the things I used to do, or of me closing in on my departure from this earth.

Frankly, I'm afraid of change. I fear it mostly because of the "unknown" factor. I don't know if the change that is occuring is going to be better or worse than what I have now. Have you ever worked hard for a change in your life only to find that when it happened it wasn't what you thought it would be? Have you ever shocked your own ears by saying something like, "I wish things were like they used to be?" That "unknown" factor is what makes me tremble.

Sitting here now in the middle of the night typing this post, I'm pondering change. I don't want to move. I've bought the house I plan to die in. What I want is a new job. I'm tired of working in the restaurant industry (and I have only been in it for about five years). I'm tired of working rediculous hours. I'm tired of going for days without seeing my wife. Don't get me wrong. I am thankful for my job. It pays the bills. I would be foolish not to be glad I have a job when millions are being laid off or fired. I just want to change jobs. Even saying that brings a tinge of dread to my heart. While I want a new job, the fear of going to a new job scares me.

However, change is going to happen. I have to learn to work with my natural fear of change, or better yet, to make it work for me. You see, we can't live our lives trying to avoid change or only acting when we know for certain the circumstances are just right for change. We have to change and then work to insure the changes are positive. Perhaps instead of fearing change or wishing that change would not occur, we should embrace it. Relish it. Adore it. Seek it. Chose it.

Nothing can stop change. It happens everyday in each of our lives. Today...I am going to change, and I am going to enjoy it. I am not going to fear change anymore. I am going to revel in all that change has to offer, whether good or bad, positive or negative.

Do you know anyone who is hiring?