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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Defining Moments, Part I

What made you decide to be who you are at this moment in your life? Many people contemplate this question and seek an answer in an effort to share their lives with others who may benefit in some way by applying the knowledge. Of course, biographies and autobiographies of famous people often explore the complex makeup of these individuals. These stories may be of great interest, but I wonder what defined simple folk like you and me. So, what about the answer to the question posed? It is pertinent to everyone and although most people change throughout life, some basic core of being is stubbornly held by the individual. Relationships, environment, genetics, education-- all seem to play an important part in life. Still, looking within, people have difficulty finding the actual turning points in their lives. I can explore several of my defining influences. Of course, I thank my parents the most for innumerable reasons and for countless lessons, so I will attempt to record some other important parts of my makeup. First of all, I was raised in an environment that lacked little. I had a mother, a father, and a brother-- all of whom loved me and cared for me every day. We were never rich, but I cannot say we were poor. I have never known the struggle of those who have faced poverty. I don't believe I was totally spoiled, but I definitely never lacked for love and special care. People were always there for me. I had, early on, background and instruction in the church, in patriotism, in manners, and in the rewards of education. I was fairly independent at a young age, partly because my brother was twelve years older than I, and partly because I lived a good distance away from other children my age. I explored the mysteries of the hills behind my house and the nearby Scioto River with my beloved pet dog. I soon developed a healthy fascination with nature. In my earliest memories, I adored sports. I played pretty well as I participated in team sports of baseball and football actively through high school. As a child, I would play ballgames by myself in the backyard, making up lineups composed of my favorite players who battled opposing foes. I think I always had a ball of some kind in my hand to throw, bounce, or kick. My team was always the home team, the Cincinnati Reds. In grade school, I can vividly remember being read to after lunch --mainly A. A. Milne and Laura Ingalls Wilder books. Teachers were very kind but also very strict. I gained many friends in class and on the playground. I got into trouble for some minor disagreements but was always glad to let the school authorities discipline me, knowing that if the infraction was serious enough to call my parents, I would also be disciplined at home. We called it "taking our licks." My schoolmates never really took long field trips together or played scores of organized games. We did, however, live all our spare moments on the sandlots and in the fields of the area. Even when we attended a high school football game as grade schoolers, we played our own football game in a lot beside the high school field. We didn't have coaches or parents who drove us to play a single sport year round in organizational and instructional leagues. I can't really remember if I was 13 or 14 when I began working during the summers at Lake Margaret as a lifeguard and maintenance person. My employer, Peggy Campbell, had already retired from her job by the time I was employed, so she was not young at the time. She expected employees to work hard and accomplish jobs well. Peggy was a dynamo who could work rings around anyone I have ever met. She was a model of consistency. Like my old grade school teachers, she was strict, but she had a heart of gold, claiming me as one of her own and encouraging me to excel. What a lady she was. The organized sports I played in school taught me many meaningful lessons. In grade school, our teams were always very good, so skills and fundamentals were stressed. But, as a football player in my first two years of high school, I discovered how to lose. I found out quickly that even a decent underclassman athlete could get his tail kicked with regularity. I learned to fight back, but I also learned to take a physical beating from someone better than I. I developed respect for my opponents. Maybe, this is why I cherished winning meaningful sports contests so much. Also, high school sports taught me a valuable sense of community and a lifelong love of group membership. I played in the state baseball tournament as a freshman. I got to play in every game and started in the State Finals. Even though I had to come out in the 3rd inning, I was extremely happy. We became State Runner-up that year. I think that, in itself, built confidence in my abilities. My high school days were magical. Being a student in a small school, I quickly learned the identity of all my classmates. I served as class president all four years while earning good grades by just following instructions and doing my work. Our group of buddies grew closer over the years as we lived the good life of social interaction, pausing every now and then to take a test or do our homework. More to come at a later date. Please share the story of your defining moments. I would love to know.
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