Monthly Archives: May 2015

Morning Story and Dilbert

Vintage Dilbert
June 1, 2001

On Tuesday the best man I know will do what he always does on the 21st of the month. He’ll sit down and pen a love letter to his best girl. He’ll say how much he misses her and loves her and can’t wait to see her again. Then he’ll fold it once, slide it in a little envelope and walk into his bedroom. He’ll go to the stack of love letters sitting there on her pillow, untie the yellow ribbon, place the new one on top and tie the ribbon again.

The stack will be 180 letters high then, because Tuesday is 15 years to the day since Nellie, his beloved wife of 53 years, died. In her memory, he sleeps only on his half of the bed, only on his pillow, only on top of the sheets, never between, with just the old bedspread they shared to keep him warm.

There’s never been a finer man in American sports than John Wooden, or a finer coach. He won 10 NCAA basketball championships at UCLA, the last in 1975. Nobody has ever come within six of him. He won 88 straight games between Jan. 30, 1971, and Jan. 17, 1974. Nobody has come within 42 since.

So, sometimes, when the Madness of March gets to be too much — too many players trying to make SportsCenter, too few players trying to make assists, too many coaches trying to be homeys, too few coaches willing to be mentors, too many freshmen with out-of-wedlock kids, too few freshmen who will stay in school long enough to become men — I like to go see Coach Wooden. I visit him in his little condo in Encino, 20 minutes northwest of L.A., and hear him say things like “Gracious sakes alive!” and tell stories about teaching “Lewis” the hook shot. Lewis Alcindor, that is. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

There has never been another coach like Wooden, quiet as an April snow and square as a game of checkers; loyal to one woman, one school, one way; walking around campus in his sensible shoes and Jimmy Stewart morals. He’d spend a half hour the first day of practice teaching his men how to put on a sock. “Wrinkles can lead to blisters,” he’d warn. These huge players would sneak looks at one another and roll their eyes. Eventually, they’d do it right. “Good,” he’d say. “And now for the other foot.”

Of the 180 players who played for him, Wooden knows the whereabouts of 172. Of course, it’s not hard when most of them call, checking on his health, secretly hoping to hear some of his simple life lessons so that they can write them on the lunch bags of their kids, who will roll their eyes. “Discipline yourself, and others won’t need to,” Coach would say. “Never lie, never cheat, never steal,” Coach would say. “Earn the right to be proud and confident.”

You played for him, you played by his rules: Never score without acknowledging a teammate. One word of profanity, and you’re done for the day. Treat your opponent with respect.

He believed in hopelessly out-of-date stuff that never did anything but win championships. No dribbling behind the back or through the legs. “There’s no need,” he’d say. No UCLA basketball number was retired under his watch. “What about the fellows who wore that number before? Didn’t they contribute to the team?” he’d say. No long hair, no facial hair. “They take too long to dry, and you could catch cold leaving the gym,” he’d say.

That one drove his players bonkers. One day, All-America center Bill Walton showed up with a full beard. “It’s my right,” he insisted. Wooden asked if he believed that strongly. Walton said he did. “That’s good, Bill,” Coach said. “I admire people who have strong beliefs and stick by them, I really do. We’re going to miss you.” Walton shaved it right then and there. Now Walton calls once a week to tell Coach he loves him.

It’s always too soon when you have to leave the condo and go back out into the real world, where the rules are so much grayer and the teams so much worse. As Wooden shows you to the door, you take one last look around. The framed report cards of the great-grandkids. The boxes of jelly beans peeking out from under the favorite wooden chair. The dozens of pictures of Nellie.

He’s almost 90 now, you think. A little more hunched over than last time. Steps a little smaller. You hope it’s not the last time you see him. He smiles. “I’m not afraid to die,” he says. “Death is my only chance to be with her again.”

Problem is, we still need him here.

Sports Illustrated, Issue date: March 20, 2000 
Morning Story and Dilbert

Vintage Dilbert
May 29, 1989

What do butterflies have in common with the human spirit? Meet Maggie, a middle aged wife and mother who was about to find out.

Maggie wasn’t rich like a millionaire or poor in a manner of being homeless. She was living an average comfortable life. It was made even better when a beautiful baby girl came her way. Maggie and her husband made sure their daughter had her needs met and they were still able to take a yearly vacation by the beach.

Maggie was a partner in her husband’s business. They both had a different set of duties which kept everything in balance. One day a devastating blow came to her husband’s business, and over a three year period the business dropped out of site. Her husband had to totally reinvent himself and was yearning to fulfill a dream with a new vocation. She was happy for him and supported him fully, but still the money was not coming in.

Maggie began to feel guilty that she wasn’t contributing with any kind of income. It had been a long time since she had worked outside the home and had to work for someone else. Needless to say she was scared but still had faith that everything would be OK. She began job hunting and found it somewhat difficult in filling out applications, especially the part asking for job references. Keep in mind that she was self-employed with her husband for almost 20 years. It felt as though that didn’t count for anything as she was never called for an interview.

At the time she was job hunting her mom became more ill than she had been and ended up in the hospital for a week. Once Maggie’s mom returned home she became her mom’s helper one day a week. She did the shopping, changed sheets, vacuumed and did other things that her mother was not able to do anymore. Of course her mom would pay her for her time and labor but she still felt she needed to find another source of income.

One of the first applications she had filled out finally came through. She passed the interview with flying colors and was told she was “exactly” what they were looking for. Although it was only part time it was exactly what she wanted. It was important for her to be home when her daughter arrived home from school. She was told they would be in touch when the schedule was ready. Knowing she had the job made her feel contented and productive again.

Within a few weeks though, she received an e-mail saying that the company had changed the job into a full time position and she was not qualified. Maggie was devastated. She felt betrayed and felt she had been lied to. That evening she was alone as her husband and daughter had gone out for the night. She welcomed the aloneness and wanted to drown her sorrows in a hot tub of bubbles.

As she knew she would, she began to cry, softly at first just from the sheer pain of being rejected. Three long years of struggle had finally caught up with her. Then she became angry; angry at everything from the circumstances that got her there, to God himself. She cried harder and yelled, “What do you want me to do?” She really felt that God had abandoned her.

When she was able to cry no more, she became exhausted and gave up. It was at that moment that a silent idea came to her to offer other elderly people home care assistance.

Using another talent for computers she printed off some flyers and cards and distributed them to her church, grocery stores and even placed a small ad in the newspaper. Within a week she had procured two new clients.

Now, even though she’s not a CEO of a major company or a power player she feels happy and productive again. So, had God really abandoned her? Let’s look at nature for the lessons and the answer.

Before a butterfly can emerge out of it’s chrysalis it has to go through a lot of struggling. Yes, struggling. Each time it lunges out to escape, acids are being removed from its wings. If someone were to come along and break the chrysalis open for it then the butterfly would die from those acids. In essence the struggle is necessary for the butterfly to survive. Then in the stillness, when the struggle is over, the butterfly can come out and share its beauty with the world.

We as humans are not any different. There are times that we need to struggle, to overcome fear, anger and complacency.  It is only at this time when we are exhausted and still that we begin to hear God whisper to us. It is then, that we begin to look beyond what we thought was previously possible.

So hold on and look up. All the new ideas have not been taken. We may be momentarily down, but we are not out…The new will be better than the old.  The Best is yet to come!!!

Tony Masiello, © 2006
Tony Masiello is a Speaker, Author and Consultant
Morning Story and Dilbert

Vintage Dilbert
May 27, 2008

I had been swimming competitively for about five years and was ready to quit, not because I had satisfied my desire to swim, but because I felt I was horrible at it.  I was often the only African American at a swim competition, and our team could not afford anything close to the great uniforms the other teams were wearing.  Worst of all though, and my number-one reason for wanting to quit, was that I kept receiving “Honorable Mentions” at each competition, which simply means, “Thank you for coming.  You did not even rank first, second or third, but we don’t want you to go home with nothing, so here is something to hide later.”  Any athlete knows that you don’t want to have a bookshelf or a photo album full of “Honorable Mentions.”  They call that the “show-up ribbon”; you get one just because you showed up.

One hot summer day, the very day before a big swim meet, I decided to break the news to my grandma that I was quitting the swim team.  On the one hand I thought it was a big deal because I was the only athlete in the family, but on the other hand, because no one ever came to see me compete, I didn’t think it would be a major issue.  You have to know my grandma – she stood on tiptoe to five-feet-two-inches and weighed a maximum ninety-five pounds, but could run the entire operation of her house without ever leaving her sofa or raising her voice.  As I sat next to my grandma, I assumed my usual position of laying my big head on her tiny little lap so that she could rub it.

When I told her of my desire to quit swimming, she abruptly pushed my head off of her lap, sat me straight up facing her and said, “Baby, remember these words: ‘A quitter never wins and a winner never quits.’  Your grandmother didn’t raise no losers or quitters.  You go to that swim meet tomorrow, and you swim like you are a grandchild of mine, you hear?” I was too afraid to say anything but, “Yes, ma’am.”

The next day we arrived at the swim meet late, missing my group of swimmers in the fifteen/sixteen age group.  My coach insisted I be allowed to swim with the next group, the next age older.  I could have just as easily crawled out of the gym.  I knew she was including me in the race so our long drive would not be wasted, and she had no expectations whatsoever that I would come in anything but eighth – and only that because there were not nine lanes.

As I mounted the board, I quickly noticed that these girls with their skintight caps, goggles and Speedo suits were here to do one thing – kick my chocolate butt! All of a sudden my grandma’s words rang in my head, Quitters never win and winners never quit, quitters never win and winners never quit….SPLASH!

Quitters never win and winners never quit, quitters never win and winners never quit.
I was swimming harder than I’d ever swum before.  As I drew my right arm back, I noticed I was tied with one person.  I assumed we were battling for eighth place and I refused to finish dead last, so I added more kick on the last two hundred yards.

Quitters never win and winners never quit, quitters never win and winners never quit. I hit the wall and looked to the left and to the right for the swimmers who had beat me, but no one was there.  They must have gotten out of the water already.

I raised my head to see my coach screaming hysterically.  My eyes followed her pointing finger and I couldn’t believe what I saw.  The other swimmers had just reached the halfway point of the pool!

That day, at age fifteen, I broke the national seventeen/eighteen-year-old 400-freestyle record. I hung up my honorable mentions and replaced them with a huge trophy.

Back at Grandma’s, I laid my head on her lap and told her about our great race …and my new outlook on life.

Lisa Nichols (c) 2002
From Chicken Soup for the Soul
Morning Story and Dilbert

Vintage Dilbert
May 28, 1997

Some nervous young musicians played their first record audition
for the executives of the Decca Recording company. The executives were
not impressed. While turning down this group of musicians, one executive
said, “We don’t like their sound. “Their style is on the way out.”
The group – The Beatles.

Emmeline Snively, director of the Blue Book Modeling Agency,
told a young modeling hopeful, “You’d better learn secretarial
work or else get married.” But the young girl wouldn’t quit and
became known as… Marilyn Monroe.

In 1954, Jimmy Denny, manager of the Grand Ole Opry fired a singer
after one performance. He told him, “You ain’t goin’ nowhere son. You
ought to go back to drivin’ a truck.” The young singer…
Elvis Presley.

A young blind boy auditioned for a solo piano performance in the
school play. He was told that he should follow his grandmother’s
advice and learn to weave baskets or make chairs. That he
couldn’t play the piano or carry a tune in a bucket. The little
boy was crushed, but he refused to give up. The performer?
Twelve Time Grammy Winner-Ray Charles

A young inventor demonstrated his passion to the President.
After the demonstration, the President said, “That’s an amazing
invention, son; but who would ever want to use one of them?”
The year was 1876, the President was Rutherford B. Hayes,
the young inventor -Alexander Graham Bell…
the Telephone.

When a young reporter asked a young inventor why he continued,
since he had failed so many times, the young inventor answered
that he had not failed. It was just that his approach to his vision
happened to be a 2000 step process…
Thomas Edison-the Light Bulb.

In the 1940’s, another young inventor named Chester Carlson took his
idea to 20 corporations, including some of the biggest in the country.
They all turned him down. In 1947 – after seven long years of
rejections, he finally got a tiny company in Rochester, New York,
the Haloid Company, to purchase the rights to his invention. His idea
turned the corporate world upside down and in the process, the tiny
Haloid Company became…
The Xerox Corporation.

Wilma Rudolph was the 20th of 22 children. She was born
prematurely and her survival was doubtful. When she was 4 years old,
she contracted double pneumonia and scarlet fever, which left her with
a paralyzed left leg. At age 9, she removed the metal leg brace she
had been dependent on and began to walk without it. By 13 she had
developed rhythmic walk, which doctors said was a miracle. That same
year she decided to become a runner. She entered a race and came in
last. For years after, every race she entered, she came in
last. Everyone told her to quit, but she kept on running. One day
she actually won a race. And then another. From then on she won every
race she entered. Eventually this little girl, who was told she would
never walk again, went on to win…
three Olympic gold medals.

The moral of the above stories: Character cannot be developed in ease
and quiet of our comfort zone. Only through experiences of pursuing
through the fear of the unknown, can the soul be strengthened,
vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved.

Author Unknown - Please comment if you know the author
 so credit can be given
Morning Story and Dilbert

Vintage Dilbert
December 26, 1996

The dust mites danced in the ray of sunshine that provided the only light in the rabbi’s office.  He rocked back in his office chair and sighed as he stroked his beard.  Then he took his wire-rimmed glasses and polished them absent-mindedly on his flannel shirt.

“So,” he said, “you were divorced.  Now you want to marry this good Jewish boy.  What’s the problem?”

He nestled his grizzled chin in his hand and smiled softly at me. I wanted to shriek.  What’s the problem?  First of all, I’m Christian.  Second, I’m older than he is. Third – and not least, by any means – I’m divorced!  Instead, I looked back into his soft brown eyes and tried to form the words,”Don’t you think,” I stuttered, “That being divorced is like being used?  Like being damaged goods…”
He settled back in the office chair and stretched so that he was looking at the ceiling.  He stroked the scraggly beard that covered his chin and his neck.  Then, he returned to his spot behind the desk and leaned toward me.

“Say you have to have surgery.  Say you have a choice between two doctors.  Who are you going to choose?  The one right out of medical school or the one with experience?” “The one with experience,” I said.  His face crinkled into a grin.  “I would, too,” he locked his eyes with mine.  “So in this marriage, you will be the one with experience.  That’s not such a bad thing, you know.

“Often, marriages tend to drift.  They get caught in dangerous currents.  They get off course and head toward hidden sandbars.  No one notices until it is too late.  On your face, I see the pain of a marriage gone bad.  You will notice the drift in this marriage.  You’ll call out when you see the rocks.  You’ll yell to watch out and pay attention.  You’ll be the person with experience,” he sighed.  “And believe me, that’s not such a bad thing.  Not bad at all.”

He walked to the window and peeked between the slats of the blinds.  “You see, no one here knows about my first wife.  I don’t hide it, but I don’t make a big deal about it.  She died early in our marriage before I moved here.” Between tears, he said,  “Now, late at night I think of all the words I never said.  I think of all the chances I let pass by in that first marriage and I make every moment count in this one. I believe I’m a better husband to my wife today, because of the woman I lost.”

For the first time, the sadness in his eyes had meaning.  Now I understood why I chose to come talk to this man about marriage instead of taking an easier route and getting married outside both our religions.  The word “rabbi” means teacher.  Somehow I sensed he had just taught me, or even lent me, the courage I needed in order to try again, to marry again and to love agin.

“I will marry you and your David,” said the rabbi.  “If you promise me that you will be the person who yells out when you see the ship headed for the rocks…when you sense the marriage is in danger.”    I promised him I would, and I rose to leave. “By the way,” he called to me as I hesitated in his doorway, “did anyone ever tell you that Joanna is a good Hebrew name?”

Sixteen years have passed since the rabbi married David and I on a rainy October morning.  And, yes, I have called out several times when I sensed we were in danger. I would tell the rabbi how well his analogy has served me, but I cannot.  He died two years after our wedding.  But I will always be grateful for the priceless gift he gave me: the wisdom to know that all of our experiences in life make us not less valuable, but more valuable, not less able to love, but more able to love.

Joanna Slan (c) 1998
From Chicken Soup for the Couple's Soul 

Morning Story and Dilbert

Morning Story and Dilbert Vintage Dilbert
July 3, 2001

There once was a king who offered a prize to the artist who would paint the best picture of peace. Many artists tried. The king looked at all the pictures. But there were only two he really liked, and he had to choose  between them.

One picture was of a calm lake. The lake was a perfect mirror for peaceful towering mountains all around it. Overhead was a blue sky with fluffy white clouds. All who saw this picture thought that it was a perfect picture of peace.

The other picture had mountains, too. But these were rugged and bare. Above was an angry sky, from which rain fell and in which lightning played. Down the side of the mountain tumbled a foaming waterfall. This did not look peaceful at all.

But when the king looked closely, he saw behind the waterfall a tiny bush…

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Morning Story and Dilbert

Vintage Dilbert
May 19, 1999

The ball pinged off the aluminum bat and headed toward the hole between shortstop and third base, the sort of one-hop screamer that the high-school junior shortstop, my son Chris, had backhanded a thousand times. Only this time, the ball hit a pebble and caromed weirdly toward his head. With a sickening crunch, the ball caught him flush in his left eye, and he went down in a heap. Bad hop, and a bad break. The ambulance came onto the field, and he was taken away, something that just doesn’t seem to happen in the pastoral world of high-school baseball.

At the hospital, Chris was diagnosed with a blowout fracture of the bones in the orbit of his eye socket – a classic sports injury easily resolved by a simple surgical procedure. Except that things went wrong, and when the surgeon finally got up his courage enough to tell my wife and me what happened – an undetected blood clot had cut off oxygen to the optic nerve – the long and short of it was that Chris would be blind in his left eye, probably for the rest of his life.

In one instant, the college scholarships Chris had contemplated and the dreams of a professional baseball career vanished.

Chris was still groggy from the surgery when we went into his hospital room, his bandaged eye holding a secret we now had to share with him. We chatted about small things until he was alert enough to ask the inevitable, “Did everything go okay?” My wife, Sue, gripped my hand as I told him that, no, it had not. That there had been complications. That the doctors had done their best, that medicine was still more art than science. Halfway through my semi-prepared speech, Chris interrupted me: “Dad, am I blind?” “Yes, son. I’m afraid so.” “Will I be able to see out of it at all?” “We don’t know – the doctors don’t know. Maybe a little. Someday. Not now.” It was the toughest thing I’ve ever had to do. Chris sort of nodded and looked away toward the window. Outside it was spring, and we listened for a time to a robin’s territorial song from a nearby tree.

“Can I have a Coke?” The duty nurse brought Chris a soft drink in a can with a cup and some ice. His mother poured the drink and he sat up and drank some of it through a straw, and then peered at the can on his bedside table. “Dad, could you see if they have a pencil and paper I can use?” I walked outside to the nurses’ station and borrowed a notepad and a pencil and returned to Chris’s room, where his mother was talking with him in hushed tones. I handed him the pad and pencil, and we elevated his bed. He raised his knees and propped the pad against them, looked at the soda can, and began to draw. Sue and I said nothing as long minutes passed.

Finally, he tore off the sheet of paper and handed it to me. We looked at it – a photo-likeness of a Coca-Cola soft-drink can. Chris had always had an uncanny artistic ability: if his eyes could see it, his hand could draw it. We had thought of art as his second love – right behind baseball. In those brief moments, Chris took a bad hop, made a decision and changed forever the course of his life. “I’m okay, you guys. I can still draw.” With that, he lowered his bed, turned onto his side and fell asleep.

That was eleven years ago. Since then, about 40 percent of the sight has returned to Chris’s left eye. Even with this handicap, which severely affects depth perception, he went on to hit .385 and shortstop a state-championship baseball team the very next season, earning all-state honors in the process. But his focus had changed. Chris got his college degree – with the help of an academic and not an athletic scholarship – in fisheries and wildlife management as a background for his career as a wildlife and sporting artist.

Today, his paintings and pencil renderings grace the pages and covers of magazines and more than a dozen books, and they hang in galleries and museums in New York and Tennessee. The list of his clients awaiting oil and watercolor commissions is always at least a year long.

One bad hop, one routine ground ball, one instant of pain, and what could have been months or years of despair. But Chris never said “Why me?” He said, “Where can I go from here?” He parlayed that bad hop into different channel. an adventure in its own right, just different. And he parlayed it into a financial bonanza.

One bad hop – and the determination to play whatever hand he was dealt and to accept what could not be changed… it altered the course of a life for an amazing, but previously not seen future.

By - Steve Smith (c) 2000
From Chicken Soup for the Sports Fan's Soul
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