Pencil Practice — September 19, 2011

12 23 OBOE THEME

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I love Mondays.

It is my day to pack up my belongings, get in my car and roll on down the road to the next community, where I will be headquartering for a week to share my thoughts, dreams and little dab of talent.

I also use Monday for another purpose. Monday reminds me of when I was a kid and knew I had an important paper that had to be turned in for school, and the teacher wanted that assignment to be written in pen–my best cursive writing.  Terrified that I was going to have to start over and over again to avoid mistakes, I chose to practice writing the assigned paper in pencil first.

Pencil is wonderful. It glides nicely–and also erases when you screw up. But I do believe that as people we need “pencil practices” in preparing for our dealings with one another.  Otherwise, when it comes time to “pen” ourselves down, we will not be ready and will have a bunch of scratch-offs.

So I use Monday for that purpose. Having the success of a good week, meeting good folks and sharing good things, I allow myself a few moments to think about how I can do it better. It’s a good day to practice being a real human being instead of a jerk going through the motions. Here are three things I do:

1. Come up with a greeting. Do you realize that if you stop saying “hello,” “good morning” or “howdy,” you will eventually stifle that reflex to be friendly, and pass by that fellow-man or woman without comment.  And how is that supposed to be interpreted by them? Believe me, there are enough crazy people in the world that if you decide to snub the wrong one, you might regret your choice. I think greeting one another in a civil way is a talent that if you stop using, just may depart, leaving you sullen and without remark.

So I have fun trying out different ways of saluting my fellow-travelers. One of my favorites is, “Hi, y’all.” Southern accents can be quite endearing. Greet one another–we do need a starting place, you know.

Much to the chagrin of one of my brothers, I call everyone “my friend.” It aggravates him. He thinks it’s pretentious. If by pretentious, he means that I do it on purpose, then he’s right. If by pretentious, he assumes I’m insincere, he’s wrong. I call people “my friend” because it’s the way to tell them that I believe we still have a chance to do some really great things.

2. Go for the second question. Our conversations with people are very short, usually revolving around the weather or some ill-defined answer to “how are you?” Just a few minutes ago, I said to this dude, “Good morning.” He said, “Good morning to you.” I responded, “Do you have a good day planned?” It kind of shocked him. It was fun. He paused and responded, “I sure hope so!” As I was walking away, he called out, “How about you?” I replied, “Much better now that I met you!”

I know some of you may think it’s corny.  Good. If the worst thing ever said about me is that I’m corny, I will not only survive it, but I will be able to produce a very stable crop of ideas.

3. Once every hour, look in the mirror. Sometimes we forget how we look. Sometimes I forget that I’m getting older, because my mind is still popping at about a 22-year-old level. Look in the mirror. Do you see a grimace? A growl? Or some glee? That’s what folks are looking at, you know. When we forget what we look like and what countenance has etched its way across our face, we do a disservice to ourselves and everyone else. Work on your facial expression. It won’t kill you, although contrary to popular opinion–our looks CAN kill.

That’s about it. It’s not difficult; it won’t change the world. But I’m really not out to change the world. I just want to make sure that when I greet my Maker, I’m ready with a second question and I pretty well know what I look like.

And since who I am is going to be written in down permanent ink in the Book of Life–if you don’t mind, I think I’ll just use my Mondays to “pencil practice”–right here and now.

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