Tuesday, December 28, 2010

On Toothpaste and Sandboxes

I was in Shoppers Drug Mart a couple of days before Christmas picking up a few things to fill up my wife's stocking when I heard an interesting conversation take place down the toothpaste aisle. Two women, strangers, struck up a conversation about the vast number of choices when it comes to picking out your toothpaste these days - total, total advanced, tartar protection, cavity protection, baking soda, whitening, professional, sensitivity - the list goes on and on.

Anyway, these two women started talking to each other (a phenomena unique to women - men would never start talking to another random guy in a store), about toothpaste. It was obvious that the first women wasn't from around these parts with her thick southern U.S. drawl. When the second woman commented on her accent, the first one very quickly identified herself as being from Virginia...and a Liberal.

Now, I don't know if Americans feel some sort of pressure to identify themselves as Liberal when they are in Canada, sort of like cheering for the home team at a football game even though you are secretly from the visiting city, but I've had this happen to me on more than one occasion.

When we visited Chicago earlier this year, as we went around the breakfast table at our B&B with the obligatory introductions, one woman introduced herself by saying "I'm from Maryland and I voted for Obama." Odd, I thought, that one would choose to self-identfy by reveling one's political leanings. This would never happen in Canada. We'll talk about the weather, about the (insert local hockey team here), and then apologize for something, but we would never introduce ourselves by revealing our political party of choice.

"Hi, I'm Bob, and I voted for the Conservative Party of Canada in the last election. How are you?"

"Great thanks, I'm Steve. I voted for the NDP last time. Don't you just love Jack Layton's groovy mustache?"

These things just don't happen here. Generally speaking I think Canadians are far less likely than Americans to self-identfy with one particular tribe or another. And when it comes to politics, we have an equal disdain for all of them so there is no real home team. It's as if the Americans are putting it right up front that you are only allowed to play in their sandbox if you are of the same political leaning. If not, go find your own sandbox because you are not welcome and not really trusted here. That's when they end up drawing a line in the sand with no compromise on either side resulting in ridiculous shouting matches heard from the White House all the way down to the lowest levels of government - and on Fox news.

So, to the lady from Virginia...next time you are in Canada and identify yourself as a Liberal, just know that for the most part, we don't care. If you are friendly, not too intrusive, and maybe just a little aware of life above the 49th parallel, you are welcome to play in our sandbox anytime. Oh...and make sure you apologize for something random every few minutes. Then we'll accept you as one of our own.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Quiet Strength

I just finished reading a book that has been on my shelf for years: Quiet Strength by Tony Dungy. As head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, Dungy led the team to a Super Bowl championship in 2006 (he has since retired and is doing commentary for NBC.) The book is a fascinating look at the life of a professional football coach at the highest level, but also a personal look at a man who's faith has sustained him during some very difficult circumstances - firings, loses, and the death of his son. Throughout the highs and lows, Dungy continually points the attention back to God as the source of his strength and the one who "works all things together for the good of those who love Him."

Tony is also a leader who inspired his teams to greatness.The following is an inspirational handout that Dungy gave to his players while coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers:

The first step toward creating an improved future is developing the ability to envision it. Vision will ignite the fire of passion that fuels our commitment to do whatever it takes to achieve excellence. Only vision allows us to transform dreams of greatness into the reality of achievement through human action. Vision has no boundaries and knows no limits. Our vision is what we become in life.

A pretty good mission statement I'd say, all based on Tony's basic strategy of "Keep doing the ordinary things better than anyone else. Be uncommon. Do what we do." Good advice for football teams and the rest of us as well.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Favorite Lyrics #2: Cry of a Tiny Babe

Mary grows a child without the help of a man
Joseph get upset because he doesn't understand
Angel comes to Joseph in a powerful dream
Says "God did this and you're part of his scheme"
Joseph comes to Mary with his hat in his hand
Says "forgive me I thought you'd been with some other man"
She says "what if I had been - but I wasn't anyway and guess what
I felt the baby kick today"

Like a stone on the surface of a still river
Driving the ripples on forever
Redemption rips through the surface of time
In the cry of a tiny babe

The child is born in the fullness of time
Three wise astrologers take note of the signs
Come to pay their respects to the fragile little king
Get pretty close to wrecking everything
'Cause the governing body of the whole [Holy] land
Is that of Herod, a paranoid man
Who when he hears there's a baby born King of the Jews
Sends death squads to kill all male children under two
But that same bright angel warns the parents in a dream
And they head out for the border and get away clean

Like a stone on the surface of a still river
Driving the ripples on forever
Redemption rips through the surface of time
In the cry of a tiny babe

There are others who know about this miracle birth
The humblest of people catch a glimpse of their worth
For it isn't to the palace that the Christ child comes
But to shepherds and street people, hookers and bums
And the message is clear if you've got [you have] ears to hear
That forgiveness is given for your guilt and your fear
It's a Christmas gift [that] you don't have to buy
There's a future shining in a baby's eyes

Like a stone on the surface of a still river
Driving the ripples on forever
Redemption rips through the surface of time
In the cry of a tiny babe

- Bruce Cockburn