Goodbye my Friend

Many of you that read our blog on a regular basis may or may not know that two Webner sisters, Cathy and Margaret, married two brothers Alec and Chris and last night their father Bill, who I referred to fondly as Mr H, passed away at the age of 91.

Mr H lived a long and productive life and was a good friend not to mention a long time bridge partner. He would often tell people that I was the only one that understood his bridge bidding, but to be totally honest with you most of the time I didn’t have a clue what he was doing. I will always remember his dealing the cards, then picking them up and saying who dealt this mess while the rest of us at the table in unison would laughingly say, you did !

When I retired a couple of years ago Mr H and I had the opportunity to meet for lunch on a pretty regular basis. I enjoyed our chats whether it would be about current events or some family issue that would arise from time to time. He was an interesting person to talk to and fun to be with. I could usually tell when he was in a talkative mood if he ordered two Miller lites as opposed to one. When I would drop him off he would usually say Jim I enjoy your company because we see eye to eye on things and I like what I see, of course I would say the feeling is mutual Mr H.

Earlier this week I had the opportunity to say goodbye to him when he was resting comfortably at Mayfair Village. While I stood there I couldn’t help but recall how much he talked about Mae and their relationship during our lunches and how much he was looking forward to being reunited with the love of his life for more than fifty years. He told me the day he proposed to Mae that he was surprised she said yes, but that it was the happiest day of his life.

Mr H was particularly proud of his Irish American heritage and talked about it frequently so in his memory I would like to offer “Remembered Joy” an Irish Poem that I love.

Don’t grieve for me, for now I’m free. I’m following the path God laid for me. I took his hand when I heard him call. I turned my back and left it all. I could not stay another day. To laugh, to love, to work or play. Tasks left undone must stay that way. I found that peace at close of day.

If my parting has left a void. Then fill it with remembered joy. A friendship shared, a laugh, a kiss. Ah yes, these things I too shall miss. Be not burdened with times of sorrow; I wish you the sunshine of tomorrow. My life’s been full, I’ve savored much; Good friends, good times, a loved one’s touch.

Perhaps my time seemed all too brief; Don’t lengthen it now with undue grief. Lift up your hearts and share with me; God wanted me now; he has set me free.

The Demotivational Impact Of Empty Platitudes

According to an article in the Washington Post, schools and teachers have finally begun to recognize that efforts to boost student “self-esteem” that aren’t tied to concrete accomplishment aren’t achieving anything.  The article says that three decades of research shows that constant praise irrespective of performance, participation trophies, and the like aren’t actually increasing self-esteem and instead are interfering with actual improvement and accomplishment.

This shouldn’t come as news to anyone.  Indeed, the only surprise lies in the fact that it took three decades for schools to figure out what is obvious to most parents — but then, once a “concept” like “promoting self-esteem” gets rooted in the hidebound American educational system, it’s almost impossible to dig it out.

Kids — even kids who learn at a slower pace — aren’t stupid.  They’re observant and socially aware.  They know who is smart or adept at math or science and who isn’t, just like they know who is good at sports and who is a klutz.  If you praise them for non-performance, they will feel patronized, not proud — and may conclude that you don’t care, or are too incompetent to determine, whether they are really learning.  Neither message motivates kids to work harder and learn.  Ask any parents whose basements are filled with boxes of the silly participation trophies or good citizenship medals or attendance certificates their kids have received — those “awards” mean nothing because the kids intuitively know that awards given to everyone mean nothing.

Self-esteem can’t be conferred, it has to be earned and developed by actual achievement.  It’s time to return to schools that feature competitions with winners and losers, like science fairs and spelling bees and speech contests.  When I was in elementary school, we used to play a game called conductor where two kids would stand next to a desk.  The teacher would call out a math calculation, and the first student to give the right answer would move on while the loser would sit.  If you made it through the entire classroom you felt legitimate pride — and those who sat down were motivated to work harder.

We need to forget about the trophy generation, and focus instead on how to turn our youngsters into an actual achievement generation.