Thursday, January 21, 2010

Lessons Learned from The Blind Side

Anyone that knows me well is familiar with my passion for investing in the lives of others, especially young women. When I get discouraged in that calling on my life, I normally pop in one of my two life-affirming movies, Mr. Holland's Opus and Mona Lisa Smile. They portray to me what my purpose in life is all about. When I first saw the trailer for The Blind Side a few months back, I almost cried. Could it be another life-affirming movie for my list? It has been out for a couple of months but with the holidays, I hadn't made it to the theater. But over the MLK Holiday weekend, I was determined to see this movie...and I did. And, I cried....multiple times. I have no children of my own...adopted or otherwise...but I do have a bevy of spiritual children that I love as if I birthed them myself. I've watched them walk down wedding aisles, birth babies, calm their troubled hearts and hugged them when the tears were flowing. This movie stirred all those emotions and callings in my heart.

My comfort friend, Amy, who I like to call "mashed potatoes" (it's a comfort food, comfort friend..get it?), is one person who can weep with me over the message from this movie. She always challenges me to write a blog post after seeing movies like this and after ruminating on the movie for a few days, I've come up with the lessons learned from the movie....warning...spoilers ahead...but I'm probably the last person on the planet to see this movie...

1. When you decide to invest in the lives of others, some people will think you are crazy - Leigh Anne Touhy had her husband stop the car ala the Good Samaritan to pick up a lonely and cold Michael Oher and take him in for the night. I'd guess 99.9% of the world wouldn't do that. Yet, when you know in your heart a life is in need, nothing seems crazy to you. And, sometimes, you get those unexpected blessings. I loved the scene the morning after Michael's first night at the Tuohy home. Leigh Anne descends the stairs looking for him when she finds all of his bed linens neatly folded on the couch where he slept. God brings those little blessings into the lives of us crazy folk that love people more than we love our common sense sometimes.

2. Every life is different, so know your audience - When Michael began to play football, he just wasn't getting it. Leigh Anne was at a practice one day and marched right on to the field, pulled Michael aside and explained the game of football and his role from the viewpoint of protecting his family...the Tuohys. She knew enough about football to make the analogy and it clicked. After her teaching lesson, the coach came over to her and asked what she said to him. She said "You really need to get to know your players. Michael scored in the 98th percentile in protective instincts." Every person has a unique personality and to invest in them means you have to know how to communicate to them and you can't do that the same way with every person. I'd go so far as to say no two people are exactly the same. Know your audience or you'll ultimately fail.

3. Investing in the lives of others is full of obstacles and challenges - Driving your BMW in the midst of the ghetto is no easy task. Nor confronting a thug as confidently as Leigh Anne did and letting him know she was an NRA, gun-packing woman. Nor coming face to face with the mother that was so messed up she didn't know how to care about her son. Investing in the lives of others is challenging and messy. My associate pastor, Jeff Elieff, always quotes this verse "Where there are no oxen, the feeding trough is empty, but an abundant harvest comes from the strength of an ox." - Proverbs 14:4. Oxen make messes that you have to clean up. If you want a clean feeding trough, you'll most likely have to pull your own weight in the fields. The same is true of people. People make messes that we have to help them clean up. But without these precious lives, where would our world be?

4. A life invested may never say it, but they do love and appreciate you - When the time came that the Tuohys wanted to become Michael's legal guardian, they sat him down and hesitantly asked him if he wanted to be part of their family. His response? "I thought I was already part of the family." Sometimes we think our investment is worthless, or not making a difference, but then, somewhere out in left field comes a fly ball that bonks us on the head. I'll never forget a wooden angel my sweet Elise gave me one time and said that the inscription was how she felt about me and it humbled me. That angel still sits in my kitchen as a reminder. I'm always amazed when one of my spiritual children sends me a card, texts me a message, gives me a gift, or simply says "I love you" unprompted. Rarely does this happen that tears do not flow.

5. Your life will change more than their life will change - Picking my favorite line from the movie is tough. But the one that sums up the message of the movie to me was during a scene when Leigh Anne was having lunch with her girlfriends. One of them said "You are changing that boy's life." Leigh Anne simply responded, "No, he's changing mine." Amen, Leigh Anne, Amen. When we embark on the journey of investing in the life of another, the ride may seem as bumpy as can be. But all those bumps lead to glorious blessings, and oh so worth the trip.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Why I Work at Dunder Mifflin

I love my job. Seriously. There are weeks when I'm more then ready for the weekend and there are days when I'm pulling at my fabulously curly hair. But overall I'm very blessed. Most people don't understand what I do or what my company does. It's been that way for most of my career, given I've worked for multiple technology and technology publishing companies. I normally say I work for the CIA and if I told you, I'd have to kill you and that usually suffices. Seriously, most people's eyes glaze over and their mouth hangs agape when I really explain my job and/or my company. With the popularity of The Office, it has made it easier to just say I work for Dunder Mifflin. Even with that explanation, nobody truly believes an office exists like contraire mon does. And here are just five of the ka-zillion reasons why my company could be an NBC sitcom...

1. One of my employees decided to use an exercise ball as his office chair. Why you ask? Because a co-worker did it six weeks before his wedding to get tight abs. Now, Mr. Ball Chair isn't about to get married, but is looking for the next quick way to develop a six pack, and not the kind you buy in the adult beverage section of your local grocery store. He kept this purchase a secret until it arrived and we heard this loud pumping air noise from across the room and he confessed his procurement. After a few days on this regime, he invested in an actual balance ball chair with a built-in back. Today's hijinks included taking the old exercise ball and replacing someone's office chair with it. The victim took the latest ball from the new chair and hid it in the rafters as payback. Dang, I love my job.

2. We have an employee who looks like Santa Clause and can't complete a sentence without expressing a profane word. Bless his heart, he tries. In fact, his boss has agreed to provide him free lunches if he can get through a presentation at a sales meeting without uttering a profanity. Hasn't happened yet. But Santa Clause gets his fill of free food as our local office break room vulture who attacks the food in the break room before it barely gets put on the table. Office life would be dull without him.

3. There is an episode of The Office called "Booze Cruise" where the company went on a cruise together. We did a similar excursion on the now defunct Star of Louisville for lunch one September afternoon. There wasn't any booze, but it was a cruise. And, months later, our sales team did have a cruise in the San Francisco Bay with a captain at the helm we named "Captain McDreamy" and yes, there was booze on that cruise.

4. We creatively name areas of our office that would mean nothing to the outside world. Each of our conference rooms are named for Triple Crown winners of the Kentucky Derby - Strike the Gold, Bold Venture, and Genuine Risk - because of the constant temperature of Bold Venture, it is now known as Cold Venture. The area where my cubicle resides is known as "The Infield" as a nod to the infield at Churchill Downs and a baseball reference for the home of the Louisville Slugger. I came up with name as the Inside Sales team - or "Innies" - sit in this area. We have a storage area named "China" because prior to its role as a storage room, it was the office of a one-man company that dealt with foreign lands, one of which was China. We're not exactly sure what he was doing, let's hope it was legal. But, now when looking for something, you can often hear someone say "It's in China" and you don't have to be Bugs Bunny and dig a hole there. Just go down the hall.

5. Our President is the coolest. I've worked for many leaders and so many never really "got" the business and thankfully ours does. And, he takes ribbing better than most leaders. The running joke about him looking like Ned Flanders has been going on for a while. Although Michael Scott from The Office is really clueless, he's very endearing in his Michael Scott ways. This year for Christmas, our President wrote a version of Twas the Night Before Christmas revamped to fit our business. It was great and cleverly written...I was impressed with his rhyming abilities. And, one of those endearing things that Michael Scott would have done. Having fun at work makes all the difference.

So for all those people who wonder what I do. Take your pick. I work for the CIA. I work for Dunder Mifflin. Or, if you want the real story, pull up chair and prepare to be amazed.