Rules of Engagement

“Red Rover Red Rover send Karla on over!” It was a bit scary. First, there wasn’t THAT much room between the two walls of the gym. How fast should I really go to break the barrier of my friends’ arms. Won’t that hurt them? Won’t I get hurt?

Rules were part of the game. Every game in fact. But rules were nothing new to me as my parents lined out a few when I was very young. Following the rules was important to me. It seemed most of us gave it our best efforts. But behind the scenes…

No one really liked him. I felt sorry for him. No one really paid any attention to her. My heart broke for her. Why wouldn’t anyone pick her for the team? Why are others being mean to him? I never understood it. Why are they laughing at her? Isn’t that breaking the rules?

Sundays would come around~my favorite day. We’d soon be gathered around the family table. Under the steeple I’d curiously observe other adults and kids. Bibles open, pens out, and if lucky, candy for us young ones. And the singing was my favorite. The rules were shared through stories; ancient ones and some newer. True events with major consequences for not following the rules. On one hand the fear made me sit up straight. But on the other hand, sermons about love filled me with warmth and acceptance. I learned of this man who always played fair and loved every team member. The rules seemed black and white and rules of engagement seemed… fair.

Last week I shared with my parents as we discussed current events, “Why did I, and so many teachers and parents to this day, spin our wheels trying to teach young kids kindness and civility when our own leaders do not display them?”

Rules had to be displayed when I began teaching at a young age. By the time I left education we had school-wide norms. These expectations were communicated daily in school-wide settings and individual classrooms. “Kids, I’d like for you all to be civil and respectful to one another!” “Even if we disagree let’s show courtesy and respect!” One day several young students and I were sitting in a circle in the counselor’s office. The discussion was about bullying. One girl was obviously the victim. The others, collectively, immediately developed a pack-like attitude. To try and get them to speak individually was like pulling a tooth. The pack remained intact. My own family had their experience at pack attacks throughout the years. Have you ever experienced it?

When I left Facebook a couple of years ago it was because the rules of engagement no longer seemed to exist. After learning some lessons (and still learning) I couldn’t understand why some, hidden behind a screen, could fire shots without any regard to the rules of engagement. Aside from what one might consider just general knowledge about healthy and positive human behavior these attacks seemed planned. And the rules of engagement justified me acting in self-defense right? But to whom does this really benefit?

I was a rule-breaker. There were periods of my life I only thought of myself; I had felt bullied and looked for a way out~despite the rules. I’ve lived with the consequences of breaking the rules and its impact on others. I’ve experienced heartache, hurt, pain, and joy all combined in the lessons.

Several mornings ago, while catching up with the “normally-not-so-uplifting” news, I was refreshed by the interview of two men running for governor of Utah. Their ad was a light in the darkness for me. Republican Lieutenant Governor Spencer Cox and law professor Chris Peterson, a Democrat, appeared together to call for civility among voters. Cox and Peterson are running against each other to become the governor of Utah. They joked with one another and encouraged all residents to respect one another; no matter their vote. My smile got wider. This was not a hallucination of hope. It was real.

“Our common values transcend our political differences and the strength of our nation rests on our ability to see that,” Peterson said. “I’m not sure this has ever been done before…but as our national political dialogue continues to decline, my opponent and I decided to try something different,” Cox tweeted Tuesday.  “Let’s make Utah an example to the nation.” (CBS News)

I’m not distracted by false hope anymore. I’m not falling for the fake offering of freedom with instant love. The only attention I need is that which grows my capacity to level the playing field for everyone in which I engage.

I did run across the gym eventually. Although I didn’t break the bonded arms of my friends, the giggly entanglement ensured me I was safe on their team.

I’ll stay my course with my ultimate authority~to guide me and to help me set the parameters that will propel me to encourage and help others in the game. You see, it’s not the rules I focus on anymore~it’s Christ. And Christ alone.

   “There is no exception to this rule: "All the paths of the LORD are mercy and truth unto such as keep his covenant." They say there is no rule without an exception, but there is an exception to that rule.”
― Charles Spurgeon

Have faith💚

Humor Me…

How many times have you heard “If I don’t laugh I’ll cry”? Shared again just this morning, it hit me that I hadn’t had a good belly laugh in a few days. You know the ones…your side hurts, a snort might sneak out, and you laugh again later just thinking about it.

Like my faith~deeply rooted~humor has provided soft landings for hard falls. I’m native to a giggling homeland. My youngest son once said “I love how our family can laugh-even during hard times.” That hit me right between my heart chambers.

It was 1988~My wombmate (a.k.a. twin) and I were singing for the Chamber Choir of Southwest Missouri State University. Humor did not have a place at any practice. Dr. Guy Webb, choir director, was an amazing talent. He was demanding and picky~and not what I would describe as “humorous” by a long-shot. And you had better not “scoop”. To “scoop” meant you would start at a note and slide up to the note you SHOULD be singing. Simultaneously, the two of us scooped (very loudly) to a….wrong note. “Oops-a-daisy!” Things spiraled quickly. “Do not look at me!” I thought to myself. And we did it. We made eye contact with one another. NO, it wasn’t with Dr. Webb (had it been things probably would’ve remained dignified). Instead, our twin eyes caught one another and it began. IT ALWAYS begins with just a tiny giggle. And when the shoulders start to dance, it’s never a quiet outcome. Needless to say the practice had a small intermission (I’m sure other singers might agree it was needed).

Perhaps I could write a memoir titled “Times I laughed when I shouldn’t have laughed and most people would not laugh, but the weird ones like me would get it.” (WAYYYY TOOOO LOONNNGGG of a title anyway).

You see, I had to (have to) laugh. In every situation, whether sad, frustrating, horrific, unbelievable, or even catastrophic, there lies deep in my soul a pint-sized risible region. And also, residing there, is the ability to understand irony. This developed at a very young age. As a child (and now) I remember learning to understand others. And humor played a huge role.

Without diving into brain research on child development, my experiences as an educator guided me to help students develop imaginations and spot incongruities. I understood students who “got” the joke~and also those who didn’t. We all process different. Brains process humor differently. Disney and Pixar movies are loaded with humor that we, as adults, understand (and some young ones do too). It’s a joy to watch little people develop their humor.

“Having a humorous outlook on life is a good coping strategy. It helps people better manage stress and adversity. More negative humour styles, such as sarcasm, ridicule, and self-defeating humour, do not offer the same benefits. Instead, they tend to alienate people and are more associated with depressed mood and aggression….And neurobiology shows that laughter can lead to brain changes, which may explain the link between humour and intelligence.

https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/10/funny-people-are-also-more-intelligent-according-to-new-research/

Sadly, there are some that can’t laugh. Maybe due to a physical or biological reason. Or because they are in despair and find no reason to smile or even laugh. I’ve been there. I understand.

There’s nothing funny about the turmoil I see in our world. It doesn’t “tickle” me to witness loss of laughter in some, illness in others, hate spewing from a few or a pew, and people tearing one another down because of their own inability to love others with an open mind and no judgement. To let go of the perceived knowledge that EVERY person should think like YOU, be like YOU, dress like YOU, love like YOU, believe like YOU, walk like YOU, talk like YOU, and laugh like YOU.

There are many situations in my life that have brought tears. And when I have laughed so hard I cry,….well, those are the tears I hope we can ALL shed as much as possible. Try to make someone smile. In this complicated, and sometimes dark times, I pray you find a reason~any reason, to laugh. In contrast to my “brittle” bones, requiring much faith and attention, my funny bone seems to be more resistant to fracture. And my backbone stays strong too. Humor me…even if I’m not funny, I’ll still choose happy.

Have faith💚

Just for giggles…