About Conversation Kindling

The purpose of this blog is to share stories, metaphors, quotes, songs, humor, etc. in hopes they'll be used to spark authentic and rewarding conversations about working and living fruitfully. There are at least three things you can gain by getting involved in these conversations. First, you'll discover new and important things about yourself through the process of thinking out loud. Second, you'll deepen your relationships with others who participate by swapping thoughts, feelings, and stories with them. Finally, you'll learn that robust dialogue centered on stories and experiences is the best way to build new knowledge and generate innovative answers to the questions that both life and work ask.

I write another blog called My Spare Brain. This is where I am "storing" ideas for use in future books, articles, blog posts, speeches, and workshops. There is little rhyme or reason for what I post there. I do this to encourage visitors to come as treasure hunters looking for new ways of seeing and thinking vs. researchers looking for new or better answers to questions they already know how to ask.

30 July 2010

You'll Never Walk Alone

There is a quote from Tony Campolo, pastor and author, that I've had in my files for years. I've kept it because it jarred me when I first read it, and has challenged my thinking about life since. Here's what he said:

"I have three things I'd like to say today. First, while you were sleeping last night, 30,000 kids died of starvation or diseases related to malnutrition. Second, most of you don't give a shit. What's worse is that you're more upset with the fact that I said shit than the fact that 30,000 kids died last night."

I've never been able to argue with his assertion; I've only been able to ask myself why I think he's right, and on that score, I've come up empty.

There's another quote I came across recently that's helped me begin to answer my question. It comes from Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon:
"Television, my dear Daniel, is the Antichrist, and I can assure you that after only three or four generations, people will no longer even know how to fart on their own and humans will return to living in caves, to medieval savagery, and to the general state of imbecility that slugs overcame back in the Pleistocene era. Our world will not die as a result of the bomb, as the papers say, it will die of laughter, of banality, of making a joke of everything, and a lousy joke at that."
Or, as Tom Robbins asked about the TV set in Fierce Invalids Home From Hot Climates:
“Does it not posses the power of a totem pole and the heart of a rat?”
Is television to blame for the fact so many of us have become so numb and disconnected from the violence and suffering that whirls around us like a doomsday machine? I think so; at least in part.

A case in point. I was up late reading and watching TV when the first reports of the February 13, 2009, plane crash at the Buffalo, NY airport started coming in. For a few minutes, I gave my full attention to the TV, but soon I was back to reading and glancing up every now and then to see if anything new was happening. I fell asleep before long, and slept peacefully through the night. In the morning, I turned the TV back on and found out that 50 people had died in the crash. At that point, I did what I think many of us did that morning: I acknowledged that some people I didn't know died in a plane crash in a city far away, and went about my business. After all, we see stuff like this on TV all the time.

Then ... I got a wake-up call. I had wandered back to the family room. The TV was still tuned to a cable news channel. I watched - mindlessly at first. I noticed that a young man was being interviewed. I figured the reporter would be asking the same banal questions reporters always ask in similar situations, and that the young man would answer in pretty much the same way others I've seen standing in his shoes did. The reporter didn't disappoint, to be sure, but the young man's answers stunned me. All of a sudden I was awake, and personally involved. In a nutshell, here's what happened. The young man told the reporter he had planned to stop by the airport on his way home from soccer practice to meet his sister's plane. He told him he had learned she was on the ill-fated flight, and no one had made it out alive. The reporter asked the first banal question: "What has been going through your mind the last few minutes?" The young man said he just talked to his Father - who was vacationing with his Mother in Florida - to relay the bad news, and said he was really worried about his Mother. The reporter then asked him another banal question: - "How are they taking it?" His answer was anything but banal:
"To tell you the truth, I heard my mother make a noise on the phone that I've never heard before."
All of a sudden I was there with him. I conjured up a vivid picture of his parents dealing with their grief in a small motel somewhere in Florida. I thought back to the time in my life when I had to pass the news to my future wife - we had been dating for about six months at the time - that her 14 year old brother had died in a freak accident. I remember trying to come up with the words to comfort her. I couldn't so I just held her. She cried herself to sleep. I thought about the struggle our family has been going through to help one of my sons deal with a serious substance abuse problem, and the nights I've stayed awake waiting for him to come home, and hoping the phone didn't ring first. This is hard stuff, and you pretty much end up dealing with it by yourself. Even those of us who thought twice about the 50 folks who died in the dark of night in Buffalo, were able to quickly put it our of our minds and go back to our daily routines. For those closest to the victims, however, life will never be the same.

In the future, I hope to remember that there are real people - with real families and friends that love them - behind the pictures we see and the sound bites we hear on TV. And, if I can do that, maybe I can also remember to stop to say a prayer asking God to walk with them in their time of great need.


  • What is your reaction to the Tony Campolo Quote?
  • Have you experienced the sudden loss of a close friend or family member?
  • If so, how did you cope? Did you walk through your pain or deny it?
  • If not, have you ever helped someone deal with a tragic loss? Explain.
"You cannot put a cheap band-aid on a sacred wound; there is no way through pain but to walk through it." - Dr. Robin Smith
"We are lonesome animals. We spend all our life trying to be less lonesome. And one of our ancient methods is to tell a story, begging the listener to say, and to feel, 'Yes, that’s the way it is, or at least that’s the way I feel it. You’re not as alone as you thought.' " - John Steinbeck
"When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving much advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a gentle and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares." - Henri Nouwen

The interview discussed above.

You'll Never Walk Alone, Celtic & Liverpool Fans

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