Tags for Living

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All-that-Jazz

“And all that Jazz,” 11 x 14 acrylic on panel

My daughter, Holly, mailed me her favorite book. Inside was a colorful gift tag splattered with flowers; and on the reverse side, a handwritten note telling me how much she loved me, and that she hoped I would enjoy reading the book. The tag became my bookmark as I turned page after page, thinking of her.

As much as I enjoyed reading the book, it was the tag that intrigued me. Time and again, I returned to her note and the shiny painted flowers on the back. My mind churned. What was there about this tag that called out to me? Thoughts bubbled to the surface.

Our lives are controlled by tags, or at least influenced by them. Tags are everywhere:

  • Tags for luggage, tags for identification, price tags, tags for washing instructions, tags for sizes, tags on foodstuffs, gift tags, sales tags, dog tags, gurney tags, toe tags, healthcare tags, tags for gardening, tags for equipment, fertilizer tags, warning tags and status tags for every substance, action, and product in the world.

Wouldn’t it be great, if there were tags for how to live your life? Tags for newborns might read:

  • “Fragile — handle with care,” or “feisty when wet, change often.” Or how about “stubborn and willful — requires coaxing,” or “prone to temper tantrums — distract if possible.”

Tags for teenagers might suggest:

  • “Prickles when angry — hug anyway,” or “count to ten and listen, really listen,” or “sasses back when cornered — don’t argue, just walk away.”

Newlywed tags might stave off marital grief:

  • “Requires lots of attention — likes to be pampered” or “sleeps soundly — wake up gently” or “thinks taking out the garbage is a man’s job — just do it,” or  “listen closely —  it might be a test.”

As I pursued this line of thinking, I realized we already have tags for living, and they cover every facet of human life. Of course, I’m referring to the Bible, but most particularly to the book of Proverbs.

There are mini-instructions for raising children, being a good spouse, a good neighbor, a hard worker, a faithful follower. Here are some familiar ones:

  • “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” (Prov. 22:6 NIV)
  • “He who spares the rod (correction) hates his son (or daughter), but she who loves her children is careful to discipline them.” (Prov. 13:24 NIV)
  • “Discipline your child, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to his death.” (Prov. 19:18 NIV)

Remember the newlywed tags I proposed? Try this proverbial advice:

  • “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a hard word stirs up anger.” (Prov. 15:1 NIV) Good advice for an argument over how to squeeze the toothpaste or hang the toilet paper.

How about this marital gem:

  • “A patient man (or woman) has great understanding, but a quick-tempered person displays folly.” (Prov. 14:29 NIV)

Quarrels over sex and money are the main reasons many couples get divorced. The antidote?

  • “He who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from a calamity.” (Prov. 21:23 NIV)

Add the turmoil of alcoholism to the mix, and you triple the trouble.

  • “Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise.” (Prov. 20:1 NIV)

Proverbs has countless tags for being a good neighbor:

  • “A person who lacks judgment derides his neighbor, but a man of understanding holds his tongue.
  • “A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret.” (Prov. 11:13 NIV)
  • “Seldom set foot in your neighbor’s house; too much of you, and he will hate you.” (Prov, 25:17 NIV)

Last but by no means least, there are instructions about government leaders; those politicians who hold our lives in their hands:

  • “A malicious man disguises himself with his lips, but in his heart he harbors deceit. Though his speech is charming, do not believe him, for seven abominations fill his heart. His malice may be concealed by deception, but his wickedness will be exposed in the assembly.” (Prov. 26:24-26 NIV)

We can only hope that the “assembly,” the press and the people will do their job and expose the hypocrisy of each and every politician.

Some people say: “God doesn’t talk to us today. He turns a blind eye to disaster and allows good men and women to suffer.  If there really were a God, wouldn’t he protect us and keep us safe? Why is he so silent?  Why doesn’t he tell us what to do?”

Hello?  All you have to do is pick up the book — “The Book!” Read the words of God. Turn the pages. Follow the tags or mini-instructions God has already given. Apply the information. As Sherlock Holmes once quipped: “It’s elementary, my dear Watson.”

What I Learned as a Kid Playing Jump Rope

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moody-blues-carol-allen-anfinsen

“Moody Blues” 14 x 18 oil on canvas

Yes, it’s true. Many of the things I needed to know in life, I learned while playing jump rope. Let me explain.

I learned how to merge. Do you notice how many people simply don’t know how to do this with discretion? There are the bullies who drive into traffic like a bat out of you-know- where, always expecting that an opening is waiting just for them. Sometimes they make it, causing people like you and me to stomp on our brakes and swerve into dangerous congestion, or they slam on their own brakes and wait. By the time an opening appears, their car is at a standstill.

Then there are the turtles; the terrified ones who creep up onto the ramp, afraid of whizzing cars and trucks. They don’t have enough speed to merge in, and so they sit with a trail of cars behind them. These are the people who, when they were kids, either never played jump rope, or were never good at it.

They were the ones who stood and watched the rope go around and around, and when the time was right, they stood there as immobile as slugs. If they finally found courage to jump in, they were so out of sync that they tripped on the rope – game over.

It’s all about rhythm. There are signs that alert a jumper when the time is right: the tapping of the rope on pavement, the height of the rope when it’s time to jump in. It’s all about gut feel and the rhythms of life; moving when the time is right and taking turns.

I call it tact. Some people naturally have it. They must have been jump rope pros! They seem to know when to talk and when to keep their mouths shut. They sense when another person is tense or angry. They are in tune with other people’s feelings and the rhythms and patterns of human speech and emotion. Unlike their opposing counterparts who blurt out insulting remarks without thinking. Tacky!

They are the ones who swerve in and out of traffic without regard for anyone else’s safety. They are the shoppers who push past others waiting in line, crashing into them like bumper cars. They are impatient. They think having to wait is for wimps. Anger propels them. They don’t have time for games unless they can win. “What’s in it for me?” is the question that prefaces every action. They are bulldozers in human form.

Cooperation is another skill I learned while relieving a “turner.” Holding a rope in one hand and a second rope in the other, I learned to cooperate with the person on the other side. We turned each rope inward in perfect harmony; first one, and then the other. Turning the rope also gave me a chance to serve my fellow jumpers.

And when it was my turn to jump and everyone sang:
“Teddy bear, Teddy bear, turn around,
Teddy bear, Teddy bear touch the ground,
Teddy bear, Teddy bear, stick out your tongue,” etc.
My Coordination was enhanced as I exercised.

Come to think of it, I don’t remember seeing any obese kids in my classroom. The games we played at recess kept us agile and active. Kick ball, volley ball, hop scotch, jump rope, etc. provided movement, exercise, and friendships as we formed teams and worked together for a common purpose.

Patience was another virtue we at least tasted while we waited with 35 other classmates for our turn to jump. When we all sang together: “I love coffee, I love tea, I love sugar and it loves me. I love salt and pepper!” We cheered on the jumper as the rope tapped faster and faster; a surge of anxiety in our bellies as we waited for our own turn to jump. What did we learn? How about adjusting to changing tempos, new faces and rhythms? We learned about endurance. The kids who outlasted other jumpers were the winners.

As everyone sang: “Carol and Lee sitting in a tree: k-i-s-s-i-n-g. First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes Carol with a baby carriage;” I never dreamed, as I jumped and blushed, that one day I’d have six children. Our chants were always about life, and they paved the way for future expectations of romance, family and careers.

When we tripped on the rope or failed to match the turners speed, we picked ourselves up and tried again. We learned to adjust to added pressures and new environments that helped us as adults. For example: my first day, on a new job, in a new city, I had to pack up for a move to a new office across town. At the time, I wondered what I’d gotten myself in for. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

As I packed up the old files, I studied and reviewed them. When they were unpacked, I knew how I would file them and where. I knew which ones were active, and which ones could probably be archived. I learned how to cooperate with my co-workers. There’s nothing like the strain of a move to highlight personality and temperament. You find out a lot about people when they’re working under pressure.

You find out a lot about people by waiting in lines and driving down the highway. You find out who knows when to merge and who doesn’t. And you discover discourteous people who refuse to move left, even when they can, to allow someone else to enter the highway. I swear these people never jumped rope.

If I had my way, jump rope would be a part of every Drivers Ed. Class; maybe even part of college prep, or on-the-job training. Who knows, there might be fewer accidents on the road and more teamwork on the job. But that’s just my opinion. What’s yours?