"No, nope, nada, not happenin'!"
I got to speak to a bunch of retired teachers today. Teachers are my favorite audience… unless they’re in a faculty meeting. For whatever reason, teachers mirror their worst students when they’re at faculty meetings. It’s so much safer to deliver a talk to them once they’re retired.
I thoroughly enjoyed my visit with the South Montgomery County Association of Retired Teachers. SMART. (Is that not a cool acronym?) Everyone was so nice. They gave me a Cross pen that looks like it was stolen from the pocket of an important person.
I also got a giant bag of homemade peanut brittle from my friend Shirley Edwards who introduced me to the group. It was a wonderful introduction. Shirley said everything just like I told her to.
I seldom have a sense of how my talks go. I generally focus on the least happy face, and try to make it smile. And, I usually have a plan about what I’m going to talk about. Especially if I’m getting paid to speak. However, I had no idea I was going to get the great ballpoint pen and the brittle, so I didn’t plan so well this time.
Since I had to write my article the same day as the talk, I decided to feed two birds with one scone. Whatever I talked about would be this week’s column. I decided to go with something each of us in the room had in common. We were retired, and were experiencing many changes in our life during
One thing I’ve been finding myself doing more and more is saying “No.” When you’re retired, people – bad people – expect you to do stuff for them because you’re retired. “What else do you have to do? YOU’RE RETIRED!”
During my retirement I’ve done a lot of stuff out of guilt. Guilt over being blessed with retirement. How sad is that? However, I’m beginning to feel less guilty. Don’t get me wrong, I have a responsibility to help others, but there are some among us who will take advantage of the guilt ridden. At times I’ve been so easy, but lately I’ve been less so. I’ve actually had the courage to say “No” a few times. -- BRAD: “Mark, I’m moving all the stuff out of my garage and hauling it to a storage unit. What are you doing on Tuesday?” – MARK: “Something else.”
Do you realize that it is quite possible that you will not get hit by a rogue bolt of lightning for refusing a request from someone seeking free labor? A study at Sul Ross University back in ’97 proved that. They only lost six bovine in the study.
Do you know how good it feels to say “No” without having to make up an excuse? It’s like caramel covered chocolate cashews.
While we’re talking about honesty, I decided to confess to my SMART audience something I’ve been too afraid to share for too long. Here goes. -- “ More often than not, I can’t understand half of what people are talking about.”
Part of the reason is because people mumble more than ever. Just today Virginia called and told me that Freeman was using her car, so she needed me to take her over to Whopper’s house. I asked her who Whopper was. She said, “Whopper who?” I could see that I was dangerously close to being Lou Costello to her Bud Abbott.
Virginia said, “Mark, I don’t have time for this. I need you to take me to see Barbara.” -- Barbara? Why did she suddenly pull the name Barbara out of the air? What happened to Whooper? -- People have been messing with me like that for a good while, and they better stop. I’m just sayin’.
Even when people aren’t mumbling, I still have trouble figuring out what they’re talking about. Usually it’s because people don’t finish sentences anymore. If they would finish a complete thought, I might be able to catch on.
If I were to stop them long enough to say I had no idea what they were talking about, they’d feel obligated to explain it to me. This is one of those times when honesty will definitely backfire on you. Over the past couple of years, I have smiled, nodded and wept over dozens of conversations that made no sense to me whatsoever.
However, there is something that does make perfect sense to me now. I think I’ll close with it. – The one answer children give practically every time you ask them why they did something is “I don’t know.” -- “Why didn’t you call to say you were going to be late?” “Why didn’t you study for the stupid test?” “Why are you wearing your sister’s shoes?”
Well, over the past couple of months, God has allowed me to view life through the eyes of a child. And, I’m here to tell you that when kids say, “I don’t know” they’re actually telling the truth. “I don’t know” is a valid answer from any child who has been asked the why-did-you question.
This insight can help parents and teachers in ways that can alter disciplinary actions across the entire country. So, please, spread the word that “I don’t know” is an honest answer. – Just a minute. I don’t recommend you spread the word to all teachers. Only the retired ones. Those currently teaching aren’t going to give two hoots in a hot place about my revelation.