Left? Right? Why not meet in the middle of a new “shining city on a hill?”

The death of John F. Kennedy came three months and nine days before my own birth. And yet I’ve always felt an odd kinship with a man who I never shared the planet with, never shared a political party with.

Ronald Reagan was elected President during my junior year in high school. Like many young people of today — including those who felt “the Bern” or those who are now “with her” — I was swept away by Reagan’s vision of an America that was truly a shining “city on a hill.”

Except that it wasn’t Reagan’s vision.

Kennedy and Reagan both used the image in speeches before, during and after (in the case of Reagan) their Presidencies. It was unique to neither man.

No, this phrase entered the American sphere as early as 1630 — a full 146 years before our nation was founded. And it was uttered by Puritan John Winthrop, who likely was borrowing it from the parable of Salt and Light from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.

Winthrop wasn’t Republican or Democrat. Reagan, at one time or another in his political life, was both. And Jesus? Well, I think you could safely posit that Jesus would not have been comfortable aligning himself to the far left or to the extreme right — more likely instead choosing to implore us all to “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works.” (Matthew 5:16)

So where are we today as a nation? And where are we headed?

After the party conventions of the past two weeks, it might appear as if we’re headed toward one of the most divided periods in our land since the days of the Civil War. At the very least — one might be led to believe — America is in the midst of a period of unrest unrivaled since the turbulence of the late 1960s.

The truth?

America CAN once again be that shining city on a hill, but only once those elected to political office step away from opposite sides of that hill and meet somewhere in the middle. Like maybe at the top?

I’ll use myself — warts and all, seemingly contradictory beliefs defining who I am and who I’m becoming — as an illustration of where we might go as a nation if we only give ourselves the chance to get there…of how we might make that hill a beacon of light once more.

I was born into a a core family unit of fiscally conservative Republicans. My dad worked extremely hard through the years to provide for our family, and my mom eventually left the home and worked as well — providing wonderful examples of getting “ahead” through one’s own initiative.

We were — and four of the “core” five family members remain — Catholics, believing in the dignity of the human person, protection of human rights, and heeding the call for an active participation in our society.

But it was all with a degree of nuance that is too often absent in today’s “hyper left” or “crazy right” American political landscape.

My mom and I, for example, differed from my dad in our belief in the right of a woman to choose to have an abortion in the case of rape, incest or a threat to the life of the mother. Dad chose to take the more hard-line, traditional Catholic stance of abortion as being unacceptable in all circumstances.

Yet we were — and are — able to live together as a family unit, marked by love and respect for one another. And the Catholic church hasn’t tracked down mom and I, ready to “mark” us for removal from the church family.

We’ve also been joined in loving relationships from outside of our core group of five — but very much upon the strongest branches of our family tree — by those both gay and straight, welfare recipients and those who would consider welfare to be an abhorrent idea, and more died-in-the-wool, card-carrying liberal Democrats than I could ever hope to fit under one roof.

And, shockingly, we’ve SURVIVED! No, we’ve THRIVED.

How have we done it? How have we continued to stand by our beliefs, yet love and respect others for — not despite — theirs?

We’ve listened. We’ve learned. We’ve worked together. We’ve grown.

We’ve chosen, simply, to not allow ourselves to be defined by labels — other than those that mean the most: Mother. Father. Sister. Brother. Friend. American.

Heck, I even heard my dad say the other day that he’d consider voting for the Democratic nominee for President, Hillary Clinton, if he thought it was the right thing to do for our country.

That’s where I am right now as well.

I’m a fiscal conservative at my core. The brief period of my life where I drew unemployment checks on two separate occasions after job separation was one that I fought like hell to end as quickly as possible. I believe much more strongly in the idea of working for everything and being given nothing that you haven’t earned.

Heck, even former President Bill Clinton himself — a strong Democrat if there ever was one — worked to reform welfare in his administration, urging those who were in tough spots to think of such assistance as a “hand up” rather than a “hand out.”

I’m all for the idea of giving someone a helping hand when he/she needs it. But I also think that the person getting that helping hand needs to take that assistance and eventually run with it on his/her own.

My hard work — in the high school and college classrooms and outside of them — paid for my college education, with the help of the hard work of my parents. Thus, I think I appreciate it even more than I might have otherwise.

Thus, the idea of a totally “free” college education is one that’s foreign to me.

But it’s not an idea that I’m adverse to at least exploring.

Unfortunately, there’s so little desire on the part of those in control of both parties to “meet in the middle” that it’s going to be hard to come to an agreement as to how we might assist those who really want a college education in achieving that education in a way that is fiscally responsible, affordable, and that means something in the end to the person achieving the degree.

And that’s just one issue!

I’m unlike a lot of my “red state,” Republican-to-the-bone-marrow friends in that I’m a proponent of sitting down and having intelligent dialogue on guns and gun legislation. And with a seemingly growing number of family members and friends who are members of the LGBT community, I’m also a firm proponent of the idea that love is love.

I told you I was full of seemingly-contradictory beliefs.

And yet I’d like to believe that I’m a lot more like a majority of Americans than a minority. And I’d like to believe that those of us here, in the middle, minus a label (Republican or Democrat) can roll up our sleeves and begin the important work of healing the divides and once again making our nation that shining city on the hill.

How do we do it?

First of all, we take the time to do the things we should have been doing all along: thinking, listening, discussing, compromising…leading.

We also work at restoring the family unit — however you want to define family — as the core of our American society. That’s not a Democratic or a Republican stance. It’s an American ideal.

And we quit, once and for all, the political posturing and injurious name-calling that has become increasingly poisonous with the advent of social media and a 24-hour “news” cycle.

Yes, my friends, we have our work cut out for us.

But like I’ve told anyone who would listen as of late, it’s never to late to do good work. It’s never to late to work on “something small” that could in turn spark meaningful change — not just in the immediate future, but in the future we leave for the children of our children.

That, my friends, is the real American ideal. And it’s not one that comes with the label of “Democrat” or “Republican.”

It comes with only one idea, one goal in mind. And it was a goal shared by Kennedy and Reagan, but first articulated by Jesus himself.

Shining city on a hill?

It’s out there, ready to be our “middle ground” once more.

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‘Dismember?’ No. But time to look to 2017 for Moore, Royals

Dayton Moore is conflicted…and so am I.

Early Monday afternoon, the General Manager of the World Champion Kansas City Royals sat in the home dugout in Kauffman Stadium and told the gathered members of the media that he wasn’t about to “dismember” his team by trading off pending free agents.

In that same session, however, Moore declared that no one on the roster was untouchable.

So, Dayton, which one is it?

Well, if Moore’s at all like I am, it’s a bit of both.

To fans like me who have seen this team throughout the entirety of its 47-year existence, it’s been one helluva ride.

Just seven years after the franchise came into being, it was in the playoffs. Just 16 years into its life, it was a World Champion.

Then came a 29-year drought.

No one ever said that “helluva” ride was without its brutal bumps in the road. Heck, if you’re one disposed to the idea that Kansas City is the “land of the orange barrel,” it seemed as if the road to Kauffman Stadium was littered with those pesky suckers from 1986 through 2013.

Then came the miracles of 2014 and 2015, and the old two-lane gravel road seemingly became a four-lane interstate in the blink of an eye.

But now, with his team under .500 and a trade deadline rapidly approaching, Moore finds himself trying to decide whether he’d rather continue to travel down the road he’s spent 10 years in building — or to take a moment to do some quick maintenance on Royal Way.

As I mentioned, it’s a tough choice. Heck, a few short hours ago — when my heart was winning its perennial battle with my head — I was ready to “ride it out” with this crew, hoping to see an August and September run to a wildcard spot.

Then came a four-run uprising by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the first inning of Monday’s series-opener at The K…and my head took over.

Yes, Dayton, it’s easy to be conflicted. Yes, Dayton, it’s easy to talk of not dismembering anything at one moment, only to say no one is untouchable the next.

But for the sake of Royals fans everywhere, the latter approach — listening to any and all offers for any and all of your players — is what Moore needs to follow over the remainder of this week.

Unlike one year ago, where Moore was able to bring Johnny Cueto and Ben Zobrist to Kansas City via high-profile trades, it’s a seller’s market in 2016. There aren’t nearly as many attractive prospects for Moore to pursue this time around — and his roster has as many as five players on it that would command differing levels of “return value.”

Heck, with the haul Brian Cashman and the New York Yankees got from the Chicago Cubs today in return for Aroldis Chapman, just think for a moment what all-world closer Wade Davis might bring the Royals.

And no, I’m not suggesting that the Royals deal Davis. But I am saying that you have to listen. A year ago, the Royals unloaded five pitchers — Aaron Brooks, Brandon Finnegan, John Lamb, Sean Manaea and Cody Reed — who have started games in the big leagues since being shipped out of the Royals organization.

Read that again really slowly. Five pitchers. All have been starters for their new teams in the last calendar year.

Now think of how you’ve felt as the Royals have paraded Chris Young, Dillon Gee and seemingly a cast of a thousand others to the mound this season in the fifth-starter slot.

Yeah, you have to at least listen for offers for Davis — who some baseball experts say could draw as many as four top prospects in return.

The chance to restock the farm system with a pitcher or two — particularly with the big club and minor league affiliates not exactly teeming with decent starting pitchers — makes a lot of sense. Re-pave a section of that road that was once fancy and new, and you’ve got a chance to make history again — or so the theory goes.

And Davis isn’t the only Royal who could draw interest.

Designated hitter Kendrys Morales. Starting pitcher Edinson Volquez. Reliever Luke Hochevar. All are pending free agents — the guys Moore insisted he wouldn’t dismember his club through trading en masse. Each, however, would bring a nice return.

The heart says “you can’t trade Davis, Hoch, KMo and Volquez! They were all part of our championship!”

The head, however, needs to be concerned with making sure it’s not another 29 years before the Royals sniff another title run.

Cueto and Zobrist aren’t here anymore. Neither are Johnny Gomes, Jeremy Guthrie, Omar Infante, Ryan Madson, Franklin Morales or Alex Rios. Nori Aoki, Billy Butler, Erik Kratz and James Shields were jettisoned after the 2014 World Series run.

Time moves on. Teams change. And you’re either getting better or you’re getting worse.

It’s hard to argue that the 2016 Royals are going to be much better.

Mike Moustakas is gone for the year. Lorenzo Cain will return, but the slightest tweak of the hamstring will end his year. There’s no decent fifth starter in sight. Alex Gordon looks more lost than he has since his days as a third baseman.

Those are facts. They’re things you can see, things your head is trying to relay to your heart.

But your heart, probably just like Moore’s, isn’t quite ready to dismember a champion quite so soon after an 800,000-person party on a wonderful Kansas City November day.

If, however, you don’t want that stretch of road leading to Kauffman Stadium — that Royal Way — to end up like the awful section of I-70 just outside of Columbia, Mo., it’s time to start thinking about 2017.

Dismember? No.

Return to glory? That’s the goal.

And it’s Moore’s job to get us all there.

 

LOVE: That scary, four-letter word that we need a lot more of right now

In 2002, I attended my 20th high school class reunion in Salina.
At a mini “awards presentation” that was part of the accompanying social function at the Salina Country Club, I was voted “most changed” by my classmates.
Seems as if my fellow Mustangs weren’t quite ready to see the formerly 160-pound David checking in at over 250 pounds. Or the David that never consumed a beer before college drinking like he’d been doing it forever.
Six years out from my 40th reunion, I really want to shock them in 2022.
My closest high school friends likely remember me as “emotionally distant” at best. I didn’t date in high school (heck, I really didn’t date in college), and I rarely — if ever — got excited about anything.
Over the past six years, however, I’ve begun a careful process of “re-creating” myself.
Oh, the heck with that notion. Let’s just say that I’ve continued to grow and evolve — as we all should.
Part of my evolution has involved my more-frequent use of a four-letter word that I’ve never really dealt all that well with.
No, I’m not using damn, f*ck, Hell or shit any more (or any less) frequently than I have been.
But I am using the word LOVE with a lot greater regularity recently. And I think it may have more than a few people amazed…and confused.
There probably isn’t a singular reason for this change in my approach to “the L word.”
Death has robbed me of grandparents, young men I’ve coached, former students, teaching colleagues and other close friends.
I’m not alone in having to deal with loss.
But I’ve found myself spending more time after each loss pondering if I did enough while each of these people were alive to let them know how much I LOVED each one of them.
And with this world growing seemingly crazier by the day, I’ve made a promise to myself to ponder NO MORE.
I’ve spent the past 20 years watching the two most significant male figures in my life — my dad, Gregg, and my maternal grandfather, Charlie — become more emotionally, physically and spiritually loving. And it’s been an awesome transformation to view from a front row seat.
That growth on the part of each of my dads — my dad and my granddad — really pushed me toward making a pact with myself that I was going to change, too.
And when I reconnected with my fraternity at K-State 16 months ago — and this time for good — I instantly had a group of over 100 brothers who were about the age my own kids would be…had I ever gotten around to getting married and having any.
So I’ve had the chance to be more loving and say the word LOVE around my family a lot more lately, and to show love to a group of young men who at times have had a hard time understanding where that love comes from.
My definition of love is probably closest to that found at dictionary.com: “a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection, as for a parent, child, or friend.”
In other words, I’m not just going to tell every Tom, Dick, Harry, Sally, Judy or Beth that I love them.
For me, there has to be a period of shared experience(s) that goes beyond the norm. The word LOVE does, after all, have to really mean something.
I also think that the love defined in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 is just about what I’ve been searching for — and hope to provide in abundance for my family and friends in the days to come:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Recently, a close friend — yes, someone who I love — suggested that I read Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages. I jumped right in, and ended up subsequently also reading The Five Love Languages for Singles.
Both of these books have convinced me more than ever that my determination to love — and to use the word LOVE — more frequently is a good thing.
But to really love someone, and for both sides to benefit from that love, you have to be able to communicate that love in someone else’s “language.”
So I probably freaked out more than a few close friends by recently sending them a little synopsis of The Five Love Languages and asking them to take an assessment of their own “love languages” so that I could communicate with them better.
I wasn’t asking any of them to spend the rest of their lives with me. I was just making an admittedly awkward attempt to a.) tell them that I thought they were worth loving; and b.) find out how to best show them the love I thought they were worthy of receiving.
It probably all comes right back to “comfort level,” and to personal definition of that word that sends spirits soaring like none other — and yet can lead to awkward silence and confusion, all at the same time.
Awkward silence is something those high school classmates were — and are — probably used to when it came to knowing the “old David.”
And yet this “most changed” David isn’t going to spend a lot of time worrying about making someone a bit uncomfortable by telling that someone that “I love you.”
Because we can all use a whole lot more LOVE in our lives.
And if you’ve made it this far in this blog, I’m guessing you might LOVE me, too. It’s OK. I might have “changed” a bit through the years, but I’d like to believe I’m more worth loving than ever before.

Once more…with feeling

About 10 days ago, a close friend told me about a book he was reading — one he suggested I pick up and read myself as soon as I could.

Since the friend hadn’t read too many books himself of late — when I gave him one last spring he told me it was the first he’d read for pleasure in years — I immediately downloaded the book and dove in.

The book he suggested, “Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear,” was written by Elizabeth Gilbert, who also wrote “Eat Pray Love,” the iconic New York Times bestseller.

Big Magic” challenges readers to explore the creativity locked inside of each of us. In Gilbert’s words, creativity “is a crushing chore and a glorious mystery. The work wants to be made, and it wants to be made through you.”

So, here I am, ready to start making that work again.

When I was growing up, I was a voracious reader and absolutely loved to write. It was no surprise, then, when I dove into my high school journalism courses head first — despite having four different journalism advisers in four years at Salina Central High.

And it was also no surprise that I majored in journalism in college and started to chase my dream of reporting on sports for a major metropolitan newspaper.

What happened in the 23 years between 1987 and 2010, however, was an unscripted detour — a left turn of sorts.

Though I loved every minute of the preparation to be a high school journalism teacher and the subsequent 18 years of advising high school newspapers and yearbooks, there was nothing — there is still nothing — as fulfilling for me as writing my own “stuff.”

That’s why I’ve dabbled with writing a blog off and on since leaving teaching in 2010, and am back again today.

I’m back this time, however, with a firm commitment to myself to write every Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday — whether I’m creating my own “Big Magic,” or just grinding away in search of that unfulfilled dream.

I’ll share my work with you, and we’ll see — together — where it takes us. Don’t worry, though: I don’t expect every one of you will enjoy everything I write.

That’s OK. Because as was the case with Gilbert in “Big Magic,” I’m doing this for ME. If it’s something you enjoy as well — that’s all the better.

Here we go: Once more…with feeling.