Archive for May 2013

Bridge Building

May 19, 2013

Are You Ready to Build a Bridge?
Steven J. Callis

The Lake Pontchartrain Causeway, sometimes called simply the Causeway, is composed of two parallel bridges crossing Lake Pontchartrain in southern Louisiana. The original Causeway was a two-lane span, measuring nearly 24 miles in length. It opened in 1956 at a cost of $30.7 million. A parallel two-lane span opened on May 10, 1969, at a cost of $26 million. It remains the longest continuous bridge over water in the world, according to Guinness Book of World Records.
The purpose of the bridge was not to establish a world record or achieve any level of claim to fame. What the Causeway did accomplish was a shorter route to the New Orleans area for commuters, saving nearly one hour of travel time, compared to the previous route around the body of water.
In 2006 there were an estimated 600,000 roadway bridges in the United States open to the public. This statistic does not take into account other types of bridges, such as railways and walkways.
There is another type of bridge whose origin can be traced back as far at the 5th century B.C. in ancient Greece. We know it today as a handshake. A bridge is defined as a connecting, transitional, or intermediate route between two adjacent places, or something that spans a chasm. Have you ever noticed how the arms of two individuals span the chasm between them when they shake hands?
Last weekend two well-known professional golfers were paired together in the third round of The Players Championship. Having witnessed some tension between the two golfers over recent years, the media really played the hype on this pairing.  As it turned out, there was an incident early in their round that added to the tension of the circumstance, eventually resulting in mutual negative comments to the media later in the day. But it could have been much worse.
Something took place at the close of their round of golf which, in most instances, would seem commonplace in a professional golf tournament. Under these circumstances, however, it was a gentlemanly gesture on the part of each golfer: they built a bridge.
Despite their personal thoughts and feelings towards one another, on the 18th green they removed their hats and shook hands. There were no smiles; they may not even have made eye contact. They did, however, hold true to the tradition of professional golfers, which certainly required some amount of humility.
In a number of other sports, duking it out may have been a logical outcome at the end of the match – or even on the second fairway where the incident took place! Even there on the 18th green, they could have ignored tradition and, thereby, added fuel to the fire. (I have to wonder if that is what the media was hoping would happen!) But they chose to build a bridge. Certainly there is a chasm that exists between the two personalities, but a handshake spanned that chasm for a couple of seconds, somewhat easing the tension, and seemingly wowing the commentators.
Is there is a bridge that you need to build with another individual with whom some slight conflict has developed? Ignoring it will not make it disappear, and could even cause it to grow worse. You can choose to extend the right hand of friendship and span that chasm. The gesture may not resolve the conflict, but it could be the first step to easing tension and restoring communication. I hope you will choose to build a bridge.

What is the Main Thing for You?

May 6, 2013

What is the Main Thing for You?
By Steven J. Callis

     On a trip to Kentucky a few years ago, I found the opportunity to tour the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory. The 2-story high baseball bat at the entrance to the building was a sure sign that I was in for a treat. According to their website, the total weight of the bat is approximately 68,000 pounds. The hollow interior has a 30,000 gallon capacity. The bat is constructed of ASTM A36 carbon steel, 120 ft. long and 9 ft. diameter at the base; 3 ft. 6 in. diameter at the handle with a 6 ft. 6 in. diameter knob.
     After a brief introductory film, my group of about 20 persons was led on a guided tour through the factory where the bats are made. We saw ordinary people at their posts throughout the assembly area, performing their specific task in the process of creating a baseball bat. I laughed within myself as I realized these people do the same task day after day, a simple routine for them, and people like me pay to fascinatedly watch them run a piece of wood through a machine that has been carefully set to specific dimensions for that particular batch of bats.
     This company specializes in producing baseball bats. They have not branched out into hockey sticks or bolo paddles or canoe oars. Just baseball bats. Producing 5,000 bats daily in their peak season, and with 60% of major league players using the Louisville Slugger, they have found their niche. In recent years the company has branched out into making baseball gloves and gear, but the baseball bat continues to be their main focus.
     Interestingly, the company began as a woodworking shop, manufacturing primarily butter churns. About 12 years later, the founder’s son began making baseball bats for himself as a minor league player, and for some of his teammates. By 1923, the company was selling more bats than any other bat maker in the country.
     They put into practice a philosophy that would later be prescribed by Stephen Covey – the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. This company found their niche, then focused and perfected their craft. After manufacturing butter churns and bedposts and balusters, it was the baseball bat that proved to be their most marketable product.
     You and I can be good at several things, but discovering that one thing that seems to perfectly fit our abilities and resources and purpose is the consummate attainment. The main thing does not have to be the only thing, but we must not allow secondary pursuits to distract us from that which has become our driving force for direction in life. For most of us, that main thing involves leaving our mark of goodness on the lives of others and making a positive difference in our world – truly a worthy goal.

Turning of the Tassel

May 6, 2013

     The month of May ushers us into the season of graduation commencement exercises which normally include a “turning of the tassel” ceremony. While there are several opinions on when this tradition originated, it seems certain that the practice once carried a more significant meaning than it does today.
     Until the time of the Civil War, the cap and gown were worn daily by faculty and students at American universities. For those students, the turning of the tassel was a long awaited celebration after it had dangled from the same side of the cap throughout their undergraduate journey.
Today the turning of the tassel is considered to have more of a symbolic meaning than a rite of passage. Many graduates, however, guard their tassel as a lifelong keepsake (I think graduation tassels are why rearview mirrors were invented for cars!)
     My high school graduating class consisted of more than 800 students. At the end of the long ceremony, tassels were turned, caps went airborne, and pandemonium ensued!
     Besides the lauded high school graduation ceremonies, there will also be graduates this Spring from kindergarten, grade school, middle school, college and universities, nursing school, seminaries, medical school…well, you get the idea. Many students following a variety of pursuits will celebrate a milestone within the next few weeks.
     I have experienced enough years of formal education to understand that the value of my diplomas are not reflected so much by the school I attended, or the size of my certificate, or the number of letters in the degree, or even in the acquired amount of student loans.
     The value of my diploma is found in the commitment to academic pursuit in preparation for my life’s goal and calling. There is something to be said for a student’s sheer perseverance to reach the moment of turning the tassel, but it is how the student ultimately uses the lessons learned that so enrich the worth of the diploma that hangs on the wall.
Parents, teachers, and administrators play a huge role in that process, along with the student’s personal ownership of responsibility. With that thought, I sincerely congratulate all graduating students this year, and express my gratitude for those who have assumed a guiding role in the education and preparation of our students. By the way, don’t forget to keep your tassel before you toss your cap high into the air!