A fresh array of thoughts at the intersection of my to do list and society

Archive for December, 2009

Death of a Legend

Ok, I haven’t posted anything about societal or pop culture topics such as healthcare reform, job losses, the economy, Sarah Palin, her menace Levi Johnston, or even Taylor Swift (who I still think is overrated). But, I feel the need to write about this one.

The other day when my friend Sandy and I were talking about the Tiger Woods drama, she very abruptly said, “He’s dead to me!” At first, I thought, “She’ll get over it; we all will.” He’s like all those other celebrities who do this sort of stuff. He’ll be like Michael Jordan, known for his legendary talents, even though he made a few mistakes, like retiring and coming back too many times, trying baseball, cheating on his wife, gambling, and oh yeah – trying to run an NBA team.

Now, I’m not so sure. As more reports come about Woods’ “transgressions” – aka booty calls and hook ups – I’m starting to think of him as a legend we’ve all lost, a fallen sports hero. The Tiger I thought I knew loved his wife, adored his children, got teary-eyed when he played at The British Open after his dad passed and appeared on Oprah when he was just 22 showing more maturity than most 40-year-olds. His life embodied that of core values and beliefs we expected of someone we put on such a pedestal – hard work, dedication, compassion…commitment. Woods took golf to another level. A place many thought golf would never see again. He made African-Americans and Asian-Americans alike feel proud of their heritage.

When rock stars or other celebrities are caught “with their pants down,” it’s almost expected. Not Woods though. He had loving, thoughtful parents who taught him better. He has always known right from wrong and modeled a better way to live. He had style and grace. He would NEVER disrespect women, or more importantly, his wife.

But, now, we all know better. We all know better because not only is he not perfect, he’s proven he’s stupid and selfish. Woods’ behavior goes far beyond just making a mistake. It shows he’s a man that doesn’t really care about the things we thought he did that put him on the pedestal in the first place – hard work, dedication, compassion…commitment.

Like golf, he’s raised the bar for sports celebrity mistakes. He’s made sports celebrities like Jordan look much more fragile. While he will always be known for his talents on the course, Woods will now be more known for the “holes” he made off the course.

RIP, Tiger Woods.

Think I’m too harsh? Can you think of other sports celebrities who have fallen from grace as hard as Woods?

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A home is where the heart is (was)…

My mom just sold my childhood home in Jacksonville, Fla. She lived there for nearly 30 years, five of those after my father died in 2004. It was just a house, right? I hadn’t lived there since I moved away for college in 1992. After all, my mom’s the one who was losing all those memories. She’s the one who had to get rid of a lot of furniture and other items she so cherished because her new home doesn’t have the space for it all. She was the one was starting over from scratch, not me.  

It wasn’t until I found my mom’s contact information in my address book that I realized how emotional this was for me as well. This address and phone number has been a part of my life and my parent’s identity in my mind’s eye since I was in the sixth grade, and now it was gone, forever. The moment I looked at it, I stared at the delete button and felt a wave of memories come gushing at me. Those thoughts sent me back to the smell of my parent’s morning coffee, my mom’s pot roast and dad’s after shave. I can still see my dad watching “The Evening News with Dan Rather” reading the paper and my mom ironing her scrubs for the following work week. I can see my sister and me trying to get dressed for school in the morning at the same time in the smallest bathroom EVER!

It wasn’t like when I had to delete my grandfather’s address from my contacts when he died last year. I knew that was coming. And while I have wonderful memories of my grandparents’ home, it wasn’t the home where I got J.B., my first real dog, had my room decorated in the colors I wanted, was confirmed in the Catholic church, got drunk and smoked cigarettes for the first time (like all good Catholic girls should), had my first true love and crushing heartbreak in the same year, was introduced to hip hop music (Salt-n-Pepa or NWA anyone?), graduated from high school, wrote my first poem and created my first “award-winning” artwork piece. These were the events that have shaped me into the person I am today, for better or worse. But when a huge part of those memories is taken out of the equation, for me it changes them somehow. It’s like taking out a big piece of the mystery plot and trying to explain it to others. None of it will make sense to anyone except you.

I begin to sob knowing I will never step foot in our house again. I never got the chance to walk through each room and say “thank you” for putting up with the Shafer’s for all those years. Before settling in Jacksonville, we moved around a lot and I always thanked the house, no matter how short of time we lived there. I did the same thing in college and when my husband, daughter and I moved out of our house in Atlanta last spring. It’s my way of getting closure. I guess knowing this time I won’t have that closure is the most heartbreaking for me right now. But then again, it’s just a house, right?

Fulfilling the dream.

 A couple of weeks ago, I attended the INROADS Rocky Mountain Region annual awards banquet on behalf of my employer. My manager had to back out at the last minute and I was thrilled to go in her place. After all, I was anxious to hear more about the organization that gave us such a kick-ass intern this past summer. I walked in to the silent auction room and was greeted by my intern and her mother. She was beaming with pride to have her mom share in the moment. I was a little giddy myself after meeting so many rising stars. I also learned that INROADS was founded more than 30 years ago by a white dude. Who knew?

As I sat at the dinner table with some of our future leaders and listened to the guest speaker talk about the evening’s theme, “Celebrating the Dream,” I started thinking about how great it is to be a part of country that has become so accepting of people. I mean, here we are in 2009, recognizing many young African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, and Native Americans for their contributions to the corporate world. We have our first African-American president in office and our first Hispanic judge on the Supreme Court. We’ve done it! We’ve fulfilled Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream! So our work is done, right?

Wrong. I fear that organizations like INROADS will begin to see a decline in support as the diversity acceptance trend continues to grow. If you think I’m being paranoid, think again. Remember the hoopla around the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement and how the funds were to go to tobacco prevention programs? And how, in just a few short years with some success, states started using the funds to pay for non-tobacco prevention programs due to budget shortfalls? Don’t think something similar couldn’t happen to diversity programs. Sometimes, success doesn’t always help the cause.

So, what do we do to keep diversity high on the priority list? How do we keep fulfilling the dream? First and foremost, talk to your company about organizations like INROADS. And if you own your own business, do some homework yourself. You won’t be disappointed in the talent they offer. Also, look for ways to help support these types of groups, and not just financially. And finally, fulfill the dream yourself. It’s human to seek out people who think, act and even look like you. But, by doing that, you miss out on all the ways others see the world.

Are you fulfilling the dream?