Lacking Leadership

For the very first time since I have been a Lion my club lacks a president. How in the hell can an active vibrant club like the Frankfort Lions Club not have a president? How will we run a meeting? Who will coordinate the various club functions? Certainly not the Vice President. Let me back up a bit and explain some things.

Team and leadership

The Lions Clubs International (LCI) club constitution spells out an entire administration of President, First Vice President, Second Vice President, Third Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer, and so on. The idea is that these officers will provide the leadership necessary to run the club. The three vice presidents, theoretically, are in training to become the next president by bumping up each year. So our first vice president of the last term should have become the new president, and the remaining vp’s bump up a notch, and a new third vp is voted in. Our problem is that we as a club do not hold the officer’s feet to the fire and allow the first vp to opt out of his graduation. He has had three years to think about it by the time he takes the gavel. He has also had three years of training in place so the job is not foreign to him/her. Parallel to these officers we have a separate team in charge of our largest fund raiser of the year. The First VP is the head of said team. This job is very important to the club but it is also a lot more work than being the president. We never have a problem filling the job of Wurst Fest Chairman. Why? The answer is a mystery to me. Perhaps running the Wurst Fest is a more fun job than being the mundane president.

My take on the matter is that people are reluctant to take on the responsibility that comes with the title “president”. The same people will volunteer for any number of activities throughout the year, but they definitely shy away from the title of “president”. I am not different from these people. I shied away from taking the job for ten years, and I have had extensive experience running clubs throughout my lifetime. At age thirty, I became involved with the Boy Scouts of America as a Cub Master. I wanted my son to have the Scouting experience. I stayed with the program for twenty-five years and moved through the ranks to various leadership positions before I finally quit. I accepted the presidency of a dying Garden Club and brought it back to life; it is still in existence today. As an avid bicyclist I joined a Bicycle Club called Folks on Spokes, and eventually became president and led the group for four years before I had to drop out to care for my wife. I learned that leadership requires a soul brave enough to put himself out in front of the group with a thick skin and psyche that loves rejection. Rejection, a word I hated, but learned to love. Rejection forces a leader to move down the list of candidates until he finds someone who will accept a job. Making phone calls is one of my least favorite things to do, but I force myself to talk to people with as much enthusiasm as I can muster in the hopes that I will convey a sense of positiveness and excitement. It works, but it doesn’t come naturally. For me it is a learned trait. Even now, as I ponder how to handle the lack of a leader in my favorite pastime-club I am reluctant to speak to people who are my friends.

Why is it that the people who lead our country seem to be the weakest candidates? Weak people are drawn to the positions in government. Maybe they do it for the money and because the work can be very easy or almost non-existent when there is huge cadre of bureaucratic underlings who take care of all the details. A leader is very often a figure-head who has the balls to run for office on his non-existent abilities. He wins because the guy he runs against doesn’t work as diligently Once the hard work of campaigning is done, the actual job is a breeze.

Leadership requires a desire to succeed and providing resources to like minded people in the hopes they will motivate themselves toward a goal. Over the years in my leadership positions I learned that finding the people to support you with the same zeal as you have is the secret. I don’t see this desire in the current members of our Lions Club.

A Leader addresses his ideas with a positivity and enthusiasm that makes people want to work with him. One of the images I use to sell is fast moving train, people want to jump on and move with it.

A leader gives credit to the team, and not to himself.

A leader is creative, and encourages others to be also.

Maybe it is time for me to throw my hat into the ring again!

Taught Hatred

During World War Two I was taught to hate the Japanese. It didn’t matter that I never knew a single person of Japanese heritage, but the teaching was effective. I learned to hate Japan and Japanese people. At the time we had limited sources for news, mainly newspapers delivered to the house, or newsreels at the movie houses. Our regular paper was the Sun-Times dropped on our porch every day. I delivered the paper myself to many neighbors. Although we didn’t go to the movies often, but when we did, we saw government screened images of the war before the featured film. I would have been five or six years old at the time. Mom and Dad didn’t go to the movies often, so the film images of war that I saw were limited. The headlines on the newspaper featured large scale photos of war with large bold print proclaiming battles. Inside, the stories added wordy pictures of the carnage that went on. Whatever it was, I don’t really know, but I was seeded with a lifetime hatred for all things Japanese.

Shortly, after WW II ended the United States became involved in the Korean conflict. This time I was a teen ager and went to the movies regularly. Again, the brainwashing about Koreans who vaguely look like Japanese began. I still hadn’t met anyone who was of either Japanese or Korean ancestry.

It wasn’t until I went to the University of Illinois that I began to meet people of different races. There was a large population of Chinese, Indians (from India) and a few Iranians. Many of my professors in engineering classes were from India. That is when I finally began to see different people as people and not as war. It turned out that one of them was an Iranian named Dark Mirfahkrai. We became fast friends and I once asked him if he would stay in America after he graduated. He explained that he pledged his allegiance to the Shah and felt a moral obligation to return to his homeland. I learned that foreign people were not much different than I was. I did dislike foreign teachers only because I couldn’t understand what t hey said. Their pronunciation of English was horrible. But thanks to the quiz-classes that were a part of the lectures I survived. Most of these were led by upper class men who were headed for Master Degrees.

When I entered the working world another source of input crept into my life. There were always story’s about how our major industries were being lost to the Japanese. My fellow workers were often very vociferous about companies that raced to leave America for cheap labor in Korea and Japan.

In the nineteen sixties we were invaded by Japanese car companies with cute economy cars that were considerably cheaper than USA made product, namely, Nissan and Toyota. Nissan was so afraid to market a Japanese sounding car that they didn’t put their real name on the product. Datsun was really Nissan, and stayed Datsun for a number of years. I fell in love with a cute little Toyota Corolla station wagon, and bought one for less than eighteen hundred dollars. The VW Bug was priced at that and I was tired of the problems I had with mine so I opted to change.

Owning that little car is what caused me to develop a deep seated hatred for Japan and all things Japanese. Up until the Toyota I owned cars for a minimum of eight years, I sold the Corolla after two years and during those twenty-four months it spent six months in the dealer service department. That is when I coined the phrase “Jap-Crap.”

About that time I met my first real bona-fide Japanese person. Mike Fujimoto was Council Level Boy Scout volunteer. His name was well known throughout the Chicago Area Council and he was a true Scouter. I attended several of his training sessions and he turned my thinking around about Japanese. He was American born of Japanese migrant parents, just like I was American born of Hungarian parents. He was in scouts to give his son the best possible experience he could have, as was I. I didn’t hate Japanese people as much after I met Mike, but I did hate Japanese cars and their shitty quality. I never even looked at a Japanese car for forty years after that. My kids, on the other hand, would not buy American. I had friends at work who bragged about their great experiences with Honda and Toyota, but I stayed firm. What finally got to me is when my Assistant Chief Engineer Hank told me he had to take his Honda in for service at 140,000 miles to replace the gas filler tube. I finally relented and bought a Toyota Avalon sixteen years ago and I still love it. Everything still works, and there is no rust anywhere, and it still runs great, and I now love Jap-Crap.

This brings me to the real reason I am writing this story. I just finished reading “Bridge to the Sun” by Bruce Henderson. It is about American born Japanese men who joined/or were drafted to fight in WW II. It has totally erased my hatred for Japanese Americans, and Japanese people. I learned that these people should be commended for putting up with fighting two wars simultaneously, first was WW II against the Japanese, and second the racist hatred they endured from their own people, us, me.

One Lucky SOB

Yesterday, I met a man wearing a baseball cap which proudly proclaimed him to be a World War Two veteran. I didn’t bother to introduce myself I just asked him in my usual obnoxious manner, “so you are a WWII vet, what are you a hundred years old?” Without flinching or getting upset with me he answered, I’m ninety-four, and I want to live to be 104.” Then he began his history. “I joined the Army Air Corps in 1944 which later became the Air Force. I wore a brown uniform when I joined and a blue one when I left.”

As we spoke I learned that he was invited to attend his first OASIS meeting for visually impaired people By Lion Doc Taylor, his eye doctor. I asked him what problem caused his blindness, he rattled off a condition which I have never heard of before. That is not unusual, since I have become a volunteer member of this group the one thing I have learned is that there is no end to the number of reasons one can lose his sight. The one commonality among blind people is the need for social contact, and support. You don’t stop living when you go blind, but your life changes dramatically, and you find yourself living in a world of darkness.

As we continued to talk, the Vet began asking me questions, number one was “did you serve?”

“No, I didn’t, I was born during WWII, I was too young to be a part of the Korean conflict, and too old for the Vietnam debacle. After that I was too old for all the other world disagreements we were involved in. My brother, on the other hand was drafted during Korea, but wound up serving in Germany. My second wife’s husband was in a medical line waiting to board a ship to go to Korea, when some genius dentist mis-read his chart and pulled his teeth out. He served out his term in Germany also.

“So do you volunteer?” he probed, “I have learned that people of your age volunteer and hate to be recognized for it.”

“Yes,” I replied.

His ride was leaving so we ended the conversation. I might see him again next month.

Very often I thank God for giving me the good fortune to not have to serve in the military. Instead, I tell myself that He wants me to serve in different ways. I try to do that, and all my life I have volunteered for duty that I felt was in the interest of betterment to the community.

My first dutiful stint began in high school where I served in a number of clubs that provided service to the school.

My second term of duty began when I joined the Boy Scouts of America as a leader. I always told my kids that I served the organization to provide them with civic responsibility experiences, and as a secondary matter I helped their friends to have the same. My tenure lasted for twenty-five years.

During the eighties my personal goal was to teach the world about the value of conservation by joining the Folks On Spokes Bicycle Club to show example by using an alternate form of transportation that didn’t pollute nor consume natural resources. During my twenty years in the club I served a term as president.

Simultaneous to the bike club I became president of the Prestwick Garden Guild and led my neighborhood in many educational and beautification projects for the betterment of the community.

My current term of duty is as a Lion with the Frankfort Lions Club. My plan is to die a Lion.

So even though I am a lucky SOB for never having spent a minute of service in the military, I feel I have served as much, if not more, in service to the community to offset.


My Flag Flies Everyday

A passion of mine is watching young people develop into true citizens. Nothing makes me prouder than to hear about, or watch the escapades of my seven grandchildren as they grow. My deceased wife Barbara and I spent well over twenty-five years in the Scouting movement. She in the Girls Scouts, and I with the Boys Scouts. When I watched this video it brought tears of joy to my eyes. Teenager’s who have a grasp on life and express themselves so eloquently fill me with pride. It matters, what we do when we raise our kids. Every action, every comment we make imprints into their sub-conscious. As parents we must be careful of our actions and words in the presence of our young. As a grandparent my outspokenness is often heard by my grandchildren, and it will come back to haunt at a later time. I watch my kids cringe when I say things, or use politically incorrect words in front of the grandchildren.

A few months ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Charlie Kirk a high school senior who founded an organization called “Turning Point USA.” His message is much like the one in the video below. Now, a new group called “im2morro”  co-founded by teen Audrea Taylor have  joined to do something about securing their future. I recommend you visit their websites and learn more about them. They are the future of America.

Gray-haired Man Freezes His Keester Off

It was a plan conceived to save an old man’s body from the suffering in low temperatures. It failed. Yesterday, I spent the morning hours begging for money to feed those in need. The plan called for a milder time today. deliberately, I signed up for  afternoon hours thinking the temperature would be milder. It wasn’t. Granted the temps were up from those in the morning, but they were lower this afternoon than they were yesterday in the morning. The result is that this gray-haired old man froze his keester off while begging.

The citizens of Frankfort were most appreciative and contributed generously. My fellow Lion, Tony, who has cerebral palsy and who has been a Lion for over thirty years, showed me up big time. He sat in his wheelchair bundled in his heaviest winter clothes and wrapped in blankets while begging. His bucket is always twice as heavy as any one else’s.

The manager from Jewel came out and told me to come in and to warm up, to have a complimentary cup of coffee, and to not bear the cold. I bravely told her it was better to freeze and look pathetic, people will give more willingly. Is that dumb or what?

My mind wandered as the cold penetrated my layers. This time it only took a few minutes to reach my joints, where yesterday it took an hour before I reached a point where my shoulders ached.

What a wimp I have become, I thought, remembering times past. Why just thirty-something years ago I went on a weekend campout with the Boy Scouts in below zero weather. Here I am standing within a few feet of a building in twenty-six degrees complaining about how cold I am. What a wimp those years have made me. Then, I looked across the front of Jewel to the second entrance and saw Tony patiently sitting in his wheel chair without a whimper. Yes, I am a wimp.

I remembered when I led my Boy Scout Troop 1776 to the Klondike Derby campout in Yorkville in January. The daytime temp was never above zero degrees, and the night-time temp dipped towards minus twenty. Amazingly, not a single scout or leader got frost bite or hypothermia. The crème de la crème came in the morning when the event ended and we all rushed to break camp and get the hell out of there. Not a single car started, and the leaders were all stuck starting frozen cars until four-thirty in the afternoon. That was not in the plan. We were smart enough to call home and have parents come to rescue their boys, but we were all stuck until the last car started and we all got out safely.

Yes! Thirty-plus years have turned me into a wimp. Where the hell is all this Global Warming stuff when you need it?