Inspiration in the Banquet Line

In general, high school athletic banquets are about sweet and well-deserved awards for the student athletes rather than doses of inspiration. At least that was my state of mind while driving to the Italian banquet hall on Chicago’s Central Avenue this week for my freshman basketball player son. In between the salad and the pasta along the banquet line, a funny thing happened. Yes, the awards were awarded, letters distributed, the boys commended for their hard work and dedication, and the season dissected for freshman teams, junior varsity and varsity.

But then Coach LoGalbo ended the evening by talking about the importance of being a man, of character and how raising the bar made each athlete a better person. He read from a text, As a Man Thinketh, by James Allen.

“Men do not attract that which they want, but that which they are.  Man is manacled only by himself. Thought and action are the jailers of Fate – they imprison, being base. They are also the angels of Freedom – they liberate, being noble. Not what he wishes and prays for does a man get, but what he justly earns. His wishes and prayers are only gratified and answered when they harmonize with his thoughts and actions.”

Some other gems

*“Men are anxious to improve their circumstances, but are unwilling to improve themselves, they therefore remain bound.”

*“Circumstance does not make the man, it reveals him to himself.”

Written as a literary essay in 1904, Allen essentially says  everything happening in your life (circumstances, achievements, all actions) is because of the thoughts we are thinking all day. Everything – job, relationships, happiness, pain, winning, losing – all is because of our thoughts.  He implores us to become aware of our thoughts.  If we only knew, he says, then we would realize that our life sucks because we are thinking – ‘my life sucks, my life sucks’ all day. And so do not assume that you know your thoughts, he says. Observe them. And then if you change them gradually – you will automatically create any circumstance you want by changing them.

I do believe that.

Thoughts being things is hardly a new concept but it created a hush at the athletic banquet, especially when Coach explained that he uses lessons from the text as part of every basketball practice.

After we got home, I went to the Internet and found the text, about 17 pages in all.

How and why do some people let their life events inspire them forward while others fall backward?  Is it only a question of thoughts?

As a child, how was I not destroyed by my accident?  I was too young to control my thoughts in a positive way so how were they shaped?

Doctors, nurses, parents of course of course played a part in shaping my young mind, right?

I’m not sure.

More than purely positive thought processes, I happen to think it was just my moment to have a second chance. While I think positive thinking is uniquely important, I don’t think it is life’s single magic elixir.  Bad things sometimes happen, no matter how well you may think.  Life is cruel to the kindest among us.  Thinking good thoughts won’t spare us from life’s challenges.

As much as we have the power within us, maybe we don’t credit the power outside us enough.  The God spark might give us more chances than we realize, pick us up more times than we know.  Yes, think positive thoughts and train our children to understand their power.  And also accept–  that some things  happen for reasons we’ll never know and simply shape who we are.

Cover of "As a Man Thinketh (Family Inspi...

Cover via Amazon

Disfigured Dating Disclosures

My cousin Tom has become an unofficial advisor to this blog, responding to my request to him about which on topic ideas would be interesting. With characteristic aplomb, he suggested I post on dating. As you might expect for someone in my situation, dating in cold weather months was always my preference if only because my legs were covered.

Seriously, I always felt some mixture of anxiety/trepidation/vulnerability about “disclosing” my potential defect of a leg and probably spent more time than I needed to thinking about the timing of if or when to say something. At a certain point, I had to realize that either my burned leg was controlling me or I was controlling it. Like so many other things in life, secrets are powerful because they can control you. The only way to be free of a burned leg is to essentially admit that it’s there. What I found is that usually after over-analyzing when/where/how to say something about it, when I did mention it, it was — ta da — a non-event. I think most people understand that nothing is perfect. As they say, that’s why pencils have erasers. Or as William Safire put it, “Only in grammar can you be more than perfect.”

If someone thought my burned leg was so god-awfully ugly they weren’t interested in me, it wasn’t mentioned. For those who were interested in me, it was something that came with the package. Telling a potential date about my leg eventually became a routine disclosure as in, “Hey, did I mention that I was in an accident as a kid?” or some variation of that line. No matter how you try to cover up a secret, it won’t won’t stay under wraps a long time. For me, it was better and easier to say something sooner rather than later. As my mother used to say, “You get used to hanging if you hang long enough.” In the same way, I got used to providing my disclosure. I would be interested though to hear from others what they thought when they first knew of my burned leg and how it may have affected them. Thoughts anyone?

When I met my husband many years ago, I will confess I liked the fact that he had a big ole gouge on his head from a surgery. Trust me, it was a conversation starter. To my way of thinking, it made him immediately interesting because I was sure he had a relatable story. And he did. It’s easy to develop a soft spot for physical imperfection in others when it is looming large in yourself.

Over the years, I’ve taken a number of classes from Sonia Choquette ( and one of the things she’s said that has always stayed with me is this: “The physical is the least interesting part of a person.” This is, of course a belief that develops over a lifetime. I wish I had that thought in my arsenal years ago.