Friend.

ruth_name_in_hebrew_letters_necklace_oval_charm

The image you see is the Hebrew translation of my mom’s name. Her name is Ruth and it means “friend.” My friend died January 15, 1994. She was 58.

This time of year we celebrate the life and legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. His dream for America is one we should all want to come true. However, this 40-year-old man’s body still houses the soul of a 17-year-old kid who misses his mom.

I’m generally OK. Writing about her is cathartic. It eases my greatest fear – that one day I won’t remember her as well and forget things. And since I’m one of a select few left on Earth who ever knew her, my writing makes her essentially immortal.

Cool, huh?

I don’t mean to make anyone sad, there is yet motivational gold is these hills. I hope, anyway. Ruth sacrificed for the team. The team is our family and she took losses so we could win. The Sportsmanship Guy isn’t from outer space nor was he created in a lab.

He had a mom…and a great one, too!

I recall one summer day when my friends’ parents wouldn’t let them come outside to play baseball because there was a heat warning. Ruth knew how much I wanted to work on my fastball and decided to meet me halfway.

She said I could pitch to her for 20 minutes and then we had to go back inside. I was nine. Mom was 50. Anyone who’s been around a 4th grade pitcher for more than 30 seconds knows they have almost zero control.

Mom didn’t take me deep, but she took a few pitches off the leg and off the foot. She probably would’ve done better just me letting play video games. That’s how she was, though.

Ruth bought my first barbell set. She reset my broken left thumb. She scrubbed my dirty uniforms on a washboard in the bathtub.

Mom told me I would be the nation’s first black president. Obviously, I’m not, but she thought that much of me. She constantly impressed positive encouragement and expectation on me.

Ruth gave me her last $40 to pay for a visit to Rockhurst University in November of 1993. She never saw my college acceptance letter, but her investment was another drop in a bucket she had been filling since the doc said, “It’s a boy!”

Mom never saw me graduate from high school or college. She wasn’t here for my wedding or the birth of her youngest grandchild. Man, she would love my Junior.

My dream for every kid this MLK holiday is that they have a friend like my Ruth. Every kid should be so lucky. God knows I was.

 

 

Play favorites with kids

favorites

Every adult should find a kid to make their favorite.

Every kid needs to be someone’s favorite.

No, it’s not unfair to make a kid your favorite. It’s unfair to make kids believe they don’t have exceptional qualities that would make them worthy of being someone’s favorite.

Two-thirds of the people in this country are adults.

One-third are kids.

If every kid was some adult’s favorite, one-third of the adults would be left without a kid to call and treat as their favorite.

Guess we’ll all have to double up.

Musial Moments at Henderson Elementary

Friday’s Musial Moments featured two assemblies at Henderson Elementary in the Francis Howell School District in St. Charles County, MO. Here are some of the things Henderson had to say about the program on its Facebook page:

Musial Moments is a fun, interactive and impactful 45-minute presentation that motivates students to care about sportsmanship and to be good to those around them. Musial Moments is free of charge to any school or youth organization. For booking information, please email salexander@stlsports.org or call 314-345-5130.

On Bobby Bowden and fatherhood

Retired Florida State head football coach Bobby Bowden was on Mike and Mike Wednesday morning and had this to say on the topic of fatherhood relative to the players he coached:

Part of me is insulted by Bowden’s comments. My mom raised me without my father. In fairness, she left him. The flip-side to that is he didn’t put up any resistance and was fine to break up with me when she broke up with him.

Relationships are complicated. My dad couldn’t force my mom to stay with him anymore than she could have forced the opposite. The dads Bowden did not see weren’t there for a myriad of reasons. There’s not a cause-and-effect pathology exclusively attributable to black people that accounts for the absence of fathers.

Half of all marriages in the U.S. end in divorce. This means there are millions of kids growing up without dad in the home. Bobby Bowden does not put down their mothers or take swipes at their manhood by saying the boys wear earrings because they want to be like their moms.

For the record, I wore earrings as a teenager, but I didn’t do it because I wanted to be like my mom. I wore them because I thought the girls at school liked them. I know one did for sure because she bought me a pair of gold hoop earrings to wear just for her.

I wore earrings in college until it became impractical. When interviewing for internships and jobs as a junior and senior, putting on earrings and taking them off constantly, wait for it, made me feel like my mom. So, I stopped wearing them.

As I’ve written in this space before, my dad was a terrible father to me and not a very responsible man overall. He abused drugs, abused my mom and gambled excessively. I missed having a father generally, but probably not Solomon Alexander specifically.

My wife and I saw the movie Fences last weekend and the father, played by Denzel Washington, caused irreparable harm to his relationship with his son when the father’s actions prevented the son from going to college.

I couldn’t help but think of my own dad in that situation. What if he didn’t want me to go to Rockhurst University? What if he thought I should go somewhere else or not go to college at all? Would I still be a teacher, mentor and coach or would I be something else? Would I be someone else?

The value of having a father is having a valuable father. Excuse the self-importance here, but I think I’m irreplaceable to my daughter. I don’t just pay for stuff, take out the trash and burp. Her mother and I are a team. We collectively strive to make her life better than ours.

Both parents heavily influence the way a kid turns out. Although my dad wasn’t around, he inspired me to be his antithesis. This is a picture of my family. There is no picture in existence of my mom, dad and me.

my-family

That’s why it’s important not to project what you see in one or several households onto an entire race of people. Even guys with the exact same name and shared DNA can raise markedly different families.

 

Solve problems like a 2-year-old

Two-year-old twins Brock and Bowdy Shoff were playing in their room when this happened: (Warning: This video shows a potentially injurious situation that may upset some viewers.)

Even as Brock’s little legs were kicking beneath the weight of the dresser on top of him, Bowdy did not panic. He tried to pull what looks to be a cord attached to a monitor or maybe a lamp. That didn’t work.

He then climbed over the dresser. Nah, nothing there, either. Bowdy then tried lifting the dresser straight up, but he’s not as strong as his dad. However, his form was good. He squatted down to the dresser and tried to lift with his legs.

Finally, he went for the old car-push technique. Since the dresser couldn’t hold the weight of both boys without tipping, it was light enough for Bowdy to push off his brother. Brock squirmed out from under the dresser unharmed.

There are three lessons we can all learn from this two-year-old hero:

  1. Don’t panic. Assess the situation, but move quickly to solve the problem.
  2. Help a person in trouble in any way you can.
  3. Although it worked out for the Shoff family, please encourage kids NOT to try to handle dangerous situations alone. The video wouldn’t have gone viral, but Brock would’ve been saved much quicker had Bowdy run to tell their parents.

Bowdy is two and what he did was awesome. Lesson three is a good one for kids across the board as they will certainly encounter problems in life they can’t solve by themselves. All’s well that ends well in this case. Brock is safe, Bowdy’s a hero and they both have a great story they can tell their grandkids.