in character

Character makes trust possible.And trust makes leadership possible. That is the Law of Solid Ground.

#6. John Maxwell

For some reason, 1963 was quite a seminal year for me. A lot happened in my world as we moved from Miami to the DC area.

I met Dr. Martin Luther King, hours before he expressed his dream to the world. He inspired me to dream.

My teacher wrote day after day, the most important lesson I could learn was “SELF-DISCIPLINE.”

There were no swimming pools, no swim team to challenge my athletic self. I learned there is more to do than swim. It was the year I began playing basketball, softball and tennis. I was “last pick” on the worst girls basketball team in my age group. We won one game all season 4-2!  I played for a total of about 90 seconds in that game. It was the only game I played.  I never missed a practice though. Ever. You could trust me to be there. After all, I was learning Self-discipline.

I experienced my first relative dying, my paternal grandfather, one week before Kennedy was shot. I learned the world is temporary and anyone could disappear from my world in an instant.

I watched the Riderless Horse rear up in front of me at JFK’s funeral. I learned that humans are not alone in emotional response.

There were no Mrs. Fishers creating  shows at my new school, so by November, I learned to lead it myself. I wrote, produced, directed and played a character role in The Feast of the Annunciation.

It started to hurt to go pee-Again, I was too scared to tell an adult. I was rushed to the hospital, nearly died of toxicity from a severe kidney infection.

I knocked myself out playing in the snow in the back yard. No one knows how long I was unconscious in the snow after my saucer and apparently my head slammed into the house. I had no idea how I landed in the hospital. I think my lesson was to use the buddy system.

I didn’t get A’s in Math–I think I learned numbers are hard. Anything with numbers is hard to get right no matter how smart you are. I surely wish she had told me why my answers were wrong. When I would get my papers back, all I would see is that they were marked wrong.  I would sit there checking my math and it seemed right.

Years later I would discover that my teacher noted my tendency to invert numbers. She wrote that I solve the problems that I write down but that they aren’t the problems I am given on the board. And so she marked them as incorrect. I discovered her notes just a few years ago. It might have helped my struggling self-esteem. I couldn’t trust myself to get numbers right, even with self-discipline.

Who knows, I might have a whole different attitude to money today.  I can see that dyslexia inspired a fear of numbers; years of mixed up addresses, phone numbers, missing events and showing up on the wrong day. I imagine it is possible I associated money with numbers and as such suspect there may have been an underlying belief that I can’t get money right either. Hard to lead your financial self when you are scared of numbers.

That Spring, there was the parish’s school wide athletic dinner. I didn’t even go to it since my basketball performance was so meager, and softball season hadn’t begun yet.  My brothers came home claiming I won an award!  They said there were three special awards given out to the whole parish, and I was one.  I thought they were cruel. The next morning, when the principle called me to her office, I returned to my classroom brandishing a special honor for me-for Loyalty.  I learned Self-Discipline was Self-Loyalty- to your dreams.

As years passed, I eventually relinquished carrying from home to home, the subsequent fruits of self-discipline and loyalty: trophies for Most Valuable Player of teams I captained in Basketball and Softball, Championships for Tennis, various Golf, Directing/Producing/Acting Awards.  I have a few, but centered over my collection, I still proudly display the one in honor of Character.  Different skills can be learned for the particular arena in which you are playing and Character is Character and the rewards of cultivating it will determine the quality of your life in every aspect.


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