Sunday, September 12, 2010

All Hail To The Seizers!

All Hail To The Seizers!
By Bill Kirk

Admit it. Don’t you just sit and wonder sometimes?
I mean, just to marvel at all the stuff
That’s bouncing around inside your head?
Try it if you haven’t. Who knows?
You may find it strangely satisfying to ponder
Just how many little rabbit trails
There surely must be inside the old cranium.
And talk about entertaining—that, too.

The number alone of all the thoughts
Zipping through one’s brain
Has got to be virtually uncountable,
Even if we had a stop-action camera
To freeze the brain in mid-think.
Yep. A think-o-meter is what we need, all right.

Of course, some of the thoughts are mere idle flashes,
Almost as if tiny brain segments
Are constantly dropping in and out of consciousness.
Other thoughts seem more productive,
Forming those proverbial “trains of thought”
About a certain something.
But, alas! Even a “train of thought”
May cover way too much real estate
To capture and categorize.

Why, just this afternoon,
I tracked on such disconnected things as
Bits and pieces of garage inventory—some lost, some found;
A favorite grade school teacher
Who regularly pulled unruly kids’ ears to keep them in line;
And whether a tent I soon plan to use has a hole in it.
Then it was onto where the best deal
On a bed frame and mattress might be.

Oh, and what about those boxes—unopened since 1985,
There in the upstairs bedroom closet?
Could that be where those errant bossun heads are?
Hundreds and thousands of questions,
Affirmations and reminders,
Stack up continually and almost instantaneously,
Like so many mental “sticky notes to self”.

Sure, we try our best to catalog
The endless stream of rambling ruminations—
At times in the very moment,
Or more likely in retrospect.
An image of trough upon metal trough
Filled to the brim with key punch cards comes to mind.
Doesn’t it make you wonder whether there might be
A giant queue awaiting cranial processing time?
Ah, yet another idle thought goes to the back of the line—
No cuts allowed. Or are they?

Of course, all attempts to give order to such chaos
Must inevitably be futile, right?
After all, are any of those so-called idle thoughts
Ever really idle at all?

Always in motion and, therefore, just beyond our control,
Billions of thoughtful snippets
Layer themselves one upon another,
Seeming to simmer silently until sufficient heat
Brings them to the surface.
That’s when the action gets interesting
As they bounce around like pin balls
Off the unending undulations of our collective cerebellae.
How could any of us be expected to keep track of it all?

Perhaps the answer to that question
Defines us as much more than
Mere copers and survivors.
Instead, are we not called to exercise
The full measure of our human capacity?
Indeed, are we not to be seizers of the day,
Destined to flourish, thrive and forge ahead
From one stimulating challenge to the next?

But is it the relishers of freefall—
The stimulation seekers—
Who hold human progress in their hands?
Or will those with the power to calmly disregard
The crush of competitive zeal,
Quietly lead humankind to the earthly promised land?

No matter. Either way, all those who grab the moment
And work toward the greater good deserve a cheer—


Sunday, September 5, 2010

On Becoming An Eagle Scout

Parents, Honored Guests, Friends and Fellow Scouts:

I am honored to have this opportunity to speak to you about the meaning of Scouting in the lives of the young men who choose to be part of it and particularly those who persevere on the Trail to Eagle. But I must say, some of you know all too well there is a great risk in giving me a podium and an audience with a whole evening before me and a subject I love. All I can promise is to try to practice the Ninth Point of the Scout Law and be "Thrifty" with your time this evening.

Scouting is one of the greatest organizations in the world to foster the highest ideals of citizenship and service. It is little wonder then that so many of our nation’s greatest leaders had some of their earliest leadership experiences in Scouting. Some aspects of the Scouting program may have changed over time. But one thing remains constant. That is, the total development from boyhood to manhood is still founded on the physical, mental, and moral excellence expressed in and demanded by the Scout Oath and Scout Law.

When most boys enter Scouting, they likely picture themselves as someday becoming Eagle Scouts. But as often happens, many activities and interests clamor for their attention as they enter their high school years and the early Scouting flames and aspirations may dim to ashes and flicker away. After all, historically only about four percent of Scouts have achieved the Eagle Rank.

So, what does the Eagle badge represent in the lives of the young men who earn it? Certainly, it means that a Scout has set his eyes on a challenging goal and has worked hard to achieve it. But more importantly, it is a measure of a boy’s future potential as he grows to manhood. In truth, achieving the Eagle Scout Rank is not an end but simply an open door to the future.

There is much that can be said about the Trail to Eagle, about the challenges along the way and about the accomplishment itself—the what, how and when. But I would like to highlight one point that is often missed. That is, long before a Scout can actually reach this high honor, he has a decision to make. That decision is the fundamental answer to the question, “Do I want to be an Eagle Scout?”

In fact, this very question is the “why” that drives each prospective Eagle Scout forward. It is a decision only the Scout himself can make. That these young men are here before you is clear evidence each one made the decision and stayed the course.

Certainly, their family and friends encouraged them and maybe even gently nudged them at various points along the way. And any Scout would likely tell you that an encouraging word can be like gold when the journey gets tough and a Scout has to dig deep, then deeper still, just to keep going. But ultimately, and by design, the Scout must answer the call of the soaring eagle for himself, just as each of these young men did.

For some the decision may have come early in their Scouting careers. For others, it may have happened much later, after an awakening about what becoming an Eagle Scout means to them. And did I mention there is a clock ticking away in the background? Yes, at age 18, the Trail to Eagle ends for all Boy Scouts.

But regardless of when the decision occurs, that is the moment each Scout truly learns the importance of the Eagle Scout Rank in his own life. It is at that decision point when he accepts the challenge, makes the commitment and maps out a personal plan and strategy to meet the goal.

How many Ranks and Merit Badges do I have left and can I complete them all in time? What will I do for my Eagle Service Project and how long do I need to finish it? Have I completed all my Leadership requirements and have I done my best to be an active mentor to other Scouts in the Troop looking to me for guidance? These are the questions each Scout must answer for himself, often when facing the many other demands of an increasingly busy schedule of school, family, sports and even work activities.

On occasion, the Scout’s decision to embark on the Trail to Eagle may be challenged by others—peers in school, team mates or even friends—who may not fully understand the pull of the spirit of Scouting. No matter, because it is a Scout’s own personal motivation which will carry him across the finish line.

As I thought about each of the young men seated before you this evening, I noted a common theme along their Trail to Eagle. It has been a clear and strong sense of self and, yes, even a bit of a stubborn streak, that has stood them in good stead on their individual journeys. Indeed, I would have no trouble speaking volumes about the strong personal attributes of each one.

Some have left their mark on academics, others in athletic competition. Some followed Eagles in their own families or reached that goal as the first. Some have excelled in math and science, others in the arts. Some have dug snow caves that would match any survivor's story, others have climbed mountains or backpacked for miles for the sheer joy of it.

However, regardless of their individual accomplishments, skills and talents both inside and outside of Scouting, they are now bound together by one common conviction—they are, and always will be, Eagle Scouts who are 100 percent guilty of being Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean and Reverent.

Gentlemen, Welcome to the Eagles' Nest. It is a personal honor and a singular pleasure to be in your company.

And it’s a great day for Scouting!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Sometimes You Have To Cut Your Losses

As writers, we often work on a story, essay, poem or other piece of genius that we are certain meets, if not far exceeds, the criteria for publication somewhere, anywhere. In fact, we may be so convinced of our work's merit that we withhold it from public view on the Internet (ergo remain "unpublished") on the off chance that it might get picked up for publication by someone, anyone. Well, sometimes I suppose it's best to just get over it.

So, in the spirit of sharing, here is a bit of an action poem written in rhyme, celebrating picture day at school. I still think it would make a great little picture book. I mean, who can't relate to picture day?

But I'm willing to concede the likelihood of publcation as a picture book is slim. Granted, it was published in a children's magazine back in 2007. But still I'd like to imagine it in between two scuffed up hard covers with dog-eared pages because kids have read it and chuckled, chortled, guffawed and roared over and over.

One can dream, can't one?

By Bill Kirk
(Published in Fun For Kidz Magazine, September 2007)

This morning when my Grandma knocked,
I didn’t make a peep.
She’d never find me underneath
These covers in a heap.

Then, in she came to chase me out
And get me on my way.
“Let’s rise and shine, grandson of mine!
Today is picture day.”

She gently stressed as I got dressed,
“No horseplay is allowed.
There’ll be no kicking rocks and cans,
Or dust into a cloud.”

“But, Grandma…,” “Don’t ‘But Grandma’ me,”
She said with my four names.
That meant that she was serious.
There’d be no silly games.

So, I got dressed and brushed my hair
And even washed my face.
The boys would hardly know it’s me—
With every hair in place.

Then, off I went with good intent,
To stay both neat and pressed.
So, when I finally got to school,
I’d look my very best.

At recess all the kids went out
To run and chase and hide.
But Grandma’s words came back to me.
And so I stayed inside.

When it was time to go to lunch,
I ate each bite with care.
I even tucked a napkin in,
To catch each crumb, mid-air.

Then suddenly, as if on cue,
I heard someone yell, “Duck!”
I should have known, my time would come,
And I’d be out of luck.

At first I saw some gelatin,
Go sailing past my head.
And then two hotdogs—flying by—
Just missed my best friend, Fred.

Soon apples turned to applesauce
And plums to purple goo.
When mashed potatoes hit the floor,
They stuck like paste and glue.

I crashed into the Principal
And almost caused two falls.
By then my hopes of staying clean
Were dashed on doors and walls!

When all the food had finally flown,
The lunchroom was a mess!
Our teachers called our Moms and Dads
So we could all confess.

And did I mention evidence?
Oh yes! There’d be a bunch!
The photographs would say it all—
Our turn was after lunch!

But, wait! Was that my Grandma’s voice,
So faint, and far away?
“Get up, my boy, or you’ll be late!
Today is picture day.”

So, did I hear my Grandma right?
Were things not as they seemed?
Hurray! That whole big mess at school,
Was something I had dreamed!