Monday, January 29, 2007

Look, Listen, and Learn

“He who answers before listening – that is his folly and his shame.”

~ Proverbs 18:13

“Most of us get so caught up in our own little worlds; we do not fully listen, see, or feel when we are in the presence of others. Beginning today, make it your daily goal to pay more attention to the people in your life. And don't just focus with your physical senses, but get your heart involved, as well. Not only will you be making those around you feel more valuable – which is always a good thing – you might be amazed by all you will learn.”

~ Kate Nowak, Live More Abundantly Productions

“How to get along with people: Keep skid chains on your tongue; always say less than you think. Cultivate a low, persuasive voice. How you say it counts more than what you say.”

~ Ann Landers, syndicated advice columnist

"Fear less, cherish more; eat less, chew more; whine less, breathe more; talk less, listen more; hate less, love more; and all good things are yours."

~ Old Swedish Proverb

“Lord please give me the patience to listen, the courage to speak, the honor to follow, and the wisdom to lead.” ~ Author Unknown

“Many acts of service cost nothing and take little time: encouragement, compliments, listening, gratitude, and compassion. Anytime you affirm the worth of others, you serve.”

~ Chris Karcher

"The greatest gift we can give . . . is rapt attention to one another's existence."

~ Sue Atchley Ebaugh

“The opposite of talking is listening.” ~ Anonymous

"I have learnt silence from the talkative, toleration from the intolerant, and kindness from the unkind; yet strange, I am ungrateful to these teachers.”

~ Kahlil Gibran

“Listen, and your voice will be heard.” ~ Anonymous

"Well-timed silence hath more eloquence than speech."

~ Martin Fraquhar Tupper

“What people really need is a good listening to.”

~ Mary Lou Casey

“If I listen, I have the advantage; if I speak, others have it.” ~ Anonymous

“Have more than thou showest, speak less than thou knowest.”

~ Shakespeare

“A man of knowledge uses words with restraint, and a man of understanding is even- tempered. Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue.”

~ Proverbs 17:27-28

"Listen, or thy tongue will keep thee deaf."

~ American Indian Proverb

"I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen. “

-Ernest Hemingway

"It takes a great man to be a good listener."

~ Calvin Coolidge

“Remember not only to say the right thing at the right time in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the wrong moment.”

~ Benjamin Franklin

“Wise men are not always silent, but they know when to be.”

~ Author Unknown


By Gale Rogers, Effingham (shared by permission)

Sometimes the strongest of words
are the words unspoken.
One may speak and never say or
remember what was said.

Two who know each other,
may be together and never utter a word.
yet they know,
just how the other does feel.

There is a closeness only they
can describe between them.
A bonding that
truly becomes so real.

The words not spoken
are never misunderstood;
they are never heard with disgust
or said in a contemptuous voice.

The unspoken word is felt
with the heart, rather
than heard with the ear
and always by choice.

The silence is shared
and it is accepted.
Creating a new understanding of
“Be still and know”.


“Silence is often misinterpreted but never misquoted.” ~ Anonymous

“God has given us two ears, but one tongue, to show that we should be swift to hear, but slow to speak. God has set a double fence before the tongue, the teeth and the lips, to teach us to be wary that we offend not with our tongue.”

~ Thomas Watson

“I said, I will take heed and guard my ways that I sin not with my tongue; I will muzzle my mouth as with a bridle. . . .”

~ Psalms 39:1

Monday, January 22, 2007

Lessons in Listening

“Do not be quick with your mouth . . . . let your words be few.”

~ Ecclesiastes 5:2b

“So how is our little chatterbox?”

That was the opening line of a letter my mom wrote to me when I was away at summer camp as a young girl. For those of you who know me, either personally or through my column, you have probably figured out that I won’t be winning any awards for my adherence to the aforementioned Bible verse. I have never been referred to as “a woman of few words” – and no one has ever asked me if the cat had my tongue. On the contrary, I would do well to commit Abraham Lincoln’s wise saying to memory: “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt.” (Or, as they say, “A closed mouth gathers no feet.”)

“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath. . . .” ~ James 1:19

This past weekend I attended a three-day seminar which emphasized the importance of developing good listening skills. The course, which was held at Johnson County Community College, was called “Principles of Core Mediation.” The training manual was filled with interesting quotes, including this one from William Butler Yeats: “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” Well, this course definitely lit a fire under me.

"One of the greatest gifts you can give to anyone is the gift of your attention."
~Jim Rohn, Motivational coach and speaker

Some of you may be wondering what mediation is all about. Put simply, mediation is any process whereby disputes can be resolved with the help of a third person (which basically describes the role of a parent). Kansas Supreme Court Rule 901 defines mediation as “the process by which a neutral mediator assists the parties in reaching a mutually acceptable agreement as to the issues of the dispute. The role of a mediator is to aid the parties in identifying the issues, reducing misunderstanding, clarifying priorities, exploring areas of compromise, and finding points of agreement. An agreement reached by the parties is to be based on the decisions of the parties and not the decisions of the mediator.”

Based upon the premise that most people really prefer to live in harmony and resolve conflict, the mediation process provides a venue for them to air their grievances and work toward a resolution that will achieve their mutual goals. The mediator’s role is to act as a facilitator of dialogue between the parties involved. In other words, mediators need to stay out of the way and let the process work – and work it does. Statistically, 80% of all agreements reached through mediation are complied with, primarily because both sides had a say in the outcome – as opposed to a judge dictating how the problem will be resolved. Ideally, the process of mediation will not only lead to an acceptable solution to the current problem, but will result in better communication and improved interactions between the parties in the future.

There are several applications for mediation in today’s society which include disputes between community members, neighbors, parent/adolescent, employer/employee, farmer/lender, victim/offender, small claims, general civil cases, and domestic situations associated with divorce, such as child custody and parenting plans. All of these areas require a forum for the two disputing parties to openly discuss their differences, along with a sincere willingness on the part of both parties to reach a compromise solution.

“A problem adequately stated is a problem well on its way to being solved.”
~ R. Buckminster Fuller

My particular area of interest centers on victim/offender mediation, which falls under the category of restorative justice. Restorative justice is a victim-oriented process which views crime as the wound and justice as part of the healing. It is also used as an alternative to incarceration in cases involving juveniles. For example, if a teenager is caught egging a house, they could be required to meet with the victim to listen to them describe how their actions affected them. The homeowner may also request that the teenager be required to make restitution by cleaning up or repairing any damage, and/or submitting a written letter of apology. In some instances the victim will ask that the offender be required to complete several hours of community service. Although the juvenile offender is not required to accept the terms presented, this option provides them with a unique opportunity to right the wrongs committed, maintain a clean record, and avoid the penalties and fines the court would impose. In essence, the process gives them a second chance, while still respecting the victim by allowing them to participate in choosing an appropriate and just penalty.

Victim/offender dialogue is also utilized when the victim (or surviving victim) of a more violent crime seeks the opportunity to speak to the individual convicted of the offense. If the perpetrator is willing to meet with them, this can sometimes bring a sense of closure to the victims.

For me, the most difficult aspect of the mediation process, as alluded to earlier, will be learning how to listen reflectively and not interfere. The whole objective of mediation is for the mediator to sit back and simply guide the conversation between two other people – a skill that seems almost impossible for me to develop. But practice makes perfect, so wish me well!

“Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips.”
~ Psalms 141:3

Monday, January 15, 2007

Still Chasing the Dream

“And blessed was she who believed that she would see the fulfillment of all that was spoken to her from the Lord.”
~ Luke 1:45 (AMP)

When Keen made the decision to go back to college at the age of 40, many people questioned the wisdom of that decision. In fact one person told Keen to his face that he couldn’t do it because he was just “too damn old!” To that Keen replied, “Well I’m gonna turn 47 now matter what happens!” Now, eight years later, he is living his dream, and loving every minute of it.

"Don't let the fear of the time it will take to accomplish something stand in the way of your doing it. The time will pass anyway. We might just as well put that passing time to the best possible use."
~ Earl Nightingale

A couple of weeks ago I received the following email from my godfather in Virginia:

I read your trilogy over the loss of your father-in-law and what I felt necessary to say more than anything was for you to finish your book. You have a gift for writing and although it is hard to break from the everyday, I honestly think you can publish a book. I base this on your column and especially the way you wrote and expressed yourself over the loss of Keen's dad. I obviously don't /didn't know Keen's dad, but the writing was so clear about him that I felt I did know him. It was very touching. So press on while you can...............Bill

Although the book I’ve been working on isn’t written in the same style as my Reflections column, I appreciated my godfather’s encourage- ment very much.

“Dreams must be fed a steady diet of love, commitment and desire in order to grow into reality. Thinking we must ‘face the fact’ that our dream is impossible, is usually nothing more than the dream's way of letting us know it's hungry.” ~ Kate Nowak, Live More Abundantly Productions

I’m sure many of you have been wondering about the status of my book/dream since I haven’t given any updates lately. Basically it is completed, except for some last minute changes that my manuscript editor would like to make before it goes to print. The other hurdle I have to overcome is finding a publisher, which is easier said than done, as any writer will tell you. The literary agent in New York whom I had corresponded with earlier, was still not satisfied with the revised version of my manuscript. So I’ve got a few more doors to knock on before deciding whether I should self-publish.

Although self-publishing is often considered a last resort for authors, I was somewhat encouraged when I heard author Robert T. Kiyosaki’s talk about his experience with the publication of his first book, Rich Dad, Poor Dad. He said that when he initially wrote the book he was unable to find a publisher, so he decided to self-publish. After placing an initial order for 1,000 copies, he asked a friend of his who owned a car wash if he could place 18 copies of the book at his place of business. Although the friend was reluctant at first, Kiyosaki convinced him that it was the ideal location since he wouldn’t have any competition! When several weeks passed without a single copy being sold, the friend called and asked Kiyosaki to come and pick up his books, but Kiyosaki was able to persuade him to keep the display up for a little longer. Then one day a miracle happened when all 18 copies of the book were sold! As it turned out, the books were purchased by a single individual who happened to be a top executive of a large publishing house. When the executive contacted Kiyosaki and asked him if he had any more copies of his book, Kiyosaki excitedly replied, “Yes! I’ve got 1000 minus 18!” After that, the book became a national bestseller and Mr. Kiyosaki went on to publish several other bestselling books.

Some of you may recall the letter I received from a woman who suggested that I dig a hole in a field and bury my manuscript. (At least she could have read it first!) Her personal assessment was that I must be filled with bitterness and hatred if I was writing a tell-all book about our experiences with the commissioners and the legal battle which led to the Supreme Court. Although there are probably multitudes who agree with her, I don’t believe it is mean-spirited or spiteful of me to write the truth about what happened to us during that time. As for harboring unforgiveness, it is possible to forgive someone without condoning their actions. We certainly didn’t like what the commissioners did to us, but we have forgiven them, because we know that if we don’t, then God won’t forgive us.

“For if you forgive people their trespasses – that is, their reckless and willful sins, leaving them, letting them go and giving up resentment – your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their trespasses – their reckless and willful sins, leaving them, letting them go and giving up resentment – neither will your Father forgive you your trespasses.” ~ Matthew 6: 14,15 (AMP)

So although everyone is entitled to their opinion, it has always been our belief that unless someone stands up against bigotry or corruption, nothing will ever change.

“Learn to do right; seek justice, relieve the oppressed and correct the oppressor . . . . “ ~ Isaiah 1:17a (Amp)

As for the book, I believe that right is right, and wrong is wrong, and what Keen and I went through during that time was truly stranger than fiction. For example, during the late 1980’s when Keen was attending the county commission meetings and writing his weekly column, “My Perspective,” he was called a local loudmouth, political gadfly, and a troublemaker. The commissioners themselves called Keen an idiot, dirt, and the stuff he hauled around in his trash truck, not to mention the “sorriest son of a b---- in Wabaunsee County.” The then-commissioner from Paxico even publicly warned the then-editor of the Alma paper, Bob Stuewe, to take a “closer look” at what he put in the paper to “avoid getting into trouble.” When Keen asked the Commissioner to clarify his remarks, he brazenly replied, “Your articles are offensive and should be censored!” Well, Bob Stuewe was (and still is) an honest man, and the following week he wrote his own front-page editorial stating that in 38 years of being in the newspaper business he had never before been threatened for publishing signed editorials, and he had no intention of censoring anyone’s articles – despite the commissioners’ use of “high pressure tactics.” The following year, the commissioners regrettably carried out their retaliatory threat against Bob Stuewe by cancelling his long-standing designation as the official newspaper for Wabaunsee County. Unfortunately, Bob was forced to sell his newspaper as a result. (The new editor later received the designation back.)

We have always realized that not everyone supported Keen’s efforts to affect change in Wabaunsee County. After the commissioners terminated Keen’s trash collection contract, some people whom we considered friends were overheard saying that Keen “got what he deserved.”

"Even my own familiar friend, in whom I trusted (relied on and was confident), who ate of my bread, has lifted up his heel against me."
~ Psalm 41:9

One of our few true friends, Quentin Katt, told Keen that he heard some guys talking at Gas & Shop and one of them said, “Somebody ought to just shoot him.” When Keen ran for county commissioner in 1990, someone actually shot a large hole through one of his campaign signs out on Highway 99. In fact, the theft of Keen’s signs was such a regular occurrence that our boys would take off on their bicycles every morning to perform “sign patrol.” Then they’d ride back home and report to their dad about which signs were missing so he could go back out and replace them. (One of Keen’s supporters wrote a letter to the editor during that time which read: “You can steal our signs, but you can’t steal our vote!”)

But Keen truly believed that his First Amendment rights were more than just words on a piece of paper, they were inalienable. And as long as he performed the job that he was hired to do, (by the grace of God, he never missed a day), then the commissioners shouldn’t be allowed to punish him for speaking out publicly against them. After all, if exercising your freedom costs you financially, then it really isn’t free.

So Keen fought, and he fought, and he fought some more. He was a trashman by day and a husband and father by night. Yet somehow he found the time, strength, and wherewithal to attend meetings, write articles, and assist our attorneys in battling the case that took over five years to weave its way through the justice system. One time Keen said: “We’ve been fighting for so long, we sleep with our swords.” You see, we weren’t just fighting for our First Amendment rights – we had four young sons to support, and that business was our main source of revenue, the way we put food on the table. So the combination of basic survival instincts and deep-seated principle was more than enough to motivate us and keep our juices flowing.

But there is no question in my mind that my book will be met with mixed reviews (and possibly even threats of lawsuits.) Those who still begrudge the controversy caused by the lawsuit and the negative publicity it generated will say that I should have let sleeping dogs lie. But the fact remains that everything in the book actually happened, and by going to the United States Supreme Court, the case changed the law of the land and literally became a part of history.

And so I will continue to knock on doors and hope, pray, and yes, dream that the story about a common, ordinary trash man, who dared to stand up against the powers that be, will one day be told through the pages of my book.

“Do not, therefore, fling away your fearless confidence, for it carries a great and glorious compensation of reward. For you have need of steadfast patience and endurance, so that you may perform and fully accomplish the will of God, and thus receive and carry away (and enjoy to the full) what is promised. But the just shall live by faith; and if he draws back and shrinks in fear, My soul has no delight or pleasure in him.” ~ Hebrews 10:35,36,38a (AMP)

“If you lose hope, somehow you lose the vitality that keeps life moving, you lose that courage to be, that quality that helps you go on in spite of it all. And so today, I still have a dream.” ~The Trumpet of Conscience, Martin Luther King, Jr.

Monday, January 08, 2007

That's Gonna Leave a Bruise

“But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with His stripes we are healed.” ~Isaiah 54:5 (RSV)

I’ve always endeavored to be open and straightforward in my column by sharing the ups and the downs of our lives, and with my husband’s permission, this week’s column will be no exception.

Two days before the end of the year, on December 29, 2006, the Republican precinct committee members from Wabaunsee County held a special meeting for the purpose of appointing someone to fulfill the unexpired term of County Attorney Elizabeth Cohn. Before the votes were cast, Alta Vista precinct committeeman and Former Commissioner Joe McClure addressed his fellow members, expressing his opinion that the appointee for county attorney should be: 1) a Republican; 2) a Christian with strong moral character; and 3) someone who has practiced law for more than five years.

Since Keen had already publicly announced his intention to run for the office of county attorney in 2008, it seemed natural for him to submit his name and résumé to the committee for consideration. While Keen realized there was a strong possibility that he might not be the successful candidate when the votes were counted, he was not prepared for the results of the final tally. Out of 23 precinct committee members who voted by secret ballot, not one single member voted for Keen. Not one. The total lack of support from the leaders of our own Republican Party was a tough pill to swallow and a harsh reality to face.

"At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me. May it not be charged against them." ~ II Timothy 4:16

In an effort to lift Keen’s spirits, I told him that the committee members’ vote is not a true referendum until all the citizens of Wabaunsee County have been given the chance to voice their opinion at the ballot box. And the only way to find that out is to stay the course and run for county attorney next year, as he had originally planned. Of course it’s easy to get discouraged by the unanimous message sent by the precinct committee members, but I don’t think he should throw in the towel just yet.


Lately I’ve been reading Robin McGraw’s book titled, “Inside My Heart.” In it she writes about how her mother died suddenly at the age of 58 while talking on the phone. She had just mentioned that she wasn’t feeling well, and then she was gone – just like that. Robin used this painful experience to illustrate a point. “Like it or not,” she writes, “there are some things that cannot be controlled; not by me, not by anyone. Innocent children get hurt, hardworking adults lose their pensions, cities are blown away by hurricanes, and beloved wives, mothers, and grandmothers collapse and die of heart attacks while baking pies for their daughters. You can lament and carry on all you want to, but bad stuff happens to good people and there’s not much any of us can do about it except choose how to respond. That is all any of us can do. And ultimately, it’s all that matters.”

Robin went on to tell a story about the way one of her husband’s relatives treated her after she joined the family. At times this individual would act like she was the greatest thing since sliced bread, but then when no one else was around they would make rude and critical remarks to her. She was obviously offended and wanted her husband to come to her defense and confront the individual, but he just kept telling her that they had the right to say anything they wanted. Of course, Robin became angry and indignant because she thought he was supposed to be on her side. This went on for quite some time, and whenever it happened, Dr. Phil would have the same response. “You can’t control what people, think, say, or do, Robin; the only thing you can control is how you react to it.” One day she finally understood that he wasn’t saying that he agreed with that person, only that they had the right to feel the way they felt.

“No one can make you feel inferior without your permission.”

~ Eleanor Roosevelt

That was a real eye opener for me. As Robin says in her book, no matter how much control we may try to exert over our lives, there will always be those unexpected tragedies happen that we can’t do anything about. As a matter of fact, Robin’s own sister, Cindi Broaddus, was severely burned when someone threw a gallon of acid from an overpass and it crashed through the windshield of her car. Cindi could have remained bitter, but she chose to forgive – even though her attacker has never been found. She has also written a book about her experience titled, “A Random Act,” and she travels all over the world talking about the power of forgiveness and inspiring others to engage in random acts of kindness.

Although many of us will never go through anything that catastrophic, most of us will experience the deep emotional pain caused by feelings of betrayal or rejection, hurtful words or actions, or the unexpected loss of a loved one through death or divorce. No one gets through life without falling victim to some or all of the above. As Henry Longfellow expressed in his poem titled Rainy Day: “Thy fate is the common fate of all, Into each life some rain must fall.”

“. . . for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” ~ Matthew 5:45b (NKJV)

Craig Smith said it best in the column he wrote about how the Amish community reacted to the horrific murders that shattered their peaceful lives: “They didn't blame God or look to make sense of what is a truly senseless act,” he wrote. “They made a choice to live their faith and trust in God. Knowing full well God loves them and has forgiven them, in turn they forgive others – even when it means the loss of something as precious as a child. They chose not to allow hate to fill their hearts. They know hate produces darkness and eclipses the light of God in man.”

Author Unknown

People are often unreasonable, illogical and
self-centered… forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish,
ulterior motives… be kind anyway.

If you are honest and frank, people may cheat or
malign you…be honest anyway.

What you spend years building, someone may
try to destroy overnight… build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, some people
may be jealous…be happy anyway.

The good you do today, people will often forget
tomorrow…. do good anyway.

Give the world your best, and it may never be
enough… give the world your best anyway.

You see, in the final analysis, it is between you
and God…it was never between you and them, anyway.

"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. . . For if you love those who love you, what reward have you?” ~ Matthew 5:43-45a (NKJV)