OBSERVATION: Ignorant people can be both wise and kind and they are worthy of respect for the qualities they have, not contempt for those they lack.

I was surprised how many people responded to the posting on my What Will Matter Facebook page. It was a picture and quote from Aibileen Clark, a black maid in the movie The Help: “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.” I added this line: “Grammar doesn’t matter nearly as much as the sentiment – one that every parent and …

Memo From Michael: Teachers and Tornadoes

Once I got past the awe of witnessing Mother Nature’s astonishing power to wreak devastation in Oklahoma, I was awed by something more positive and uplifting: the instinctive capacity of our species to care about, come to the aid of, and — for those caught in the middle of the calamity — to even sacrifice their own lives for others.

A Personal Note From Michael

It’s been an interesting and challenging couple of weeks with three major events taking place in my life: 1) I just returned from a 4-day trip to Hawaii. I was there to address the 4-H Western Regional Leadership Forum – about 300 staff, volunteer and student leaders of one of the oldest youth programs in the nation. 4-H has been …

Memo From Michael: Take a Stand on Gay Rights

One thing I’ve learned in the 813 weeks I’ve been writing and posting these commentaries is that some people who love you (or at least say they do) can turn on a dime if you disagree with them on something fundamentally important to them. So I confess I think twice (or more) before I publish a commentary I know will …

COMMENTARY 813.5A: The Ethics of Gay Rights and Same-Sex Marriage

This is one of those commentaries that evokes passionate response and, sadly, a few people will disagree so strongly that they decide to cut me out of their lives by cancelling their subscription or putting me on the “block sender” list. I raise the issue once again because the Boy Scouts decision to defer action regarding their stance on openly …

COMMENTARY 807.2: Christmas — Christianity’s Gift to the World

As a Jew married to a Catholic, my fondness and reverence for Christmas includes, but goes beyond, recognition of its enormous religious significance. I view Christmas as the gift of Christians to the world – a day dedicated to transcendent values like love, compassion, and charity, as both moral obligations and a source of joy. In 1905, Henry Van Dyke …

COMMENTARY 806.2: Saying the Right Thing

When someone you care about is suffering greatly, what’s the right thing to say to make him or her feel better? There are all sorts of traumas that can send us to the darkest dungeons of despair – the death of a loved one, being raped, getting a divorce, losing a limb, seeing a child sent to jail or on …

Memo From Michael: Celebrating 800 Weeks of Commentaries

First, I need to pause in personal amazement to note that this week’s newsletter achieves a milestone I never thought I’d reach – this is the 800th week that I’ve been publishing my thoughts on just about anything I think about. Eight hundred weeks – that’s more than 15 years. I’ll be turning 70 in a month so it’s a test …

COMMENTARY 798.3: A Person of Character

Let’s face it, it’s not easy to become a person of character. It takes a good heart, but it also requires wisdom to know right from wrong and the discipline to do right even when it’s costly, inconvenient or difficult. Becoming a person of character is a lifelong quest to be better. A person of character values honesty and integrity …

COMMENTARY 798.1: We Don’t Need Anti-Bullying Programs

Though intensive media attention on bullying has died down, the problem persists in many forms, and it continues to diminish the lives of tens of thousands of students every day. According to a recent survey, roughly half of all high school students say that in the past year they were bullied in a manner that seriously upset them. A similar …

COMMENTARY 793.1: Tell Someone They’re Valued

The students at Sandy’s high school were badly shaken by the news that a classmate had killed himself. The suicide note said, “It’s hard to live when nobody cares if you die.” Glen, a teacher, realized this was a teachable moment about the importance of making people feel valued. He asked the class to imagine they were about to die …

COMMENTARY 789.2: Slow Dance

I once heard the chairman and CEO of a huge public company tell a roomful of ambitious, hardworking, dedicated executives that if he had to do it all over again, he would have spent more time with his family. That’s not news, but to Type-A personalities, it’s easier said than done. David L. Weatherford’s poem “Slow Dance” sends the message …

COMMENTARY 788.4: The Golden Rule as the Road of Honor

Five hundred years before the birth of Christ, Confucius was asked, “Is there one word that may serve as a rule of practice for all one’s life?” He answered, “Reciprocity. What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others.” This basic principle, now called the Golden Rule, can be found in every major religion and philosophy. …

COMMENTARY 783.1: Experimental Operation

Tess, an earnest eight-year-old was worried. Her little brother was very sick and she overheard her mom crying on the phone: “They say his only chance is an experimental operation but it isn’t covered by insurance and there’s no way we can pay for it.” she sobbed. Tess went to a jar containing all the money she had saved. Though …

COMMENTARY 782.5: Power of Words

“Stick and stones can break your bones but names will never harm you.” Really? In fact, insults, teasing, malicious gossip and verbal abuse inflict deeper and more enduring pain than guns and knives. Ask anyone who as a kid was fat, skinny, unusually short or tall, flat-chested or big-busted, acne-faced, uncoordinated, slow-witted or exceptionally smart. In schoolrooms and playgrounds across …

COMMENTARY 781.5: Good Relationships: The Best Road to a Good Life

If we interviewed 100 people who are unusually happy, I think the most prominent common denominator would be unusually good relationships. Despite the widespread promotion of materialism and vanity in our popular culture, wealth and beauty are simply not enough to produce happiness. In fact, they’re not even necessary. What’s more, bad relationships — at work, in the family or …

COMMENTARY 780.3: Perfect Father’s Day Gift

When I was young, I idolized my father, judging him for his virtues. For most of the rest of my life, I criticized him, judging him for his faults. I always loved him, but I didn’t always appreciate him. I was so aware of his imperfections (surely, no worse than my own) that I greatly undervalued his good qualities and …

COMMENTARY 780.1: Keep Singing, Michael

According to a story in Woman’s Day magazine, every day since Michael found out he was going to have a baby sister, he would touch his mommy’s tummy tenderly and sing all the songs he knew. Unfortunately, the baby was born in critical condition and the doctors warned that the little girl would not last through the week. Children are …

Commentary 779.4: Box Full Of Love

Todd was a sadly quiet eleven-year-old struggling to adjust to the death of his mother. His father left long ago and he was living with an aunt who made it known that she resented the responsibility. On several occasions, Sheryl, the boy’s teacher, heard the aunt tell Todd, “If it weren’t for my generosity you would be a homeless orphan.” …

COMMENTARY 779.3: Advice About Teens

Here are three suggestions for the parents of young teens, all learned through my own mistakes: First, remember, with emerging demands for independence, worries about peer acceptance, pressures of school and extra-curricular activities and a continuous search for self-identity, adolescents are on a physical and emotional roller coaster. Like every generation before them (including yours), young teens are often arrogant …

COMMENTARY 778.3: The Parable of Brother Leo

An old legend tells of a monastery in France well-known throughout Europe because of the extraordinary leadership of a man known only as Brother Leo. Several monks began a pilgrimage to visit Brother Leo to learn from him. Almost immediately the monks began to bicker over who should do various chores. On the third day they met another monk who …

COMMENTARY 778.1: Mental Sunshine and Flowers

Dave had to undergo painful throat surgery. Since he wasn’t a young man and made his living as a professional speaker, the experience was frightening and traumatic. He told me his surgeon was skilled and the hospital workers were competent, but the cold indifference of the parade of nurses and doctors who came in and out of his room was …

COMMENTARY 777.5: Motive, Tact, Tone, Timing

Trustworthiness is essential to good relationships, and honesty is essential to trustworthiness. Being honest isn’t simply telling the truth, though. It’s also being sincere and forthright. Thus, it’s just as dishonest to deceive someone by half-truths or silence as it is to lie. But what if honesty requires us to volunteer information that could be damaging or hurtful?

COMMENTARY 777.2: Memorial Day, A Day of Remembrance

It’s not just an excuse for a three-day weekend or a day for barbeque and beer. Memorial Day is a time for Americans to connect with our national history and core values by honoring those who gave their lives fighting for this country. It’s said that this special day to salute fallen Americans was born during the Civil War in …

SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT FOR TEENS #12: Shopping Carts and Character

Hi, this is Michael Josephson with Something to Think About. When Leon was 14, his father asked him to return a shopping cart in a grocery store parking lot.  Leon was annoyed. “C’mon, Dad,” he said, “No one returns their carts anymore. That’s why they hire people to collect them. If everyone returned their shopping carts some people would lose …

COMMENTARY 776.5: Coaching for Character

I’ve spent lots of time with some of the world’s most successful coaches. I discovered that many of them think about character a lot, especially traits that are important to winning – like self-discipline, perseverance, resiliency, and courage. They pay less attention to virtues like honesty, integrity, responsibility, compassion, respect, and fairness – aspects of character that make a good …

SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT FOR TEENS #11: A Life-Changing Decision

Mallory Holtman, the first baseman for her college softball team, had no idea she was about to make a choice that would change her life. During a game that could determine the conference championship, Sara Tucholsky, a player for the other team, hit the ball over the center field fence. Sara was only 5’2”, had had only three hits all …

COMMENTARY 776.3: I’m Better Than That

Ron, a nine-year-old boy, was being raised by his mother who didn’t know how to cope with his uncontrollable temper. She knew he was angry that his father had abandoned him, and she tried professional counseling, but nothing seemed to work. So she sent Ron to spend the summer on his grandparents’ farm. When he came home, he was a …

SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT FOR TEENS #8: Trust, Promises, and Good Friends

Hi, this is Michael Josephson with Something to Think About. Sarah was 16 and when her mom saw that her grades were slipping she said “No parties until you get your grades up.” This led to a nasty fight with Sarah calling her mom unfair and her mom calling Sarah irresponsible.  Later Sara tried a different approach. “You’re right,” she …