Talk before you walk

Image by MabelAmber from Pixabay

In my corner of the world, walks and dog park visits get a lot more frequent and fun in March. This year in particular, I think we’re especially eager to get out, charge ahead, and get past all that’s held us back. So it’s all the more important to get the season off to a good start.

Before you grab the leash or even spell the W word, calmly sit or stand with your dog. Picture what the two of you are going to do — putting on the leash/halter, going to the dog park, walking down the sidewalk in your own neighborhood — and how you expect him to behave. It’s important to picture what you do want (keeping his attention on you, for example) instead of any behavior you don’t want.

Check out these good-citizen tips. Don’t feel like clicking? I understand. Here are the basics: Pick up your dog’s poop, keep him leashed and close to you, and prevent him from injuring other animals or people.

If you do experience problems, even and especially if someone else brings them to your attention, please don’t hesitate to work with a trainer. There’s no shame or judgment, only a desire to improve the quality of life for your dog, you, and anyone you may encounter. A good trainer can do wonders, especially if you get a referral from someone you trust. It’s really never too late to make a positive change for both you and your dog.

I’m happy to help, too! Both Reiki and animal communication can be very useful in resolving behavioral issues, easing transitions, and giving animals and their people a “reset” during stressful times.

My brother the car whisperer

Gary, left, shown here with brother Dave, loved cars from an early age.

When Gary Crowe was 16, his life was disrupted by the arrival of a little sister (me). Very shortly thereafter, he got sick with appendicitis. So sick, in fact, that Mom and Dad had to sign off on a not-yet-approved drug in order to save his life.

Thankfully, he recovered, but he’d missed so much school that he ended up dropping out. In the 1960s, North Central High School in Indianapolis did not have programs for budding auto mechanics like him. Gary loved cars, classic cars in particular. He worked for a number of automobile shops in Indianapolis and always had a car with which he was, or had been, tinkering. One was a red MG convertible, and I remember Gary, older brother Dave, and I tooling around in it.

He moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1978 and worked for a car dealership, eventually heading its service department. For a few years, he lived on a 35-foot cabin cruiser.

I’m not even sure what this was, but Gary understood it.

Gary always answered my car and computer questions (which also gave me an excuse to check in with him) and even helped me buy a car from across the country. As the years went by and the recession threw bumps and craters in his employment path, he discovered a talent and love for cooking.

Gary passed away Feb. 25, 2021 at age 70 in California.

While trying to think through ways to celebrate my brother’s life during a pandemic, I kept going back to his high school days. Would a vocational program have kept him in school? Probably. I can’t know for sure, but I do know the folks who work on our cars deserve good training in everything from basic engine function to the intricacies of today’s vehicles. As a supervisor, Gary would no doubt have appreciated new mechanics who came well prepared to diagnose and repair.

Therefore, I invite anyone who would like to do so to contribute to the automotive services program at the J. Everett Light Career Center at North Central to help today’s car whisperers get started. Just follow the link to the online giving form, select the “in memory of” option, and type in Gary Crowe under additional gift information. The very kind folks there will get it to the right place.

Ride on, Gary.

Fred Rogers’ uncommon calling

38656999._SY475_.jpgWhen Fred Rogers was about halfway through his studies at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, the faculty asked him what sort of ministry he envisioned. Rogers, who was already doing children’s television work, said he hoped to make that a ministry.

“Nothing like that had ever been fashioned from Presbyterian fabric,” relates Maxwell King in The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers (Abrams Press, 2018), “and Fred’s teachers were somewhat at a loss to guide him.”

Fortunately, one of them suggested Rogers also study child development with Dr. Margaret McFarland at Pittsburgh’s Arsenal Family & Children’s Center, which he did. He and McFarland would work together for the rest of their lives. Rogers also took graduate-level child development courses at the University of Pittsburgh.

But Pittsburgh Presbytery’s elders felt Rogers should become an assistant pastor, then senior pastor of a church, and stand up in a black robe and preach on Sundays. They refused to ordain him.

A friend from seminary, the Rev. Bill Barker, risked his own position to advocate for Rogers’ non-traditional ministry. Rogers’ television audience — kids from about 2 to 8 — was a congregation of thousands if not millions, he said at a presbytery meeting. “‘And this is a man who has been authentically called by the Lord as much as any of you guys sitting out there,'” Barker recalled telling those gathered.

The elders somewhat reluctantly relented, and Rogers was ordained in 1963.

A few years later, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood popped up on the television landscape. The show contained no Bible verses, prayers, or mention of God. It was just this quiet, sensitive guy and his neighborhood of people, puppets, and stories. Yet the core messages of kindness, courage, and respect for self and others could not have been clearer.

As a young child, I watched “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” when it first aired (in black and white) on a bulky Magnavox that was more furniture than appliance. His approach spoke to a kid who didn’t like a lot of noise and flash, but appreciated a reasoned, encouraging word. The fact that Mister Rogers was also a Presbyterian minister didn’t really surprise me. I figured he was where God wanted him to be. Rogers just had that vibe of someone who pointed the way to a bigger, better reality.

There are many more layers to this comprehensive biography by King, a journalist and now CEO of the Pittsburgh Foundation. What struck me was the way Rogers, with God and the people who entered his orbit, co-created a ministry. And he did so despite the church not knowing quite what to do with him.

Rogers probably would have continued with his television ministry with or without the presbytery’s endorsement via ordination. The fact that he persisted, a friend backed him up, and the church body changed its position testifies to our ability to learn even when we don’t especially want to.

Answering a call to serve God doesn’t always take the form we expect, and sometimes the best career move is to drop our expectations and listen.

The payoff for our world could be significant.