Tuesday, October 26, 2010


I wanted to be a sportswriter when I grew up.  I loved sports of all kinds.  I loved reading about sports, loved watching sports...I just couldn't get enough sports.  That's all I ever wanted to be, a sportswriter.   I remember telling my 9th grade English teacher, Mrs. Allen, what I wanted to be.  That was a mistake.  "John, you'll need to improve alot to be a writer.  You don't know the difference between a noun and a verb.  You need to know your English", she said.  Gosh, that made me mad.  I disliked English anyway.

I've never forgotten that day.  Who did she think she was to squash my dream?  "I'll show her", I thought.  Truth is, I thought alot more things about Mrs. Allen that day, but I'll leave that be.  The other truth is,  that she was right.  I don't know my English very well.  Today, I sit here, still wondering what the heck a dangling participle has to do with anything. But I found a way that works.  Ever hear of journalese? The definition of journalese is "a style of writing characteristic of newspapers or magazines, distinguished by triteness in thought". When I found this language it was like music to my ears. I didn't need to have all that English stuff in a sentence.  I knew how to express myself.....and years later, I did realize that job she questioned me pursuing.  Actually, I got something more..first job out of school, Sports Editor.  For the Albert Lea Tribune in Albert Lea, Minnesota.  Here's to you Mrs. Allen and to all the other squashers of dreams.

Now, as I look back.....my dream should have been to become a Man, not a sportswriter, first. Start with that ingredient.  A man that is responsible, loving, caring and nurturing.  I went the other way first, thinking that in becoming a sportswriter, I would have an identity.  If I had gone the man route, the one I now know God wants me to become, life wouldn't have been so difficult.  It has taken me years and years to learn the principles I described above.  And I'm still learning.  The great thing is that I get a chance to keep learning and understanding what makes a man. A Real Man.

Our family attends church at Lutheran Church of Hope in West Des Moines.  Our pastor, Mike Housholder, has been instructing us in recent weeks on "Dream Giver",  a book written by Bruce Wilkinson.  "Preacher Boy', as he affectionately calls himself on occasion, made the point this past weekend that the church, the physical size itself  (yes, it's that huge building on 75th and Ashworth in West Des Moines)  was not something he dreamed about.  Instead, it was the work that he was doing within the building.  Transforming lives, helping mold people.  That's what his dream was and is.     

I think back to July when our son Jonathan was waffling on his National Guard commitment.  He was confused, scared and frankly at a point in his life, that he needed some good mentoring.  I recall a meeting, my wife, I  and J had with Major Doug Houston.  For two hours, Major Houston listened to J as he told his "side" of the story.  How others had made him feel stupid in making a decision to join the military.   J didn't think he was ready on so many levels.  As a father, I knew different.  And as a molder.....so did Major Houston.  During this two hour session,  I saw in Major Houston a man full of compassion.  He wasn't short and to the point.  He had the patience of Job.  Through it all, he was molding.  Helping our son make the right choice at the right time in his life....but most importantly, helping him make the choice himself.

Weeks later after J went off to Basic, I asked him a fatherly type question.  "So how did everyone handle the first couple of days at Fort Knox?  Anyone think they had made a bad decision?"  Not missing a beat, he responded, " Oh yeah, we all did.  And there were alot of tears".  I got a chuckle out of that, and if I had let myself, it probably could have turned into a belly-laugh.  It wouldn't have been a matter of laughing at J and his fellow soldiers, but laughing with them....knowing that this was all part of the process.

I wonder what their reaction would be today?  When the graduation exercise ended there was a mad rush from all the families to see their sons.  The image will forever be ingrained in my mind and in my wife's mind when we locked eyes with our son for the first time in 10 weeks. The change was.....was................was......I can't put one word to it.  In mid-August, we had seen a young 18-year old off....and now he was a Man.  A complete transformation.  You could see it in his eyes, you could hear it in his speech and you could sense it in his walk.  The morning after graduation, J texted to thank me for coming to his graduation and for being there at "the best day of his life".  THE BEST DAY OF HIS LIFE.  He might not taken the popular road according to his friends, but he took the right one.
PV2 Jonathan Kelling

We owe so much of this change to Major Houston.  I've run into he and his wife, Angela, several times at church.  Oh, did I tell you, that when we finished our July meeting, I made some "church" comment and from that we found out that the Houston's also attend Lutheran Church of Hope.  My wife and I had prayed for the Lord to place us with a compassionate man that would show J the way. And look what He provided.

I've tried numerous times and in different ways to thank Major Houston for what he did for our family that day.  I'm not sure that he's ever said anything other than, "good" in his response before moving on to some other topic.  I'm sure part of this nonchalance is that Major Houston sees his role as a good and faithful servant.  And he is....and he is also transforming lives....as a molder of our young Men and Women helping them realize their dreams.  And for that, you deserve a bigger than life Thank You, Sir!    



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