Happy Martin Luther King Day

I went out to grab a quick bite during the lunch hour hoping to get right back to my desk full of work. It was a nice day and I do enjoy getting outside for half hour midday, it’s a good way to clear my head. This particular day it’s going to be comfort food, good old KFC. I love KFC’s chicken; to me it’s like chocolate is to some people, I could eat it every day. I'm in line behind a retired person and she has all day to decide what she'll eat for lunch. In my head I can hear impatience, lady it's chicken, either you get crispy, original or broiled; it's not a wine choice. Please let’s get on with it. I normally tell my retired lawyer friend Ed, Ya knowretired people shouldn't be allowed out during the work week at lunch hour. They just impede those of us who work to pay their social security benefit. I tell myeslf to take a breath and to chill out.

Okay, she’s decided on original, good I can get back to working for the government. One more guy in line and I’ll be at the counter ready to plop down a Hamilton. The person taking the orders has a lot, and I mean a lot, of tattoos. In my head I’m thinking, “What’s that about?” You know as a lawyer and being a product of a strict mother I suspect anyone with tattoos must be from one or two places. They are either from the work release program or the carnival. I’m never really sure which choice is closer, probably neither, but still I like this clerk at KFC. At one time I thought the clerks working here were probably paying back their dues to society by serving up the Colonel. I could be wrong on that one. Today I can only say good for them, I like people with troubles; they are like the people at Dahls. Real people with real problems not like the puffed up snobs at HyVee trying to prove there is a helpful smile in every aisle. People at Dahls or KFC pray their faces are never on a semi-truck trailer, because that would mean they went missing.

He’s decided on extra crispy. I’m at the counter and order a three piece snack, original of course. Why do I choose original? It has much to do with keeping my cardiologist employed. I worry the baked or extra crispy choice may interfere with my cardiologist earning a healthy living. I’m a very thoughtful patient.

Without further adieu my food is served and off I go to a table to enjoy a few minutes of quiet contemplation with the Colonel. As I move through the dining area two teens are giving their grandmother a hard time. A quick look indicates these boys don’t need fried chicken, they need exercise. Grandma is busy picking food up off the floor, wiping it off the chairs and generally attempting to make the area where they ate not look like Hurricane Katrina just left. Oh boy I think, this poor woman and what's with these boys.

I sit and the mess surrounding their table begins to creep to mine. I’m thinking what is going on? These two noisy brats are berating their mother who has now come back from the washroom. At first I just listen, then turn to watch. After a half minute I look around the dining room and wonder who else is wondering if this is going to stop anytime soon. No one wants to get involved. They are all staring mindlessly into their plate of chicken and gravy. Mom comes into my head. She would have never put up with this ‘nonsense’. They are now arguing with their mother over money for the gumball machine and in the process disturbing everyone in the dining area. They don’t seem to be mindful of anyone except themselves and what they want, which at those minute is a quarter. The grandmother is saying "listen to your mother" – this draws more noise from the two who are like tugboats in a tight harbor. I now take a closer look to size up how this might end. These two are 10 to 14 years old and well over 200# - their table, the chairs and the floor are a complete mess and the grandmother obviously embarrassed was attempting to clean it up while these two brats just kept at their mother. The one says to his mother who has little control, "Now give it to me you're embarrassing me!” 

What? Tell me he didn't just say that. The mental dam that's been restraining me weakens pouring Coach Lombardi all over the field of play. Seriously, you didn’t just say that? Oh please tell me you didn’t just say she’s embarrassing you. My mother would have gone through the roof. But of course we would have never said this because we knew this about my mother. She raised five kids all alone after my father passed away. We were between 2 and 14 at that time.  In my brain I hear, "ARE YOU KIDDING ME? What are these two brats learning about life and being responsible adults?" I look around the dining room trying to buy time and hoping they will just leave, but in my mind I can’t let this one go without saying something.  In a voice louder than theirs I yell across the dining room, "Hey!" They all look over at me. "Sit down and listen to your mother, she's not embarrassing you it's you embarrassing her .... and yourself." Then I realize the entire dining room is quiet, looking in my direction and smiling; although I’m not.

The older boy puts his head down and heads for the exit door. On the way out the mother hangs back, turns to me and flashes a big smile.

But all I can think of is the Participation Trophy Syndrome. Show up and we tell you you’re a winner for doing nothing, adding nothing to the world and simply existing. The parents who teach this are as bad as the losers who ultimately accept participation trophies. Only a loser will accept a participation trophy, because a winner wants to win one. Telling someone they are a winner when they aren't cheats them out of developing a strong character. Handing out "trophies" to someone that didn't win one reinforces bad character. It's no wonder the Iowa Judges have the case load they do. 

Martin Luther King never was given a participation trophy. If Dr. King were alive today he wonder, how did we get to the point where we are willing to put up with this?

Steve Lombardi
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Iowa personal injury, workers' compensation, motorcycle, quadriplegic, paraplegic, brain injury, death
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