Mitchell Richards [Words]

Month: April, 2011

Tourism

Last week, I drove up to Lincoln, Nebraska to see my grandfather in the hospital. If you have never made that drive, congratulations, I envy you. It’s about two hours of nothing in Oklahoma until you reach Kansas when, almost immediately after crossing the border, your nothing turns into wheat fields for about 4 hours until you reach Nebraska, when the wheat turns to corn. Not a lot going on up there. But I did notice a trend while driving through all those dinky little towns in the middle of nowhere: they all claim something. Each one of them seemed to have some random museum or were the home to some obscure fake celebrity or sport’s star.

In Concordia, Kansas I saw signs that I originally thought said “National Orphan Museum” but was actually the “National Orphan Train Museum.” And even after going to a website, I’m not 100% clear on what that actually means.

In Hebron, Nebraska I stumbled upon the “World’s Largest Porch Swing” which I soon learned had an air of controversy surrounding it, as it is not listed in the Guinness Book of World Records, nor is it actually on a porch:

Not far from Hebron, back in Kansas, I have heard rumors of the world’s largest ball of string…maybe next time.

After hopping on I-80 in York, Nebraska, which you will recognize because of their water tower shaped like a hot-air balloon, I ran in to this fellow just hanging out on the side of the road:

A few years ago when I was driving to San Diego, somewhere in the Texas panhandle I remember bumping into the “Largest Cross in the Western Hemisphere.” I just like how it’s not the largest in the world, just in the western hemisphere.

And of course all of this is coming from a guy from the city of Yukon Oklahoma, home of Garth Brooks and apparently, as our water tower says, the home of the “1986 State Girls Softball Champs.”

My point here is that everyone wants to be famous for something. These rural towns in the middle of nowhere probably have money set aside in the city budget for “tourism” and they have to burn it on something. When I made the detour to see the porch swing, there were signs up and down the street guiding me to it. Every town has a claim to fame, or in other words, every town has a story that they want you to hear. Every town thinks they are important, and they want to share that with you.

Yukon is home to Route 66, the mother road. It is apart of our story, as well as other cities stretched across the United States. You can’t be on Route 66 without knowing you’re on Route 66 in any of those cities because they have signs posted everywhere. If you wanted, you could go right into our local Walmart (which is not located on Route 66) and buy a t-shirt or shot glass commemorating Route 66. The road is a part of our story. Just as the Chisholm Trail is apart of our story. Just as the Orphan Trains are apart of their story. They just want you to hear it.

And this is the part of the story where you and the city connect.

You have a story as well and to you it may seem insignificant, like in the case of the world’s largest ball of string, but you have to let your story be known. Does anyone actually want to see a ball of string?  You’d be surprised.  But regardless, you have to tell your story like everyone want to hear it.  Show off your ball of string and make everyone believe it’s worth the 15 minute detour. God has given you your story, and you must take it, embrace it, and share it.

Yukon is about 15 minutes from Oklahoma City and the 1995 Bombing Memorial. One of the craziest and most tragic days in our country’s history. And as sad and emotional as that moment was, the bombing is a part of OKC’s story. You cannot talk about the city without talking about those dark days. It’s a scar to us down here, a wound that is still healing, but it is still our story. Refusing to tell the story is dishonoring to our city.

Refusing to tell our story is dishonoring yourself, no matter the scars and wounds. Those are yours, embrace them.

We may not have our own water towers and street signs to display our stories, we may not have t-shirts saying “Home of Divorce or Depression or Cutting or Addiction” or even signs that say “Home of The Best Laugh This Side of the Mississippi or Voted Best Hugger or I Actually Listen” but we have to make these things known. Every chance we get. God has funded you with the necessary tools and advertisement to let yourself be known, and in turn, making Him be known as well. Because your story may seem like your story, but isn’t it really about something or someone else? Are the stories of revival in Africa and China stories of Africa and China, or of something else? Failing to tell your story is failing to tell God’s story.

I get it, you think your story is dumb. The equivalent to you being the hometown of Nickelback or something, I get it, you think no one cares. And to be honest, the majority of people probably won’t. Your story will fall upon more deaf ears and people that could care less than people who will give you the time of day. But someone out there needs to hear it. Trust me.

You only have one story, and you can try and rip out certain pages of that story and run from them, but it’s not doing you any justice. If you rip out important pages of a book, the story becomes boring. Do not do the same to your story. Embrace it, run with it, and tell it.

Mitchell Richards, home of insecurities, unfulfilled potential, good listening, and pride.

What do you have? What is your story?

Advertisements

Clash: What Coaching 6 & 7 Year Olds Soccer Has Taught Me. [Part 1]

A couple of months ago I was playing indoor soccer on a team with some people from work. I played a lot of soccer growing up, but stopped playing when I was in high school because going through a late puberty kind of made me awkward while I was adjusting to my six foot and growing frame. But I recently started playing indoor soccer again, and I volunteered my services as a goalie for one of the teams I was playing for. A lot of the people on the team had never played soccer before, and when you are a goalie just standing around isn’t fun and so you help your team out by telling them what to do and where to be, when to attack and when to lay back. It is a lot of fun. One game as I was yelling to my team I thought, “Hey, I should do this a lot more.” So I made a few emails and phone calls and next thing I know I’m coaching 6 and 7 year old coeds in soccer.

We played our fifth game today and we have lost every game. But I have learned a few things in the process that I feel I should share with you about life.

Laugh.

These kids make me laugh, even when I am in a bad mood at practice or a game these guys will force me to cheer up. And even though at times they can be bouncing off the walls and not paying attention, they say the most ridiculous things sometimes. They remind me of my childhood, the days when life really was carefree and wonderful, and for a few hours each week they remind me how to be that again. They make me laugh at them in their ridiculousness which eventually makes me laugh at myself because of mine.

Winning isn’t everything.

As I said, we haven’t won a game yet. 0-5. But I will honestly say that I would take these kids over any of the other kids in the league. What we lack in talent we make up for with character and that quality that makes you smile. I listen to some of the other coaches yell [at] their players, it goes beyond telling them what to do and where to be and into a different realm. I yell [to] my players to get them to do that, but I don’t criticize only show the way. I want to go over to the other side and tell the coach to chill out, but then I realize they are killing us on the scoreboard so I assume they are doing something right.

In life, people will never meet [your] agenda. I want one of the kids to attack the ball but today at our game he was sitting in the grass. I’ve learned that you cannot coach fierceness, aggression, and competitiveness. In practice, I feel like I am constantly telling the kids to pick up the pace, they seem to walk through practice and it’s hard to motivate them to go full speed.

We may be losing, but I think we are usually having more fun than the team that is kicking our butts, and with that, I am satisfied.

No one will ever see eye to eye with you in every circumstance, but we must always remember that we are standing on the same ground, we are playing the same field.

Progress.

I remember the first practice and I remember the first game, and even though we haven’t won a game yet I see their progress. Life never stops, as you know. It never waits for you to catch up when you skid your knee. Life is beautiful in the way that when you fall and need a break, it continues to progress and move ahead and at the same time it moves behind you, nudging you to get up and catch up. I remember some of the kids used to cry when they got kicked. Imagine a bunch of 6 year olds trying to all kick one ball, you’re going to get kicked just watching it. But today I saw no tears and some pretty mean kicks to the shin.

Everyone has a place.

I’ve learned that, just as it is with the body of Christ, everyone plays their part. Not everyone can play goalie, not everyone can score goals, and not everyone can play every minute of the game. But in the same way that not everyone can play goalie, someone has to. Not everyone can score, but someone has to. I’m figuring these kids out and figuring out their place on the team and who they play better with and who they don’t. We all need rest.

I’m proud of my team, the U7 Clash, because they are awesome. I know it’s cliché, but I’m teaching these kids very little in comparison to all they are teaching me. I don’t even care if we lose the rest of our games. I’m so proud of these kids. I also wanted to write this blog, not because I had anything particularly interesting to say, but because I wanted to brag how awesome they were.

Friday/Hotel Art/Everything Is Beautiful

I don’t like country music, and coming from someone who lives in the hometown of Garth Brooks, I suppose that is saying something. I once referred to country music as “sort of like the paintings in cheap hotel rooms, it’s technically art, but no one particularly cares for it.” I guess that is one of the great things about being human, we are all entitled to our own opinions. In an unrelated note, I have learned that if you ever want to really offend someone, criticize their favorite music and they will probably hold it against you forever.

But, I digress.

The internet has recently come under attack by a viral wonder known as Rebecca Black and her song “Friday”. I would be hard-pressed to find someone who has not seen or heard this terrible song or one of its many parody spin-offs (such as a church version called Sunday). I was reminded of the song last night, and to be honest I have had it stuck in my head all day. Not because of it’s great lyrics or melody, but because of its sheer annoyance. For those who have not seen it:

See what I mean? It’s terrible, right?

But…

And of all the places there is to be a but, this is not one that comes lightly…

But “Friday” is still art. And art is always good. Someone, somewhere, sat in their room and penned those lyrics in an action that is probably very similar to what I am doing right now. You have to fight off a lot of evil forces in order to create something, no matter how…simple…or terrible. You have to carve out time in your day, freak out, search for words, and most importantly make half sense.

It’s a difficult thing to do you know.

I am not a painter by any stretch of the imagination, but I dabble from time to time. I have painted three things that are currently hanging on the walls of my apartment. I’m exceptionally proud of one of them, but the other two I could do without I think. I like them, but when I look at them all I see are the flaws, the missed brushstrokes and off coloration, those sorts of things. I was reminded the other day that I am my own worst critic. I don’t fully agree with that, but for the most part I am.

And here in-lies the key to creativity. Every thing is beautiful. Every thing that has been created, every dumb YouTube song, every dumb painting that looks like a kid did it with his fingers, every poem that doesn’t rhyme, and every story that has a bad ending, they are all beautiful. We don’t see it a lot, but it’s true.

I have no great gift for words, my grammar is bad, I’m still not 100% sure what a preposition is, and I don’t know the meanings of a lot of words. I’m sure someone out there will read my stuff and think that it is amateur, hotel art if you will. But to me, creation is a struggle. It is sometimes a pain in the ass to write things that God has inspired me with. Very few times am I actually pleased with what I write, often times I want to bang on the keyboard because the words in my mind cannot come out fast enough for my fingers and I forget where I was going, I forget what I want to say, I lose focus and chase my tail for about an hour or so until I…

Slow down, Mitchell, slow down.

Creativity is not always about the creation, most of the time it is about the act of creating. It’s about shaking off the dust of your paintbrushes, and relearning where “Q” is on the keyboard. It’s not always about the outcome as much as it is the process. And then, if you do it long enough, one time you’ll tap in to something bigger than yourself, something you don’t feel comfortable taking full credit for. And even though it may never be seen by anymore than 6 people, it is not hotel art. It is not “Friday”. It’s our masterpiece. Creativity is about churning out about 999 pieces of bullshit to find the one gem in the pile.

So, Rebecca Black, do not give up creating. People who paint baskets of fruit for hotel room walls, do not give up creating. People who write silly blogs hoping someone will read them, I will not quit typing. Our masterpiece is coming when we least expect it.