Breakfast with Champions

In a previous post, I wrote about the twenty percent projects that my teacher has implemented in his classroom for the past couple of years.  This past Friday, my project began.

Let me tell you a little about it and what I have learned so far.

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Photo from OC Register Article by Mackenzie Reiss

This is Demetrius Harakas.  He owns the Fantastic Cafe in Santa Ana and is opening a new restaurant in Seal Beach in a couple of weeks.  He loves the 50’s and his diner is decorated in just that fashion.  He had searched for a car like the one above, for almost all his life.

His relatives in Massachusetts found one for him, he bought it, and then had it shipped to California.  He had it restored and now, for the past eight months he has picked up WWII veterans from their homes and taking them to the restaurant for a free breakfast and an eager ear to talk to.  As of now, he estimates that he has taken 70 WWII vets and their spouses to breakfast.

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Photo from OC Register Article by Mackenzie Reiss.

When he first brought his car home, and told my family and I his idea; I was amazed.  I thought, “What a cool experience for both him and the veteran”, but never thought anything more of it.  It wasn’t until we were given the assignment to “Find a need in the community, and feed it” that I came up with the idea of producing videos of Demetrius’ time with the veterans.  I knew that he wasn’t documenting them, except by personal journal, and I thought, “Man, that would be so cool to film.”  Especially, because in school we learn the factual history.  Though teachers try to use videos of firsthand accounts, we mainly have to learn facts: dates, names, and places.  How awesome would it be to have first hand filmed conversations with the veterans, available to everyone around the world?

So, I found a friend, brainstormed, pitched our idea to the film production class at our school and found someone to teach us to film.  Friday was our first day of filming, and it was such a great experience.  My two partners and I were able to sit down with a navy corpsman named Jim, who served in WWII, Vietnam, and Korea.  He was in the service for 24 years and had at least 30 medals on his lapel.  He was at the rank of master chief, with his official title being, master chief petty officer.

We learned so many interesting things from him, and his stories made history come alive for us.  That is exactly what we hope to accomplish in our project; to make history come alive for generations to come, when there are no more WWII vets to tell about it.  Did you know that WWII veterans are dying currently at a rate of 600 a day?  We want to preserve their accounts and stories before they are all gone, and become mere reenactment and guesswork.

If you are interested in seeing our progress, check out our blog:

www.breakfastwithchampions.wordpress.com

And take a look at our introductory video!

There you can nominate a veteran for a breakfast, providing the veteran lives in Orange County, California!  Thanks!

Failure is…Fun?

For the past three and a half years, I have been a cross-country and long distance track runner.  Running is basically all I know how to do well, sport wise.  I can throw a baseball, play soccer, and fumble my way through other sports, but I for sure do not excel at them.  Running, for me, is and was an escape, and it was something I was good at.

Unfortunately, I was too strong-willed and stubborn and made decisions that got me injured both at the end of my sophomore and junior year.  Sophomore year, I ran through a stress fracture and at the end of season had to take two months off.  Junior year, I injured my back before season even started.  I was out for five and a half months.  I learned a ton from these injuries, but that is a long story for another post.

Last Tuesday, I stopped running on cross-country and long distance track.  It was a huge step for me, because my team had become my family and my whole friend base.  Going into high school, I knew three people in the entire 3,650 student body.  Basically, I knew no one.  But once I joined cross-country, I knew and was friends over 200 people.

This post isn’t going to be what you think: a memory filled, sob story.  It’s about what I learned in the week after stopping.  Now, I didn’t stop entirely, I just moved events.  It feels like I am on a whole new team, playing a whole new sport, because I don’t practice with my old teammates anymore, but I’m still on the track team and so are they.  The only difference is now I’m a jumper and not a distance runner.  I choose to change events because my body couldn’t handle the high mileage of distance running any longer and it needed a break, but I wasn’t ready to give up all together.

This past week, I re-learned that one must fail in order for greatness to appear.  I failed on so many levels this week, but its okay because it is part of the curve of learning something new.  I had fun failing! Now, think about it, how many people can say that?

My favorite failure by far has to be weight room.  Distance runners at my school DO NOT lift any weights.  Picture the most scrawny arms you can imagine, got the image?  This week I failed at chin ups, dips, power cleans, and basically anything that we did that involved upper body strength.

We were doing chin ups from a dead hang (straight arms while hanging on to the bar).  We had a bungee to put one leg in and my friend had just flown through her sets, so I figured it couldn’t be that hard right?  Boy, was I wrong.  It took every ounce of concentration I had to pull my body up an inch from where it started.  And I still had at least a foot to go to even be near the bar.  Talk about weak and embarrassing.

Failing was fun this week, because I am challenging myself to do new things and break out of my comfort zone.  I look forward to the days when I have learned enough so I no longer fail everyday, but for now I’m okay and enjoying my failures. What about you?  How are you challenging yourself and enjoying the “failing” that comes with it?

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Our Job Market is Infected

mower man

In a recent conversation with my father, we were going back and forth about the state of the nation, the job market, and high schoolers.  You ask how they all fit together?  Good question.  Well,  the state of our nation has its good parts and its many not so good parts, the one I am talking about is the unemployment rate which directly relates to the job market.  How do high schoolers fit in?  They are the future of the job market.

During our conversation, my dad asked, “How many recent high school graduates know how to mow the lawn?”  To me, mowing the lawn is a simple task, I have know how to do it since I was twelve.  Defending my generation, I estimated that around forty percent of recent high school graduates in America know how to mow their own lawn.  Not that they all do, but they know how.

The sad part, is that my estimation is probably too high.  Especially for Southern California.  I have never lived anywhere else, so that is the basis of my opinions, but I would love to know if it is different elsewhere.  Obviously, in more farm intensive areas the statistics will be different, because using a lawn mower or farm equipment is second nature to kids in those areas.

I have noticed that in Southern California there are jobs that people want and jobs that people would never do because either they wouldn’t be caught dead at that job or they are “too good” for it.  The hot commodity jobs are those at the surf stores, trendy eateries, and coffee shops.  The not so hot jobs are ones that require manual labor and embarrassing outfits.  While I do not relish the chance of wearing a tacky uniform and bagging groceries, or working outside all day; a job is a job.  If I was looking for and needed a job, I would take any job I got.

Unfortunately, this mindset of not stooping to the “lowly” jobs is infecting our country.  I understand that it sucks to work in a job that you are overqualified for, and that many people who are in need of a job do.  But i definitely hear the complaint of “I’m broke” and “I need a job” among my peers more often than i should if they were willing to accept any job available.  In fact, I know for a fact that the local dollar store has been hiring for at least eight months.  So has the Big Lots right next to it.  At least high school students have the skills to work at these places.  Our current education system has partly set us up for this jobless infection.

All of the schools in my district no longer have auto shop and agriculture as electives.  They train us to go to college and become educated members of the work force and hold big positions that make a lot of money.  Unfortunately this will backfire on them eventually, because as they manufacture robot students who will all grow up to do big things, they will still need auto techs, gardeners, plumbers,contractors, construction workers, electricians, and farmers.  Thus the people with the “lowly and unwanted” jobs will be able to charge higher rates for their services because there are so few people who know how to do their job.

This job infection cycle will continue until we get smart enough to realize that not everyone is going to be a doctor with a six figure income and not everyone is going to work as an electrician or plumber, but everyone can find their job niche if they are allowed to search for what makes them happy instead of being pushed into the box that society wants them to conform into.

Width of Influence is Nothing Without Depth

How would you spend your last days?  Though this can be perceived as a fairly morbid thought, like “I have 3 days, 22 hours, 17 minutes, and 54 seconds to live, how am I going to spend it?”  Or it can be an inspirational thought, a change inducing thought, one of great value, and one that can improve your life.

Busy is a DRUG

As human beings, we are always rushing to do something.  Rushing to pick the kids up from sports, cramming to study for that super important final, dashing off to the grocery store to pick up milk and cereal, always going, going, going.  I do this all the time.  I am always squishing everything I can into my schedule so that between school, cross-country/track, church, and Fellowship of Christian Athletes; I have no time.  I relish the days where I am so physically worn down that it is impossible for me to do anything except stay at home and spend time with my family.  I don’t like these days because I like to be sick, I like them because they are a break from the grind I put myself through every day, day after day.  I know you are thinking, “Why don’t you just stop?  Why don’t you just do less?”  Let me ask you to examine your life and your schedule.  Does it look that much different from mine?  I’m betting that it doesn’t.

I really like this video.  It brings up so many thoughts and questions to ponder.  Most of all, this video propels me to answer the question.  How would I spend my last days?  Since I don’t know how many days I have left, just like every other person on Earth, I think about this question in terms of how I will be remembered.  In my lifetime, I want to have meaningful experiences, influence people for the better, and show people that they are loved.  I want to make a difference.  Now I know, that is so cliché.  But bear with me.

If my goal is to influence and make a difference in people’s lives, what am I doing to pursue my goal?  Most of the time, the answer is nothing, really.  I don’t have profound conversations with every person I meet, I don’t appreciate the people around me enough, I don’t listen.  I am a selfish person and 99.9% of the time the world seems to revolve around me.  Is that what I want to be remembered for? Not at all.

I need to STOP going.  I need to embrace interactions, relationships, and people.  I need to realize that making a difference is going to be about the small things, not the big ones.  I need to re-examine my life, look at all the things I do, and think, “Is this helping me influence the people involved?  Am I making a difference here?  Or am I spreading myself too thin, so that I am unable to build meaningful relationships with the people I am around because I am to busy to stop and chat as I am running to the next event?”

The width of one’s influence is nothing without depth.  If I can’t be more that mere “Facebook” level friends with the people I am around, I will be doing less.  My schedule, from this point on, is going to be filled with more free time.  I’m not going to stop doing, I’m simply going to stop going and going. I am going to leave more time for family, friends, and building relationships with people.  I’m going to live as if I was dying because that is the first step to achieving my mission of influencing and making a difference in other people’s lives.

What about you?  How would you spend your last days? What do you want to be remembered by? It would be totally awesome if I had people join me on my mission to have an impact on the world by going from selfishness to selflessness.  Leave a comment or send me an email, let’s influence the world together.

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