Guest Blog: Twenty Years and Counting…

For the last 20 or so years, Elizabeth Forward Middle School has been sending its 6th graders to ‘A Musical Christmas Carol’. (A show I have been acting in for 25 years.) Later in the year I go to their school and speak to those same 6th graders about achieving their goals.

This has become a ‘thing’ that happens nowadays in many schools, and I welcome it with open arms! They see a man who had absolutely no idea how to become a full-time actor in Pittsburgh, (To say that out loud seems almost ridiculous!)  and get to talk to him about how he achieved that goal.

(This picture is ridiculous! I tried to take a selfie with them but did not know, as I told them I was going to take the picture, they were charging the stage. Didn’t have my glasses on. I still kind of like it.)

It’s honestly a simple formula. I chose what wanted to do, I found people who were willing to help me, and I didn’t give up. We live at a time that seems to enjoy setting people up for failure, but I really enjoy being the voice that screams, “You control your destiny! Find something you love and grab hold of it, and never let go!”

Maybe there is someone in your life who could use that same encouragement. It’s really worth it to be that rallying voice! My parents did that for me, and I thank them every day.  So, get out there and let a child know you believe they can do something they love! (Thanks, Mom and Dad!)

 [Tim Hartman is an actor and storyteller from Pittsburgh, PA. You can read more of his blogs and see more of his story at his website, Tim Hartman.]

You’re Not Talking to the Paperboy!

My lovely Bride and I were recently watching a rerun of an old TV show we enjoy. We relish it principally for the clever dialog. It espouses a philosophy to which we don’t subscribe and of which we’re not particularly fond. Still, we find it entertaining.

I mention it because of a line that was expressed a couple times in quick succession by two of the actors. They were conversing with one other in a heated tone when one of them said, “You’re not talking to the paperboy.” After furthering the discussion briefly, the other shot the same quip back at him.

We’re all so important.

As you have probably surmised, this barb was used because they were very sure of themselves. Each character was smugly implying that he had credentials, authority, and a great education. In short, each man was asserting to the other that he was important.

We see this type of attitude all over the place. We see it in big ways and small ways, but it’s all around us. Everybody is number one—numero uno. Few people seem willing to take a back seat to anyone else—for almost anything. Everyone’s opinion is worth more than anyone else’s, and by golly, everyone else better listen.

If you don’t think that’s true, check out Facebook sometime. Social media, in general, is a place where this attitude breaks forth like flowers in springtime. I have ceased to be amazed by it, and it can be really irritating.

Type the simplest, most innocent remark on your FB wall and see what happens. More often than not, someone will pounce on it. People seem to be like stalkers lying in wait. How dare you have an opinion that might differ from theirs?

How does the paperboy feel?

As I watched the aforementioned TV show, I wondered how the paperboy felt about being referred to in such a demeaning manner. The characters in that show obviously had a less-than-favorable view of paperboys. At the very least, they viewed themselves with a great deal more importance than they would ascribe to the daily deliverer of the printed news.

Truth be told, the paperboy is as important as the two narcissists in the TV show. He may not have the education, authority, or credentials the other two have, but he’s a human being of worth. He has value, feelings, and probably does his job well. I wonder what he says on his Facebook page.

There was an old Mac Davis song in which he sang the line, “Oh Lord, it’s hard to be humble when you’re perfect in every way.” As funny as that is, it can be dangerously close to the truth. We don’t have to be perfect to find it hard to be humble.

The greatest humility we’ve ever seen occurred when God Almighty humbled himself to take the form of a human being (Philippians 2:5-11). In a real sense, he was the ultimate paperboy. Given that fact, maybe it’s a good idea to talk to the paperboy after all.

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and is currently the pastor of Smith Chapel, in Great Falls, VA.]

Swimming in the Wrong Lane

 My lovely Bride recently had her annual review at her long-time place of employment. It turned out quite well, which was no surprise to me. She was quite proud of it, as well she should have been. She gave me the opportunity to read it over, and one sentence, in particular, jumped out at me.

Her reviewer said this. “I was impressed by her willingness to step outside of her swim lane…”

I think a couple things struck me about this statement. First off, I don’t think I’ve ever heard that phrase before. I’m a sucker for originality, so it quickly caught me by the throat. My attention was piqued as it were.

I used to play one on TV

The second thing that made me take a second look was the way it was used. I’m no swimmer, but I’ve played one on TV (sorry—couldn’t resist). Actually, I’ve observed an Olympic swim race or two (Michael Phelps and all that…). It seems to me, staying in your lane is considered a good thing.

In the review, it was used in just the opposite way. The reviewer was saying that my spouse was to be commended for being willing to move from her lane and help out in another one. Though it would be a no-no in swim racing, it’s apparently a plus in the corporate world.

Swimming in the wrong lane, it seems to me, must be a tricky business. Helping someone out is usually a good thing. In the professional world, however, the people you help could actually look upon it as some sort of intrusion—even a threat. Apparently, my lovely Bride is tactful enough to pull it off.

In my view, swimming in the wrong lane is (or should be) commonplace for us as Christians as well. There are any number of places in Scripture where we are urged to be our sister’s keeper or go the extra mile for a brother. We’re faced with these decisions all the time. Sometimes we realize the choices before us, but occasionally we don’t even recognize them.

No harm, no foul?

In one of his more famous parables, Jesus told the story we call “The Good Samaritan.” A guy (presumably a Jewish guy) was lying alongside a road having been beaten by thieves and robbed. As the story goes, a Jewish priest and then a Levite passed by him on the other side of the road. These two guys apparently were willing to play it safe and stay in their lane.

A third guy came along and helped him out. As you may remember, man number three was a Samaritan. If you know anything about the Samaritans and Jews, you know there was no love lost between the two groups. Still, the Samaritan sucked it up and moved to the other lane—the lane the two previous men had declined to enter.

I guess sometimes it’s a good thing to swim in the wrong lane. At least, Jesus thinks so. Maybe we should attempt it more often.

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and is currently the pastor of Smith Chapel, in Great Falls, VA.]