Dirty Hands

During my college days I was fortunate to get good summer jobs—not easy jobs—but grueling, physical, dirty jobs at the railyard replacing rail and ties, in construction, and at the Ford plant building trucks. What I thought I was doing was simply making good money and getting physically prepared for fall soccer. However, as I discovered later, I was actually being prepared for life and learning lessons that would serve me well in the future.

Dirty Hands Bob Strommen Blog

In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt – Margaret Atwood

By the end of that summer I was fit, toughened up, and my hardened, callused hands proof that I was ready for fall soccer. Perhaps more important, I was better prepared for life, as a captain of the soccer team, I was in a better position to lead by example for the upcoming season, I was better prepared for the toughness of life. I recall my first day of my first job: I was working for the Soo Line railroad the summer after my freshman year. The yard foreman looked around at a crew of clean-cut college kids fresh from the suburbs and asked to see the palms of our hands. As we displayed our hands, palms up, he not so subtly said “Just what I blankety-blank (his exact words would not be appropriate here) thought—you have never had a real job—let’s see if you know how to work.”

Did I enjoy that summer in the rail yard of the Soo Line Railroad in Columbia Heights? Heck no. Was it an invaluable experience that allowed me to walk into future summer jobs with a new sense of confidence and experience? Yes. Did future summer job foremen understand that I was better suited for the summer ahead? Yes. Would the lessons I learned impact me? Yes. Have I carried them with me throughout my adult life? Absolutely, but at times with too much pride. Since then, and more accurately recently, I have learned the value of others opinions, accepting them more graciously and with interest. Not everyone’s opinions, but those that have earned the right to give them.

I had received a gift—getting my hands dirty—that at the time I didn’t have the tools to appreciate.

Since then, and more accurately recently, I have learned the value of others opinions, accepting them more graciously and with interest. Not everyone’s opinions, but those that have earned the right to give them.

In the second to last Rocky movie, there is a scene where Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) talks to his son. He says something to the effect “It’s not how hard you can hit, it’s how many times you can get up after being hit that counts!”

In my opinion, it’s the person whose face has been bloodied, who has the scars of experience, sacrifice, toil, failure, and battle who has earned the right to express a meaningful opinion worthy of consideration. In fact, I like how Teddy Roosevelt framed it in “The Man in the Arena,” I have included an excerpt from the speech he delivered in April 1910 at the Sorbonne, in Paris.

Dirty Hands Quote Strommen Blog

I have been in the “arenas” of business, relationships, faith, and athletics. I have felt like Rocky Balboa in his first fight against Apollo Creed—beat up and bloody, but still standing. I struggle with regret, I mourn over losses that I have no control to correct. I desire to take the shoulders of those I have failed to ask for forgiveness, wishing they would take a look at me today and not totally judge me by the past. I am thankful that some have, and others regrettably choose to hang on to the past and not what the future can be.

Dirty Hands Face QuoteI have learned however, that control cannot be taken. Control must be earned, given or maybe more importantly, shared. This was reinforced when I was blessed with asking for forgiveness of some I have been associated with in the past. The expression of vulnerability and grace I expressed was overwhelming and created a bond that was not there in the past. Trust began to be re-established. What a wonderful experience grace can be and at the same time difficult lesson to have learned.

Where is the Mycitracin ointment to heal my wounds? (Is there Mycitracin for the soul and heart? Gosh I wish there was, maybe God infused Mycitracin is available? Doubt CVS or Walgreen’s carries it!). My wounds are healing slowly, but the scar will remain as they will be my reminder to get up and learn from my failures and get on with my life.

I feel blessed that I have received, and continue to receive, an amazing gift from those around me—ADVICE. I’ve received advice from those who have gotten their own face and soul bruised and bloodied. I have been, and continue to be, blessed by these same individuals who are willing to be intimate in our conversation and who care about me and others they touch beyond themselves. These authentic people are the ones I value. I challenge others to surround themselves with those who have been in the arena and to graciously listen to what they say as they are real in their perspectives.

I thank them for their emotional intimacy, for helping me mature and change, (gosh maybe that is God’s way of giving me that Heart Mycitracin I have been looking for), to help me look at life through a different lens, to challenge thoughts and beliefs, to help me do my best to be good. Who knows what the future has in store, maybe God has a surprise for me? Maybe forgiveness and 2nd chances can be the surprise? Time will tell as I have no control other than my faith and how I choose to live my life going forward.

I encourage all to reflect on a relationship that has suffered, and to reach out and demonstrate or ask for grace, the outcome can be life changing and the relationship will never be the same.

Why else do I keep getting up?…… I care!

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4 thoughts on “Dirty Hands

  1. This is your best work to date! Thanks for sharing

    Greg Holker Men’s Soccer Coach Asst. Manager Athletic Facilities Augsburg College 2211 Riverside Avenue Minneapolis, MN 55454 612-330-1424 (office) 612-327-1579 (cell) holker@augsburg.edu

    On Fri, May 13, 2016 at 11:04 AM, Ramblings from Bob wrote:

    > bobstrommenblog posted: “During my college days I was fortunate to get > good summer jobs—not easy jobs—but grueling, physical, dirty jobs at the > railyard replacing rail and ties, in construction, and at the Ford plant > building trucks. What I thought I was doing was simply making g” >

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    • Thank you Greg, I appreciate your comment, ongoing following of this fun aspect of my life. More importantly, however, Thank you for the manner in which you are working to develop a great program at Augsburg and preparing those you touch for the post Augsburg Soccer world in being better humans with the right balance in life. Learning to live a life with Purpose is a great foundation of the Augsburg experience and value.

      Keep it up
      Bob

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  2. Bob, this is a poignant post that I find most difficult to consider a rambling. I have shared it on my FB wall and asked FB friends to please find a chair, and sit down for a spell; to read each word slowly…let it seep into their soul….for you have spoken with such vulnerability, Bob, that your words could not avoid exuding TRUTH. Bob….it has been said that “Vulnerability sounds likes truth and feels like courage.” Brene Brown continues, ” Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they are never weakness.” I’ve asked my FB friends NOT to miss the strength in another FB friend’s message–to dare greatly and step into the arena with me just for a moment–for I know they will be truly blessed by your Ramblings…no–that’s Truth…with a capital T!!!! Thank you for sharing with such vulnerability; for coming out of your ‘corner of the forest’ and bringing this Truth to us! In other words, in the words of my favorite philosopher, Winnie the Pooh ( 😉 ) , “You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.” ― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh As your wounds are healing, remember this, sharing your scars will change the world…and by that…you’re in some pretty good company…for even Jesus had scars…and we know–how we know—His scars changed the world for eternity!

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    • Diane, thank you for the kindness of your words and affirmation in my Ramblings. Your eloquent assessment of what I was attempting to communicate felt great.

      Life and Faith maturity feels GREAT,

      Bob

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