An Interesting Psychology Experiment

Monkeys

Have you heard the story about the psychology experiment? Here’s how it goes:

You start with a cage containing four monkeys. Inside the cage you hang a banana on a string. Then you place a set of stairs under the banana. Before long a monkey will go to the stairs and climb toward the banana.

You then spray ALL the monkeys with cold water. After a while, another monkey makes an attempt. As soon as he touches the stairs, you spray ALL the monkeys with cold water. Pretty soon, when another monkey tries to climb the stairs, the other monkeys will try to prevent it.

Now, put away the cold water. Remove one monkey from the cage and replace it with a new monkey. The new monkey sees the banana and attempts to climb the stairs. To his shock, ALL of the other monkeys beat the dickens out of him. After another attempt and attack, he knows that if he tries to climb the stairs he will be assaulted.

Next, remove another of the original four monkeys, replacing it with a new monkey. The newcomer goes to the stairs and is attacked. The previous newcomer takes part in the punishment – with enthusiasm – because he is now part of the “team.”

Then replace a third original monkey with a new monkey, followed by the fourth. Every time the newest monkey takes to the stairs, he is attacked.

In every case, the experienced monkeys that are beating up the new monkey have no idea why they were not permitted to climb the stairs. Neither do they know why they are participating in the beating of the newest monkey. Having replaced all the original monkeys, none of the remaining monkeys will have ever been sprayed with cold water.

Nevertheless, not one of the monkeys will try to climb the stairway for the banana. Why, you ask? Because in their minds, that is the way it has always been!

The original version of this story goes on to make application by suggesting that “monkeys” holding certain elected offices in governmental circles should all be replaced at the same time. It goes on to say that this suggestion is meant to show no disrespect to monkeys.

I’ll suggest another application, albeit a fairly obvious one. In circles other than governmental ones, the same phenomenon sometimes occurs. In families, schools, churches, community organizations, neighborhoods, civic clubs, social groups, and almost any other collection of people one can imagine, traditions abound.

We often don’t know the source of traditions we follow. We simply follow them. Why? Because they are traditions. We’ve always done things that way.

Most folks my age, and many folks even younger than I, are pretty cotton pickin’ traditional. Yet unless breaking a tradition requires violating biblical, moral, legal, or ethical principles, a tradition might well be replaced by a new practice that better accomplishes the organization’s purposes or objectives.

You might want to remember this story next time you come across a tradition that seems to have no intrinsic value or detracts from the mission you and your group are trying to achieve.

During his earthly life, Jesus broke many traditions. And on a topic far more important than earthly traditions, he said: “Behold, I make all things new!” (Rev. 21:5)

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The Head. The Guest. The Listener.

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Today’s quote is from Confucius: “To put the world in order, we must first put the nation in order; to put the nation in order, we must put the family in order; to put the family in order, we must cultivate our personal life; and to cultivate our personal life, we must first set our hearts right.”

All-knowing Wikipedia says Confucius was born in 551 BC and died in 479 BC.  He was a Chinese teacher, editor, politician, and philosopher who emphasized personal and governmental morality, correctness of social relationships, justice, and sincerity.

In addition to being quoted frequently in Chinese fortune cookies, Confucius is traditionally credited with having authored or edited many of the Chinese classic texts, emphasizing common Chinese tradition and belief. He championed strong family loyalty, ancestor veneration, and respect of elders by their children and of husbands by their wives.

He also recommended family as a basis for ideal government and espoused the well-known Golden Rule principle, stated a bit differently from the more familiar rendition: “Do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself.”

Better than the words of Confucius are the words of the plaque on the wall of my childhood home: “Christ is the head of this home, the unseen guest at every meal, the silent listener to every conversation.” Wouldn’t it be great if that plaque were hanging on the wall in every home?

And how about what Jesus said to the man who asked, “Teacher, which commandment is the greatest in the Law?” Jesus said: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.”

If those who looked at the words on that plaque and who held the words of Jesus in their heart would take them seriously, putting the world in order would be not only possible but also feasible and attainable.

That’s a big “if” in our world today! But we have to start somewhere. How about in your home and heart … and in mine? Love Jesus with all you are and all you have! Invite him to be The Head, The Listener, The Guest in your home!

Worth Remembering

ProposalLast week Terry shared with me a story she had received via email. An elderly man whose wife had recently died attended his 75th high school reunion. Soon after arriving he saw across the room an old high school girlfriend whose husband had also passed away. He immediately went across the room, engaged in conversation with her and asked her to dance.

The couple spent the entire evening on the dance floor. As the reunion party ended the man asked his old flame if she would marry him. She quickly replied “Yes!” The two 93 year-olds kissed excitedly, exchanged phone numbers and parted company for the night.

The next morning the man, whose memory wasn’t what it used to be, remembered having a great evening. But he couldn’t recall for certain whether he had actually asked his high school sweetheart to marry him. So he picked up the phone and called her to find out.

When she answered the phone, he asked: “Did I ask you to marry me last night?” Her ecstatic reply was: “Thank you so much for calling! I remembered receiving a marriage proposal but I couldn’t remember from whom it came!”

Next Monday will be the 51st anniversary of the night I asked my dear Terry to marry me. I recall it clearly. For 51 years I’ve had no trouble remembering the significance of August 15, 1965!

Neither of us has been out of high school 75 years. Yet both of us sometimes have minor lapses of memory, finding it occasionally difficult to recall what so far have been matters of minor significance. Perhaps you can identify with that reality.

Some things are never forgotten. Births, baptisms, confirmations, parents, siblings, grandparents, friends, teachers, pastors, educational experiences, marriages, children, vocational callings, grandchildren, deaths of family members and personal friends—many of these are likely on your lists of people, events and experiences worth remembering.

One more thing worth remembering: “The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” (Deut. 31:8)

Thank God for experiences and people of significance in your life! And thank God for his grace! That’s a blessing absolutely worth remembering!

Mother’s Day and Cinco de Mayo

FlowersToday is Cinco de Mayo, the fifth of May, commemorating the Mexican army’s victory over France at the Battle of Puebla in 1862 during the Franco-Mexican War (1861-1867). Cinco de Mayo is a celebration of Mexican culture and heritage, particularly in areas of large Mexican-American populations, with parades, mariachi music performances and street festivals.

This coming Sunday is another very important day in our country! Mother’s Day in the United States is held annually on the second Sunday of May. It’s a time to celebrate and to express special appreciation for mothers. Many people give gifts, cards (which have become ridiculously expensive), flowers, candy, a special meal or other treats to their mother or mother figures, including grandmothers, great-grandmothers, stepmothers, and foster mothers.

Recently I saw a YouTube video depicting a telephone job interview. Prospective applicants responded to the job description narrated by the interviewer. Here are excerpts:

  • This will probably be the most important job you will ever hold.
  • Nearly all the time on the job you’ll be on your feet.
  • You’ll need to bend over a great deal of the time.
  • A high level of stamina will be required.
  • Duties include occasionally having to stay up with an associate throughout the night.
  • Breaks for lunch may be taken only when the associate is done eating his/her lunch.
  • No time off for vacation, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s or other holidays.
  • The job is basically 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with little if any break.
  • It would be helpful to have a degree in medicine, finance or the culinary arts.
  • This position is totally voluntary and pays absolutely nothing.
  • Excellent negotiation and interpersonal skills are a must.

It’s not hard to discern that this interview is a satire describing motherhood. It’s an incredibly difficult responsibility, a never ending task. It’s also a sacred calling, modeled by Jesus himself. He cared deeply for his mother, expressing that care even in his last moments of life on the cross.

To my own dear Mother, now 100 years of age, I say thank you so very much for everything you’ve done for me and for the rest of our family, including your daughter-in-law, sons-in-law, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great great-grandchildren. We all love you very much!

Happy Mother’s Day to mothers everywhere! God bless you all abundantly!

April Birthdays

Birthday CakeApril has special significance for me. It’s the birth month of four very important women in my life, listed here in chronological order by unspecified year, beginning with the youngest:

  • Our daughter Angie was born April 6.
  • My wife Terry was born April 10.
  • Terry’s mother Dorothy was born April 15. She passed away five years ago.
  • My mother Elda was born April 10.

Alas! Our granddaughter Kayla, born August 18, missed the April list. She’s still very special!

Without divulging the specific age of each of the four, I’ll simply point out that one sweet April lady on the list is within five days of being twenty years younger than one of the others and is exactly thirty years younger than another on the list. You can do the math.

One of these ladies, God willing, will celebrate her 100th birthday this coming Sunday, April 10. As my readers may recall from prior editions of Perspectives, Mother is ready to go to heaven to see Jesus. She’s growing weaker physically yet remaining strong spiritually and emotionally.

While not looking forward to her leaving us, I believe it’s accurate to say the 54 members of Mom’s immediate family have come to realize that praying for God to keep her here would be selfish on our part. Consequently, we’ve been praying for God to grant Mother’s desire to trade her life here on earth for life in the new heaven and the new earth. (2 Pet. 3; Rev. 21) That’s not an easy prayer.

In the meantime, we celebrate the fairly rare milestone Mom is scheduled to achieve this coming Sunday. Many of you have enhanced that celebration by sending cards, notes and emails. Mother is absolutely flabbergasted at receiving greetings from people across the country, many of whom she doesn’t even know. Thank you very much for your thoughtfulness in helping make Elda’s 100th birthday celebration an occasion to remember.

I love you, Mom! I love Dorothy’s memory! I love you, Terry! I love you, Angie! I love you, too, Kayla! All of you have blessed my life beyond measure! Happy Birthday to each of you!

Here’s an idea, dear readers. Take the time to tell the women (and also the men) in your life how much you love them and thank God for them! There’s no time better than the present to do so!

Caring for Aging Parents

Elderly 1While that’s a topic not entirely new to Terry and to me, we’re certainly no experts. Her father, mother and stepfather passed away a few years ago. Her mother died after hospitalization from an auto accident, although she had previously spent some time in assisted living. Neither Terry’s father nor stepfather required long term care beyond the capacity of family and very close friends to provide. Yet the care family and friends did provide was both physically and emotionally demanding.

My father passed away over 33 years ago. Although he died at home, the time and energy Mom spent caring for him was very likely more consuming than any of us children might have imagined at the time. We weren’t there all the time. Mother was there, lovingly caring for her husband, watching him gradually slip away, leaving her and our family at the relatively tender age of 66 years.

As mentioned in a previous article, almost three weeks ago Mother moved to assisted living. She’s gradually making the adjustment, which may never be totally complete. Yet she knows she can’t care for herself and can no longer live alone, as she had since Daddy’s passing. She also knows her family can’t provide the almost constant care her significantly weakened condition demands.

She’s taking it one day at a time. So are the rest of us, including my sisters Carol (her husband Jerry is deceased), Karen and her husband Mel, Debbie and her husband Curtis, Terry and yours truly. From longer distances but nevertheless watching closely and praying fervently are Mother’s twelve grandchildren plus nine spouses; 22 great grandchildren plus two spouses; and three great great grandchildren (one deceased). Granny is dearly loved!

So how do loved ones care for an aging parent or grandparent or other beloved family member or friend? Last week I asked my readers for suggested answers to that question. Here are some of the responses I received:

  • Have patience! Lord willing, we will all live long enough to be in their position one day. I’ll want the love and respect of my family, not their sharp tongues and rolling eyes and all the ways children might express exasperation for a parent not hearing or not remembering.
  • If a parent has dementia or one of its many forms, whatever they say or do is not really “them” but the disease they have talking through them. Remember how they were when your parents were loving you and caring for you and supporting you. Display that same love for them by returning those feelings. It will make a world of difference!
  • Each offspring plays one of two roles. You are either the caregiver or the nurturer of the caregiver. This means all the children must work together and help the designated caregiver and the caregiver must work with the others. Harmony among family members is key in these situations for the whole family.
  • Spend time visiting, visiting, visiting, and listening, listening, listening.

In Mother’s case, Terry and I live too far away to make everyday visits feasible. Thankfully, Sisters Carol and Karen live close enough to Mom’s new address to visit her in person frequently. Sister Debbie lives in Little Rock but stays in phone contact every day and visits in person when she can. Terry and I visit Mother as often as possible, so far once each week. All of us call Mom frequently and hold her in our prayers daily.

In addition, Mother’s countless community friends, neighbors, fellow members of Cross Lutheran Church and Pastor Don Fraker also visit and communicate with her in many ways. And the wonderful folks at her assisted living facility are attentive to her needs in ways that transcend the care our family would be able to provide.

What are the factors to consider in caring for aging parents?

  • If they live at home, do what you can to make their lives safe, secure and comfortable.
  • Whether you live nearby or far away, continue to stay in touch with them frequently.
  • If the demands of their physical or emotional condition are beyond your ability to manage, investigate the alternatives for in home care, assisted living or nursing home care, as needed.
  • Do your best to see that their physical, emotional and spiritual needs are met.
  • Remember to assure them of your constant love and fervent prayers.

Here’s what I wrote to Mother’s extended family earlier this week: “Anything we’ve considered is done with Granny’s involvement and consent and with her best interest at heart. God only knows how long she will be here with us on earth. While occasionally commenting that her new apartment is not her home, she also says she realizes that this is where she needs to be at this time in her life. She knows, like each of us, that she’s but a stranger here on earth and heaven is her home.

Next week I’ll address some of the important financial matters that need attention in caring for aging parents. Stay tuned!

My Dear Mother

MomMany of you are aware that, God willing, my dear mother Elda Kieschnick will reach her 100th birthday April 10 of this year. She is known by many as a remarkable woman with great personal skills, numerous talents and multiple abilities. She’s also a woman of faith, ready to see Jesus.

Until two weeks ago Mom was living independently in her own home in New Braunfels, Texas. A few weeks earlier it became obvious that her strength was waning, making it difficult for her to stand and walk. She fell three times, thankfully sustaining no serious injury or broken bones.

It soon became apparent that Mom was no longer able to live alone. It also quickly became obvious that none of her four children would be able to provide the nearly constant care her condition required. So our joint decision, following consultation with our dear mother, was to seek an assisted living facility in which her needs could be met with proper care and concern.

The place we selected had one very nice vacant room with eight people on the waiting list. Not one of them was ready to move in, so the room was available, almost miraculously, for our dear mother. She made the move on Saturday, February 20, and is doing as well as can be expected.

To the 54 living members and spouses of her immediate family (three others are already in heaven), Mother is affectionately known as Granny. In reporting to them this assisted living decision I wrote:

“We all know that our gracious Lord has enabled our dear Granny to live a whole lot longer than most people live. How many other almost 100 year old women or men do you know? We also all know that someday her life on earth will end. So will each of ours. And we know what Granny has said repeatedly, that she is ready to go to heaven. None of us knows when that will happen.”

“In the meantime, what we feel is important, and we think you’ll all agree, is that we make every necessary decision and take every prudent step to keep her as safe and comfortable as possible, as long as the good Lord sees fit for her to stay on this earth.”

“What can each of you do? Remember Granny in your prayers. Write a note. Send a card. Call her occasionally. Thank God for bringing each of us into the life of this very special woman!”

Note to Perspectives readers: If you are so inclined, prior to March 31, please consider sending a 100th birthday note or card to the following address:

Elda Kieschnick
c/o Lutheran Foundation of Texas
7900 East Highway 290
Austin, TX 78724-2499

If you prefer email, send your note to me at GBJK@LFOT.org. I’ll print and pass it along to her.  This request is a surprise to my mother, so please help keep it that way. Thank you very much!

Next week I’ll write about caring for aged parents. If you have suggestions, email them to me.