Sunday, November 22, 2015

Lighten Up!

At a Washington press dinner thirty years ago, fun-loving Washington Redskins running back John Riggins turned to Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and jovially barked, "Lighten up, Sandy, you're too tight!" If there was such a thing as going "viral" in 1985, Riggins' quip went viral. 

I relate and understand exactly where Mr. Riggins was coming from as I often tell people to lighten up as well. You see, I too love to laugh and have always been considered "Happy-Go-Lucky." In fact, I was nominated to that category in my high school yearbook by my classmates. I am often told that I laugh and/or smile regardless of how bad the situation may be. Yes, I tend to see the humor even in the most morbid of circumstances. So when someone appears tight or heavy burdened to me, I tend to offer the same advice as the former Redskins running back.

As I was thinking about those words today, it dawned on me that "Lighten Up" could be construed in more than one way. Most often we think of lightening up as taking the weight off or loosening up hence the B part of Mr. Riggins' quip of "you're too tight."  In other words, you are too serious or too rigid. But it came to me today that "lighten up" could also be interpreted as one who needs to rid themselves of the darkness that is inside of them. Depression is darkness. Anger is darkness. Fear is darkness. Jealousy is darkness. Bitterness is darkness. Holding a grudge is darkness and this list does not stop here.

Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said in one of his speeches that "Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that."  There are many parts of the Bible that mention light as detailed below:
  • Psalms 119:105 Your word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path.
  • Matthew 5:14 You are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.
  • Matthew 5:16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
  • John 1:5 And the light shines in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.
  • John 8:12 Then spoke Jesus again to them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.
  • John 12:35 Then Jesus said to them, Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness come on you: for he that walks in darkness knows not where he goes.
  • Ephesians 5:14 Why he said, Awake you that sleep, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light.
  • James 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom is no fickleness, neither shadow of turning.
  • 1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that you should show forth the praises of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light;
  • 1 John 1:7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleans us from all sin.
  • Revelation 21:23 And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.  
So it would behoove all of us to "LIGHTEN UP" in order to bring some light to a dark world that is getting darker. Recent headlines such as Suicide bombing in Nigeria kills 8, Mali hotel attack: Gunmen barged in, shot at 'anything that moved' Cameroon: At least 6 killed in suspected Boko Haram suicide bombings and Paris Terror Attacks  illustrate for us just how dark our world is.

One common denominator for both definitions of  lighten up is laughter and humor. A sense of humor and laughing drives darkness from within as well as loosens up those who are tense, always serious, and rigid. According to a study by psychologists Herbert Lefcourt, of the University of Waterloo, and Rod Martin, Ph.D., now at the University of Western Ontario.Stressed-out folks with a strong sense of humor become less depressed and anxious than those whose sense of humor is less well developed. In this article printed in its entirety appearing on the MAYO CLINIC website we learn the following about laughter/humor and its benefits.

By Mayo Clinic Staff 
 When it comes to relieving stress, more giggles and guffaws are just what the doctor ordered. Here's why.
Whether you're guiltily guffawing at an episode of "South Park" or quietly giggling at the latest New Yorker cartoon, laughing does you good. Laughter is a great form of stress relief, and that's no joke. 
 Stress relief from laughter
 A good sense of humor can't cure all ailments, but data are mounting about the positive things laughter can do.
 Short-term benefitsA good laugh has great short-term effects. When you start to laugh, it doesn't just lighten your load mentally, it actually induces physical changes in your body. Laughter can:
  • Stimulate many organs. Laughter enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and increases the endorphins that are released by your brain.
  • Activate and relieve your stress response. A rollicking laugh fires up and then cools down your stress response and increases your heart rate and blood pressure. The result? A good, relaxed feeling.
  • Soothe tension. Laughter can also stimulate circulation and aid muscle relaxation, both of which help reduce some of the physical symptoms of stress. 
Long-term effects
 Laughter isn't just a quick pick-me-up, though. It's also good for you over the long haul. Laughter may:
  • Improve your immune system. Negative thoughts manifest into chemical reactions that can affect your body by bringing more stress into your system and decreasing your immunity. In contrast, positive thoughts actually release neuropeptides that help fight stress and potentially more-serious illnesses.
  • Relieve pain. Laughter may ease pain by causing the body to produce its own natural painkillers. Laughter may also break the pain-spasm cycle common to some muscle disorders.
  • Increase personal satisfaction. Laughter can also make it easier to cope with difficult situations. It also helps you connect with other people.
  • Improve your mood. Many people experience depression, sometimes due to chronic illnesses. Laughter can help lessen your depression and anxiety and make you feel happier.
Improve your sense of humor
Are you afraid you have an underdeveloped — or nonexistent — funny bone? No problem. Humor can be learned. In fact, developing or refining your sense of humor may be easier than you think.
  • Put humor on your horizon. Find a few simple items, such as photos or comic strips that make you chuckle. Then hang them up at home or in your office. Keep funny movies or comedy albums on hand for when you need an added humor boost.
  • Laugh and the world laughs with you. Find a way to laugh about your own situations and watch your stress begin to fade away. Even if it feels forced at first, practice laughing. It does your body good.
  • Share a laugh. Make it a habit to spend time with friends who make you laugh. And then return the favor by sharing funny stories or jokes with those around you.
  • Knock-knock. Browse through your local bookstore or library's selection of joke books and get a few rib ticklers in your repertoire that you can share with friends.
  • Know what isn't funny. Don't laugh at the expense of others. Some forms of humor aren't appropriate. Use your best judgment to discern a good joke from a bad, or hurtful, one.
Laughter is the best medicine
Go ahead and give it a try. Turn the corners of your mouth up into a smile and then give a laugh, even if it feels a little forced. Once you've had your chuckle, take stock of how you're feeling. Are your muscles a little less tense? Do you feel more relaxed or buoyant? That's the natural wonder of laughing at work.
So let's all follow the advice offered by John Riggins 30 years ago and "Lighten Up" in both senses of the phrase. Let's unburden ourselves with some things that we can let go of. Let's not be so tight and rigid because at the end of the day, it really is not that serious. We must also free ourselves of emotions such as depression to rid the darkness inside of us so that we can be light bearers in the world.

If you are a light, when you walk in a room, everyone will know it. When you are making life better for someone else, you are being a light. When you are just fun to be around, you are being a light. Reiterating Dr. King's quote,  "Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that." Let's go out there and be some light.

Something to critically think about. You are invited to join me live each Saturday at 6:00 a.m. ET on and in northern NJ on FM radio WP88.7 FM. You are also invited to follow me on Twitter @thinkcritical01 and readingcircle01.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Who Signed Me Up For This?

I begin this post by saying this is one of the longest stretches of time between posts (August 16 - November 11)  since I began The Critical Thinker some years ago . I guess one could say I just have not been in the mood for writing because certainly there is more than enough to write for us to critically think about. I feel as if The Critical Thinker has been missing in action.

Educators reading this will agree that we all have humorous stories based on situations occurring with our students, families, and colleagues that range from the sublime to the ridiculous. Teachers and administrators commonly lament that at the end of their careers they could write a book, and those sentiments are true. As we meet with each other, we share stories about what has happened in our classrooms and in our buildings that in some instances seem unbelievable but are indeed true. While many of the stories are humorous or horrifying, they also in some instances contain a bigger life lesson embedded within. With all of that said, I'm sharing one of these stories with you that for me has a life lesson interpretation within it. This story always brings a hearty laugh between me and my colleague Nancy when we reference it with each other. In fact, the question appearing in the title of this post has become a code between me and Nancy when something  is said or done in our business that does not make sense (Shhh...that's our little secret).

The story goes like this...... there was a student who was as cute as they come; however, he could be as troublesome as he was cute. Each year our school was the recipient of toys donated by a magnanimous organization who visited our school with Santa Claus. The generous donors would solicit the name of each child and some possible ideas as to what toys to bring. This would happen as early as September or October. Throughout the months leading up to the Christmas holidays, teachers would constantly remind their students about the Santa Claus visit and how their behavior could impact what gifts they received from him. The old story about the lump of coal was shared repeatedly with the students particularly those who chose not to follow the rules and our little handsome friend heard this story probably more than most; however, he chose to ignore the warnings.

One day after experiencing the actions of this student, his teacher came to me and said I know how to help this student understand the connection between his actions and consequences and the lesson will be learned when Santa Claus is here.  Well, the big day arrived! All of the lower grade students were brought into a large room in the school that had been decorated with colorful lights, tinsel, a Christmas tree and gorgeously decorated gifts. In the center of it all was the big Santa Claus chair with Santa Claus seated in it. As the children entered the room their eyes widened, their smiles broadened, and their squeals heightened. Excitement was in the air! Each teacher lined his/her class up alongside the Santa chair and each child to his/her delight spoke with the jolly white bearded man one by one. At the end of each conversation, Santa Claus gave the child a gift which ranged from a bicycle, video game, board game, doll, skateboard, to a deck of cards. If you have read this far, I am sure you have figured out which gift our little friend received.

After each class received their gifts, they were asked to assemble for a group picture. As our little friend’s class grouped to take their picture, the children stood proudly with their gifts with the exception of our little friend. With a slight stutter he turned and asked the question, "Who, who signed me up for this?" The teacher looked at me with the smile of a Cheshire Cat and as our eyes met, I knew the answer to the young man's question.

I share this story because oftentimes in life, we also ask "Who signed me up for this?," not realizing that it was our own choices and decisions that brought us whatever we received causing us to ask that question.and others such as "Why the heck am I experiencing THIS in my life?," or "Why ME? Why NOW? Why THIS?"  I'm sure we have all said, "What? You've GOT to be kidding!" Just like the student whose behavior caused the teacher to select the deck of cards for him compared with a bicycle for one of  his classmates, our choices bring about our outcomes. We reap what we sow and this student reaped a deck of cards for what his behavior had sewn from September through December.

I love metaphors and parables as they contain meanings beyond the surface. As things get challenging for me and Nancy as we lead our respective schools, we will look at each other in meetings and laugh as we both say "Who signed me up for this?" In the final analysis, the truth of the matter is, we sign ourselves up for whatever we receive based on our choices and decisions. We must ask ourselves what am I sowing? And once we have honestly answered that question for ourselves, we must then choose wisely. Something to critically think about.

I invite you to join me live each Saturday at 6:00 a.m. Eastern time on and WP88.7 FM as host of The Reading Circle with Marc Medley. You are also invited to follow me on Twitter @thinkcritical01 and @readingcircle01. Lastly, follow me on YouTube and  download The Reading Circle mobile app on Itunes or Google.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Door Must Be Opened And We Must Be Prepared To Walk Through It

"I don't want nobody
To give me nothing
Open up the door
I'll get it myself"
James Brown - I Don't Want Nobody To Give Me Nothing (Open Up The Door I'll Get It Myself) Lyrics | MetroLyrics 

I awoke this morning to the news that long-time civil rights activist, Julian Bond, died Saturday night at the age of 75. According to CNN, Bond passed away after a brief illness in Fort Walton Beach, Florida. As I learned of this news, I thought to myself that we are losing our civil rights leaders and activists one by one and rightfully so as many of them were in their teens and early twenties, sixty years ago, placing most, if not all of them in their seventies, eighties, and nineties years of age.

It occurred to me that the torch never really was passed. In fact, not only was the torch never passed, our message or methodology was never updated to meet the challenges faced in the 21st century. Reverends Jessie Jackson who is 73 and Al Sharpton who is 60, both have contributed in their own ways at least in their minds to fight the many "isms" using and in some cases abusing the models and tactics set forth in the fifties and sixties; yet, there really has not been as a collective body anything close to the efforts made by the men and women of the civil rights movement who are now moving or have moved from labor to reward through death.

The question is always asked and has been asked since the assassination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968, who will step up and lead us now that Dr. King is gone? In some respects it is forty seven years later and we are still asking that question. In the meantime, many of our foot soldiers from that day are passing away just as Mr. Bond did Saturday night.

In my mind and at this point, I believe the more important question than who will step up and lead us? is, are we preparing ourselves to get for ourselves when the door is opened? James Brown, The Godfather of Soul aptly wrote it when he said "Open up the door, I'll get it myself."  But are we preparing ourselves to get it for ourselves?

Some may ask, well, what do you mean by preparing ourselves? and that's a great question. I mean, taking our education seriously; putting forth a spirit and desire for excellence in everything that we do; acquiring the required skills to be employable and/or entrepreneurial in the 21st century and how about just reading, researching and thinking to make informed decisions. When do we realize that our leaders who did that mighty work are now aged and passing away? When do we individually step up to make not only our own lives better, but the lives of others better as well? When do we move the ball further as our civil rights leaders set us up to do?

The list of our civil rights leaders and activists who are dying is growing longer each year and their methods and tactics were for such a time as that. Our methods today must include our looking to ourselves to do for ourselves and that only happens when we prepare ourselves. If you want to honor the lives of, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Julian Bond, Edward Brooke, Thurgood Marshall, Shirley Chisolm, Dorothy Height, Marian Wright Edelman, Coretta Scott King, Marva Collins, and so many others........ take education seriously. Acquire skills that are needed in 2015 and beyond and then learn some more. Work hard and smart. Make excellence your standard and do not lower it for anyone. Stop being content with not knowing how to read or ever breaking the assistance cycle. Start voting, even if it is for dogcatcher, make your vote/voice count. Fathers support YOUR children whether you are with their mother or not as no judge ought to have to force you to support your children financially or emotionally. Young ladies, stop classifying yourself as a "Bad Bitch," and stop dealing with men who refer to you as a bitch, thot (that hoe over there) or hoe (whore).  Boys and men, pull those pants up! As we ought not to have to know that you have on blue and white striped boxers. Stop killing each other. Enough is enough.

We all must become our own abolitionists and activists. I close as I opened with the words of The Godfather of Soul, none other than James Brown when he penned and sang, "I don't want nobody to give me nothing. Open up the door, I'll get it myself." The only thing I will add to that is, once you get it, be willing to help someone else get it for themselves too. Something to critically think about.

Listen to me live each Saturday around the world on and in northern NJ on FM radio WP88.7 FM as the host of The Reading Circle with Marc Medley. You are also invited to follow me on Twitter @thinkcritical01 and @readingcircle01 and on Instagram @readingcircle01. Visit my website at and subscribe to my YouTube Channel Marc Medley.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Some Things Just Don't Make Sense - Customers Ought To Be Priority One

Bank Teller Stations
 I don't know about you,  but it never ceases to amaze me how in business, the very positions that are needed for great customer service are now always the least filled. I say this because it has been my experience in these past years to walk into a bank and find two tellers working with a line of customers standing outside of the door. What really makes this scenario all the more ridiculous is that you have one person standing at the door acting as a greeter and another just walking around aimlessly with a clipboard or tablet device. Then you see a flurry of people walking in and out of doors punching in secret codes/combinations with nothing being done at least to the knowledge of the customers patiently and impatiently waiting on the now longer line. I often question, wouldn't it make more customer service and business sense to have the greeter and others wandering around the building aimlessly to fill the unmanned teller slots? There will be four or five teller stations with only two tellers working and the other three stations closed; yet, there is a greeter and others just walking back and forth. I've noticed this same phenomenon in supermarkets and department stores. There will be two cashier check out lines open with fifteen with the lights off letting customers know that they are closed and don't let one of the two that is open have a break or is at the end of his/her shift.

I am well aware of the automated teller machine (ATM) technology at banks and the automated self-serve payment options at most if not all supermarkets and department stores now; however, in my opinion it is just not good customer service to have all of these people milling around when they could be assisting customers with checking out or taking care of their banking needs. I for one am not a fan of the self-service automated payment machines and would rather interact with a human being. Now mind you, I am very tech savvy and I am highly capable of scanning my item(s) through the machine and then inserting my money or credit/debit card into the slot. That's not the point. The point is customer service is being terribly sacrificed with the very limited amount of teller windows and check out lines open in these banks and stores. I am sure that I am not the only one who feels this way, so I don't quite understand why the CEO's, directors, supervisors, managers, etc. etc. are not more mindful of this. I find it hard to believe that the store or bank managers don't see the looks of aggravation on customers faces as they have to wait in these long lines to be served.

Perhaps one day, bank and store managers will wake up and realize that true customer service is not occurring with only two teller windows open when there are five or six available. That true customer service is not occurring in a supermarket or department store when there are nearly twenty check out lines with only two cashiers open ringing up the purchases of customers. I don't know about you, but I would rather have the greeter behind the window helping customers as a teller than just standing around saying "Welcome to.........." when I walk in the door. I would feel much more welcome if I could see an ample number of employees actually serving customers instead of walking around trying to look busy. The same holds true for the department stores and supermarkets. As I said, maybe it is just me, but I don't think so.

Something to critically think about. Listen to me live each Saturday at 6:00 a.m. ET around the world on and locally in northern N.J. on FM radio, WP88.7 FM. You are also invited to follow me on Twitter @thinkcritical01 and @readingcircle01. I am also on Instagram IG readingcircle01. I also invite you to subscribe to my YouTube Channel Marc Medley.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

In a Crazy World, the Sane Person Is the Idiot (From the book DESTINATION SUCCESS)

One of the books I am currently reading is DESTINATION SUCCESS by Dwight Bain, and as I was reading I came across this story Mr. Bain shares that speaks to our plight today. I am going to share the story verbatim with the hopes that it will give you something to critically think about. 

     There once was a king of a small country who seemed to have it all. He was greatly loved by his family and all the citizens in his kingdom. He was wealthy , powerful, and wise. Everyone respected and admired  this king. Because of the partnership he had built with his countrymen, there was a great deal of peace and prosperity in the land. It was as if things couldn't get better. 
     That is, things seemed perfect until one night when an enemy of the king poisoned the village water supply. Now this poison didn't kill a person instantly; rather, it slowly made one go insane. Over a period of days, the poison could cause a person to become either violent or totally apathetic-- and sometimes both. It caused a person not to remember much from his or her past.
     The saddest part of this was that the king was the only one who didn't drink from the village well, since he had his own private water supply in his castle.  So this king, drinking the pure, unpoisoned water, had no idea why things so radically changed between him and the villagers. Within days they weren't the same. They either sat all day and did nothing or went from place to place creating angry conflicts with everyone they met.
     No one figured out that the water was poisoned until one day when the conflict and inactivity levels were almost intolerable. That day the king  received a letter from his enemy mocking him. Then he instantly knew what had happened. He finally had all the puzzle pieces of the impossible situation, so he thought that he would just share this news with the villagers to get things back to normal. Perhaps they could work together to figure out a way to solve this crisis in the kingdom. He hurried to tell them about his conclusions, and then he read aloud the note from his enemies. But they didn't seem to care at all.  
     Not one villager believed him or even wanted to listen. They were actually having fun being irresponsible. They liked their lives of apathy and anger. They didn't want anyone to change things back to a way of life they couldn't remember or even imagine anymore, so nothing changed -- nothing except the villagers' total disregard for their king.  They didn't trust his authority or like his rules, and they didn't like the consequences he implied would happen if they didn't change. They were so distant and aggressive that the king feared for his very life.  
     The pressure grew, and it became apparent that the king was going to have to make a decision: leave the kingdom or drink the water. 
     Think about it. If you were facing the same situation, what would you do? Take a risk to leave everything you knew and move on as a vagabond to start over in some other place? Or take an even bigger risk and drink the poison to be just like everyone else and be named the king of the fools? 
Consider this for a moment. What if the standard society placed on "normal" thinking was wrong? What if "normal" behavior wasn't healthy at all? What if it was poison? What if everyone was doing something "normal" but it was crazy--would you go along with the crowd?

I encourage you to purchase or download a copy of DESTINATION SUCCESS as it is a motivational and inspirational read. Certainly the story about the poison water is something to critically think about. I invite you to listen to me live each Saturday at 6:00 a.m. ET around the world on and locally in the northern NJ area on WP88.7 FM when I interview authors such as Dwight Bain and follow me on Twitter @thinkcritical01 and @readingcircle01. Likewise you are invited to subscribe to my YouTube channel Marc Medley and find me on Instagram IG readingcircle01.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Where I Stand on Whose Lives Matter

 For the past months we have been hearing about how “Black Lives Matter,” “Police Lives Matter,” Gay and Lesbian Lives Matter,” “Fetus’ Lives Matter,” “Women’s Lives Matter,” and so forth and so on. The truth of the matter is, ALL LIVES MATTER; however, I am not naive enough to believe that all lives have mattered in the past or for that matter ALL lives matter now. In fact, the reason each group began segmenting themselves and crying out that their particular group’s lives mattered is because each group is feeling ignored or as if their lives do not matter because they are a part of a certain group.

When you really critically think about it, why should any group have to cry out that their lives matter? Isn’t the fact that we are all human beings enough to make our lives matter? Apparently not. Let’s take a look at this from a Biblical perspective. Let’s connect a few Biblical dots to see how they tie in with us today. In Matthew Chapters 18 and 19 we get a very clear view of how all lives matter when Jesus explains to his disciples that we are to become like children and that whoever takes the lowly position of a child is the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven (that’s all lives). In another scenario people brought little children (remember, children represent us)  to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them but his disciples tried to turn the people with the children away (their lives didn’t matter in the disciples eyes). When Jesus saw and heard this he said to the disciples, “Let the little children (that’s all lives) come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”  Jesus further shares with the disciples “See that you do not despise one of these little ones (again that’s us… all lives). For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.”  He then goes on to tell a story of a wandering sheep.

“What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? (In other words, all lives matter).  And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep (all lives matter) than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones (Black lives, White Lives, Hispanic Lives, Asian Lives, Police Lives, LGBT Lives, Women’s Lives, etc. etc. etc.) should perish (all lives matter).

By now I hope you see where I am going with this and you are not thrown by the use of biblical scenarios to illustrate my point. The message that Jesus was seeking to convey to his disciples then is why I side with the "All Lives Matter" crew now. Just think about how ridiculous it is that we have to carve out a slogan per group about whose lives matter. It’s ashamed that groups of human beings have been made to feel and are being made to feel that their lives do not matter. As a human race we ought to be ashamed of ourselves for consciously or subconsciously sending  messages that any life does not matter. We are all human beings who actually have more similarities than we do differences, and instead of celebrating our differences, we are always vilifying them. When does enough become enough? The differences that we have do not make any life more or less valuable. So at the end of the day, I stand with the "All Lives Matter" crowd and we as a people need to recognize that so that all of the individual groups will not feel the need to have a hash tag yelling at the world that their lives matter. Something to critically think about. I invite you to join me each Saturday at 6:00 a.m. as I web stream around the world on and locally in northern NJ/NY on WP88.7 FM as host of The Reading Circle with Marc Medley. I also invite you to follow me on Twitter @thinkcritical01 and @readingcircle01.

Super Bowl Champion Burgess Owens Appears on The Reading Circle with Mar...