When they opened the floodgates to allow the overflow from the Mississippi River to cross the Bonnet Carre’ Spillway into Lake Pontchartrain, one thing no one figured on was what might come in alongwith the water. Now, we hear that people are finding dead cows floating in the lake. Logs and trees are always coasting down the river, and now they are posing a hazard for boaters on the lake. The water from the river is very muddy and contains who knows what, whereas the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation has been at work for a generation trying to clean up our lake. So, now, here we go again.
Some readers can recall when you would take the family out to Pontchartrain Beach amusement park and go for a swim. When the park was closed, swimming was forbidden due to the pollution. Lately, the water has been approved for swimming, although there’s no good place to go in. Now, the authorities are warning citizens to be careful even getting around those waters. We’ve mentioned here about the snakes and alligators flowing into the lake–and thus into the city.
Old-timers (that would be my age and better) frequently tell me they see no need to own a computer, that they have done very well all this time without it. I never argue the point, but sometimes wonder how they would feel if they knew what they were missing. For instance….
Friday, while driving north to Alexandria, I was going over the sermon to be preached Sunday morning and found myself missing a tiny bit of information. I phoned my son Marty and left a message for him. “I’d like to know who began the ‘adopt-a-highway’ program. Who started it and when? I need this for my sermon.”
The next evening, when I arrived home and checked e-mail, Marty had sent me a couple of links providing everything I needed to know on the subject. He said, “Wikipedia has the information, and they provide some links for details.” That’s how I found that the man behind this adopt-a-highway program is James R. “Bobby” Evans, an employee of the Texas Department of Transportation, Tyler District. One day as he drove through Tyler, he noticed trash blowing off the truck in front of him, and started wondering if there was not some way to mobilize citizens to clean up the highways. He thought of encouraging people to adopt-a-highway and tried to get people interested. No group or civic club caught the vision, but a public information officer for the DOT named Billy Black did. He took that ball and ran with it, lining up groups, churches, clubs, and individuals to take responsibility for sections of roads. He designed the safety training and even the neat little reflective vests they wear.
I went to the link for the Texas Department of Transportation to find the dates. Evans had the brainstorm in 1984; Black got organized in 1985. Think of that. A program that is now in countries all over the world and has changed the quality of life everywhere considerably—and it is less than a quarter-century old.
One man can make a difference.
To make a difference, he needs a clear vision of what needs to be done, some solid counsel on all aspects of the matter, and a strong conviction in order to stay with the program until he pulls it off.
And, as Bobby Evans clearly demonstrates, he may end up needing a helper, someone with skills he doesn’t have. Someone like Billy Black.
Sometimes when I preach about this kind of leadership, I tell the audience about Harlan Proctor. Our church’s youth minister had taken our teens to the Atlanta Braves ball game. The next day, they were abuzz with excitement; everything had been great fun. No one was prouder of his moment in the sun than Harlan, a kid about 15 or 16. It turned out that Harlan had spent the entire ball game trying to get the wave started around the stadium. He told me how hard he worked at it. “The people would stand and wave their arms, and then it would die out before it got to the corner. So I would try again. This time it went a little further.” Not until the game was almost over did the wave make a complete circuit around the stadium.
“You are a leader of men,” I said to the beaming teenager. And it was true. He knew precisely what he wanted to do, knew how to do it, and kept at it until he succeeded.
Terry Kofler is a leader of the New Orleans Hornets NBA team. He’s not the coach; that would be Byron Scott. Scott is the out-front guy; Kofler works behind the scenes.
Locals who watched the Hornets’ playoff game against the Dallas Mavericks the other night are still on a high. It was something, especially the way the team came back in the second half and shut Dallas down. The second playoff game, Tuesday night at 6 pm, will be broadcast on TNT. Readers who haven’t kept up with basketball this year want to keep an eye on the Hornets’ Chris Paul. He is a strong contender for the league’s MVP this year, right up there with Kobe Bryant.
But, back to Terry Kofler. He’s the trainer for the Hornets and has been since their inception in Charlotte 20 years ago.
Kofler has attended every one of the Hornets’ 1670 games since they were started with the exception of one, when his mother died in 2005. What does a trainer do in pro sports? He’s sort of a medical guy, binding up their bruises, helping with their conditioning, seeing to their physical needs. He’s background, support staff. No one knows him but the players and they live and die by how well he does his job. He necessarily has a servant spirit–remembering that a servant is someone who works to make someone else successful–and gets his greatest satisfaction out of the success of the players.
Kofler says no sport on the planet requires more of its team members than professional basketball. Football is a 60 minute automobile wreck, he says, but pro basketball is like a 48 minute Daytona 500. It’s an “endurance race that challenges stamina and skills, where the athletes, unlike those in football, are playing without protective gear.”
Every person achieving any kind of success in this life has his Terry Koflers, working in the background, handling the details, smoothing out the bumps, helping him deal with the hurts.
We will have attained a measure of maturity the day we realize we want to give that kind of support and encouragement for the people around us whom we treasure most.
Life will send a certain number of dead cows floating our way. Some people you thought were your friends will turn out to be snags and traps like hidden logs just beneath the surface. But the person who sacrifices his own ego to help you do well–that would be teachers and ministers, parents and mentors–they are the real treasures in this life.