Byron's Babbles

Overcoming Obstacles

Posted in Uncategorized by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on November 9, 2015

2015-11-07 12.33.29

Showing off our stylish socks!

2015-11-08 06.09.50I had the tremendous honor this past Saturday to be part of the Uplift Indy Youth Expo 2015. The theme of the Expo was Overcoming Obstacles. You can take a look at the program by clicking here. I am so thankful that Reverend Antwan Houser, CEO and founder of UPLIFT Indy, invited me to be a part of this incredible event. Teaching kids to overcome obstacles is part of the organizations mission and I am positive this event will help them become more successful in life.Tim Doty from WTTV CBS 4 Indy was the Emcee and did a tremendous job and it was great to get to meet him. He made a point that is so true: “Bringing about change for our youth is a marathon, not a sprint!” We even had a little fun showing off our fancy socks!

I knew I was in for a treat when the first two speakers were youth, MaKayla Ivory and Jalen McGraw. Here are the points the two of them made that really moved me:

  • Don’t let others tell you who you are, what you believe, or what you want to do.
  • Start and finish everything with God.
  • Many obstacles our youth face exist because they are invisible.
  • When working with Indianapolis youth, remember: the blessings are bigger than the burden.

Then, DeAndra Yates, mother of DeAndre Knox who was shot spoke. Knox was shot in the back of head at a party on the city’s northwest side February 1, 2014. Knox is alive today and took his first steps after the shooting on September 30. He still can’t talk, but is starting to respond to questions by nodding his head. Her points were very moving as well. Here are some notes I took during her inspiring message:

  • God did not allow this to happen without a reason.
  • Grieve, but recognize that the God is using this tragedy to open doors. Yates said she is making it her personal mission to reduce crime in the city and avoid another tragedy like her sons.
  • Expect the unexpected. None of us know what the future will bring.
  • This happened to me, yet I am still here.

Corey Parchman & I

Corey Parchman & I

I also had the very special privilege of meeting Emmerich Manual High School graduate, Corey Parchman. Having been the Turnaround Principal at Manual, it was awesome to finally get to know him. His story of how he lost his dad at age 9 and then went on to be the greatest high school football player in Indiana was inspiring. Parchman shared about his struggles losing his father as a child. “Despite having a single parent household, you can still make it and be a successful man,” he said during his remarks. He also talked about having to walk onto Ball State’s football team and making it in the league as an undrafted rookie. The theme of his remarks was: “Don’t think about your obligation. Think of the opportunity!” Thank for reminding us of this Corey!

Other great speakers included State Trooper, Aaron Allen; Pastor Terry Webster, Jr; and, Sgt. Kendale Adams. Here are some points I tweeted from their remarks:

  • Don’t let obstacles get you sidetracked.
  • Any mentorship program based on forming meaningful relationships will be successful!
  • You must define your own destiny.

Then it was time for my keynote. I titled it “Being Prepared for What You Don’t Know You Need to be Prepared For.” I started with the story of the Little Frog in the Well.

Little Frog in the Well

My good friends, imagine if you were to live at the bottom of a deep, dark well. What kind of world would you see?

There was a Little Frog who lived at the bottom of a deep, dark well. Now let us go down there and see what kind of world he had.

It was a very old well filled with shallow water at the bottom. The walls of the well were all covered with wet moss. When the Little Frog was thirsty, he drank a little bit of the well water, and when he was hungry, he ate some insects. When he was tired, he lay on a little rock at the bottom of the well and looked up at the sky above him. Sometimes he saw passing clouds. He was very happy and satisfied.

The little frog

Now, the Little Frog had been living at the bottom of this old well since he was born. He had never been to the outside world. Whenever a bird or birds flew by and stopped at the edge of the well, the Little Frog always looked up and bragged, “Hello! why don’t you come down here and play with me. It’s so pleasant down here. Look, I have cool water to drink and countless insects to eat. Come down! At night I can watch the twinkling stars, and sometimes I can see the beautiful moon, too.”

Sometimes the birds would tell the Little Frog, “Hi, Little Frog! You see, the outside world is much bigger and nicer. It’s many times more beautiful than your little well at the bottom. ” But the Little Frog would not believe them. “Don’t lie to me, I don’t believe there is any place that could be better than here. ”

Gradually, all the birds began to dislike him They thought he was too stubborn and stopped talking to him.

The Little Frog could not understand why nobody would like to come down to his nice place.

One day, a yellow sparrow stopped by at the edge of the well. The Little Frog was so excited he greeted the sparrow and invited the sparrow eagerly. “Hello, Mr. Yellow Sparrow, how are you? Please come down to my most beautiful house.” The yellow sparrow did not say a word and flew away. The next day the yellow sparrow came again and the same thing happened again. It went on for six days. On the seventh day, the yellow sparrow finally said, “Little Frog, may I show you the outside world?” But the Little Frog refused the offer.

Finally the yellow sparrow became angry. He flew down to the bottom of the well, picked up the Little Frog on his back, and flew out of the well.

“Oh!” the Little Frog exclaimed. “How is it that the outside world is so big!” He had been in the bottom of his dark well for so long that the bright sunshine made his eyes blink shut, and he could hardly open his eyes to see.

When he finally opened his eyes, he saw so many things around him. “Hey! Be careful! Don’t hit this strange thing. What are all these green high and low things?” The yellow sparrow laughed happily: “Ha! ha! These are mountains and valleys. There are countless mountains in this world. The Himalayas, the Swiss Alps, the Rockies and… ”

The Little Frog could not believe there were so many big mountains in the world. When they flew over the high mountains, the next view made the Little Frog even more surprised.

“What is this long, silvery, shiny view?”

“It is a river,” the yellow sparrow replied.

“Then what is that huge, blue thing over there?”

“That is a sea,” the yellow sparrow replied.

“That river and sea, how much water do they have? How much bigger are they than my well? They must hold a billion times more water than my well.” The Little Frog began to realize how tiny his well was. “Let’s go down, O.K. ?” The yellow sparrow put the Little Frog down on the ground and flew away.

The Little Frog jumped into the grass and saw many beautiful flowers of different colors. He had never seen such beautiful flowers and had never smelled such nice scents. He kept on going and went into a forest. In it he looked up and saw many tall trees. He looked down and found many different kinds of fruits that had fallen to the ground. He picked up an apple and tasted it. “Wow, so sweet !” Then he listened to the beautiful singing of the birds. The cute squirrels were jumping, the monkeys were swinging from branch to branch, and the antelopes were scampering speedily.

In the pond, the lotus flowers were dancing in the air, and the lotus leaves were floating on the water like umbrellas. There were many fish in the water.

“The outside world is so big, so wonderful, and beautiful!” The Little Frog finally cried out happily and jumped into the pond. He climbed up on a huge lotus leaf and enjoyed his new life there. The yellow sparrow came back and asked, “Little Frog! How’s this outside world? Big? Beautiful?”

“Thank you very much. If you had not brought me out to see this world, I would never had known that there are such beautiful things that exist outside my well .” The Little Frog never tried to go back to his old well again.

I then talked about my past and how I had ended up in teaching. My teaching career did not begin with the same story that many teachers share. I did not have an epiphany when I said to myself, “I want to be a teacher.” My journey as an educator began during my sophomore year at Purdue University when Professor Dr. Hobart Jones pulled me into his office and asked if I had ever considered teaching. When I said, “no,” he explained that he saw a talent in me for educating and wanted me to double major in Animal Science and Agricultural Education. It is amazing how someone like Dr. Jones can make a huge impact on someone’s life.  His inspiration and personal interest helped me to deal with the challenges of a double major, making my 31 year educational career possible. Without Dr. Jones’ personal interest in my abilities, I probably would have missed this opportunity. It is his example of true caring that I strive to emulate every day of my teaching career.

We Must Be Prepared For What We Don't Know We Need To Be Prepared For!

We Must Be Prepared For What We Don’t Know We Need To Be Prepared For!

It is so important that we have people in our lives, just like the sparrow served the frog, to serve as “kickstands” in our lives. These people do not just end up there by chance. I believe God places them there. I went on to explain that I really have not spent a lot of time planning my career. It is more important that we make sure we are prepared for what we don’t know we need to be prepared for. In education we use the term “backward planning.” In other words you take the standards you want the students to have mastered in the end and you plan backward from there. I explained that I believe that God is the ultimate backward planner. He knows exactly what is going to happen and what his end goal is for us and plans, with favor, accordingly. God doesn’t really work from harsh domination or a strict set of rules. It’s not about God saying “it’s my way or the highway.” Instead, it’s about loving God enough to trust him fully with everything. It’s about understanding that his perspective is so much greater than our own as he sees the big picture of what he wants to do in our life. We just need to accept and continue to prepare for what we don’t know we need to be prepared for.

“Age wrinkles the body. Quitting wrinkles the soul.” ~ General Douglas MacArthur

I then closed with two Bible verses from the book of James that give us comfort when coming up against obstacles in our life and prepare us for what we don’t know we need to prepare for:

“Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” ~ James 1:4

In other words many of the obstacles we come up against are placed there by God to help prepare us for our future missions and roads in life. We may not know what we need to be prepared for, but God does.

“Come near to God and He will come near to you.” ~ James 3:8

Panel Discussion

Panel Discussion

At the end of the Expo I was part of a panel that took questions from the participants. It was a great discussion. The very last question came from a youth who asked a very astute question that caused me to do a great deal of reflecting. She asked, “How do we ever get to a time when we can recognize and appreciate all the uniqueness that each of us possess?” I used what I have learned from Sally Hogshead to answer the question. Sally believes the greatest value a person can add is to become more of themselves. If this isn’t appreciating the unique gifts we have, I don’t know what is. I told her these unique differences are what make us fascinating. While we have society norms we must adhere to, like sometimes needing to wear a tie in my case, we need to be more aware of who we are and who others are. Sally has taught me to take negative things said about my beliefs or actions as compliments and proof that I am fascinating.

I would like to close out this post by repeating the question of this young lady for you to ponder and maybe leave a response to this post about. “How do we ever get to a time when we can recognize and appreciate all of the uniqueness that each of us possess?”

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