The Next Improvement Step in McKinney Governance

I have high expectations for McKinney with the new City Council members now seated. However, the improvement steps won’t be nearly complete until there are a few new faces on some of the Boards & Commissions. And a few recommitments. I trust that some changes are about to be made.

This is not a new gripe for me. I have blogged about some members of the McKinney Economic Development Board and the Board of Adjustment in the past. What we don’t need is anybody on McKinney Boards & Commissions that melt into sheep-boards like they have at McKinney ISD. We don’t need people looking after their friends or are self-serving.

My suggestions to consider before appointing/re-appointing the current slate of Boards & Commissions:

  • Are you truly independent and willing to serve the entirety of McKinney with considerations for the citizens today and in the future?
  • Can you commit to doing your homework before meetings AND faithfully attending meetings?
  • Are you wanting to serve on this board solely as a stepping stone to run for City Council in the future?
  • Is there anybody in McKinney for whom you fear consequences if they don’t like your comments, recommendations or vote?
  • Do you have the ability to say NO when your conscious tells you the deal in front of you is not wise or in the best interest for McKinney?
  • Do you understand the Council-Manager form of government?
  • Do you understand the Open Meetings & Open Records Laws and are willing to abide AND to call out your colleagues when you know a violation is taking place?
  • Do you have a strong personal code of conduct irrespective of any written Code that might include many or all of the items many Codes as in this example?
  • Related, is your nature to raise the bar or let others around you to set your standards?
  • Do you have the ability to ask good questions that are necessary to evaluate an issue and be equipped to make an informed decision?

A list of the current Boards & Commissions can be found here.

If you are teachable and diligent as a student of government, and are of good character and can give an affirmative response to the questions above, please apply. You are greatly needed, and you can be an integral part of improving McKinney to be the most balanced community that can be found. I’m just a citizen blogger with 44 years of experience in municipal government. But I will do anything within my power to make you successful. LFM

La’Shandion Shemwell: A Story of Redemption

How could a person with a questionable history end up being elected to the McKinney City Council? His opponents were relentless in pointing out his undeniable flaws, all in the past, both in the initial election and the run-off election. He is in District 1, mostly the older part of McKinney. I understand he lives in public housing. I could not vote since I don’t live in that district. The first time I saw a picture of him, I wondered if he had many supporters. I heard nothing bad about Mr. Shemwell. In fact, what I did hear was encouraging. He is a barber by trade and a man on a mission to lift up the standards for youths in his passionate side-ministry. So I just watched. And he won.

My 14-year-old granddaughter was with me at the standing-room-only Council meeting Monday night when three new members were sworn in. The new mayor had been sworn in at a previous meeting since he did not have a run-off situation. It was a lively night, full of celebration and gushing with compliments for those going off the Council and those being seated. Lindsey got to see first-hand how hope and goodness and vision starts out with every expectation that things will improve in the future.

There were many highlights, but La’Shadion Shemwell
Shemwellstole the show. Gratitude to God and family came from the lips of most of the newbies. But you simply must watch this clip of the meeting at the 40 minute 48-second mark. I’m expecting that it will make your day as it did those of us serving as witnesses. I think it is a sign of things to come for McKinney governance and leadership.

There’s a new sheriff and posse in town, and the changes will be noticed near and far. LFM

You need Internet Explorer to view the clip:

I am a

00:40:49 mountain, I am an eagle, I am a lion,

00:40:56 down in the jungle. I am a marching

00:40:57 band, I am the peo

00:40:57 band, I am the people, I am a helping

00:41:03 hand, I am a hero. If anybody asks you

00:41:09 who I am, stand up tall, look me in the

00:41:15 face and say, I’m that

00:41:15 face and say, I’m that start up in the

00:41:17 sky, I’m that mountain peak up high, I

00:41:32 made it. I’m the world’s greatest. I’m a

00:41:33 little bit of hope. When my back is

00:41:34 against the ropes, I made it, I’m the

00:41:35 world’s greatest. I am district 1, thank

00:41:38 you

Thank you for taking care of us!

When I’m at a big luncheon or similar situation, I find myself watching the faces and demeanor of the servers. I can’t remember when I started doing this, but it was a long time ago. Perhaps it was after reading William F. Buckley’s An Attitude of Gratitude. It is more likely that it’s part of my DNA since my parents had that nature. I find myself having a need to thank the servers in a genuine tone and then seeking them out afterward to thank them again. What I don’t know is whether I do this for the server or for me. It could easily be me doing the serving. My blue-collar upbringing, then college, and then my wife have shaped my every step. Mentors have opened doors, and a few pushed me through those passageways.

A colleague of mine, Ron Holifield, has been placing a big emphasis on Servant Leadership. My first introduction to that particular topic came years ago from another good friend and colleague, Dan Johnson. In a leadership course, he talked about Robert Greenleaf who coined the term. Greenleaf got his idea after reading a book by Hermann Hesse who authored a book about a journey.

The story was about a group of people on a long pilgrimage to seek a great master. The storyteller is laboring with his baggage on the journey when a small man comes to his aid, picking up some of his bags and carrying the load. At some point near the end of the journey the helper disappears, which irritates the pilgrim. Soon after they all reach the top of the mountain. When they meet the master, the man is surprised to learn that it was the master himself who appeared and carried his burden.

These kinds of stories fascinate me. And motivate me. I’ve got many. About 3 out of 4 times my wife Linda goes grocery shopping, half of her time is spent shopping. The other half is spent seeking out a person who needs help. One of her best friendships today started at Wal-Mart years ago with a simple comment turned into an hour-long conversation. And that was just the beginning.

I don’t know if they still do this, but under Ron Whitehead’s leadership at Addison, the councilmembers and CMO staff used to host a cookout for all city staff. A simple gesture with a profound impact.

So, today comes another story. It started my day with an early lift, like a devotional to ground me and to infuse me with gratitude. I’ll let it speak for itself.

Texas A&M students serve custodial staff at luncheon to show appreciation

For nearly 20 years, Roslyn Adams has served the students, faculty and staff of Texas A&M University as a member of the custodial team, but Monday — even if for just a few hours — she and her peers got to take a break and enjoy each other’s company in the Bethancourt Ballroom of the Memorial Student Center.

More than 500 members of the university’s custodial staff, employed by custodial, grounds and maintenance service provider SSC, were honored during the annual Custodian Banquet, which featured a catered lunch, raffle, music and a photo booth.

Adams said the student-organized event is a meaningful gesture from those she and her co-workers serve on a daily basis.

“It just shows that somebody around here appreciates us for what we do,” Adams said. “These students don’t have to do this, but they went out of their way to do it, so it really means a lot.”

Freshman Madeleine Williams, a member of the Student Government Association’s Custodian Banquet committee, said helping to plan the event has been special to her as she has been able to interact with custodians throughout the year.

After nearly seven months of preparation and fundraising, Williams said, it was rewarding to see the custodians enjoying the event.

“It really is just a small way to give back to them for serving us every day,” Williams said. “It’s cool to have this opportunity to make them feel special for a day.”

In addition to helping serve the food, busing the tables and visiting with the staff, the students were also in charge of cleaning up the space once the event was over.

Brandon Placker, who has worked at the university for roughly seven years, said while many of the people he comes into contact with on a daily basis are kind, the nature of their work remains largely thankless. Placker said he is appreciative of the students’ efforts to show their gratitude.

“To know that people actually care, it means a lot,” Placker said.

Sincere Johnson, who has been on the job just over 10 months, said she particularly appreciated the free, on-the-clock lunch.

“They saved us money today [since] we didn’t have to go buy lunch, and it was nice to see all the other people I’ve worked with before,” Johnson said.

Ted Dawson, regional manager for SSC, said with more than 23,000 square feet of facilities, it is a rarity for all of the employees to get together.

“It’s great because a lot of these people have known each other for years but may not work together anymore,” Dawson said. “For them to do this for all 550 of our employees is absolutely amazing. It really shows how much the university cares and thinks about the custodian staff.”


The reason I went dark from November 11, 2016, until now is that I have been distracted.

Not all distractions are attached to bad reasons. But they are distractions just the same.

Maybe it started with the presidential elections. The person I voted for won the election. I was surprised and ecstatic. I predicted if he won that he would be a train wreck. If so, let ‘er rip! I’m tired of talk, talk, talk. Dumb Republicans had eight years to groom a candidate but let an Independent steal their party. They got what they deserved.

But after I suffered for eight years and never complained publicly, I’ll not spend a second listening to the whiners who want to protest at sufficiently loud levels as if the more noise will rewind history. Rally all you want. I can’t hear you!

I equally despise Republicans and Democrats. And most of all, the Tea Party. But I do have one good thing to say about the TP (and only one), which I will save for a future blog.

For a long time, I have cherished silence. That need is growing. I opted to send my sister-in-law in my place on a family cruise at the last minute in early March. I spent a week in silence, just working. I watched zero on TV, and still have not turned on my office TV. I deactivated my FaceBook account and still have not reactivated. Same thing for LinkedIn. And Twitter. I do get plenty of news alerts that I read since news is one of my primary businesses. Silence is golden to me.

I am distracted by McKinney politics. Well, until I checked out a few months ago. McKinney is run by an underground that key people in the know will not deny. They also won’t do anything about it. In fact, they have winked for so many years that newbies know no difference and aren’t about to mess up the favoritism playpen. That might change with this upcoming election. Hope so. But it’s going to take some major changes on the Council and inside City Hall.

It bothers me that AG Ken Paxton is abusing the legal system to save his hide. I’m sitting in the middle of Collin County, his Mother Ship, and his nature of doing business up here is legendary. He is bad, but his worshippers won’t admit it.

It got distracted by Bruce Springsteen standing up in a foreign country and telling the world he came to them as an embarrassed American. I was okay with his rants and others before the presidential election, but I was ready to puke when he (and others in the entertainment industry) wouldn’t give it up after the election. After listening to him every single day for decades and giving my family instructions to bury me in one of my Springsteen shirts, he is dead to me. He does not exist. But, honestly, I am grieving. You would have to know what his music and performances meant to me to understand.

Perhaps distractions are affecting me differently since I am turning 70 this year. I don’t feel THAT old. My mind says I am much, much younger. Or so it seems. But my preferences are to stay in my cockpit of two computers and ten monitors to work, think, analyze. And maybe even start writing again.

I’ve sworn off going to conferences. The last one I attended included me falling off the back of the stage just before I spoke. The one before that I forgot my conference clothes and came back from Houston before it even started. The one before that I had to return just before the conference started due to my mother’s impending death. I think the message is clear: stay in your cockpit, Lewis!

I have had some health distractions. Nothing serious, yet, but true distractions.

When I said that not all distractions have been bad, I was particularly thinking about a project I am working on with a client under new city management leadership. It is a multi-year contract to provide an entire series of budgeting, long-range planning, utility rate studies and more. I am considering it to be my final exam regarding just about everything I have done in my 44-year career. I am having a blast.

I started part of this approach years ago, but now I have a real application. I am calling it McLain’s All-In, Top-Down, Visual Skinny Budgeting or Skinny Budgeting (I was using the term before Trump picked it up). If I could work “No Stone Left Unturned” into the title, I would do it. More on that subject over the next few months. It is a dream project for an analyst like me.

Related, I have closed my Confidential Sales Tax Reporting & Analysis work to only current clients until 2018 so I can focus on just them as well as my new project. I have a great client base of 15 cities plus DART that includes 13 cities.

In my career, I have done hundreds of workshops, presentations, and analyses for no compensation. Willingly. To serve the entire municipal family is an honor. I am changing that slightly. I won’t be doing any presentations in the future. Too many rude people in the audience checking their phones for messages or talking.

The exception will be a workshop I am going to do in a few months to promote Skinny Budgeting. I won’t be seeking new clients for anything other than fee-based training. I just want to see the approach used in governance and fiscal policy decisions.

On the other hand, I love one-on-one conversation. I am happy to meet with anyone willing to come to McKinney to chat over a cup of coffee. I also will usually respond quickly to an emailed question on just about anything within my knowledge base, which is narrowing. I treasure my pen pals.

My blog will provide a considerable amount of my thoughts and analyses for those who sign up through I feel called to write, but the time competes with everything else I do.

Otherwise, I plan to take care of my CityBase subscribers, my Confidential Sales Tax Clients and my one Skinny Budgeting client.

I’m not sure about where I might head blogging about McKinney politics. If the governance and culture do not change, McKinney politics will be dead to me. Not worth it. Life is too short. But I am hopeful that some will leave and go crawl in a hole somewhere. And that some staff who are part of the underground will be run off. We’ll see. LFM

On My Watch

I was impressed with the mayor of Dallas proclaiming that a spike in the crime rate happened on his watch and, therefore, he was taking responsibility for it. I would be prone to argue that his willingness to fall on the sword is unnecessary unless he is claiming perpetrator status. As I said recently, three 100-year floods have happened in sequential years before. Some things are not totally within your sphere of influence. I also doubt that he, the city manager or the police chief would be solely responsibility for a one-year drop in the crime statistics. A longer trend, up or down, would be a different story.

However, this blog is not about that particular press conference in Dallas. The purpose is a tip of my hat for the condition that exists when any leader, manager, supervisor or even an individual employee feels that special “on my watch” responsibility. It is the way most of us deal with someone’s safety or well-being if they come into our life while we are “on watch.” It is a privileged status when we are put in charge of caring for someone else, especially when the circumference of our circle of care is quite large.

The City of Grapevine had men stand watch over the small town at night from the early 1900s into the 1950s. There is an eight-foot, six-hundred pound statue on top of city hall honoring those men. The icon is the Watchman, holding a lantern. I love it! It is bold and speaks volumes about security. But the outward appearance doesn’t interest me as much as the internal drive and calling to be a person taking the responsibilities of the shepherd.

Linda and I were part of a team of teachers who took high school students to Europe each year during winter break for about a decade through the 1990s. It was a very popular program. At its peak we had 104 people traveling each year, two bus loads. We would have 104 signed up again within 30 days of returning from a trip even though the destinations for the following year were still undecided.

Our leader, Dianah, had a rule. It was to say Yes to the students in every way possible. That meant to let a small group go walking after returning to our hotel. Or to go across the street to a cafe for coffee. But one of us would go with them. I can’t begin to tell you the joyful burden it was to watch over our assigned teenagers. We had to keep all of their medicines. I have fond memories of handing out meds at the assigned times, especially to one student with a heart condition. How simple. How important. And how fulfilling it was for me to be taking care of people on our watch. I was on high alert for 11-12 days and did not rest easy until the wheels of the airplane touched down at DFW at the end. We cherish those days.

This “on my watch” gift is ingrained in almost every local government worker I have ever known. A very close friend and I discussed the burglar bar blog after I wrote it. He has had a heavy influence on me since junior high days. He persuaded me to realize governments can’t be responsible for everybody under every circumstance. I forget that point sometimes, and have no argument with the point. He’s dead right.

Yet I am conflicted because I know that when a life is lost, fire and police personnel stuggle to not take it personally. Even though they fully understand something is beyond their control, it doesn’t help the human part inside that really haunts them. It happened on their watch. Could it have been prevented? The answer is almost always Yes. Could I have prevented it? The answer is almost always No. But that internal calling to keep people safe is hard to satisfy at times even though it won’t be long, maybe the same day, when they have transformed another threat into a safe situation by their presence and actions. You shake off saving a life as duty. Losing a life is personal.

The calling is powerful. It starts with the servant magnet pulling them to be in a particular line of service, whether teacher or a public safety staffer. But it goes deep, very deep for others as well. It’s real for just about everybody who cares and believes without a doubt that they are called to be doing what they are doing. If you are in charge of the city streets, you take it very personally when heavy equipment is tearing up the street with their weight or spikes. If there is a wreck that knocks down light poles, there is both a duty to get it fixed quickly and a frustration that “their” assets got damaged.

If ballfields get destroyed by dirt bikes or weather, there are parks people who take it hard after working so diligently to have fields mowed, groomed and ready for play. Those folks are often invisible like the janitor story yesterday. They are probably sitting off to the side somewhere in pickups or golf carts waiting for games to end so they can pick up litter left behind. They are also watching the weather, relying on the lightening detectors to warn parents and players. I would expect that some are saying prayers that nobody gets hurt on their watch – even if there is nothing they could do to prevent some injuries. And can you imagine the relief that a ton of school and public safety officials feel when a football game is over, the stands are emptied and the parking lots with no cars without there being an incident?

If parents upheld their duty to be on watch and remain on watch over their kids, a ton of municipal services could be less riskier and even reduced in some cases. Parents can say Yes to many, many requests from their children, and should. But ask our son Kenneth how many times he heard “not on my watch, not under my roof or not on my dollar” when growing up.

So, I’m a conflicted person, and I admit it. The deal is, being a caring public official, whether elected or appointed, makes it hard to say No. But it takes a boldness and a level of discernment that is rarely found in most of us. I am often reminded of the powerful words of the Serenity Prayer: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to changes the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.”

God bless those standing watch. And in some form or fashion, that’s all of us. Every single one of us. LFM

Leadership and the Janitor

I don’t have permission to reprint this story, but a colleague forwarded it to me to read. I’ve got to share it with you. It says so much. Coming from a blue collar background, I have always been grateful for my upbringings as well as my successes. When I see workers like the one in this story, I always see my dad and mom.

At a conference the past two days, I always look for a janitor, maid or meal server to whisper my usual, “thank you for taking care of us.” It is easy to see they get a surprised look on their face and then smile. What I don’t do is take the time to ask about their family, their history, their life. What a blessing that would be.

This story today gave me a big lift. There is always a person around us to appreciate and to let them know their service or just a pleasant quietness does not go unnoticed. How surprised we might be if we knew a little more about them. Nothing but ourselves prevents that from happening. LFM

Leadership and the Janitor


William “Bill” Crawford was an unimpressive figure, one you could easily overlook during a hectic day at the U.S. Air Force Academy. Mr. Crawford, as most of us referred to him back in the late 1970s, was our squadron janitor.Army Master Sergeant William J. Crawford (Ret.), poses for a photo for a Denver Post photographer shortly before a Fourth of July parade in Denver, Colorado. Photo courtesy of Beverly Crawford-Kite.Army Master Sergeant William J. Crawford (Ret.), poses for a photo for a Denver Post photographer shortly before a Fourth of July parade in Denver, Colorado. Photo courtesy of Beverly Crawford-Kite.

While we cadets busied ourselves preparing for academic exams, athletic events, Saturday morning parades, and room inspections — or never — ending leadership classes—Bill quietly moved about the squadron mopping and buffing floors, emptying trash cans, cleaning toilets, or just tidying up the mess 100 college-age kids can leave in a dormitory.

Sadly, and for many years, few of us gave him much notice, rendering little more than a passing nod or throwing a curt, “G’morning!” in his direction as we hurried off to our daily duties. Why? Perhaps it was because of the way he did his job — he always kept the squadron area spotlessly clean, even the toilets and showers gleamed. Frankly, he did his job so well, none of us had to notice or get involved. After all, cleaning toilets was his job, not ours.

Maybe it was his physical appearance that made him disappear into the background. Bill didn’t move very quickly, and in fact, you could say he even shuffled a bit, as if he suffered from some sort of injury. His gray hair and wrinkled face made him appear ancient to a group of young cadets. And his crooked smile, well, it looked a little funny. Face it, Bill was an old man working in a young person’s world. What did he have to offer us on a personal level?

Maybe it was Mr. Crawford’s personality that rendered him almost invisible to the young people around him. Bill was shy, almost painfully so. He seldom spoke to a cadet unless they addressed him first, and that didn’t happen very often. Our janitor always buried himself in his work, moving about with stooped shoulders, a quiet gait, and an averted gaze. If he noticed the hustle and bustle of cadet life around him, it was hard to tell. For whatever reason, Bill blended into the woodwork and became just another fixture around the squadron. The Academy, one of our nation’s premier leadership laboratories, kept us busy from dawn till dusk. And Mr. Crawford… well, he was just a janitor.

That changed one fall Saturday afternoon in 1976. I was reading a book about World War II and the tough Allied ground campaign in Italy, when I stumbled across an incredible story.

On September 13, 1943, a Private William Crawford from Colorado, assigned to the 36th Infantry Division, had been involved in some bloody fighting on Hill 424 near Altavilla, Italy.

William Crawford's Medal of Honor Citation. William Crawford’s Medal of Honor Citation. The words on the page leapt out at me, “in the face of intense and overwhelming hostile fire… with no regard for personal safety… on his own initiative, Private Crawford single-handedly attacked fortified enemy positions.” It continued, “for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of life above and beyond the call of duty, the President of the United States…”

“Holy cow,” I said to my roommate, “you’re not going to believe this, but I think our janitor is a Medal of Honor recipient.” We all knew Mr. Crawford was a World War II Army vet, but that didn’t keep my friend from looking at me as if I was some sort of alien being. Nonetheless, we couldn’t wait to ask Bill about the story.

We met Mr. Crawford bright and early Monday and showed him the page in question from the book, anticipation and doubt on our faces. He stared at it for a few silent moments and then quietly uttered something like, “Yep, that’s me.” Mouths agape, my roommate and I looked at one another, then at the book, and quickly back at our janitor. Almost at once, we both stuttered, “Why didn’t you ever tell us about it?” He slowly replied after some thought, “That was one day in my life and it happened a long time ago.” I guess we were all at a loss for words after that. We had to hurry off to class and Bill, well, he had chores to attend to.

After that brief exchange, things were never again the same around our squadron. Word spread like wildfire among the cadets that we had a hero in our midst — Mr. Crawford, our janitor, had been bestowed The Medal! Cadets who had once passed by Bill with hardly a glance, now greeted him with a smile and a respectful, “Good morning, Mr. Crawford.”

Those who had before left a mess for the “janitor” to clean up, started taking it upon themselves to put things in order. Cadets routinely stopped to talk to Bill throughout the day and we even began inviting him to our formal squadron functions. He’d show up dressed in a conservative dark suit and quietly talk to those who approached him, the only sign of his heroics being a simple blue, star-spangled lapel pin. Almost overnight, Bill went from being a simple fixture in our squadron to one of our teammates.

Mr. Crawford changed too, but you had to look closely to notice the difference. After that fall day in 1976, he seemed to move with more purpose, his shoulders didn’t seem to be as stooped, he met our greetings with a direct gaze and a stronger “good morning” in return, and he flashed his crooked smile more often. The squadron gleamed as always, but everyone now seemed to notice it more. Bill even got to know most of us by our first names, something that didn’t happen often at the Academy. While no one ever formally acknowledged the change, I think we became Bill’s cadets and his squadron.

As often happens in life, events sweep us away from those in our past. The last time I saw Bill was on graduation day in June 1977. As I walked out of the squadron for the last time, he shook my hand and simply said, “Good luck, young man.” With that, I embarked on a career that has been truly lucky and blessed.

Mr. Crawford continued to work at the Academy and eventually retired in his native Colorado, one of four Medal of Honor recipients who lived in the small town of Pueblo.

A wise person once said, “It’s not life that’s important, but those you meet along the way that make the difference.” Bill was one who made a difference for me. Bill Crawford, our janitor, taught me many valuable, unforgettable leadership lessons, and I think of him often.

Here are ten I’d like to share:

1.) Be Cautious of Labels. Labels you place on people may define your relationship to them and bind their potential. Sadly, and for a long time, we labeled Bill as just a janitor, but he was so much more. Therefore, be cautious of a leader who callously says, “Hey, he’s just an Airman.” Likewise, don’t tolerate the O-1, who says, “I can’t do that, I’m just a lieutenant.”

Everyone Deserves Respect. Because we hung the “janitor” label on Mr. Crawford, we often wrongly treated him with less respect than others. He deserved much more, and not just because he was received the Medal of Honor. Bill deserved respect because he was a janitor, walked among us, and was a part of our team.

Courtesy Makes a Difference. Be courteous to all around you, regardless of rank or position. Military customs, as well as common courtesies, help bond a team. When our daily words to Mr. Crawford turned from perfunctory “hellos” to heartfelt greetings, his demeanor and personality outwardly changed. It made a difference for all of us.

4.) Take Time to Know Your People. Life in the military is hectic, but that’s no excuse for not knowing the people you work for and with. For years a hero walked among us at the Academy and we never knew it. Who are the heroes that walk in your midst?

Anyone Can Be a Hero. Mr. Crawford certainly didn’t fit anyone’s standard definition of a hero. Moreover, he was just a private on the day he earned his Medal. Don’t sell your people short, for any one of them may be the hero who rises to the occasion when duty calls. On the other hand, it’s easy to turn to your proven performers when the chips are down, but don’t ignore the rest of the team. Today’s rookie could and should be tomorrow’s superstar.

6.) Leaders Should Be Humble. Most modern day heroes, and some leaders, are anything but humble, especially if you calibrate your “hero meter” on today’s athletic fields. End zone celebrations and self-aggrandizement are what we’ve come to expect from sports greats. Not Mr. Crawford—he was too busy working to celebrate his past heroics. Leaders would be well served to do the same.

Life Won’t Always Hand You What You Think You Deserve. We in the military work hard and, dang it, we deserve recognition, right? However, sometimes you just have to persevere, even when accolades don’t come your way. Perhaps you weren’t nominated for junior officer or airman of the quarter as you thought you should — don’t let that stop you. Don’t pursue glory; pursue excellence. Private Bill Crawford didn’t pursue glory — he did his duty and then swept floors for a living.

8.)  No Job is Beneath a Leader. If Bill Crawford, a Medal of Honor recipient, could clean latrines and smile, is there a job beneath your dignity? Think about it.

Pursue Excellence. No matter what task life hands you, do it well. Dr. Martin Luther King said, “If life makes you a street sweeper, be the best street sweeper you can be.” Mr. Crawford modeled that philosophy and helped make our dormitory area a home.

10.) Life is a Leadership Laboratory. All too often we look to some school or class to teach us about leadership when, in fact, life is a leadership laboratory. Those you meet everyday will teach you enduring lessons if you just take time to stop, look, and listen. I spent four years at the Air Force Academy, took dozens of classes, read hundreds of books, and met thousands of great people. I gleaned leadership skills from all of them, but one of the people I remember most is Mr. Bill Crawford and the lessons he unknowingly taught. Don’t miss your opportunity to learn.

Bill Crawford was a janitor. However, he was also a teacher, friend, role model, and one great American hero.

Thanks, Mr. Crawford, for some valuable leadership lessons.William Crawford poses with his statue in Pueblo, Colorado.William Crawford poses with his statue in Pueblo, Colorado.

“Semper Vercundus”

Private William John Crawford was a scout for 3rd Platoon, Company I, 142nd Regiment, 36th Infantry Division, fighting in Italy during World War II on September 13, 1943 — just four days after the invasion of Salerno.

Crawford was a hero, lauded by peers for his actions in combat but was missing in action and presumed dead. Army Major General Terry Allen presented Crawford’s Medal of Honor posthumously to his father, George, on May 11, 1944, at Camp (now Fort) Carson, near Colorado Springs, Colorado.

It was later learned that Crawford was alive and in a POW camp. He returned to the United States after 18 months in captivity.

Crawford retired from the Army after 23 years and went to work as a janitor at the U.S. Air Force Academy so that he could remain close to the military. Master Sergeant William J. Crawford passed away in 2000. He is buried on the grounds of the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Two Girls & Four Painters

LFM Note: I was fortunate to be invited to read to each of my granddaughter’s classes about four years ago. Instead of reading a book, I wrote my own stories. This one was adopted from a story circulated on the Internet (author unknown) that you will recognize. Our granddaughter Lily loves art. All three of our grandchildren do. However, Lily is all about art and has a gift to draw and cut out three dimensional objects that fascinate us. This story was for her class. I wrote an original story for Lindsey, two years older, when she was in either kindergarten or first grade. This age was great to be around.

When I arrived, the classmates were sitting at their desks. The teacher, Ms. Holland, told me to sit in the rocking chair close to the far corner of the room. I thought I was going to read to the kids at their desks. Then she told the kids to sit on the big rug in front of the rocking chair, literally up against my feet. I have never had such an attentive audience in my life. Legs crossed, chins on their fists, the scene as they peered up at me is a fond memory. Just so you will know the names, Mr. Morris, the Head of of the Lower School just retired at Trinity Christian Academy, the most loved man at TCA after 40 years of service.

I offer this to you as a suggestion to make up your own stories to your young kids and grandkids. I see at least 25 potential stories in the cute and funny Facebook quips and clips you send around every day. The personal touch is appreciated. As with many stories, you can also convey many life-lessons.


Two Girls & Four Painters

Lily was not happy. She was rolled into a hospital room two hours after surgery on her leg. They told her she would be staying for about three days before she could go home. She didn’t want to be in the hospital unable to get out of bed. Lily wanted to be home with her paint set. She was happiest when she was painting or creating a craft project.

The hospital room had two beds separated by a wooden wall that went about halfway to the ceiling. One bed had a window and the other bed didn’t. Lily got the bed without a window. She went from being unhappy to being disappointed as could be seen by the frown etched on her face.

“What’s your name?” Lily didn’t realize there was already somebody in the bed on the other side of the room – the side with a window – until she heard the voice.

“My name is Lily. “What is your name?”

“My name is Lindsey. Welcome!”

“I don’t like it here,” said Lily. “I’d rather be home painting.”

Lindsey said, “You’re a painter? I am, too.”

“What do you like to paint?” asked Lily.

“Just about everything,” Lindsey replied.

Lily had brought her paint brushes and some paper to paint on while in the hospital. But she was in no mood to paint. In fact, she didn’t really have an interest in talking to Lindsey. She just wanted to pout. It even bothered her that Lindsey sounded so happy. How could anybody be happy in a hospital bed? Even if you had a window?

Lindsey could sense that Lily didn’t want to be there. She had been there for two days and had one more day before she could go home. The surgery Lindsey had on her foot had kept her in bed, but she was trying to stay positive. She hoped she could get a roommate who was more pleasant than Lily seemed to be.

The day ended with Lily and Lindsey falling to sleep without saying much more to each other. Lily wondered what Lindsey looked like. It was strange talking to someone she could not see because of the wall between them.

The next morning Lily was awakened when Lindsey yelled, “Lily, wake up! Wake up!”

Lily buried her head under the pillow. She wanted to be left alone.

“Lily, there’s a cardinal on the window sill!”

Lily couldn’t resist this comment. The only things she loved more than painting were birds and animals. Any kind of animal! Especially baby animals. Lily couldn’t think of an animal she didn’t like.

“Is it a male with bright red and crest on his head,” asked Lily?

“Yes, and he is very big. He looks like he has just eaten a big meal.”

Lily wanted more details. “What is he doing?”

“He’s looking in the window like a curious neighbor watching kids playing in the street. Except he is looking in instead of out. He is cocking his head back and forth like he sees me but can’t quite figure out who is in our room.”

“Gee,” said Lily, “I wish I could see out the window.”

Then Lindsey told Lily the cardinal had just flown away.

Nurse Stephens and Holland then came in to give the two girls their breakfast.

Before long Dr. Morris came in to check on Lily and Lindsey to make sure their leg and foot were healing from the surgery. Everything was looking just fine.

While Lily had perked up after hearing about the cardinal, she slumped back into her bed and began to feel sorry for herself confined in a hospital bed. The day went by, night came and both girls fell asleep. Lindsey was worried about Lily being unhappy and hoped that the next day would be better.

The next morning started off about like the previous morning. “Lily, Lily, wake up! I can see a dog park from the window. It is Saturday morning with tons of families with their dogs running and playing in the dog park.”

Lily sat straight up in her bed. Without thinking she reached under her bed and pulled out her pad and paints. “Tell me what you see, Lindsey. Don’t leave out a thing.”

Lindsey described the dog park that had many trees. There were also benches where people could sit as their dogs ran free. There was a large oval water pan at one end of the dog park. It was about 3 feet wide and 5 feet long. Next to the pan was a low place where dogs had splashed so much water than it had become muddy.

Lily stopped Lindsey and asked, “What color are the park benches? How many are there? How many people and dogs are there? Tell me more about the water puddle? What color is the mud? Are most of the dogs big or small? Are any of them fighting or all playing?”

As Lindsey started describing the dog park in more detail, Lily started painting. The benches were made of metal with green tops and seats on gray piping. The trees were tall and provided about half sunlight and half shade. There were about 20 dogs of all sizes. They were all playing, many running in circles. The mud was brown.

“What color is the brown,” asked Lily? Reddish brown like a bowl of chili or a dark brown, like a grizzly bear.”

The more Lindsey described the details, the faster Lily painted.

“Lily, there’s a little dog chasing a big dog in circles, and their pathway goes right through the mud puddle!”

“Really? Tell me more” giggled Lily.

Lindsey said Big Dog was lopping along like he was happy with his ears flapping in the wind. It was almost as if you could see a smile on his face. Little Dog was trying to show Big Dog how brave he was, but when Big Dog stopped suddenly, Little Dog slid right under Big Dog’s belly. Lindsey was shouting each movement like an announcer at a football game.

Lily’s giggle turned into a belly laugh. She had to put down her paint brush. She could imagine what the scene looked like. She was laughing so hard that her sides were aching. “Oh Lindsey, please tell me more!”

By the end of the day, Lily had painted three scenes of the dog park. She was exhausted, but it had been a very good day. The evening ended with Lily and Lindsey talking for several hours in their dark room. They both talked about their favorite students at their different schools. They talked about their dreams when they went to high school and then to college. They talked about family vacations. They talked about church. They fell asleep talking about God and their understandings of Jesus and the Bible. They both prayed out loud as they drifted to sleep.

Lily slept so soundly that she was awakened only because Nurse Holland brought her breakfast tray to her. “Where’s Nurse Stephens with Lindsey’s tray?”

“Lindsey checked out of the hospital early this morning” said Nurse Holland. Dr. Morris said it was time for her to return home to continue healing.

“Oh no,” said Lily, “I didn’t get to tell her goodbye.”

Nurse Holland said, “Well, one more day and you can go home, too.”

Lily said, “Nurse Holland, would it be okay if we moved my bed to the other side of the room so I can be near the window?”

Nurse Holland looked puzzled and said, “Lily, why would you want to move? The window looks out to the brick wall of the building next to us. You can’t see anything.”

Lily was confused but then got mad. “Lindsey lied to me! She said there was a dog park she could see. She described it in detail. Here are three pictures I painted after listening to her tell me about what she saw.”

About that time Nurse Stephens walked in to hear the conversation. “Lily, it is impossible for Lindsey to have seen those things. Not only is there a brick wall outside the window, but Lindsey cannot see at all. Lindsey is blind. She has no eyesight.”

There was a silence in the room as the two nurses and Lily looked stunned and just stared at each other. Nobody could think of what to say.

Dr. Morris walked in the room and asked what was going on. There was a commotion as Lily was holding up her paintings and the nurses were trying to explain.

He then started laughing, adding to the shocked reaction to Lily and Nurses Holland and Stephens.

“Don’t you see what we have here? This room has been home to two girls and four painters.”

“What do you mean?” they all three said at the same time.

“Lily paints with brushes and paper. She uses colors and brush strokes to tell a story. The types of strokes she chooses add emphasis to details she wants people to see. The images she forms communicate a message between Lily and the person looking at her pictures.”

“Lindsey, on the other hand, is the second and third painter. She paints in her mind. She does not have eyesight, but the images in her head are clear and have color and details just as vivid as if she had painted them like Lily.”

“Lindsey also paints with her words. She has a rich vocabulary. She is a writer and a poet. Words can describe the details of many things. Not just colors. Words can describe how things smell, feel and sound. Lily, one of your pictures shows two dogs romping around a dog park. I can see fun, I can see action and I can see humor in your picture. You drew that picture that says all of those things from the words used by Lindsey. Neither you nor Lindsey actually saw those pictures until they were put in your heads by words.”

Lily had to think about the different kinds of painters for a few minutes as did Nurse Stephens and Nurse Holland.

Then Lily said, “Dr. Morris, you said there were four painters and described three. Who is the fourth painter?”

“It is you, Lily” Dr. Morris said. “When I talked to Lindsey as she left this morning, she told me about how much she enjoyed you. She said you kept motivating her to see more details. You pulled those details out of her imagination. If she had eyesight, you would have been encouraging her to look closer and deeper at things. She described two dogs running around in circles. You made her see the action, the fun, the life of the event. That is also want a painter does. So you are the first and fourth painter. Lindsey is the second and third painter.”

They all heard a noise and turned around to see Lindsey’s mom pushing her in a wheelchair. They had returned to the room to pick up an iPod Lindsey left in the room.

Lindsey rolled over to Lily’s bedside and gave her a hug. Lily was in disbelief that Lindsey really was blind. She told Lindsey how she now understood. Lindsey was trying to help Lily cheer up. She knew it was by giving her something to paint so that Lily would snap out of her sadness.

Lindsey explained to Lily that while she did not have eyesight that she really was not blind. “I saw a dog park, but you made it crisp and clear, with more colors and with a lot more action than I saw at first. I am the one who should be thanking you for giving me better sight. I also saw your friends and family and pets and everything you described when we talked and prayed after the lights were out. During that time we both were relying on our thoughts and our words to see in the darkness. God gave both of us certain gifts. Those gifts are even greater when we work together!”

Lindsey and Lily both promised to call each other each week so they could “paint” over the phone. LFM

Adapted and embellished from a story circulated on the Internet (author unknown)