A brief look inside the thoughts of Mr. Crouch, and how he feels this Thanksgiving season.
November 22, 2016
The editors of this fine publication, in their infinite wisdom, have seen fit to provide me with a space to muse, ponder, and perhaps occasionally rant. I shall do my level best not to embarrass them too badly.
Ladies and gents, the season for giving thanks is once again upon us. Very soon, families and friends across this great nation will gather together around tables laden with turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, candied yams, and pumpkin pies – and, in my family, a delightful Jello concoction known as Yum-Yum Salad. Some unfortunates will ‘celebrate’ with Tofurky and other vegan nonsense. (Just kidding, vegans. Kinda.) However you celebrate, though, I urge you to take at least a brief moment to sincerely thank your preferred deity (or the universe, or simply dumb luck) and count your blessings.
Thanksgiving is many things – a chance to gather with loved ones, a justification for gluttony, and an excuse to watch nine hours of football on a weekday. Foremost among these, however, it is an opportunity to express gratitude for all of the good things that nearly each of us enjoys in this life. Please take a moment to consider: we are lucky enough to live in a relatively affluent community. I don’t mean to suggest that there aren’t families in Bothell who struggle with poverty; of course there are, and we should be sensitive to their struggles. However, most of us don’t have to worry too much about putting food on the table or keeping a roof over our heads. Most of us take for granted the phone in our pocket, the car(s) in our driveway, and the relative safety of our community. For many people in this country (and most people in this world), however, these would be incredible luxuries to be cherished, rather than everyday realities to be shrugged off.
Our world is replete with examples of communities ravaged by war, famine, and/or disease. How often are we truly asked to consider the plight of those in the world less fortunate than ourselves? In my humble opinion, not nearly often enough. Take a moment to peruse a news source (may I suggest the BBC, the New York Times, or NPR) and find the world news. I submit that you will find stories of people – in many cases, people not much older (and often much younger) than yourselves in truly gut-wrenching circumstances. Remember the photo of the young boy in Aleppo, Syria that spread wildly on social media a few months ago? That boy was four years old when that photo was taken. Now, imagine your four-year-old self. Think about your major worries at that time of your life. Did they include falling bombs? The availability of food? The survival of your family? I suspect that they probably did not. This is not purely speculative for me, by the way. My son is four years old. It is nearly impossible for me to see that boy in Aleppo and not compare his experience to my son’s (whose major concerns include the availability of hot dogs and “Jake and the Neverland Pirates”).
I’m not asking you to become a crusader for global peace and justice. I’m not even necessarily trying to suggest that you spend your Thanksgiving morning serving food to the homeless (although that would be awesome of you). I’m simply urging you to consider the fact that, all things considered, most of us are quite fortunate. We should be grateful and count our blessings.
Happy Thanksgiving, all. Now get off my lawn.
Holiday Greetings from Mr. Crouch
The holiday season has arrived, ladies and gents. Fake snowmen, evergreen trees, and jolly rotund fellows shall soon proliferate across our shopping malls and television screens. The snow is falling in the mountains (and, if the National Weather Service is to be believed, may fall here in the lowlands as well). In homes throughout the land, families will gather together and exchange gifts.
If I may, I would like to respectfully suggest a slightly different course of action: don’t buy them stuff. Or rather, don’t buy them stuff simply for the sake of buying them something, rather than nothing. Instead, consider an alternate holiday gifting plan.
Here’s a modest proposal: spend your time instead of your money. Please don’t misunderstand me: I don’t mean to suggest that the gifts that you might purchase are somehow unappreciated or unwelcome. Far from it. However, the gift of your time, energy, and genuine attention may mean much more than any simple trinket from the mall.
So often in our culture, we give stuff instead of giving of ourselves. Whether due to habit, stress, or a lack of imagination, we feel that we must purchase something in order to validate our feelings for the gift’s intended recipient. Even more unfortunately, we seem to believe that the dollar value of the gift somehow represents our feelings for the gift’s recipient.
Give your time. Give your (actual, undivided) attention. Give a meal that you’ve actually prepared yourself. Pick up the tab at Starbucks (or preferably, an independent coffeehouse) and actually talk to your mom or dad for an hour or so. Take a couple of hours and do yard work. Rather than shelling out your money, utilize your time and energy.
I don’t mean to denigrate the thoughtful gifts that we buy for friends and family. A considerate purchase can bring the recipient a great deal of joy, especially when it represents sincere effort and affection on the part of the giver.
Plus, holiday shopping certainly stimulates the local economy! However, you may have an even more valuable gift to give that means just as much to the recipient and keeps that cash in your pocket.
Our attention is so fragmented today that it has become our most valuable commodity. We have become addicted to distraction, often unknowingly so. The world is at our fingertips, but so often it blinds us to what’s right in front of our faces. The result is that we become disconnected from those we love while we crave connection to virtual “friends” and “followers” like a junkie craving another hit. However, we have the power to halt this erosion of human relationships.
Our time, and the power to control how we spend it, is the most valuable resource we have. Please consider this when contemplating your holiday shopping list. Give your time, give your energy, and give your precious, precious attention. I suspect that those on your list would appreciate such a gift immensely.
Happy Holidays, all. Now get off my lawn.
Happy Hearts Day, Everyone
Love is in the air, but like Axe spray, too much is too much.
The time is upon us for hearts, flowers, overpriced mediocre chocolates, and syrupy messages of affection. Yes, ladies and gents, it’s time once again for Valentine’s Day. Whether you’re involved in a committed relationship or flying solo, prepare to be inundated with sticky-sweet sentimentality from now until February 14. Perhaps we should take a step back and reflect on this phenomenon.
Now, it’s tempting to write off any and all statements of love that are prompted by Valentine’s Day as shallow and ultimately meaningless. It is true that many individuals show more affection (or more exaggerated affection) on Valentine’s Day than during other times of the year. However, this does not mean that these demonstrations of affection are insincere. Nearly all of us who profess our love on Feb. 14 each year do so truly and honestly. Having said that, it’s worthwhile to ponder the bitterness and anguish that this holiday inspires in so many of us.
What is it about Valentine’s Day that causes so many of us to react negatively? Is it the saccharine, over-the-top declarations of love? Is it the overt commercialism, the expectation that we must put a dollar amount on our feelings for another human being? Perhaps many of us simply don’t like those candy hearts that seem so ubiquitous around this holiday. Or, perhaps many folks simply resent the reminder that they are alone.
It seems like a valid reason to dislike this holiday — the constant images of romance being forced upon us, whether we like it or not. For singletons, this deluge of lovey-dovey propaganda can simply become too much, inspiring a backlash against not only the holiday itself, but also the lovebirds reveling in their couplehood. Furthermore, the corporate nature of Valentine’s Day is a huge turnoff for many people who (justifiably, probably) feel that all of these declarations of affection are driven not by true love, but by a desire to conform, to do what society expects of us on this day.
I can certainly understand each aspect of this holiday. As Joni Mitchell says in her song “Both Sides Now,” “‘íve looked at love from both sides now/ From give and take, and still somehow/ It’s love’s illusions I recall/ I really don’t know love at all.”
For myself, having looked at Valentine’s Day from both sides allows me to understand both the euphoria of a committed relationship and the bitter loneliness of solitude.
Here’s the conclusion that I’ve reached: you do you. Whether you’re happily committed to another soul, or a party of one, do your best not to impose your experience of Valentine’s Day experience upon others. Don’t shove your blissful romance in anyone else’s face, and try not to spew your bitter loneliness on anyone else, either. And please, for the love of all that is holy, refrain from egregious PDA in the hallways of our fair school. Absolutely no one wants to see that, trust me. Just do your best to stay in your lane on Valentines Day, and we’ll all get along fine.
Happy hearts day, everyone. Now get off my lawn.
Pondering the Idea of School Spirit
Society has a predetermined idea of what school spirit should be, but maybe it’s time for a change.
High school, it must be said, is an odd concept. The same could really be said for all public schools, I suppose, but we are focused on high school for now, ladies and gents. Students are compelled by law to attend school for roughly six and a half hours per day. They are sorted in many different ways – aptitude for various academic subjects, interests, gender – but they are primarily grouped by age and geography. They are then instructed in roughly one-hour increments, in groups of 25-35. Seems somewhat random, no? What is my point, you may (justifiably, dear reader) ask? My point is, perhaps we should reconsider the meaning of “school spirit.”
One element of high school that I have thus far failed to mention is extracurricular activities. These activities – including sports, performing arts, clubs (such as FBLA, DECA, Key Club, etc.) and other activities (including newspaper!) – often contribute a great deal to a school’s identity.
Sports in particular can greatly influence a school’s character (both real and perceived), within the school as well as in its community. Often, a school will be strongly associated with one sport or activity in particular. Bothell is well known throughout the region for its football program, which brings many students, staff, families, and community members together and has an overall positive impact on the school climate, in my humble opinion. In the minds of many, there is a strong correlation between support for sports and school spirit.
However, this definition of school spirit may be somewhat limiting and, ultimately, even counterproductive to the development of a school’s character and identity. Think about all of the aspects of high schools in general (and BHS in particular) that make up the school itself. Now, consider how we perceive “school spirit.” Doesn’t it seem somewhat limiting and reductive? Isn’t it possible that we are leaving out an enormous portion of what makes Bothell an interesting, unique, occasionally infuriating, often wonderful place?
Perhaps, just perhaps, we should rethink our definition of school spirit to include more of those things that make Bothell, Bothell. Consider our outstanding music programs – one of our choirs literally performed at Carnegie Hall earlier this year! (If you are unaware, this is a big deal.) Our drama program frequently produces excellent plays and musicals. FBLA typically sends many students to national competitions. Bothell’s Science Olympiad team was state champions last year – did you know that?
I would suggest that, beyond just sports, we should include other extracurricular activities in our definition of school spirit. Not only that, but also academic pursuits – after all, isn’t that supposedly the reason we’re all here in the first place? What if the pursuit of academic excellence was considered part of “school spirit”? What if we celebrated outstanding scholars, artists, writers, mathematicians, and scientists in addition to (NOT instead of, mind you) excellent athletes?
Consider the possibilities for our school’s atmosphere. Consider how this might impact the spirit of Bothell. Consider the possibilities, ladies and gents. Now consider getting off my lawn.
Spring is here again, ladies and gents. The flowers are in bloom, the birds are singing, and the sun is even making an appearance after many months of overcast, gray gloom. The stores are filled with pastel eggs, chocolate rabbits, and other classic symbols of fertility. Look around, folks, and it’s hard to miss signs of regrowth and rebirth all around us. The time is ripe for us to undertake renewal in our own lives.
Think of nature’s signs as an invitation from the gods. Periodically in this life, we have an opportunity to reinvent ourselves. The transition from childhood to adulthood is one such crossroads. You, dear reader, may find yourself at such a point in your own existence. I would humbly suggest that you take the opportunity to critically examine your choices and make an honest effort at self-improvement.
In this modern world, we are bombarded with information. Most of us carry devices with us that can distract us incessantly if we let them. Here is one opportunity for regeneration. Turn off your phone for a while. I don’t mean silence it – I mean turn it completely off. Give your mind and sprit a break from the fire hose of data that constantly overwhelms us. (If need be, let your parents know that you’ll be ‘off the grid’ briefly, just so they don’t worry.) Maybe pick up an actual book or magazine. You might be surprised how refreshed you feel after even an hour without the burden of constant connectivity.
Consider the world around you – and I don’t just mean as it relates to you personally, but as it relates to everyone. Jimi Hendrix once said, “I used to live in a room full of mirrors; all I could see was me. I take my spirit and I crash my mirrors; now the whole world is here for me to see.” Despite our increased connectivity, it’s increasingly easy to surround ourselves with mirrors, focusing only on our own experience in this world. As Hendrix says, take your spirit and crash your mirrors – you might be amazed by what you see.
As you contemplate the rebirth and regeneration of nature that comes with spring, and the abundant symbols of fertility that surround us, take a moment to imagine how you, too, might experience personal renewal. Imagine the rite of passage that you might undergo as you transition from childhood to adulthood. Imagine looking up from your phone, shattering your mirrors, and seeing the wide world that surrounds us.
Imagine what could be, ladies and gents. Now imagine getting off my lawn.