LovePrints. Bullying, and how love can beat it.

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Love in action. Action in love. Love out loud. The trending activity for our young people is not a good one. It is a fear and anger based action. It requires silence, inactivity, ignorance, and an obvious disconnect. It requires constantly choosing to not be present. It is an empty vacuum. It is a lack of light. It is a lack of vision. It is a lack of purpose. It is bullying.

I know that this is not new. I know that bullying is as old has nature itself. I do not care if you call it, the thinning of the herd, the thickening of skin, the toughening of the clan, or any of the other thing, it happened before this generation, and will sadly happen in the next. Some of it is code speak for conquer now, consider later. Some of it is based on the idea that the weaker need to move out of the way of the stronger, faster, richer, smarter, and often, meaner. It is mental laziness.

Here’s where I stand on this. As a parent, my forehead wrinkles up at any kid being bullied. If I was not present and my child is bullied, I would hope and pray that the young people involved have been covered in enough love to know that this is not love. It is my hope that at least one of them have some love to spare, some love to give, and some clue that whatever is going on is not a good thing. I hope that at least one other person present recognizes pain, seeks to end it, avoid it, or make it better. I hope. I pray.

As an adult, I stand up, stand in, and am heard. I simply do not have it in me to stand silently and watch pain happen. I also refuse to put another thing in with the pain. It does not matter if it is an animal in pain, a child in pain, a woman in pain, or a brother in pain. If I can do something to make the situation better, I should do so. I would do so. In the age of grabbing a camera and hitting record as the pain happens, I am still in the family of standing up, speaking out, and ending the pain. That is what I hope. I pray.

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As a husband, I simply believe that my first task each day, and last task each day, is love. It is my mission and goal to keep the home pain free, especially by me. It is a daily choice to love out loud, action in love, and be love in action. That keeps it simple for me. A home should be pain free. It should be covered in love. When my wife leaves the house, she has enough love to carry her through her day until she returns home. She has enough love to add to any situation. When the day has drained her of love, LOVE LIVES HERE. That is what I hope. I pray.

As a coach, I am tasked with covering other people’s young ones in love. How awesome is that? Pretty amazing, right? That is why I coach. I get to love more, and if I do it right, loved more. When I see a player in pain, I cover them in love. When there is an act out in pain, I cover them in love. Every player that I have ever coach knows that I love them, and I hope that they love themselves as well. I make a point to have my players action in love away from the game. Away from the team. Away from their family. They should be covered in love, from within, and from those they share themselves with. I pray that they get so much love at home, at school, at practice and games, and in the neighborhood, they should have plenty to share with others. They should have enough to ease the pain of anyone around them. They should recognize love, and with that, are able to recognize the other when they see it, hear it, feel it. They should know that the right thing is to ease the other persons pain with an act of love. They should know that action can be a smile, a hug, and kind word, or just listening. I hope. I pray.

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I mention home, school, and neighborhood because if a love vacuum exists in any of those places, it needs to be filled by love from somewhere. Whether it’s a teacher, a faith leader, a mentor, a neighbor, or a coach, that vacuum can be filled with love so that nothing else can occupy it. This is how bullying can be defeated.  Bullying can not live where love is. Love wins. Bullying is defeated.

Did I say defeated? That’s the coach in me. When confronted with an opponent, I plan to defeat it. I find its weakness, and capitalize. I try to understand its strength, and find a way to make that a weakness. I try to know why the opponent is being successful and strip them of it. That’s how my brain and heart works.

I know where bullying starts. It can be at home, where pain can be louder than love. It can be in the words and actions of the adults that live there. It can be on the school bus, at the school. In the hallways, in the classrooms, in the locker rooms, or in hallways where no one is watching. No one is there who can act in love. It can be on social media. It can be the words that they read by adults who say that its ok to berate, its ok to be mean, its ok to gang up by power in numbers. It can be in the private text messages, group chats, or face to face when no one else is around. It requires a disconnect. It requires darkness. It requires forgetting that love is why. Love has to be why.

What I know is that love and fear cannot occupy the same space. Where love is, fear can not be. Where love is, hate can not be. Fear is a lie, and a prison. The strength required to love is experiencing it, knowing what it looks like, feels like, and sounds like. We know what love is, and what it is not. Given a choice of love and the other, most, most, would choose to be love. If they are aware of it, how great it feels, how powerful it is, and how it multiplies, it will be the constant and consistent choice.

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Mind your words, your actions, and your heart. Make sure that the message that you are handing to your young people is one of love. Allow young people to stay connected to you. If connected, when a young person goes off course, the connection pulls at you and says “I am going left, help me.” If connected, we know natural movements, good movements, and the other.

Be the place where love lives. Be constantly in action of love. Be constantly love in action. Cover your young people so much in love that nothing else can stick. That’s how we will make fewer bullies, young and old. Love. Out loud. I hope that we do. I pray.

Love out loud people.

Go.

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Sometimes, the ball field is a classroom. Who are we?

As coaches, we get these young people for hours a day, 6 days a week. We should know them. We have to know them. More importantly, we have to get them to know themselves. And their teammates. So, on some days, we should put the basketballs, baseballs, footballs, and equipment away to learn. On some days, the classroom is where you get better. On some days, the locker room is where you get better. On those days, we learn. Today’s subject? History. They are all a part of our history. 15 young people.  20 young people. 50 young people. Their families are tied together in this American thing, this melting pot of travelers, wanderers, outcasts, survivors and winners. This pool of survivors, strangers, families, and royalty.

How do I know this? They told me. They told me and others about their ancestor’s journeys. They were all journeys. All from somewhere else. Actually, several somewhere else’s. They talked of The Mayflower, Ellis Island, Korea, Cuba, Italy, Germany, Ireland, England, Argentina, Gullah Island, France, Columbia, Mexico, Scotland, Africa, China, Vietnam, and more. We talked about Castro, Sickle Cell, every great war, every great migration, and several trips by boat. We talked about love stories and sad stories, success stories and failures.

We talked about geography and geology. We talked about each other and ourselves. And we talked about heroes. And warriors. And politics. And again, love. Being loved enough to have ancestors dream of a better life, fight for a better life, create a better life, and survive. Being loved by family enough to change countries, continents, and even names. And being loved by a country that was flawed and changed for the better.  A country that welcomed the unwanted, and hugged the unlovable. A country that is supposed to be about the circle of mutts, mongrels and regal. A country that gave them a chance to build a home for these young people of all colors, creeds and religions to sit in a circle, laughing, sharing, and loving each other.

They will make that same country better. Today, they learned why they are here, how they got here, and why it is important. They will now pay more attention to the history being taught. It’s their story. It’s their history. And their future. What a great day of learning.

The easiest way to connect is sharing.  A team that will study together, ask questions together, learn answers together, will win together. Shared IQ and Intelligence. Each one is smarter with another. Quite often, the ball court is a classroom. Connections don't just happen. They happen by choice. They happen by planning. They happen when people care. Care enough to ask, care enough to listen, care enough to tell, and care enough to share.

When this is done, we know more. Knowing more means caring more. Caring more means sharing more. When we know who we are, who we all are, we are better for it.

That is true, on the field of play and off. That’s what learning and loving through sports is all about.

LovePrints.

Sometimes, the voice in the stands is a good one. Don Dunlap & LovePrints

Great people make great communities. Great communities make great people.

The communities that we are raised in leave deep impressions on us. We carry those forward, and share them with the world. It is important to realize that those impressions can give us an advantage. Those impressions can give us direction, motivation, goals, purpose, and identity. Those impressions can provide support, affirmations, and a mirror to who we are, and can be. These impressions, when done well, are LovePrints.

As any community would want, our wish is that our young people learn from the elders. In perfect cases, the young people learn values, work ethic, the importance of the truth, and to love themselves and others. These LovePrints become the vehicle that moves the young people forward and up. These impressions are the voices in the ear of young people who leave the community. These impressions are the things that separate one young person from another. These LovePrints can provide boundary, focus, and the answer to many of life outside of the community’s questions.

The impressions can come in whispers, shouts, hugs, smiles, pats on the back, and looks from across the field. They can be the quiet, proud mom who simply nods, or the mom at the top of the bleachers, screaming at the top of her lungs to make sure that above the noise, above the action, the young person knows that she is there for them. They can come in notes from teachers who want to make sure that you get it, or from adults in the hallway who see you wavering from the forward and up, but nudge you back onto the line towards something good.

LovePrints can come in the from of the dad who sprints home after work to change from his Clark Kent clothes to his Coach and Superman Cape. They can come from the uncle or older brother who makes time to make sure that the young people understand that these are games, and that the game is not nearly as important as the person who plays them. These impressions can come from Pastors, Mentors, neighbors, and friends. No matter where they come from, if done well, they will travel well after they are shared.

One such LovePrint for me was the giant of a man with a thunderous laugh and a booming voice. His words were strong, and they always had purpose. He could smile and make you comfortable and uneasy at the same time. He was always processing information, and constantly sharing it. He had many gifts, including his amazing kids, and he had one that sticks with me to this very day.

As a young man, I played in the Arlington County Little Leagues, and among the hundreds of parents and families that stood out to me, this one has a special place. I managed to get transferred from my neighborhood clubs in South Arlington to some schools and teams from North Arlington. At age 9, I was bused from a predominantly black neighborhood to a predominantly white one. I lost some friendships, and gained some. The people that filled those holes may or may not know that they did so. Loveprints allows me to tell them.

At the new elementary school that I was sent to, there are certain people who became dear and lifelong friends. A few were made during gym class or at recess, with sports as the common thread that brought people together. We played the games, talked about our favorite players, and tried to emulate them as best as we could. In some cases, we became teammates. In others, we became rivals. In a few cases, we became both.

I can not emphasize this enough. Often, I was the only person of color in my class at school. I usually did not get the comfort of being comfortable. I became protective. I felt like it was me against them. And then, these friendships happened. They turned on the light and made everything bright. They allowed me to have some home base to come to. I had sounding boards, mirrors, and reflections.

Dave was one of the many who I connected with, in the classroom, and on the court/field. He had this awesome way of smiling as he played. It was competitive, but not angry. We both enjoyed playing the games. We tried to understand them. We never had a discussion that was about race. We just talked. We played. We were friends. We played together on a basketball team, we played against each other during baseball season, and we joked in between basketball plays and kickball victories.

On those days where games were played, everyone in Arlington watched everyone else play. It was a marathon of sports, all in one place, and all about each other. Among those watching Dave’s games, my games, was Dave’s dad. I found out that his first name was Don because Mrs. (Joanne) Dunlap often used his first name in addressing his ability to be louder at these games than everyone else combined. He had the ability to be heard from 200 feet away, this I knew. I could hear him as I stood in centerfield, at the free throw line, and at the concession stand.  DERRICK! Get your head up! (Wait, is that someone else’s dad yelling at me?) (Wait, that’s MR. DUNLAP!) Wait! (He doesn’t even coach me!) WAIT! HE’S COACHING ME! Joanne was always whispering “Don, give him a break, he doesn’t want to hear all of that! (They were both perfect. I didn’t WANT to. I NEEDED to.) She was an angel in my eyes. Another loving voice.

A reminder, this voice did not need a microphone or a speaker. It came with its own sound system and booster. It traveled above the normal voice levels of mere mortals, and it reached its selected ears with clarity and vibration. DERRICK! Settle down! Your feet are too busy! DERRICK! Finish the play! DERRICK! Great catch! Wait! Did he say great catch? He saw that! Awesome! I guess I better make more great catches. I like that a ton more than SETTLE DOWN!

I became curious as to what he said to David during his games. Get this…it was LOUDER! But, there he was, cranking out instructions, encouragement, reminders, cheers, and support. And the rest of the parents heard him, and followed. DAVID! Take the shot! DAVID! Great throw! DAVID! Meet me at the concession stand! (Yes, I am using exclamation marks to capture his spirit. He earned them!

After David’s games, or my games, Mr. Dunlap would always manage to catch me off to the side and speak to me., I pretty much could guess what he was going to say because he had said all of it ten times during the game. I always paid attention. I always had something to learn from him. It was always good. DON’T BE AFRAID TO BE YOURSELF! PLAY THE GAME! RELAX! YOU PLAYED WELL TODAY! Those things were constantly said to me. I always thought how lucky and afraid Dave must be. This towering giant would stand over me and rain down wisdom and guidance. He would stand next to Dave and coach us both. Here’s the thing. He did not have to, but he did it anyway. He may not have had the time, but he made time anyway. He always did.

As I grew older, I would hear Mr. Dunlap at high school games, and the voice never wavered, it never lessened. It always showed up. At a high school baseball game my senior year, I was having a horrible night at the plate. My final at bat of the night, THE VOICE hit me with STAY BACK AND GO AWAY! STAY BACK! Well, I stayed back and lined a triple down the right field line, and as I stood on third base, THE VOICE said SETTLE DOWN! I really never had to search for the source of the voice. It was like looking for the sun. Its just there. And there he stood, smiling. It was perfect.

Years later, I have run into the Dunlap family, and its always a homecoming to me. I am pretty sure that they don’t realize that they are deeply in my blessings corner, but they are. I see their dad in them, and I recall them in him. It hits me that he is a part of the coach that I am today. His words ring out, his presence is copied, and I remember to smile when I get their attention when I call out to them.

It was not until later in life that I found out that he played basketball for Maryland. It may or may not have made a difference since he was already larger than life anyway. But it did help make sense of his aura, he energy, and his person. It only made the whole persona thing make sense. He played for Maryland. It made sense.

What I hope is that some of you reading this are the Don Dunlap’s of your young peoples lived. I hope that you are the voice, the presence, the time giver, and the parent. I hope that you are loudly loving those who are near you, and that they some day tell people about you. I hope that David and Diane understand that I am thankful that their amazing dad shared himself with me, and me with them. I appreciate that I should be to others what he was to me. I hope that anyone reading this takes the time to be Donald Dunlap to someone.

Thank you, Dave & Diane. Thank you, Joanne Dunlap, for your constant gentle hands and heart. Thank you, Don Dunlap. Your voice is carried forward with me in your LovePrints. We all know that you are still with us. When we hear your voice, and think of your face, we look forward and up. That’s where you are.

You know your mission forward. Be someone’s voice. They are out there waiting.

Go. Love Out Loud.

LovePrints. Dear Parents, Can we talk?

LovePrints is covering those around us in love. It is making sure that our loved ones can identify love in action, and actions of love. It is the process in which the other thing is identifiable as NOT love. It is time to have a talk parents. It is time to action in love!

When the young people are sent off to high school, and then college, and then life, they should be sent with a covering of love. They should have a clear example of what love looks like, sounds like, and feels like. They should have experienced love at its simplest, and at its deepest. They should have been around love, about love, and for love.

What happens is, some parents get lost in the business of acting in like. They get caught up in attempting to be a best friend, a bro, a girlfriend, instead of the love standard. The standard is often the ability to say what needs to be said, rather than what the young person wants to be said. Sometimes, there is a need for cold hard facts, stone cold truths, and absolute boundary. Sometimes, the young people need to know what is important rather than what is easy. That is love. Caring enough to say what needs to be said. Sometimes, no is the best thing that you can say,

What happens is, a hole in the relationship between parent and young person leads to a vacuum that requires filling. When the vacuum exists, it is natural for a young person to try and fill it. Sometimes, they have been conditioned to fill it with love. In some cases, they are familiar with filling the vacuum with the first thing willing and able to fill it. This is when the LovePrint is needed. It should good friendly. It should make the other thing not stick. If love is not present, the young person will search for something, anything, to fill it. Give them something good. Give them love.

What happens is, a change in the environment is inevitable. It is going to happen. The moment the young person becomes accountable for their time, their energy, their well-being, and their spirit, the sharks in the water surround prepared to attack. To feast on the young one if possible. If the young person is taught to recognize danger, they know how to defend, how to analyze, and how to make a decision that honors the mission rather than the impulse.

What happens is, the young person needs access to you. They need the freedom to tell the truth. They need the freedom to ask questions, and the freedom to not have all of the answers. They need to be able to be wrong, but not limited to it. They need the ability to stand up for good, run away from bad, and the wisdom to know the difference.

What happens is, a price tag has mistakenly been stuck on their self-esteem.  The price tag is wrong. The ability to understand and have access to folks like the good that they seek to see and be, different from them, and those in question and with doubt. And, if done properly, the young people will know their value, live within their own boundary, and stand strong in their beliefs.

What I hope is that parents sit down and have some honest discussions with your young people. You need to know what apps are on their phone, what emails and profiles exist, what is being said, and at what level. What I hope is that conversations begin with I love you, and end with I love you. If parents remember the mission, the result is clear, and the path is straighter.

Prepare your young people. Give them answers. Give them skills. Do not send them unprepared into the world. Teach them to add to their community and environment. Demand that they know more than to ask for more. Demand that they are capable of basic life skills, basic adult skills so that they are not a burden to you, your family, or your community. Give them the information required to add to whatever school, team, or club they plan to join. Make them impossible for those clubs to refuse them. Do that!

Do not send your young people into the pool with dirt on them. Teach them to be clean, to be considerate, and to be kind. Teach them to handle the basic needs of a young adult away from home. That is an act in love. That is making them better, their future better, and their possibilities better.

Teach them to balance a checking account. Teach them to save money. Teach them to do laundry. Teach them to manage time. Teach them to wake themselves, bathe themselves, and medicate themselves. Make sure that they can prepare a meal, know how to shop, aware of the price of vital items, and to eat well.

Show them how to be online safely, how to date safely, and how to communicate with strangers about boundaries. Make sure that they know their value, they know their contact information when not stored in a phone, and talk about dating apps on their often not smart phones. Have a secondary contact process in play, have a regular check in day and time, and feel open about asking who they are dating and why.

Teach them to iron clothes, use the dry cleaners, use a vacuum, and clean a bathroom. Make sure that they change the sheets, can write a handwritten note, and can look people in the eye as they talk. Remind them that a phone is often used to actually make a phone call, that books are meant to be read, and that you don’t have to have that last drink. Teach them to travel safely, walk with purpose, and to know who to trust.

Let them know that it is always a good time to call home, no matter the hour, day, or reason. Its is perfectly fine to get an ok from the parents before making that big dating decision, and there is always room for the update about good grades.

Never forget to remind them of who they are, what they want to be, and why they are wherever they are. Keep their eyes on the important prize, and nothing is the end of the world. They will never be too old for a hug, even if its after cheers or tears or fears. The next thing is waiting, the last thing is past, and mom and dad can talk them through anything.

The truth is always more welcome than a lie or an omission. A failed test is just a strong lesson, and we all have the same 168 hours a week to accomplish whatever we are doing.

And finally, Cover them in love. Cheer them, correct them, redirect them, inspire them, example for them, and love them. Out loud. A lot.

Go,

Love.