Cover Story, October 2018

Memories of Family and Faith with Coach Dale Brown, Cover Story

memories of family and faith

by dale brown

Dale Brown was the men’s head basketball coach at Louisiana State University from 1972 to 1997. During his 25 years at LSU, the Tigers won 448 games, appeared in 13 NCAA Tournaments, and earned Final Four appearances in 1981 and 1986.



Two days before I was born, my so-called father—I’ve always referred to him as “my mother’s husband”—left my mother, two young sisters, eleven and twelve years of age, and me, and he never returned. His departure put my mother in a difficult position. She had an eighth-grade education, came off the farm in North Dakota, and couldn’t get a job during the Great Depression in 1935. She became a maid and baby-sitter to earn money, and she had to put our family on welfare.  We lived in a one-room apartment above a bar and hardware store, and I remember my mother getting $42.50 monthly from Ward County welfare.

Two times during this difficult period, my mother taught me a lesson that has stayed with me during my entire life. I saw my mother put on her winter coat, walk down a flight of stairs, and take back to the Red Owl and the Piggly Wiggly grocery stores 25 cents and 40 cents, because the clerks had given her too much change for the groceries she’d brought home. Her actions remind me of a poem by Edgar Guest. 

I’d rather see a lesson than hear one any day 
I’d rather you walk with me than to merely show the way
The eye is a better teacher, and more willing than the ear  
And counsel is confusing but example’s always clear 
The best of all the teachers are the ones who live the creed 
To see good put into action is what everybody needs 
I soon can learn to do it if you let me see it done
I can see your hand in action, but your tongue too fast may run 
And the counsel you are giving may be very fine and true

But I’d rather get my lessons by observing what you do. 

My mother always followed the advice of St. Francis of Assisi when he said, “Preach the gospel every day, and if necessary use words.” I saw other lessons in the life of my wonderful mother. Not once, after being abandoned, did I hear my mother talk negatively about the man who had walked out on us and never returned, never sent any money, never wrote. She never, drank, smoked, or used profanity. She was never bitter, angry, or ever complained about her situation in life. I learned from her that if you are looking for a helping hand, look at the end of your own arm. 

My mother’s faith was unbelievable.  She brought me to Mass and Communion daily — not just Sunday, but daily. For me, the daily trip to church was a ritual. To my numerous fake illnesses and attempts to avoid going, my mom’s response was always, “Get up, Son. We’re going to Mass and Communion.” I never slept in a bed the first 21 years of my life but the spirit that grew in that little one-room apartment we lived in, uncomfortable and cramped though it was, made it attractive and peaceful. I was blessed. 

Being a small place, the apartment never provided any place for me to get away on my own. So at night, I often went to sit above the alley on the fire escape. One night, the faith my mother instilled in me deepened when I came back in from sitting out there. My mom asked me to sit in her little rocker.

She pulled up the footstool and said, “Son, I notice you go outside at night a lot. What do you think about when you’re out there? I said, “Mama, I think of two things. I think of travel.” (We didn’t own a car, a bicycle, or any other form of transportation.) “I think of climbing mountains.” (North Dakota is a very flat state, flatter than the top of a table.) That dream came true — I have been in 90 countries and climbed the Matterhorn.  

My mother hesitated just a moment and then said, “You know Son, I’m embarrassed to tell you this, but I need to teach you a lesson. You know when these people come to pick me up to go baby-sit? I’m so embarrassed. There’s no husband in our house. We live in this little one-room apartment. I’ve just got an eighth-grade education. My clothes smell of mothballs.” (She bought her clothes at rummage sales.)

“So I’m so worried about my image when these big shots come to pick me up. I look up big words in the dictionary, and then all the way to their house, I inject these words into conversation to try to impress them. That’s called making an image. When you sit out there on the fire escape at night, it’s just you and God, that’s your true character. And Son, if you spend too much time polishing your image, you’ll eventually tarnish your character and be an unhappy man.”

That night, my mom taught me that being my true self was far more important than trying to impress people or pretend to be someone I was not.  Your character is who you really are and your image is what you are perceived to be.

The Church’s Effect on Me  
No matter how financially tight things got, Mom always scraped together enough money for me to attend Catholic school. I learned a great deal over the course of the 12 years I attended a Catholic school. I learned that rules were important. I learned we all are on this earth to help each other. 

Two particular lessons stand out in my mind. One morning, I was standing with two friends by the radiators in the hall at school, warming up. We had religion class before school every day at 8 a.m., and we were out there before class, talking about the things kids talk about. One of the guys said, “Yeah, the Salvation Army, isn’t that funny what they do? You know, they’re outside ringing the bell, and they’ve got that little pot.” Not really making fun of the Salvation Army, but sort of jesting, like kids do.

Well, the bell rang, so we went to religion class. Our religion teacher was Father Hogan. He called on the three of us who had been talking in the hall and asked us to stand up. He said, “You know, I heard you three boys out there talking about the Salvation Army. I wonder, do any of you guys know the motto of the Salvation Army?” 

We each responded, “No, Father.” 

Father Hogan continued, “Well, let me tell you what it is. It’s to love those who aren’t loved by anyone else. The next time you good Catholics are going to make fun of something, remember that.” To this day, that lesson about compassion and sensitivity has stayed with me. Every year at Christmas, when I’m shopping with my wife or daughter and we encounter a Salvation Army volunteer with a red kettle and a ringing bell, I walk over and put money in the pot. I also share with that volunteer what that wonderful priest taught me. 

Father Hogan taught me a second lesson on the importance of being prompt. There are rules — and they are not meant to be bent, twisted, manipulated, or bartered with. The moment I learned this lesson is vivid in my mind. The sports teams at our tiny Catholic school played the biggest schools in the state. I thought I was a big shot athlete. I was the leading scorer in the history of North Dakota High School basketball. I broke the school record in the 440, and was a star on the football team. I thought I was something! Getting a little full of myself, I felt some of the rules didn’t necessarily apply to me.   

Every Monday afternoon by 1 p.m., we had to turn in an eligibility slip to play sports that week. One Monday afternoon, I took my eligibility slip down to the office and laid it on the desk of our principal, Father Hogan. Holding my eligibility slip in one hand, he looked over the top of his horn-rimmed glasses at the clock on the wall. “Dale,” he said, “what time does that clock on my wall say?”  

I had no idea where he was headed, so I said, “One-fifteen.” 

He held my eligibility slip in front of my face and he said, “What time was this due?” 

I said, “One o’clock.” 

“Ah-hah, that’s good you can tell time. And you knew when it was due in my office.” He started ripping my eligibility slip into small pieces, then deposited the pieces in the wastebasket and said, “Now get back up in your classroom and start learning promptness. This slip was due at one o’clock. You’re not going on the road trip this week.” I thought he must be joking. After all, I was the superstar. Well, guess who didn’t go on the road trip?  

Stay tuned for more next month, Getting Over the Four Hurdles of Life, with Coach Dale Brown. 

The long relationship between former LSU coach Dale Brown and former Tigers Star Shaquille O’Neal is one of Browns fondest memories as a coach
Dale Brown had a winning season his first year at LSU, and achieved success for the LSU men’s basketball team for the next 25 years



True Leadership Brings People Together 

If there was ever a moment in our history when leadership was needed, it is now. With all the greed, dishonesty, selfishness, evil, and bad things going on in the world, we need good leaders. A common quality of great leaders through the ages has been their mastery at articulating a vision of the future. They see something that is not yet there and can relay the image to others. In any leadership position, the most important aspect of the job is getting everyone to work together. 

However, working together is only a beginning. The world needs leaders who find their strength in faith and character. Exceptional leaders will get their team members to feel they’re an integral part of a common goal. How is this done? This may sound odd, but the underlying theme of teamwork is our ability to convey a renewed sense of optimism. Teamwork doesn’t just happen – it takes a captain to steer it in the right direction. The role of the captain – whether it’s a coach, teacher, father, mother, or whomever – is to give the ship direction, purpose, and ultimately success. 

“The role of most leaders is to get the people to think more of the leader. But the role of the exceptional leader is to get the people to think more of themselves.” — Booker T Washington 

We need to make a difference, but we can do it only through the grace of God. I am convinced that we are capable of solving any problem, whether it’s race, crime, poverty, terrorism, pollution, drugs, or whatever plagues humanity. 

You, with God’s help, are responsible for your future. You’re really free the moment you don’t look outside yourself for someone else to solve your problems. You will know that you’re free when you no longer blame anyone or anything, but realize you control your destiny and are capable of changing the world. People can be divided into three groups: those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who wonder what happened. We’ve got to decide which group we will be in. 

The most important thing to God is our relationships with one another. He made us in such a way that everybody needs somebody. And God’s idea for success is a community, a group of people who are committed to each other and who strive to follow his will. Humans have not advanced a centimeter in the history of the world if we are still fighting, hating, killing, and cheating. 

The only notable advancement humans have ever made is becoming brothers and sisters who labor toward a common goal. You see, the best potential of “me” is “we.” So the question in our life journey is not whether God can bring peace, love and happiness in the world. 

The question is, can we?

April 2018, Family Life

The Love of the Father – Earthly and Divine by Robert Maxie

The Love of the Father… Earthly and divine

Robert and Aminga Maxie
Robert and Aminga Maxie spend time with their children Kianna, Robert Jr., Olivia, Elijah, and Jon’Benet

By: Robert Maxie

It was in February of 2014 that I woke up from a dream with an urgent need to call my father. I grabbed my cell phone and dialed his number, and to my surprise he picked up the phone on the first ring. I tried making small talk but it was mostly silent. My father and I have never been close. Years of physical abuse, alcoholism, and domestic violence made it very hard for me to build any type of relationship with him. Finally, he asked me what I wanted and I replied “a better relationship.” I told him I loved him and just wanted his love as well. After I finished speaking, there was an awkward silence. Finally, he said, “I think our relationship is just fine.” His cold reply hurt, but I did what I felt God wanted me to do. So I had peace.

In May I received a voicemail from my mother asking me to call home as soon as possible. She stated that Dad awoke that morning unable to see and she was taking him to the doctor. We would later find out that he had brain cancer that was very aggressive. Within a month, he was in hospice. I flew home to see him knowing that this would be my last time. My father, who was always so huge in my eyes, looked frail and worn. The brain tumor had taken his sight completely and he was quickly losing normal functioning. My mom announced my presence, saying, “Your son is here.” At that moment, my father looked up as if he could see me and said, “I have no son.” My mother quickly stated that he didn’t know what he was saying … those were my father’s last words to me.

My father passed away on July 1, and on that day I was discharged from the Navy and started preparing to move back to Louisiana. Within a week, we were home, moving into a new house and preparing for my father’s funeral. Everything happened so fast there was no time to grieve and I don’t remember even crying — until one evening when my mom called and asked me how I was doing. I said I was fine and she replied, “You do know your father loved you?” Within seconds, I was on the floor crying and screaming, “No I don’t.”

I heard those words in my head every day — “I don’t have a son.” I felt like Esau standing at the bed of Isaac, saying, “Would you just bless me!” In my mind I know my father was sick and probably didn’t know what he was saying, but for the last four years the enemy has had a field day attacking my mind with thought after thought and with lie after lie. I was sinking deeper and deeper into a depression and no one knew I was suffering.

One day I just got tired of letting the enemy torment my mind, and instead of focusing on what my earthly father did or did not do, I would instead focus on my heavenly father and his unconditional love for me. He never denies me and he calls me son. For so long I felt like an orphan and I began reading and talking about the heart of God the father and what he says about me. I allowed Jesus into those father wounds so he could heal me. I needed God to remove the fear of rejection from my heart. The pain was killing me slowly and making me become bitter.

(Galatians 4:5-7) “To redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, Abba, Father. So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.”

He called me a son! He is my perfect father. I spent years looking for a father figure only to continually end up hurt and disappointed. But God has been there the whole time waiting for me to forgive and to let go of the pain of the past. It doesn’t matter the size of the wound … I learned that a person never finds healing until we forgive.

Today I choose to remember the best about my earthly father because I know that in his own way, he did love me and he did the best he could with what he had. But my identity comes from God and every day I feel his love and acceptance. So as I raise my three boys, I tell them every day how much I love them, but more importantly, I want them to know how much God loves them. I want them to know that I am human and I will make mistakes — but God will never leave them nor forsake them. He loves them unconditionally and that will never change.

(1 John 3:1) “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.”

June 2017, Learning For Life

Local Teen Urges Other to ‘Keep Running’

 

Local Teen Urges Others to ‘Keep Running’

by Jalissa Bates

A calm spirit was over Erion Davison, author of Keep Running: How to Endure When Life Looks Impossible. The ninthgrade student at Cristo Rey High School offered a soft greeting and then sat primly as she waited for our interview to begin. I sat in awe as I watched my former student who appeared so familiar yet so transformed.

Davison’s book chronicles her walk with God since middle school, including struggles such as an absentee father, self-identity issues, peer pressure, acceptance and identification as a Christian. The wisdom she gained from studying the Word of God

spills from her voice. As a track athlete, Davison compares the rules of track and field to millennial life. On the book cover, the young author is running, clad in a maroon and yellow uniform with Hebrews 12:1 emblazoned on the front. Chapters titled “Sprinting through Relationships” and “Hurdling Over Fears” are testimonies to the common experiences many youths can identify with.

It was humbling to watch Davison, 15, share her testimony in a room full of people at her book release party at the Goodwood Library. As her former teacher, watching her growth was astounding. The bravery shown by this freshman while sharing her private struggles caused everyone to reflect: How could a teenager echo some of the very thoughts I had in similar situations? We were gripped by her tales of trust and mistrust, of success and failure.

Get your copy of the book today at www.visit eriond.org.

The pace of life has picked up during this spring semester for Davison, who is currently on a book tour. “I have been to mostly churches and have kind of ‘preached’ in Plaquemines, Mississippi and Memphis,” Davison said. “In New Orleans, we spoke at the House of Blues recently.”

When asked about the sinking faith of the younger generation, Davison she strongly encourages confidence in oneself to overcome doubt by others. “It’s one thing to show others my book and to tell them about it,” Davison said. “But you must not be afraid to have dreams which may be better than someone else’s dream. You can do it no matter what anyone else has to say about it.”

Davison juggles schoolwork and Cristo Rey’s unique work-study program. With her younger brother, she is also a member of 29:11, a youth group founded by Tremaine Sterling and dedicated to improving the community. Davison’s mother, Angela Bird, says she has witnessed growth in both her children. “29:11 offered my kids the opportunity to understand the Bible better,” Bird said. “Their walk with God is being perfected.” For more information about Davison’s book, visit eriond.org.

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Jalissa Bates has taught secondary education in public, private, and charter schools. Bates is an English instructor for LSU and BRCC’s Upward Bound program, a historic federal program for first generation college students. Bates is a member of the National Council for Teachers of English, hosting read-ins to promote AfricanAmerican literature and literacy and serves as Louisiana K-12 Policy Analyst. Bates was selected as a recipient of the 2015 NCTE Early Educator of Color Leadership Award. Bates is a contributing author of Can I Teach That? Negotiating Taboo Language and Controversial Topics in the Language Arts Classroom

Baton Rouge Christian Life MAGAZINE

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