A SHADE I’LL NEVER SIT UNDER
Why do we turn out like we do?
Dr. Hans Selye, Canadian pioneer of research on stress,
interviewed a set of male twins once who had an alcoholic
father. The first twin was interviewed at 9:00 a. m. He
was a school superintendent, highly educated, had many
friends, and had always lived an exemplary life. Selye
asked him several questions and concluded with this one…“Why
do you think you turned out like you did?”
The second twin was interviewed at 9:30 a. m. This
twin had experienced a very difficult life. He lacked
formal education, had no friends, never held a job for long,
and suffered from chronic depression and severe alcoholism
like his father before him. After asking several questions,
Selye again ended the interview with that same last
“Why do you think you turned out like you did?”
Both twins in different rooms, at different times,
answered with precisely the same words. Can you guess what
they said? Both men said…
“What would you expect with a father like mine?”
I know a man who has everything. From outward
appearances, he has lived a truly charmed life. Surely he
picked his parents in heaven. He has always had a strong
marriage. His children were born healthy and normal, and
all have done well in life.
All his grandchildren were born healthy. He is highly
educated, has always had secure employment, and enjoyed good
health. He has never been hungry. He also stands to
inherit a fortune. (Told you his parents were great.) Yet
with all that – a life without any real heartbreak aside
from the death of his father – he has told me on many
occasions how unhappy he is in his work as a university
The cause of his unhappiness? “It’s because of the
students,” he says. “They can’t write, they can’t spell,
and they can’t think. All they care about is what’s on the
test, getting a degree, and getting a job. They shouldn’t
be allowed in college.”
I mentioned his description of students sounded remarkably
similar to our college days.
“But that’s the way we were,” I said. “Oh no,” he said.
“We were good students – scholarly and serious minded. Not
like these people today at all.” Each time I talk with him,
I come away so very sad. There is no joy in his heart.
I know another man. His name is Aaron Alejandro.
After completing 126 hours of college credit at Texas Tech,
he finished at Midwestern State University with a degree in
Public Administration. Following high school, he served as
President of the Texas FFA Association – the only Hispanic
to hold that position to date. Thirty years after wearing
the FFA jacket, he is the Executive Director of the Texas
FFA Foundation. I don’t need to paint a maudlin picture of
his early life, but let’s just say he didn’t have quite the
head start our professor did. In addition to all Aaron’s
other accomplishments, there is one that stands above.
Aaron Alejandro is also a graduate of Cal Farley’s Boys
Ranch. Trust me when I tell you that sentence has high
interest to me.
Most of us would predict that our professor would do
well in life and know happiness. Far too many would predict
that Aaron would have little chance of any success. Yet that
is not what happened. The one who had everything becomes
cynical and snide because he thinks that makes him look
clever and above it all. The one who began with almost
nothing becomes a vibrant spirit full of hope.
How can that be? Why is that? How can these men
end up in exactly the opposite place we would expect?
Perhaps their level of life satisfaction is influenced by
what each does with his days. One spends his days making
red marks on tests. He shakes his head in despair about the
inferior quality of students these days and how little they
know. One thought that never occurs to him is that perhaps
their poor marks are because he hasn’t taught them much at
all. Too busy looking down his nose. Too bad that makes
him depressed, but at least he gets to feel superior to
someone…but there is no joy in his heart.
The other has dedicated his life to students in boot
camps, reform schools, and to aspiring leaders. He works
with adults in prisons and teachers in schools who compete
for the minds of America’s next generation. He speaks to
people like he was when he was young…to people like me when
I was young. He tells them we must get back to “The three
R’s. Not reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic,” but rather
“Responsibility, Respect, and Resiliency.” Mr.
Alejandro thinks we should hold students to a high standard,
and that we should hold educators to an even
higher standard. Alejandro says one of his favorite
quotes to live by is – “The essence of leadership is to
plant trees under who’s shade you may never sit.”
Good for you, Aaron Alejandro. Thank God for people
like you. And you, professor?
Shame on you. Shame on you for not giving your students the
very thing that put you where you are. Love, acceptance,
encouragement, and hope.
That would have given you joy.
“Correction is good. Encouragement is better.”
--Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
-- Michael Johnson
BLUE and MIGUEL