Saturday, December 15, 2012

A Tribute to Coach Herschel Robinson

A Tribute to Coach Herschel Robinson

Today, all work on the novel has ceased. All ideas for my blog are placed from the back burner into the sink. Today was a special day for me. Why? It’s because I got a chance to talk to a man whom I greatly admire and respect, and remember to this day. Today I spoke with Coach Herschel Robinson, who graciously allowed me to interview him. 

‘Hershey’ we sometimes called him after the Hershey bar. He didn’t mind. He knew the term was used with affection. We knew he cared about us. He was always encouraging us, in class and on the field. I remember he put me on the offensive line- once. Heh. The play was something like 23 PIE WHY. I was like, “Pie why? What in the heck is that?” (The play was 23 power, and I was supposed to double team a tackle.) I didn’t say anything, didn’t remember that play in the book, but just went and lined up and got knocked around. Good fun!

He would call to us from the hill overlooking the baseball field where we sometimes ran for endurance. “Hey Houtchens! You’ve been running! Keep it up!” It was so long ago, yet for some reason it was these memories that have stayed with me, like old photographs that have faded with time.

We were crazy, back in the late 70’s. Silly, goofy, crazy teens. We were in the difficult process of growing into the adults we would become, trying to figure things out. He put up with us, because he saw us as people, not as kids that sometimes gave him a hard time. I hope that somehow my own students can see that in me. 

I asked Coach Robinson (he earned his doctorate, but to me Coach Robinson just seems to fit- I hope he does not mind) about his most memorable moments at Ridgeview. When he first arrived, integration was going on. He was one of the very few black teachers at a nearly all white school. He said that one student especially made him feel welcome in his first days- Jimmy Robinson, who later I understand went on to Georgia Tech.  He also mentioned a student who was inspired by his health class to become an MD- David Parks. 

After Ridgeview High, Coach Robinson went to College Park High School as an assistant principal. I asked him how things were different for him as an administrator compared to being a coach, and he knew immediately. “I changed from t-shirts to a shirt and tie, but aside from that it was the same for me. I shared the compassion, respect, vision and hope with everyone that I had for the players.” That sounds so very much like the Coach Robinson I knew back then. Beautiful. 

He had some words for teachers in today’s profession: to keep the vision and hope they had from the foundation they received. These thoughts are timely. For students and perhaps our own kids  (those of us who have them) he also had advice. It used to be in days past teens were told that they could be anything. Today, the message has changed because the world has changed. Students can only become what they prepare themselves to become. If you think about it, that could apply to a lot of things. Students should fill their lives with experiences, good ones, and not fill their lives with excuses. There’s good wisdom there. 

Coach Robinson was troubled by the recent tragedy in Connecticut. He said we can no longer look away from our youth- we need to approach them where they are and inspect what you expect. 

He had some words for all Ridgeview Alumni. He said that we were a special group. That once a Redskin, always a Redskin. That we always had respect. Coach, may I say that that part came easy- we had you there with us to look up to =). God bless you richly!


Armchair coach

Amateur historian

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Flying House

The Flying House

I’m back after a hiatus with the rewrite of my novel. Act One is finished, so I have two more to go. I happened upon a video which I dimly recalled seeing part of many years ago, from the early 80’s. To some the idea of a flying house, particularly in this cheesy style anime may seem childish. To others, it may seem unworthy of any special consideration. For me, it makes me cry.


To me it’s the story of a much bigger picture. You see, to me the kids represent people. All people of all ages. They are doing their thing, playing a game of hide and seek. That’s what adults do, too. We’re all still the kids we once were on the inside. We do our thing, too, only we are more concerned with money, our work performance, our families chores around the house that have to get done and other grown-up things. 

Then a summer storm appears. The storms of life. We all face them. The fear of the unknown. “What will happen if…?” Corky, the younger child displays his apprehension and concern with no feelings held back. He chases his older brother hoping for security and comfort. We adults do that, too. We look towards things which bring us solace when trouble and uncertainty head our way. 
Then, they are presented with a house. It, too is an unknown, but it may provide protection in the storm. Do they go inside? To me, the house represents a leap of faith. There are no doubts other houses that one may turn to in the woods of life. But this one is special. 

The children are given refuge from the storm and meet the caretaker of the house, a caring adult filled with wisdom and knowledge. But then something unexpected happens. The entire group are taken to a new place. A new life. A new beginning. 

What is not shown at the end of the video is who the children meet when the flying house finally lands from its fantastic journey. They meet Jesus, and run up to him.  He welcomes them with enthusiasm and love. 

The entire story just touches the strings of my heart. I can see it. It is my hope that in this little article which may not seem like much, you can see it, too.

Matthew 18  He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

God bless you all.
Glenn Houtchens

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Gay Question

Recently there has been some furor over the owner of the Chick-fil-a franchise and his statements to a Christian interviewer. He said he was in favor of traditional marriage. Everyone is entitled to their opinions; CEO’s and custodians, gay and straight, male and female, short and tall, American and European, Asian and African. Each brings to their respective tables the collective societal and individual perceptions that they have experienced. 

When I first heard about the uproar, the question I asked myself was “Why are people upset that someone’s view does not agree with theirs?” It seemed a little selfish, frankly, that a group should demand others to observe their own view on things so that they would not be hurt. 

I was forgetting something, however. The people who are gay have suffered tremendous emotional pain and rejection from society. From family. From friends. Over years and years. Sometimes they are threatened and even beaten. It hasn’t been so long since society has changed and become more accepting and yet in parts of the world, people are still murdered by the state just for the way they feel. This pain can be rationalized, excused and written off, yet it is still there. I can see how for someone who has suffered this way, they would view Mr. Cathy’s statement as another rejection. Another reminder. Another twist of the stake in the wound. Lord, have mercy. 

Now, should we avoid any conflict of view in order to “not offend” as is common in today’s society? No. Jesus deliberately offended people in order to speak truth. Scribes, Pharasees- hypocrites! And yet, he never spoke directly to the issue of same sex attraction. Hm. 

Back in the 80’s I went to an incredibly conservative and, yes, legalistic college called Liberty University. Jerry Falwell’s place. I graduated angry with God and left my faith for many years, but God never left me. I eventually realized that I had to forgive Jerry and what he represented to me; a slick salesman who compromised the gospel and basically told me that the important thing was conforming to what was at the time there, the norm; i.e. “the rules.” I think I have reached a point where I have forgiven him. (Of course, what do I know?) 

So what is the bottom line? We should be motivated by love, not political correctness. To my gay friends and family, if I have in any way said anything which has hurt or wounded, please forgive me. Please forgive us. I am incredibly imperfect. I humbly ask for the peace of God to cover us all. Because the most important thing- is love.

Armchair coach
Amateur historian

Friday, June 15, 2012


It is with trepidation that I write this column. The past few days have been difficult for me. I finally made the decision to get some more dogs, after 3 plus years without my sweet guy, Snoopy and one and a half years without my little girl, Mikey. If you have read some of the things I wrote in the past, you know I loved them dearly. 

As it happens, when I went to the Animal Shelter to choose some dogs, two of them clearly stood out. They could have been younger siblings of Snoopy and Mikey, only 7 months old. Short haired, thin medium sized dogs, they were clearly very, very sweet. Both of them had stayed at the pound their entire lives, since they were but puppies. 

I cried as I signed the paperwork and brought them home. They were clearly excited, and ran around with abandon.  I did not mind cleaning up the pee several times, and took them outside for numerous walks. 

However, there was a problem. They were literally tearing up everything in the house. Literally. The carpets, the walls, the paneling, anything paper, my clothes, my shoes, my books…. I went to the store to get them some chew toys, but they completely ignored them, going after anything and everything else about the home. I got a strip of bacon and greased up the chew toys. They ignored them. (I’m serious.) They begged for some of my cheetos, and I tried covering the bones with that. They ignored them. At one point I had to leap across the room to keep one of them from chewing through electrical wire. 

To say I had a great deal of stress would be putting it mildly. Around midnight of that first day, I broke out in a horrible rash that was very painful and is just healing now.  But the worst part of it was I began having chest pains; very mild ones but still they were there nonetheless. I got about one and a half hours sleep that night.

I had never envisioned keeping the dogs in crates nor keeping them as just yard dogs, both of which I feel are somewhat cruel. I wanted them for companionship, to love and care for as I had Mikey and Snoopy. It was with deep regret that I realized the next morning that this was just not going to work. They both needed at the very least 2 weeks worth of dog school, which altogether would cost more than two thousand dollars, which I do not have. 

So, I called the folks back and informed them I would be bringing them back, for my own health’s sake. Once again, I cried as I brought them back. I found it difficult to even speak. And now, my house is empty again. 

I am reassured by the fact that they told me they would not put them to sleep. I asked God to send angels to these sweet, sweet animals, to give them a loving home. And I’m crying again now. What was meant as an opportunity to love has turned into disaster. And I hate it…  it just hurts. 


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Trilogy, Part II

Once upon a time there was a man. He was a rational man with a good heart- he could have been a scientist working on a cure to a disease, or perhaps a professor in a university somewhere.  As such, he had a firm belief in science and what man could prove. We had come a long way in the last 200 to 300 years, discovering cells and biological chemistry, making new metals and fuels and even going to the moon. All that had been accomplished had been done through rigorous science. 

This was the type of man that most modern folks admire. He was green, meaning he wanted to do his little part to save the world from global warming. His neighbors were pests, though. They were Christian and they wanted to engage him in talks about their faith. He knew, he could tell it. The one time he relented, he was assailed by a highly improbable posit. 

“No, no, no,” he replied, smiling. The very idea of God to start with, then becoming a man of all things was for him, simply preposterous. “I’m sorry, but I simply cannot bring myself to believe something like that,” he told them. 

The man lived in Florida, in peace with the sun, the beautiful weather and the birds which would nest in the trees.  How he loved those birds! They would sing and wake him in the morning. They would soar through the air with grace and flit about hopping on the tree branches chirping and frolicking.
Now it just so happened that a storm in the ocean started heading to the coast where he lived. It was a big hurricane and it was headed for his town. But the man had been cautious and prepared. He had a special storm barn built in his back yard.

Now the storm was approaching and the man noticed that the birds did not seem to know. They were still in the trees with only hours until the storm hit. Desperately, he tried to shoo the birds into the barn with no success. He wanted the birds to live and he knew they had no chance with the hurricane winds that were sure to hit hard. 

“Go in! Go in!” he told them in frustration.  But the little birds paid no heed as they saw the man jumping and shouting. Rather, they stayed away from him as they were involved with their own lives. Finally the man paused for a moment and shook his head. “How could I ever help save them unless I became a b….” 

Then, the man realized what God had done. With tears, he looked up to the racing clouds in the sky and thanked God for His love.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Trilogy, part III

Trilogy Part III

This is the third of three stories that I remember from high school, as told in church or Christian functions. I don’t know why they have stuck with me- perhaps it is because they resonate with my soul in a certain way. One can tell that they are old-time church stories, but they each have validity for their place in illustrating important truths. Thus, let us examine them, and whoever has ears to hear, let them discern with understanding. 

The Boy and the Boat

Once upon a time there was a young boy. He would go to the park each weekend to play and watch the birds at the lake, and hang out doing young boy things. One weekend he saw a toy boat on the lake. How its sails billowed in the wind as it sailed along the shoreline, canting off to one side as it was propelled along! Strings kept the sails in place, and it worked exactly as a large scale boat would. 

The little boy got excited and decided he wanted a toy boat. So he went to the library to learn how to make them. He studied hard and learned about the resins needed to make the boats waterproof. He learned about pulleys, rudders and how to weight the boat properly so it would stay upright. He learned about how to use steam to curve the wood so it would make a smooth side.

Finally, equipped with this knowledge, he went to a craft store and bought balsa wood meant to construct doll houses. Flat planks, square beams, string, pulleys, resin, paint and a pillowcase soon were in his bag. You see, he was an industrious boy and saved the quarters he made each week from completing household chores and cutting the neighbors lawn. Each day he would run home from school to work on his project. 

After a lot of care, effort, and work, he finally finished his little boat, and took it to the park to sail it in the lake. He got a long stick to maneuver the boat, for you see this was back in the days before powered boats with remote control were available. He placed the boat in the water on the shoreline as the breeze caused the sails to billow. Off it went down the shore with a small wake of foam streaming along its bow! How merrily the boy chased after it, skipping and laughing. But then, something unexpected occurred. 

The wind shifted, and as it did, the boat turned out away from shore. He reached out with the stick, but it was too late. The little boy watched, crestfallen, almost in disbelief, as his boat was taken out to the middle of the lake. He waited, but the sky began to darken, and he would be late for dinner. So, sadly, he trudged home. He thought about his little boat and determined to look for it at the lake on the way to school the next day. 

He passed by the lake early the next morning, looking to and fro, but with no sign of the little boat either on the lake or the shoreline. With a broken heart, he went to school that day, the air sucked out of him. He visited the lake in the park every chance he got whenever he had some free time, but it never did reappear.

Several months went by, and the little boy eventually passed by the crafts shop where he had bought the materials he used to make the boat. And there in the front window was his boat! His boat! He ran into the store and up to the gray-haired bespectacled man behind the register.

“I’m sorry young man, but that boat was sold to us and we are now the rightful owners,” the shop owner explained. ”If you want it, you will have to purchase it.”

“How much is it?” he asked.

“Twenty five dollars,” the shop owner replied. It was for the young boy, a princely sum. His little brows drew together and he knew what he must do. He ran all the way home and went to get his piggy bank, bursting it open on the back steps of his house. Gathering all he had, he ran, pockets sagging and pants jingling all the way back. 

He gave all he had to the shopkeeper. After some counting, he turned back to the little boy. “This is enough,” he told the boy as he handed over the boat and a receipt. 

The little boy cradled his boat with tears of joy, as he said to it, “I made you, then I bought you. I made you, then I bought you.”