Okinawa-Part 2

The return journey from the caves to the compound and my squad proved uneventful. It did not take long to figure the truck out, and I passed my first test behind the wheels. A week went by, and my Sargent instructed me to build an outdoor warehouse for equipment found in the fields and separate what might be repaired and stored from the stuff they were dumping in the ocean. He added that I pick up a few prisoners to use as laborers to do the heavy lifting.

On my trip to the compound, I saw the same three that came out of the cave and whom I drove (a harrowing journey, to be sure) to the compound. We recognized each other, and all of us smiled. I’m sure that reaction was all about survival—but even so, I arranged to have them brought to the location where the warehouse was to be built. How could I know then we were to become close and caring, and yes, the best of friends?

There was Yamamoto, in his late thirties and a former bank executive from Hiroshima, Ohara in his late twenties, a former streetcar conductor in Tokyo who was tall and muscular, and Kato, a small guy who was a former actor in Tokyo. I was nineteen, the youngest and least experienced. This was the original team that eventually built the best and largest outdoor warehouse on Okinawa with forklifts, cherry-pickers, a crane, and three trucks. The staff soon grew to a dozen.

Using Life Magazine, we taught each other our languages. My Japanese and their English became good enough so that we communicated, laughed a bundle, and got things done. My trust in the three of them was total. I never questioned any of their decisions, and whatever equipment was requested (radios, field telephones, etc.) was handled smoothly and effectively. For all we achieved, they always made sure I got credit for the results. They taught me leadership.

A story of caring: A PW ran away, apparently heading for a cave. I grabbed my carbine and headed off to find him. Ohara and Kato tackled me and held me down, explaining that Yamamoto went for the runaway. I immediately thought I lost two prisoners! Ohara and Kato tried hard to assure me that all would be well, and Yamamoto would return with the runaway. An hour or so later, he did just that. Yamamoto then lined our workers up with me in the front and spoke harshly to the prisoner. After which, he slapped him across the face… then, we all went back to work.


Okinawa-Part 1

Humans need each other. To begin with, we could not exist without others bringing us into this world. Of course, we understand this and why our parents are so vital to us. What takes place beyond our conception and the nurturing that parents provide is that as we grow, so does our need for others. I have shared the story below many times because it so strongly emphasizes that our need for each other as humans never goes away. And, when we meet and serve each other’s needs, our regard for each other grows more important.

On Okinawa, the war was over, but many Japanese Soldiers remained alive and well while living in very elaborate caves. The potential for danger was a problem that had to be resolved, and while doing so, I met three Japanese soldiers who became my “best friends.” I was part of a squad that drove into the hills near Naha, the largest city in Okinawa. We had two prisoners with us that we would send into caves to convince anyone inside that the war was over and that the best thing they should do was lay down their arms and come out. They would be safe and cared for—proof of which was provided by the two sent into the cave.

If they did not come out, we would proceed to blow up the entrance to the cave. But in this case, three soldiers came out with the two we sent in. From the looks on their faces, it was clear the three thought they would be killed. At that moment, the Sargent yelled out, “Ogulnick! Take the prisoners to the compound.” We had arrived in a ½ ton truck, so it meant he wanted me to drive and take them to the compound. I had never driven anything before, but boy did I want to. I had no intention of telling the Sargent that “I could not drive.” If I faced a typhoon and other life-threatening experiences, then I could drive a truck, no problem.

I got into the driver’s side and immediately began to read the metal instruction plate placed on the dash. The three prisoners and guard climbed into the back of the truck. I got the motor turned on, and with pure fear and excitement, I began the task of heading downhill in one of the many gears. The truck responded in a series of jerks, and the four in the back immediately fell to the floor, holding on for dear life. All this while I began my first ever experience as a driver of a vehicle. (Story continues next week.) Sy

Was it Now… Or Forever?

I keep writing that experiences have the potential to teach us something about ourselves, others, and life in general. It only demands that we be present at the moment and be open to what is taking place. It sounds simple but is not, only because most people are not in the present. Instead, they are distracted… living in yesterdays and tomorrows. A common mistake made in living one’s life.

When I worked with kids and staff from the late forties to the 70s, I had no choice except to be as present as possible. I needed to be in the moment, ready to answer the needs and problems of those I was responsible for as they arose. People and events kept me present, not because I disciplined myself to be present, but my responsibilities demanded that I be present, ready, and able for others. This meant that any unusual happening or call to action captured my full attention. Following is an actual experience. What took place could not have happened, and yet it did…

It was a beautiful Sunday in July, mid-1950s, and for some strange reason, I decided to drive to our Day Camp, “Purple Sage,” located in Malibu Canyon, and go for a horseback ride. It was a rare desire since I frequently rode a horse around camp, checking on the kids and activities when it was in session. In any case, I felt compelled to go to camp and take a Sunday ride. When I arrived at the corral, a horse I had never ridden came over and nuzzled me as if to say, “I’ve been waiting for you; let’s go for a ride.” It was Strawberry (A Strawberry Rhone) with a gentle reputation, round back, an easy ride. She decided for me, and in any event, the horse I usually rode paid no attention to me, so Strawberry was my ride. Her round back made it easy for me to ride her bareback with only a hackamore around her nose—no bridle or saddle. How much sweeter a ride can there be?

We crossed into fields owned by Bob Hope and began a gentle ride which soon became a full-out run, and suddenly in that exact moment, it was not me, and it was not 1950. In that instant, I became a warrior attacking a village in the steppes of Asia. At full speed, we hit a gopher hole, and Strawberry and I tumbled forward. When I got up, Strawberry knelt, waiting for me to mount. Slowly and in deep thought, we headed back to the corral. Crazy as it seems, I was sure it happened, and I was equally sure the horse felt it too.

I am in the now———-Maybe not but possible———Is real always real?

Learning From Experience

Experience does not force learning upon us. Yet every event and experience has the potential to teach us if we are receptive. Still, even in the best of well-planned events, the outcomes are never guaranteed. This is why I stress that the more present we are, the more each event/experience is potentially loaded with meaningful lessons from which we may benefit. The point to make here is that if we are not present in the moments of an experience, we may miss its lessons. Allow me to share a profound experience and what I learned about myself.

Those of you that read my book know that in September of 1945, I was on an LST in the middle of the Pacific heading for Okinawa. An LST is a small vessel that displaces only about 10 feet of water and is built to land on shore with tanks and trucks. As fortune would have it, we were heading directly into a large Typhoon. Due to the storm’s size and the type of ship we were on, the only course of action was to deal with the storm, which meant heading directly into it.

The ship was loaded top to bottom, and everything was tied down, including all hatches leading to the deck. As we drew closer to the storm, the captain announced over the” bitch box” that prayer services were being conducted in the mess hall and directed that all crew head into the bowels of the ship. I decided to witness the typhoon, and if we went under, I would be witness to that too.

The space between the hatch and the deck was roped, so there was no getting out on the deck, but I could get outside the hatch and stand between the rope and hatch. Through the hatch window, I was full witness to what was to take place. It was the most awesome experience I have had. Briefly: Cigar-shaped clouds began to rush towards me; waves began to grow until they were totally above my head. I was looking at all water, watching the waves and water disappear as we were lifted to the very top of a mountain of ocean.

We were a cork, riding on the crest of each wave or bobbing in its valley. I am sure I fell asleep for brief periods being overwhelmed by the experience, but I witnessed a power of nature beyond anything before and since. As the storm grew in intensity, I began to feel no fear of death. In fact, I felt a certain strength that I do not remember having before this event. It was a sense that whatever life threw at me, I would be able to handle.


Some Thoughts…

For those of you that have received and follow my writing of one-page essays you also know that when I have some space left at the bottom I write a few Haikus, at least in form. The Haiku’s form is five syllables followed by seven syllables followed by five syllables and attempts in these few words and three lines to paint a picture of the natural world. For me I so enjoy the 5-7-5 syllables form that I use this to express anything and everything.   Let us see if I can fill this page with a variety of thoughts using the Haiku form.


The other day they came————Two friends from Fort Worth, Texas————Memorable time.

What gifts they arranged————–Virginia City————-Lake Tahoe, blue sky, and rain.

Another time other guests————-Like family they are to us————How blessed to share time with them.

Family, not blood—————We have this with each other—————And stories galore.

Our history full——————Plus memories of people ——————Rich experiences.

Grateful is easy—————–We see the bright side of things————A choice that we make.

Time is limited——————We must make the most of it—————–Be kind, be caring, love lots. Share yourself with others. Anticipate needs, fill them——————Be a gift to others.      


My rambling thoughts, Haiku style!

Writing my outlet———–Speaking used to be my style————–I found another way.

Getting old happens———-No avoiding it taking place————-What do you do then?

Challenge is a gift———push yourself to do it now———–Waiting is for what?

The world is changing———-but so are we and lucky———-Opportunity.

Exercise today———–tomorrow is its own day—————–If it comes to you.

Be here, be now too————-another time might come———-Maybe yes or no.

Dialogue is rare—————–When it happens enjoy it————-you may learn something?

Walk and breathe deep———-enjoy the day and what comes———–and does it matter?

I enjoy my life————-mostly I enjoy my wife———–she is why I live.

Her smile lights me up————just being with her is all————I ask nothing more.

Time is so precious————waste not one moment or day————–be all you can be.

There is more to say————-When I do it just comes out————–No plan, no intent.

Cal it “happening” —————no pressure to do anytime—————just feeling, it comes.

Hope you enjoy one or two.   Sy

Being Born Unique—A Blessing Or??????

Yes, we are each born unique to a degree, but growing into what self we each are, is never easy—and perhaps the equivalent of climbing Mt Everest? Why I think this is so is what I will attempt to share in this paper.

Institutions including religious, political, educational, and organizations of every kind create the mechanisms necessary to make our becoming what they want us to become; and even family has its picture of what their members are or will become. It is rare to find environments and systems created by people that support maximizing a self’s uniqueness. In fact, it may be impossible to find systems that support the true growth of a self that at the same time seeds and nurtures respect, regard, and responsibility for others. And here I mean all others. Is this not what the Biblical words “love thy neighbor as thy self” mean?  Do these words qualify the neighbor? I do not think so.

When I began to write my book about six years ago, I decided that I needed to know “what kind of leader I was.” Much too late to do anything about what took place seventy years back, yet I still felt I needed to know. The answers I got back made me feel good, but perplexed. At that time, I was completely unaware of any deliberate effort on my part to teach respect and regard for the children they worked with and with each other. But I was this to them and this is what they were with each other and children.  Why? I never asked, but I was this to them and did not know.

Years later when I began working with professionals and entrepreneurs, I became a serious student of leadership, power, and relationships. I was also more aware of myself. I knew my responsibility as a self and therefore to assist leaders in the absolute necessity of being themselves, whatever that meant to them. As this evolved so did the leaders, doing all they could in helping others be more themselves. Growth was reciprocal; in that all of “us” benefitted from an environment that fed BEING. It was why all that participated took what they were experiencing at work home with them. After-all it was each of them being themselves.   Next: Of what we do which activity is most oneself?  Sy

The Benefits of Living in A Community Where Social Interaction Is A Daily Occurrence

Each evening we go to dinner and enjoy a meal with other residents. Either we are invited to join two other people, or we invite two people to join us. It is here at the dinner table each evening that we enjoy a wonderful few hour of conversation and the sharing of histories. Everyone has a story to tell, so sharing a table makes the telling of tales possible. 

The beauty of this is that we get to know each other. A bit of history, what we did for a living, where we grew up and bits about family. It is an enlightening experience to often be with people that have lived and continue to live interesting lives. Of course, this is not always the case, but the chance to meet interesting people is there and dining together is an easy way for this to happen.

It is also the case that some residents remain apart from the social opportunities. They may have family living within the area and spend their time with them. Their lives are lived apart from other residents and although family and friends are especially important the chance to make new friends at the trails end is no small thing. All of us need relationships beyond family and old friends if we are to continue to grow instead of just getting old. 

Growing old is an “attitude” as well as a “fact” As a “fact” what is there to discuss? As an “attitude” it is worthy of books upon books and discussion. Those that are old and give in to waiting for their last breath are to be pitied for a condition none can avoid. Those of us that continue to mix with others and, if able, read, write, and continue to exercise creativity are wise and thrive.

Life, whether limited by old age or other factors ought not be wasted. Opportunity to learn and to give back is restricted by our own behavior. A wonderful example took place a few nights ago.  We joined two others at a dinner table without reservations. Usually, people arrange being together over dinner in advance, but now and then we allow serendipity to do its thing.  We joined a lovely lady we have had dinner with many times and a gentleman we have not met before. 

As usual, it turned out to be full of wonderful dialogue between us and a lesson in history led by the gentleman. He is a new resident of our senior complex. We will find out more about him in the coming days, but during this first dinner together we discovered that he was born and lived his youth in Tennessee, worked in Washington in government and had something to do in later years with a University in Atlanta.

In any case, our conversation took us to the problems and division of our country today. He led the conversation and his knowledge of the subjects we discussed was impressive. Interestingly, he continues to write and research on the subjects we discussed. Two hours engaged and time flew by. We can hardly wait to continue being involved in an education experience. 

Need I express the importance of what accidentally took place, and does almost every day? We are surrounded by people with a variety of life experiences. All have a story to tell and will if given the opportunity which has to include people interested in learning and sharing.  Sy

Life offers so much————pay attention and receive————to learn is a gift.

My Own Revelation

As most of you know, in the mid-seventies I began to work with organizations for the sole purpose of improving relationships between coworkers. Those that employed me saw this as a serious enough problem to warrant finding someone to resolve this problem that (as they saw it) was between and amongst their staff. What gave me my reputation were my own employees and our camp’s remarkable success over a period of 27 years that I believed was due to good fortune and awesome child workers. I saw myself as lucky to have found and hired such capable people.  As leader, I saw me as incidental and simply a good problem solver. I believed that my work was to facilitate the work my staff did and that my leadership was incidental to their excellent work. It took observing other leaders and years of intensive research to realize how wrong I was.

 Initially, my workshops had all to do with helping an organization build a more cooperative and productive environment between coworkers.  What I soon discovered was that troubled staff relationships are not the primary cause, but the result of bad leadership. This troubled me deeply since I, as leader, may have been a major contributor to the personnel issues I faced during my leadership days. For my many years as leader I was absolutely ignorant of my part in staff issues. Simply put, some of them were the problem, never me. So, don’t change me, change or get rid of them.

This shook me at my core since I never remember checking me out as “what kind of leader was I?” When I trained my staff I trained them to be the most creative and able with children as possible. But I was not conscious of the impact my relationship with any of them had on our relationship and the work they did. 27 years later as mentor to other leaders and the solving of their staff relations I discovered how important boss/staff relationships are. Nothing is more important!  

Two changes had to take place. The first had to be the leader’s awakening to their power and influence and the other had to be the planting and nurturing of genuine dialogue, not monologue between the leader and the people they worked with. Also, due to this awakening I began to study Leadership, Power & Influence from any and every source. It continues to this day. 

The success of the workshop program literally exploded and I desperately needed others to join with me in helping leaders grow into their natural, nurturing and empowering selves. Not an easy task.    Sy

A Desire to Grow

A desire to grow, to go beyond one’s self, needs to come from inside us. We make the decision to be open and vulnerable to the experiences life throws at us. We make choices to either be open and a willing participant, or to be closed off from what we hear and experience. Having arms twisted and minds forced open does not make for receptivity. Others close to us may sincerely want this of us, believing it is for our own good. Unless this comes from within us efforts by others is wasted. It is not what others want of us, but what we want of ourselves.

My workshops are classic examples. I know I prepared what I believed was valuable material, history, philosophy, psychology in preparing for a workshop. I also know that creating the safest possible environment was my responsibility. I needed to do everything I could to make this a reality. One way was to not push people to share what they were thinking and feeling. If one chooses to remain silent they were respected for this. They would pick their own time to share or not to share their thoughts.

 It is not what I said and did that made any difference. It is the receptivity that each individual brought to the moments. If closed or resistant to what I shared how did I know this? And what could I have done to create any dialogue between us? Acceptance of where each was at was my most successful approach. When a person was ready to speak their mind, they did and I confirmed them; not judge them.

The whole point was to create an environment of trust, respect and understanding. When feelings (always so personal and unique) began to be shared, and be listened to without being judged individuals spoke what they felt and thought. This opened up even the most reluctant. The key had to be safety and then the courage to express one’s self.

As a result of the safety and acceptance of one’s thoughts and feelings people opened up to each other. In fact, I often received letters and calls prior to a workshop asking that certain subject be discussed before I presented what I had prepared.  I never stood in the way of this. It was our goal in any case.    Sy

 I speak my own mind–And want to hear this from you–We say what we say.