Reflections………Start Anew and Flourish

Gary's blog picture“Start anew and flourish” was the motto of a private international boarding school for boys with learning disabilities, where I had the privilege to serve as President.  The young men came from several foreign countries and varying cultures.  They all had one thing in common, challenges in the world of academia where success was fleeting.  As is common in the absence of success there were tendencies to seek other areas where success could be found.  I hasten to add these were not young men who were addicted to drugs or delinquents but teenagers whose parents wanted the very best for their child.

The school’s culture was to present a set of expectations, academically, emotionally and socially.   A behavioral approach akin to conditioned learning was used requiring each boy to focus on a set of outcomes that promoted success, the simplicity of which could be interpreted as:  “always look your best,” “speak your best,” “act your best,” and you will be the best. Gradually, using a  structured approach, success began to happen and success bred success.  In 2002 the school celebrated its 20th year of 100 percent college placement for its graduates.

Behavioral research tells us  for a habit to be broken or a new behavior instilled into our lifestyle, we must focus on that behavior for a period of time, usually 15 to 20 days, until it becomes a function of the brain not requiring thought.  This was extremely difficult for the young men as well as everyone in general.  Your everyday action must become like a laser and focus on the behavior you want to change………no excuses. If this does not occur a return to the previous state is forthcoming.

We are entering a new year.  Resolutions abound. …..start anew and flourish.  Go to the chalkboard (whiteboard, smart board) in your mind and erase a behavior you wish to extinguish or write a behavior you would like to add.  For the next 20 days focus on that behavior.  The first five days of this procedure will be extremely difficult and you will want to stop.   I cannot begin to tell you the number of boys who telephoned their parents to come and get them before the first five days were over.

Last year June and I were on vacation and were enjoying some recreational activities when I heard someone say, “you are Dr. Coker aren’t you?”   I turned to this young man and  started a series of mental gymnastics trying to recognize who he was.  He began to talk about his time at the school and how difficult it was for him and his parents.   Today he is living a productive and successful life.   There was a time in his life where he had to reorganize his daily walk and ……….”start anew and flourish”.

In 2018 I wish for you God’s richest blessings.




Christmas brings a storehouse of feelings and it’s easy to get caught up in the festivities of the occasion.  The most important aspect of this writing is to share with you the many blessings we have.  First we are thankful for a living God who has proven faithful in our lives and is unchanging in His love, grace, and forgiveness.

One of the nice things about writing is that it sets aside a brain-free moment for reflection.  For me, being married to one of Martha Stewart’s most devoted disciples means Christmas takes on a multitude of meaning and activity.  When June is not spot-welding something with the glue gun to make a beautiful centerpiece, she’s trying recipes for maple glazed nuts or banana bread.  For June, life has to be an adventure with a man who continues to love her more with each passing day.  We have come to the realization that aging is a blessing and everything is done with love. We are grateful for the continued health and well-being of our family.

It is with deep love we wish for you at this special time God’s blessings, your boundaries of influence would increase, and His hand would be upon you in all that you do.  MERRY CHRISTMAS!