The Ultimatum – Get in Shape
story by Ralph Underwood Fit
One, two, three, four. Work it out. Work it out. One, two, three, four. Get in SHAPE, Get in SHAPE. One, two, three, four. Are you fit? Are you fit? One, two, three, four. Help yourself. Get in SHAPE. Work it out. Please allow me to introduce myself, I’m a man of health and fame. Ralph Underwood Fit is my name. My students know me as RU Fit, your personal trainer for the ‘Get in SHAPE’ program. Try to see it my way and we can work it out. Get it? Here’s the deal – with my four-part system, I’m here to help you help yourself with the ‘Self Help Assessment Plan Evaluation’system. That’s SHAPE, for short. The shorthand for HELP is easy to understand. H-E-L-P
H – Have a problem?
E- Everyone does
L- Let’s get together and
P – Party
Now I know you’ve seen those TV bunko artists with the perfect hair and perfect teeth pacing the stage with a headset-microphone pitching all kinds of self-improvement programs – save your money, eat wholesome food, follow my exercise program, learn to bowl or save your soul. With our SHAPE system you’ll have the tools to empower your life. The cost to you, the dinner theater audience, is absolutely free and if you’re not satisfied, we will provide a money back-guarantee. As I like to tell my students, there’s something lost and something gained in living every day. So let’s get on with the show.
Living here in the Rocky Mountains, Colorado country, we are at the center of the fitness universe. Folks move here from around the world to find a self-improvement training program of choice. It might be body-shaping, cross-fit training aerobics, pilates, weight training, or the extreme sports like ultrarunning, alpine climbing, high altitude trail running, mountain biking, parachuting, couloir skiing, free-soloing, mountaineering, cross-country skiing, downhill racing and the like. To be clear, our program is about none of that stuff. The X-Games are not Y-U-R-Here. RU Fit’s ‘Get in SHAPE program starts with one basic assumption – ‘I still haven’t found, what I’m looking for’. Here’s the deal.
We all remember the characters in the Wizard of Oz, right? The Scarecrow who lacks a brain and desires above all else to have one; the Cowardly Lion, king of the jungle, who looks for courage and nerve to conquer his fear and finallythe Tin Woodman who states that he has neither heart nor brain, but cares nothing for the loss of his brain. As the song goes …
I could while away the hours, conferrin’ with the flowers
Consultin’ with the rain.
And my head I’d be scratchin’ while
my thoughts were busy hatchin’
If I only had a brain.
When a man’s an empty kettle he should be on his mettle,
And yet I’m torn apart.
Just because I’m presumin’ that I could be kind-a-human,
If I only had heart.
Life is sad, believe me, Missy,
When you’re born to be a sissy
Without the vim and verve.
But I could change my habits, never more be scared of rabbits
If I only had the nerve.
The RU Fit SHAPE system begins with a similar set of problems. Mine. It was helplessness, and lots of it. Hence the desire to be helpful. To get the heart of the matter, I developed the SHAPE program out of a strong desire to help people help themselves. Here’s a few examples. In junior high iI was raising money for the Toys for Tots program providing the Marine Corps recruiters with gifts for the young victims of the Vietnam war. In high school I was leading fund drive for the US AID program, providing protein powder food supplements to the starving Ibo population suffering malnutrition and genocide in the Nigerian Biafran war. In the college years, I was helping a Mexican family reunite across the US border and later, I did combat duty as an inner city bilingual school teacher in South Center Los Angeles – a war zone in an urban barrio. At some point during those teaching years, RU Fit got the message, ‘help yourself Mr. Teacher man. we’ve got to get out of this place if it’s the last thing we ever do”.
Fast forward a few decades and let’s take a close look at the SHAPE program in action. The case study involves the Rebuilding Together program, a national non-profit group that organizes home improvement projects The raison d’etre behind Rebuilding Together is providing good will, volunteer effort to provide help to families or individuals in need of assistance. Similar to the ‘Habitat for Humanity’, this program is the nation’s largest home/community repair program with thousands of projects across the country every year. In one day, houses are made into homes, racial, social and religious barriers are broken and lives are transformed. Back in the Washington DC area, our temple volunteered one year to the next either painting, scraping, hauling or hammering to put a new look on an old home.
In the early ‘90s, we met a man who had certainly helped himself in Life. Warner was an 80-year old black man living alone in a 3-story townhouse off Florida Ave in Northeast DC. As a proud army veteran, Warner had marched into Berlin at the end of WWII as part of the liberation forces. His distinguished military career lasted another 30 years and in the early ‘70s he was discharged with honors from the service. His home was decorated with medals and commendations and yet he had been living alone for many years, a ward of his church, with no immediate family to care for him. Although blind in one eye, Warner could take care of himself, and he liked to cook. To improve his home, a project was planned to remodel his kitchen and the Rebuilding Together team began work on a Saturday with a tear-out of the old cabinet and countertop fixtures. In the corner of his kitchen, our crew piled the cabinet contents onto a few tables so everything was ready for the remodeling job the next day.
On Sunday morning our crew chief Larry and I parked in the alley behind Warner’s home. It was early in the day, an hour or so before the remodeling volunteers were scheduled to arrive. “You know Larry, I’d be relieved if you go to meet Warner. Chaos is about to descend on his home. You might want to see if he’s still expecting us to invade his townhouse to pound nails, scrape paint and make noise on this early Sunday morning. Let’s make sure that Warner is in good SHAPE before the worker bees arrive”. So Larry left the van in the alley and walked around to the front door while I waited for the ‘all clear’ sign to come on in. It was one of those moments in life when everything comes to a complete stop, like the scene in that sci-fi classic, ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still’ when Klaatu the alien freezes time to give humans a last chance to save themselves from mutually assured destruction, self- annihilation, nuclear war and the like. After twenty minutes or so, Larry came out the back door of Warner’s home, looking white as a ghost.
“What happened Larry?”
“Something bad,” he said.
“Did Warner have a heart attack?”
“Did he die?”
“OK, he didn’t die or have a heart attack, what could be worse than that?”
“Around 7am, Warner got out of bed and went downstairs to fix breakfast. He went over to the kitchen stuff we had left in the corner and poured himself a glass of apple juice. The four ounces of fluid he drank was PineSol, not apple juice. He did manage to call 911 before he collapsed and the medics were wheeling him out the front door when I arrived”.
“Holy crap. What should we do with all the volunteers coming over to fix his kitchen?” “I’ll take care of the crew”, he said. “Let’s have you call the Rebuilding Together office and get some advice”. I rang up the local HQ and explained in a panic that ‘we’d fixed his wagon, not the kitchen’. They told me to stay put while they sent their attorney over to take a deposition. While awaiting the legal-eagle to arrive I started thinking once again about the desire to be helpful and the design of the SHAPE program we are presenting tonight. A few basic ideas came to mind.
- The road to hell is paved with good intentions
- Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong
- Murphy was an optimist
- No good deed goes unpunished
To this very day, still hear Warner, mumbling something about, ‘go help yourself’ as they rolled him out the door In the end, the whole mess sorted itself out. They pumped his stomach in the hospital, the crew built out the kitchen, the attorney got his statement and the Rebuilding Together program learned a thing or two about dealing with adversity in the mission of helping other people’s lives.
OK? Got the picture? The SHAPE system (a Self-Help Assessment Evaluation Program) is designed to make helpful people more successful with their mission. Unfortunately, things don’t always work out as planned. Remember that example, Klaatu the alien, in ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still’. He lands his spaceship on the DC mall and emerges with his sidekick, Gort to bring peace and harmony to our ragtag planet Earth. And what happens? He presents a harmless device as “a gift for the American President… to study life on other planets. The army guys shoot him, right? Nevermind, he’s a determined fellow (Klaatu Barada Nikto). At the end of the film he stops all electric power on Earth for 30 minutes to show what would happen if we humans threaten peace in space, Damn if the soldiers shoot him again. You just can’t win.
One, two, three, four. Work it out. Work it out. One, two, three, four. Get in SHAPE, Get in SHAPE. One, two, three, four. Are you fit? Are you fit? One, two, three, four. Help yourself. Get in SHAPE. Work it out. Try to see it my way and we can work it out. Get it? Here’s the deal – about that four-part SHAPE system, it turns out that the HELP we are assessing is really another acronym, word scramble and when properly sorted out leads us to the conclusion (almost) – Help stands for – ‘HUMANIZE EVERY LIVING PERSON’ (so Help me finish) –
If I wanted your assistance / I’d offer no resistance / Trying never to escape
I would take your HELP on Sunday / To my office on the Monday /And work to get in SHAPE.
I may not be the wizard / To fix or tame a blizzard / To keep us safe and warm
But with the HELP we are providing / We’ll take your shadow out of hiding / Give you shelter from the storm
If this story has a moral / To keep with you tomorrow /It’s a straight and simple song
Just SHAPE up your demeanor / To keep from getting meaner / Can’t we all just get along?
And that’s the SHAPE we’re in