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Dear Ann Landers: I hope you have enough nerve to print this letter because the person I am complaining about is an American hero. His name is Larry Bird. He made his name as a player on the Boston Celtics, and he is now coaching the Indiana Pacers. This is what happened.

During the pre-season, the team's plane was scheduled to leave for Nashville at 4 p.m. Two of the players, Travis Best and Dale Davis, were nowhere to be found. The stairs had been pulled up, and the plane was just about to take off. Suddenly, one of the players who was on the plane and looking out the window yelled, ``Travis and Dale are out there on the passenger cart. Somebody should tell the pilot to lower the stairs.' Larry Bird shouted, ``No way. It's after 4 p.m. Those guys are tardy. They'll have to go commercial.'I was shocked when I heard about this on TV. How could a guy be so mean to his own players? It just doesn't make any sense. I hope you will print this. - A Former Larry Bird Fan

Dear Former Bird Fan: Did you say ``mean'? Sorry, I don't agree with you. I believe Larry Bird showed a great deal of courage when he left those late arrivals standing on the tarmac. He taught them a lesson they needed to learn. You can bet your life they will never be late for a team plane again. And neither will the players who witnessed this extraordinary example of disciplinary action. Call it being ``mean' if you want to, but in my opinion, it was a demonstration of strong character. Way to go, Larry!

Dear Ann Landers: It amazes me how so many people are under the impression that church clergy work only on Sundays. As a pastor, I am often asked, ``So what do you do during the week?'

I cannot begin to tell you how demanding church work can be. Congregations need to understand that ministry is more than giving a sermon and greeting people on Sunday morning. They should know that one sermon involves many hours of preparation. Also, pastors today are overloaded with home visitation, personal and family counseling, board meetings, Bible studies, hospital calls, administrative duties, crisis counseling, baptisms, marriages, divorces and funerals. Some are expected to referee family fights. In addition to all of the above, the congregation expects its pastor to be available all hours of the day and night. No wonder so many ministers experience burnout and have health and family problems.

I begin my day at 5:30 a.m., and rarely do I come home before midnight. It would be nice if your readers understood this. Perhaps if you print my letter, it will help. Of course, I cannot sign my name, but rest assured I speak for thousands. - Sleepless, But a Long Way from Seattle

Dear Sleepless: If my arithmetic is correct, you are working more than 18 hours a day. This leaves you with no time for family, friends or quiet contemplation, and you are wearing yourself to a frazzle.

You need an assistant. If your congregation will not provide you with one, please tell them where to ship the body.

Gem of the Day (Credit Julius Rosenwald, philanthropist and chairman of Sears from 1924 to 1932): ``I could never understand the popular belief that because a man makes a lot of money, he has a lot of brains. Some very wealthy men who have made huge fortunes have been among the most stupid people I have ever known.'


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