Tag Archives: accountability


50 Cents and Responsibility: Lessons from an 8-Year Old

“But this will not do, God will certainly punish you for stealing and for being unfaithful.”
– Jupiter Hammon

I was a precocious child growing up and somewhat mischievous, as well. A number of older people forget their youth. I feel bad for them, I really do. That or they manipulate their past in their mind over and over again, in order to paint themselves in a better light; sort of finger painting of the mind. I stopped doing this a few years ago when I stopped punishing myself and allowed those memories to come to the forefront. I started my own, shall we say, therapy to explore more about why I am who I am, a riddle wrapped with perplexity and tied with an enigma bow.

It’s Nice to Want Things

I wanted things but being eight years old, there’s little choice getting baubles at toy stores because you just don’t have the money, I mean, look, you were eight. Oh, and as my buddy Pete Radloff likes to say, “It’s nice to want things.” What in the hell did you need money for, really? I suppose it is an odd rite of passage to begin earning money and become part of the general economy at some point, but a kid should have kid memories, the good, the bad, memories, good times.

I want to make a very important point here before I continue with this. I was raised with respect and was taught morals, however – at this tender age, there is only so much a person should expect from a boy to know, life you see. So, many times it is the mistakes we make, the falls that teach us; this was one of those times.

fifty centsWhenever I was in Yuma visiting my grandparents, we would eat out. Back in the day, restaurants, even the classier ones in town, had, shall we say, items for a gentleman? Cologne, condoms, and oddly, stupid toys that you could drop into a glass of water and they would form a bird, I shit you not, no pun intended.  The cost was only fifty cents and I wanted to see what the bird would look like. The small issue I had? I was eight and not making a paycheck, damn child labor laws.

My Uncle Mike was making a pay check though, and when he went out he had a change jar where he would deposit his loose change. Mostly pennies and nickels, but there were dimes and quarters, too. It sat on the dresser drawer’s cabinet that housed his work shirts and underwear, socks and such. It was just an old preserves jar that had a small crack in it and my Grams didn’t want to use for preserves. Hence, the change jar was born. As earlier stated, I was eight years old, keep up folks, and well I, being froggy, just put my hand in that mason jar and took out fifty cents. I just figured my Uncle wouldn’t miss it since it was only two coins in a sea of them, sitting in that old mason jar.

The Next Time

I got my toys the next time we went to the restaurant. The two coins were in separate pockets as to not let them jingle against each other, the sound alerting anyone of the booty in my pocket. I learned a lot from the detective magazines my Uncle Mike would leave around the house. I went to the bathroom and procured my reward for stealing from him without a care, then came back to the table with an enormous sense of satisfaction.

Um, yeah best-laid plans of mice and men; and eight-year olds, I suppose.

It may have been fortuitous, within a week I was afforded an allowance of one dollar a week to do chores. Raised the way I was, I heard a story from my Grandparents about stealing and that it was a bad thing, it hurt people when you took what was rightfully theirs. I, in my eight-year old mind, thought I had hurt my Uncle. So, instead of going to the market for a Slurpee and baseball cards, I got change; four quarters. I guess this is when I discovered I was going to be a writer, I wrote him a letter, put two-quarters in the envelope with the letter and left it on his bed. Easy, right? Nope, not even close.

My Uncle took the letter to my Mother and to my Grandparents, the reaction was at first one of anger that I would steal, but my Grandparents intervened the tongue lashing and the switch and instead, embraced the fact that I wanted to make amends. I had learned my lesson without them having to teach me. I learned from their example, their knowledge. That is how we learn, you know. My mother was so proud, she took the two toys and letter and framed it, my mother – the hidden artist.

To wrap this up, we all make mistakes, we are not perfect. However, when the imperfection comes we need to learn from it, take it with us. Funny thing is, I have a goblet I got from a bar years ago and although loose change is now non-existent with credit cards and digital chips, it’s still out there and when I have some change, I throw it in that cup.

Thanks, Uncle Mike, it was a great lesson, and I miss you. Rest in peace.

fifty cents

**This is a photo of the actual letter I wrote to my Uncle, funny thing? I needed an editor even then.



Absolute Accountability and Responsibility

Ugly irrationalism is not the way, but so often the path chosen by many.

Who had accountability? Who was responsible?


In 1989, I wrote a letter to our local La Porte, IN newspaper, the Herald-Argus. They were running a week-long, front page series on the rise in the local infant mortality rateThe focus for this series was the new poor, as they were titled, and those who were unable or unwilling to get pre-natal care either due to ignorance or lack of health insurance coverage . It’s fair to say that, I was disgusted – this was supposed to be investigative journalism? Even at 25 years old, I recognized a possible shush up. Infant mortality and premature deliveries were, indeed, on the rise but instead of investigating potential real causes, there was just a lot of finger-pointing as a governmental blame game developed.

This was Personal

It was personal. Two weeks prior to this series being launched, I had delivered a baby prematurely – almost three months prematurely. As I read the series, my baby lay in a neo-natal intensive care unit thirty-eight miles away from my home. Because answers were important to me, I felt the series was wasted print space. I was not part of what had been described as the new poor, both my husband and I worked – we also had a healthy two-year old, we had health insurance, and I received excellent pre-natal care. No answers were ever offered. And because I was healthy and took care of myself throughout my  pregnancy – however short it was, my baby survived, unlike many other babies I sadly watched die in the NICU I visited daily.

What could I do?

I wrote to the newspaper, expressing my sorrow and anger that responsible, investigative reporting had not been accomplished.  Surprisingly, the paper actually printed my letter.  Many of our friends saw the letter and were shocked and surprised – we had not shared our misfortune, outside of family and close friends, mostly because we were unsure as to whether our baby would survive; she was very ill with many complications that included several pneumothorax procedures for collapsed lungs and a brain bleed of which we were uncertain.  Thankfully, after 87 days in the hospital, our tiny Renee Christine, born weighing just 2 lbs. 5 ozs., came home weighing just under a whopping 5 lbs. She had fought hard to live and we were so grateful for the support of an incredible medical staff and the hundreds of prayers offered in our behalf.

My Words Made a Difference

Maybe they didn’t immediately, and maybe not at first. But I had sounded off at two entities, our local paper and our community hospital, which was not the hospital where my baby had been born or stayed for 3 months. Neither of which provided answers to the public or addressed even who “the new poor” were. Family, friends, and friends of friends were supportive and in agreement with us. One person asked if my mother had written the letter – surprised that I, at 25-years old, could write with such directed anger and expressiveness. It was the first time I felt powerful or that my words mattered.  They did. They still do. As do yours!

Knowledge and Power

Opportunities abound daily which allow us to share knowledge, aggressively seek change, and dropping us in a place of discovery where we can open our minds and learn. Ugly irrationalism is not the way, but so often the path chosen by many. I think of the politics today that litter our airwaves and social channels or even phony religious fanaticism that dupes so many. Why? Because we want to have a place on high where blame or credit resides. Try looking inward to see what YOU can do, what YOU can change, how YOU can educate or be educated. Whether it is getting people to talk or encouraging people to listen, there is a place and a need for adult behavior. You truly can just scroll on by, as well.

And absoluteness lies only in mathematical equations.