Tag Archives: True Story

HUMANITY

Racism and Bigotry: A Conversation

Southern trees bear strange fruit
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees – Billie Holiday

What Happened to Us?

Growing up in a small town in the Southwest had its advantages I suppose. We were a small community, not terribly diverse by today’s standards, as the people were mostly the same. Kids could play in the cul-de-sac, ride their bikes down to the local pharmacy for candy and baseball card packs or comic books without fear of a drive-by or child predator in a “rape van” grabbing us to never be seen again or even worse to be found dead or broken. I often wonder what happened to us, where did we go wrong? How did we lose that hope, that fire? My generation was so close, right there in inclusion, we were joining hands across America and singing we are the world then something happened, and I honestly don’t know what it was. I have no intention of pointing fingers but maybe, just maybe I have an understanding of a history, and it is all in perception.

My Friend

A new friend of mine who is black or African American (or simply just an honest, smart, human being who has more pigmentation than me) were drinking margaritas, and he made a comment. We had been discussing race relations in the U.S., as it has been a conversation that has never come to a conclusion or that any one party has been able to come to consensus about.   He looked at me with sadness, yet with a withheld anger, and said, “I don’t think you will ever understand what it is like to be a black man sitting in a bar full of people who don’t look like you. I am always going to be different.” I pondered this, as I had no answer but then it hit me, I said “Judging a book by its cover never lets you get to read the story. There are lots of great books out there man, and I want to read them.” He smiled, raised his glass for a toast and we moved on to other conversations telling me, “Man, you are the whitest black man I have ever known.” I have to say it was one of the best compliments I have ever received.

A Story

We continued on with conversations less disheartening then a memory popped into my head from my childhood that only a handful of people ever knew outside of my family, it was a harsh memory to bring up, sadly, I have many of those. I turned to Malik and extolled upon him the story of when I was eleven years old and went to visit my cousins in Rochester, NY on one of our yearly family trips for Rosh Hashanah. My cousins lived in a small house near a canal in a more rural part of the town but within walking distance to the local mall and, more importantly, the toy store: a Toys R Us store, to be more exact. Other than FAO Schwartz, this was the holy grail of toy stores and since Star Wars had come out, it was my mission to get all of the action figures for my collection.

I begged my mom to let me go with the older kids because they were going to walk down and knowing  I could possibly find the missing pieces to my set, I really wanted to go. My mother was very protective of me, but she felt since I was with my cousins, I would be safe. She was right to be nervous about my safety, as I came to find out.

So, let me paint the picture for you. We arrived at the mall and I was overjoyed at finding two action figures that I had never seen before. It was well worth sitting around while my two older female cousins shopped for clothes. At one point, Charla realized it was getting late and we needed to head back for it would soon be dark and that would be unsafe for us. I remember wondering why it would be unsafe; the town seemed just like where I was from and that was safe.

We started walking home and on the other side of the canal that we had walked down heading to the house was a group of kids: one girl and three boys. They were shouting at us, I couldn’t quite make out what they were saying as they were on the other side and further down from us. Sasha, my other cousin, said, “We have to go, now!” She was panicked and kept yelling at me to walk faster than we sort of started to jog, which is tough when you have little legs trying to keep up with a teenager. I looked over, and the group that had been well behind us had now caught up on the other side, and I could now hear the jeers. “What are you doing outside, Jew?!?! Where are you going, you Christ killer!?!?! We want to talk to you!!!”

They crossed a bridge ahead and caught up with us just as we thought we could make it to the house. The girl grabbed Sasha’s hair and threw her to the ground. I yelled and rushed her only to find myself on the ground with one of the boy’s knees in my chest. He looked at me strangely and asked, “What are you doing with these two Jews??” You see I was a blond-haired, blue eyed boy that did not resemble an immigrant from the Middle East or Europe like my family that my mother married into. I told him that I was Jewish and these were my cousins and to get off me or he would be in trouble. I remember the hatred he had in his eyes as I finished my statement, they were burning. I had done nothing to this person yet here I was, on the ground, wondering what had made him so angry toward me and my kin.

Before things escalated, some of the neighbors must have heard the raucousness and came out to yell at our attackers and just like the cowards they were, they ran away. We were safe, but I often wonder what would have happened had those people not come out to disrupt our being attacked. Malik looked at me and said, “Book covers man, yeah book covers, I hear that. I feel that now man, damn.” He placed his hand on my shoulder, and we both just sat there in silence, each pondering the world.

Racism isn’t born, folks, it’s taught. I have a two-year-old son.
You know what he hates? Naps! End of list. – Denis Leary

I Never Understood It…

I have never understood racism, bigotry, and out-and-out hatred but it has made me confused for most of my adult life. I have written about perception and quick judgment before like The Music That Binds or Living Within Our Own Mythos, for example, trying to point out how inane it all is, hate is a wasted emotion. Hate is taught, it’s not anger, love, empathy, sadness, or kindness – we are born with those. We need to rise together to begin to teach each other that we are not ok with it and apparently we are failing at it right now; the anger is boiling over. Educated people are not teaching each other what we, as a society, are about. Instead of conformity, we need to embrace how diverse we as people all are we have one great thing in common: we are human. I will leave you with this last verse by one of the greatest poets of our time, Walt Whitman:

Oh me! Oh life! of the questions of these recurring,

Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish,

Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)

Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects, mean, of the struggle ever renew’d,

Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds, I see around me,

Of the empty and useless years of the rest, with the rest me intertwined,

The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?

 

Answer.

That you are here—that life exists and identity,

That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.

 

Can I get an amen?

#truestory #life #peace

HR, HUMANITY

My Christmas in Iowa: A #truestory About Love, Kindness, and Acceptance

Christmas in Iowa

“Christmas is a season for kindling the fire for hospitality in the hall, the genial flame of charity in the heart.”  Washington Irving

Before I begin this tale of what happened to me in a frigid, foggy, Des Moines many years ago, I want to explain a brief history of why I was even there around Christmas time, since, well…, I lived in Phoenix at the time and did not really celebrate Christmas in the first place. I was seventeen at the time and had become great friends with a kid named Michael Meggison. Usually, I don’t use people’s real names in my posts because they should be anonymous and rightly so, however, in this particular case it is warranted as the family, as well as Michael, should be praised for the kindness they bestowed on me December 25th, 1985.

I was raised in a Jewish household and practiced both the Sabbath and Hanukah every year. My Grandmother, who came from a Catholic family was always incensed that my mother let me be raised in the Jewish faith; I had my bat mitzvah at 13, my Grandparents attended but with angst. I guess a deal was struck that I would see my grandparents every Christmas and Easter to appease the tension that ran under the relationship they had with my parents. No one in the family actually spoke about it in front of me.

It was Christmas break from school, and I had, having been to Iowa visiting Micheal before, wanted to fly out to see him, his family, and the friends I had met the summer before. I was scheduled to fly back home than a short flight to Yuma, AZ to spend actual Christmas with my family there. The plan was simple, really, I got a cheap flight up and back and could do a quick transfer in Phoenix to be in Yuma Christmas Eve with my family. Well, as you will see, the best-laid plans are made by mice and men, lesson learned, Mr. Steinbeck.

Des Moines in December

The flight in was excellent and seeing Michael’s smiling face and open arms was pretty tremendous. We were both pretty giddy to hang out in his hometown and get, well, crazy. It was cold, and I was not used to it. However, I was in my Judd Nelson phase and had bought my first trench coat similar to the one he wore in the eternal classic teen angst movie The Breakfast Club. Although it was a mild winter with no snow, the temperatures were still cool with oddly warmer days. It made it fun for us to run around the small suburb of Adele and meet up with his friends and talk about stories of the day. School was still in session at the time, as Christmas was the following week as I recall. I discovered, among other things, that a chain called Made-Right made a loose meat sandwich that, if it ever came to it, would be my last meal. In fact, to this day, when I go to see Megs and his family, we go to a Made-Right after I disembark the plane.

I was scheduled for an early-morning flight and those of you who know me well, know that I am not exactly a morning person to begin with. But I was young and seeing my Grandparents would drive me like the sleigh in the song to see them, well, it was supposed to. The sun rose in the morning, and we were off to the airport, as the air warmed the moisture in the air caused a thick fog to appear making visibility reduced. Megs came with me to the gate only to discover that my flight had been delayed, then canceled. I was put on standby, and we sat at the airport, all day, on Christmas Eve. Every flight was oversold, every, last, one. Although they tried valiantly to get me on a flight, I was told that Christmas day was just as packed, and all they could guarantee me was a flight out on the 26th of December, the day AFTER Christmas.

And now, the phone call…

We went back to the house, and I was devastated. Up to that point in my life, I had experienced some strange shit but to have to call my Grandparents and tell them that I would be missing Christmas and there was nothing I could do about it, was just this side of spending eternity in any of Dante’s circles of hell. The sound of my Grandfather’s words and the disappointment in his voice still haunts me to this day. “Why did you go to Iowa?” “Why were you so insensitive to the family?” he asked me. “You might as well not come here now as everyone will be gone by the time you get here!” I remember just sitting there quietly listening, feeling hollow. My Grandmother got on the line next and expecting my next 50 verbal lashes she, instead, said warmly, “It’s not your fault. little lamb, if you want to hear God laugh tell him your plans.” She asked me to ignore my Grandad, he was just hurt because he missed me and to get there as soon as I could, she then said, “Merry Christmas. little lamb.” That was my nickname from her, and I loved it, it always made me feel warm and loved yet now it seemed like a dagger to my heart. There was a reason I subconsciously did not want to be there and someday I will purge that demon but, that is for another day.

Christmas Morning

Now, let me set the stage for you of the house in Iowa. It was huge, in fact, it was the largest home I had ever been in up to that point. It was two stories with a full basement and attic. The living room was huge, and the whole house was a winter wonderland waiting for the 25th of December to arrive. There was a decorated tree with all the trimmings and presents below for the family to open in the morning. I did not know it, but there was a plan hatched earlier in the day by Megs’ family, specifically his mother and two sisters, I believe. Megs had gone to a pay phone to call home telling them it looked as though I would be staying through the holiday and that I was emotional and fragile. He had never actually seen me that way as I was always laughing, telling jokes, and just being snarky. Well, that was going to change the morning of Christmas Day.

I did not want to get out of bed that morning, but the smell of bacon in the pan, and the thought of Megs’ mom’s pancakes and eggs filling my stomach and starting the day was just too much to ignore. When I came down to the kitchen, I was greeted with hugs & smiles, and a plate of hot deliciousness that was the best home cooking. It was just like it would have been had I been home with my family; I needed that. The commercialization of Hanukah and Christmas has never been lost on me, even in my youth. I sincerely liked giving people presents more than receiving them and as I have gotten older my acts of random kindness have increased yearly and there is a reason for that.

The Kindness That Changes

Christmas morning has, for most practicing Christians in the US, to follow a tradition to recreate the giving of gifts to the baby Jesus by the three Kings upon his birth. Being in a free market society and one based on commercialism, this is nirvana for people who make items for consumption. There is a feeling, though, of seeing the joy in a person’s eyes, the glimmer of excitement that someone thought enough of them to get them an item they wanted. I knew it well, it happened every Christmas, and I always volunteered to hand out the presents, one at a time, so that everyone had their moment to smile. Knowing that there was nothing under the tree, here, I offered to do the same. The Megginson’s had their own system of having each member going to the tree and choosing their gift. I don’t remember the order, but I knew that I was not in the batting order for this game. I was not supposed to be there, so why would I? All the kids went one by one to the tree to gather one present to open and show the booty they had received then something unexpected happened.

Mom, as she insisted on being called, looked at me and said, “Derek, it’s your turn now, dear.” I was dumbfounded and sat there perplexed that there would be anything under the tree for me. Thoughts went through my head at that moment, was there really a Santa Claus, could he be real, who is God and does he actually exist, who invented liquid soap and why? I went to the tree, and there in a small pile was not one but many beautifully wrapped with care packages with my name on each. I can tell you now that I don’t actually remember what I received that morning in the way of baubles, but what I took away was that a family, who did not need to do anything for me, who had fed a stranger and given him shelter shared their Love of Christmas with me.

It is one of the fondest memories of Christmas I have and every Christmas day, although I don’t participate like I once did, I look back at the kindness and love that family showed me that day. I missed a Christmas with one family but that Christmas morning I gained another, and that is one heck of the best presents a kid could get. #truestory

HR, HUMANITY

The Danger of Living Within Our Own Mythos

“A myth, in its original Greek meaning- mythos- is simply that: a story, one which seeks to render life transparent to an intelligible source.” ― Jules Cashford

mythos

My Discovery

When I was a little kid I was a voracious reader with the imagination of a 10-year-old boy that thought magic was real and trolls lived under bridges.  Princesses needed saving and dragons were to be slain.  However, my greatest love was the mythology of the Greeks, Romans, and Vikings.  I remember reading every tome I could find in the library or begging my mother to buy me books that spoke of the mythology within the binders.  I did not understand, at the time, that these stories were to not only entertain people but also to deliver sarcasm and knowledge about life and how to live it.

I happened upon my own mythos just recently on a Sunday morning which literally saved my life and this, my friends, is the story.

PANIC!

At 9AM I awoke with angst, this was going to be the first day of our annual College Hire Interview Event and there was an all-hands-on event to start promptly at 9:45 am.  The recruiters were expected to be in the office by 9AM to prep and get any and all things out of the way and then walk candidates in to begin their interview process and hopefully impress us to start their careers. This was going to be my first time working this event and I was nervous as I don’t live close to the office and traffic in DC can and is a nightmare. I panicked when I looked at the clock. Clearly, there was no way I would make it to the office by 9 as it was 9 already. I scrambled to dress, no shower for me this morning; I sprinted to the door and was off.

Once in the car, I called my boss and co-worker to let them know I was going to try my best to get arrive before the interviews started.  I turned on the radio to listen to my favorite morning drive-time show and floored the pedal, going way too fast on an interstate. The Radio DJ was talking about his costume choice for Halloween, which was Monday, today, but was alluding to the fact that was, in fact, tomorrow.  I thought to myself, did you screw up the loop or something? Today was Halloween, not tomorrow

I focused on the task at hand thinking in my mind the strategy I would employ with parking and arriving to the meeting on time. The Radio DJ, after every song, was babbling on about Halloween, tomorrow. I got off I95 and turned onto the beltway to a surprise.  The road was clear, SCORE! I was, of course, shocked, Monday morning and there was no one on the road? Did Halloween become some kind of National Holiday now? Personally, I was ok with it since my commute was going to be easier than expected but there was a nagging thought in my mind, all be it a small one, that I might be missing something.

Reality

Just before I go to the office, my boss called, and I immediately answered with my heart in my stomach.  He said, “Dumbass, it’s Sunday, enjoy your day off, and I will see you tomorrow.”  He laughed saying, “It’s going to be a long time until you live this one down!” I sat at the red light staring off in the distance, humiliated and realizing I am getting old, how did this happen? Well, at least I have the rest of the day to reflect on this.
However, life was going to take a different direction.

More than I Bargained for

Earlier in the month, I had contracted a skin virus on my right calf leg. Not having a primary Doctor since changing jobs and insurance companies, I just went to the ER to get checked out. They agreed it was a viral infection, gave me a prescription and I was on my way.  Since the hospital was near my office and my leg was, once again, showing signs of the infection, I decided, since I was here, to swing by and get another dose of antidote and hopefully fix my leg permanently.
I was in for a great deal more than I had bargained for.

Reston Hospital is a pretty pleasant place, considering it’s a housing facility for the ill and dying. Plenty of sunshine in the lobby and lots of magazines and helpful, friendly nurses. Just as my previous visit, they checked me in and before I could sit down, they had me in a room taking my clothes off and asking me the same questions I answered before. I tried to explain that I just needed some antibiotics and they could look up my chart. Not to draw this story out, it turned out I had blood clots in my leg and in my lungs. Not good. I was told by everyone I was lucky to have caught this as I was a walking time bomb, and could have died at any moment, as time was not a friend in this instance.

My point to this story you ask?

Simple: my mythos saved my life, this time. I chose to believe that I was firmly correct in my assumption that it was Monday and I would not consider anything else, no matter what the facts presented to me were that morning. I had to be correct, and everyone else had to be incorrect.

After this election, I have struggled to determine the same thing within the United States and the world, in general.

Communication is defunct, we, being bombarded by email, Facebook, Linkedin, Reddit, etc. We are chasing each other around in a virtual fishbowl we cannot seemingly get out of. Why?

Listen, I have lost my shit at times, believe me, many of you have seen it or read it from me. I get it. As I glide towards seeming senility, I want to at least understand the human condition better. Seemingly, there are not two sides to this coin called human life, just the same ugly sides covered with a different coat of paint.

What I have seen in the last week from both sides of this virtual coin is more disturbing than I ever thought. People are unaccepting of reality, and are acting in a way that they despise or were called out for and are emboldened to show their true colors.  People who extoll mercy and acceptance when they don’t get their way turn to violence? Those who were afraid and silent, that were belittled by one group, now rise in anger and benevolence to chastise something we thought long dead? The ignorant and intolerant feeling embolden to act in inhumane ways in order to prove one side or the other correct? Protecting the mythos and it is shamefull.  The profiteers on both sides who are making money by extolling the anger and hate, always keeping us apart.  The mythos that we cannot and seemingly refuse to release is tearing us apart. 

My leg is going to be better, or so they tell me. My silly reaction to the arrogance that my personal mythos that day could have very well saved my life, yet that same mythos-type mentality is tearing our very world apart, and we, like sheeple, are allowing it to happen. That, my friends, scares me more than the loss of my own mortality.

Take the time…

Take the time to listen to all opinions and do so without bashing or rhetoric. Listen, truly listen, and check facts. We need more talking and less yelling, more understanding why someone feels the way they do, then demanding they think like you.

Both sides just need to make better choices.

#truestory

HUMANITY, WELLNESS

Get a Job: The Truth about the Homeless

The Truth about the Homeless

People will sooner aid a sick dog lying on the sidewalk than to try
to find shelter for a sick person. It’s too much to deal with.
–Michael Zaslow

The internet is an excellent tool used by millions to find information, share emails, keep in touch with friends, and share funny photos and memes. I am on the internet, it seems, hours upon hours a day. In fact, I am a serial Facebook, LinkedIn, blog-reading fool. Whenever I am sitting at a bar having conversations and discussions about something, it’s off to Google to prove my point or get info on the subject. It’s just too easy to gather information now, and it is so much faster. This being a political year, it seems that funny photos and sarcastic ones are popping up all over social networks, some funny – some disturbing.

job

I saw the above picture on Facebook a few days ago and then I saw something similar in LA, live. It broke my heart. The photo was meant to be satirical, yet what I saw on that corner was a reality for a human being that I passed by in my Uber to the airport. He had a sign out with the usual verbiage but here is the story. There was no man standing or photoshopped in, this was life. I thought about the pic when I saw him and thought, why couldn’t he find work at a Walmart or a McDonald’s? When I got on the plane, that picture still sat in the back of my head as sat down, in 1st class no less, and I wondered what the Walmart guy would really say to this man instead of trying to go viral on the internet with what would be perceived as a funny photo.

Getting Work for People

Being in the actual practice of getting people work for over 19 years, I would like to set up a dose of a little reality for him. Here are some of my G-rated questions for the Walmart guy:

1) Will you hire him if he doesn’t pass a background check or has committed a felony?

2) Will you provide him clothes to work in and when those get dirty will you help him get them washed or do you think that first paycheck will pay for an apartment, utilities, appliances, and laundry detergent?

3) Will you immediately pay for any healthcare including mental health care he might need? With medications?

4) Will you keep him as an employee if he has an exacerbation of PTSD, anxiety, schizophrenia, or anything else while at work?

5) Will you have someone watch his only earthly possessions while he is working, so no one steals them?

6) Will you provide childcare or transportation or a bed for a good night’s sleep or food to sustain him while he works?

7) Will you even take an application from someone who does not have an address?

Are the answers to my questions are “yes?” If so, I admire your corporation, and I will be more than happy to help drive candidates to your organization. However, we both know that the answer to every one of these queries is “NO!”

Just Get a Freaking Job

The “just get a freaking job” argument is not so easy to quip when you look at the facts. Many of those who are homeless do work or want to work. Many can’t. It is truly not a simple fix. Some homeless hold signs – mostly people don’t talk to them, they turn away, or tell them to get a job. Judging them helps in no way, at all. I am fully aware there are bogus people out there pulling heart strings on sympathies who hold signs and don’t have legitimate needs; I actually don’t advocate for giving cash to those “flying signs” unless they are creative.

Cheeseburgers?

Years ago, while in San Francisco visiting friends we ran across a black man with a sign that read, “please donate to the United Negro Cheeseburger Fund” we laughed hard, and I said if I give you 5 dollars are you going to go the McDonalds behind you and get some .99 cent cheeseburgers? He smiled and said yes, yes I am. I gave him the 5 dollars, and he ran in to get the cheeseburgers, came out and went around the corner. We followed him to see if he was, indeed, going to eat them. He did not, he gave them away to a woman & two kids, and another man grabbed his sign and went back to his post. I looked at my compadres and without a word we crossed the street and gave him all the cash we could.

The Faces of the Homeless

My point is, “just get a damn job” is not simple thing look what stands in front of those who have fallen and cannot get up. Please take some time to understand some of the most devastating underlying issues these people have is the lack of caring we have for them. Human resources used to be a middle man between employees and owners while helping fill vacant seats. Now, they are mostly buried with compliance, benefits, and just making sure they don’t get sued for not taking chances. They are more concerned about the bottom line than most CEOs.

These struggling people have feelings and worth, and they are not all junkies and alcoholics, many are just fighting to survive in a world that looks at them like trash. Some are veterans who fought in wars they did not start. Some are women who ran from abusive marriages, some are those who fell on hard times. Some are teenage throw aways who never even had a shot at life, and the spiraling effect of going down is like falling out of a plane without a working parachute. It’s not the fall that kills you, it’s the fact there was nothing and no one there willing to catch you.

Paying it Forward

I hope this is where we can start to fit in. We, as a society, need to start actively start getting deeper in the game, we need to be more than order takers and more about effecting change. Stop giving them a dollar to pay for a coffee but get them somewhere they can get help. We need to start championing people we may not have in the past. I am using the homeless as an analogy just as there are other groups that need help, training, and, just some love. Join me in paying it forward, will you? Remember, you are either part of the problem or part of the solution, where do you want to be in history?

#truestory #life

HR, HUMANITY

Better off Dead: My Two Dollars Story

Better Off Dead

My two dollarsOne of John Cusack’s first movies was an odd spinoff of the wildly successful John Hughes films of the 80’s and 90’s called Better off Dead. Throughout the film, there is a running theme of a newspaper boy, yes, for those younger than 40 – we did not exercise child labor laws that strictly back then, chasing after the main character, Cusack for two dollars. You see, on top of delivering the papers to your front door, you had to do collections door-to-door, weekly for the money from the person getting the newspapers. Daily papers were .25c, and the Sunday paper was .50c, equaling two dollars a week. A few weeks ago, this came to mind one evening in a convenience store near my home.

A Wild Week

After what had been a wild week with candidate negotiations, allergies, and lack of sleep based on said allergies, something good finally happened. Sometimes, you just have to look past yourself to realize there is someone out there a little worse off than you. I had to run down to the local 7/11 for milk, as the carton in my fridge had spoiled. I drove down to the corner store, cursing that my craving for mashed potatoes and the need of milk to make the deliciousness that that dish is, forced me out of my home and into my car to procure this magic liquid.

When I arrived at the market, it was unusually busy, people milling around – looking at products deciding what snacks they wanted, etc. Now you see, I am not really a big grocery store guy, I eat out a great deal, so I know convenience stores well and how they operate. You have to move fast, or a line will form and then you are caught standing there pissed off because you just want to go home and eat mashed potatoes, and yet you are standing here, waiting. First world problems, am I right?

Two Dollars

better off deadI hate being right sometimes, and like a perfect storm, a line had formed, yet, not a bad one, there was a single guy and father there with his two young daughters in front of me, so I thought, oh well just a few more minutes. It could be worse with the sea of bachelors that were in the store. The first guy went off without a hitch, paid and off he went. Then, the father walked up with a loaf of bread and cheese. He was rung up quickly, handed the clerk his card, and the transaction was done. Boom, I am on the home stretch now! The youngest child then pulled a candy out of her pocket that she had been holding. The Father looked at her and smiled and said, “Sure, baby girl.” I stood there deflated and angry. I was tired, hungry, and just wanted to get back home to make the potatoes and eat my dinner. The clerk rang up the candy, and it popped up as two dollars on the register, he handed the man the card, again. So yet another transaction I have to sit through, great how much longer do I have to wait!!
Then, it happened, the card was declined, for two dollars.

His body language showed his humiliation that he could not afford two dollars, in front of his children, when he was told there no more funds available on his card which turned out to be an EBT card. Two dollars. For those who don’t live in Virginia, the EBT card is the equivalent of a debit card for food stamps funded by the Common Wealth of Virginia, and he had run out of funds. He scooped up the little one, who was crying that she wanted her candy, and took the other child’s hand, then walked out to his car leaving the candy on the counter in front of us. He said nothing but I caught his eye as he looked down and slowly left the store. The attendant took my milk as I watched the family with the sound of the words of two dollars ringing in my head, and I said, “The candy, I want the candy, too.”

Atonement Gained

The clerk’s expression was one of puzzlement that turned to a look of atonement for not doing what I should have done. I tried swiping my card but was having problems with the machine to complete the transaction quickly enough. Turning to look outside, I saw the Father getting into the passenger seat. Feeling my frustration, the clerk only said to me, “Go, Atonement gained, I suppose.” I nodded to the attendant and ran out of the store leaving both my credit card and wallet on the counter to catch the family before they left. When I got to the car door, his window was down so I handed him the candy and just quietly said, “Sir, you forgot something.” I turned to go back inside, and the father called out to me and mouthed, “Thank you, man.” Two Dollars.

A Very Good Man?

When I went back in, there was a line of people all staring at me, a long line. They were all men of different races, Black, White, Indian, and Asian. Not one person said anything, not one person was upset, in fact, they were all staring at me, some deep in thought, others smiling and nodding. As I reached for my carton of milk, the attendant held on to it for a moment looking me in the eye, smiled, and gave me a short bow and said, “You are a very good man.”

No, I really am not. I stood there in that line cursing the fact that I, a single man, who has enough money to eat out every night if I want, was angry that I had to wait in line. I felt anger toward a Father, caring for his progeny and, more than likely having cheese sandwiches for dinner, couldn’t afford candy, for two dollars. It is moments like this that remind me that we must look around and lift each other up, love each other a little more, and recognize that even though it can be bad at times, there is more than likely someone worse off than you.

Next time, I am going to be a great deal more patient with the world, I think we all should strive for that. I wish it would only cost two dollars to change the perception in the world, which would be amazing.

#truestory #life

HUMANITY

Guns and Mythos

Guns: What Are They Good For?

Why is it that, as a culture, we are more comfortable seeing two men holding guns than holding hands? – Ernest Gaines

I was twelve years old when I shot my first pistol. It was my Grandfather’s revolver, a Smith & Wesson .357 magnum six shooter. My Grandfather was good friends with the local gun shop owner, Mr. Sprague in Yuma, AZ. He had a personal firing range – underground, behind his shop – and only he or his friends were allowed to shoot there.

My Grandad took me there one afternoon to teach me, not only how to shoot a gun, but to understand its sheer power. He wanted me to learn to respect the weapon for what it could do. I remember not being nervous holding it, in fact quite the opposite. I was going to be the lone ranger, Shane – High Noon time is what I was thinking to myself. I was just a kid who  went to movies and watched TV shows. To me, this was the equivalent of becoming like my many heroes from those shows – shooting guns, killing the bad guys, and, well, getting the girl. I was just starting to like them at that age.

He showed me, with an unloaded weapon, how to aim at the target and how to breathe in while pulling back the trigger. The one thing he could not tell me, the one thing I had to learn on my own, was the power that this firearm had. I loaded the weapon, pulled back the hammer, and then squeezed the trigger just like I was trained to do. BANG! The shot rang out, and my arms took on a life of their own, going upward as by body hurdled backward from the shock of the kickback at the release of the bullet. I was terrified of the experience and the sheer power that this gun held and that I was the one who wielded it. The target we used was a watermelon, it became a pile of unusable fruit.

I asked my Grandfather why he had not prepared me for that shock. He only smiled and said, “How else are you going to learn?”

As the years have gone by, I have shot multiple weapons and began to enjoy shooting rifles, more than pistols, as there was a sense of accomplishment hitting a target 100 yards away with accuracy. I did some hunting but never really liked it. Killing animals was not high on my list of things to do as a kid, and it lowers the older I get. I understand the idea of it and why: in the 1800’s, it was a good skill to have – I just did not see the point of it now.

Eventually, the rifles were sold to acquire other baubles like art and collectible comic books. I had friends who joined the military, went to war, and used the education that we got, as kids, to amplify their talents with guns with unbelievably destructive power. Two of them, upon their return, sold the guns they had. They had more than enough of them and enough of violence. War can do that to you.

gunsThe Cause?

“Should we have background checks, waiting periods? To drive a car you have to pass a test that shows you know how to drive your car safely, you should have to do the same thing with guns.” – Michael D. Barnes

My Great Uncle took his life with a gun.
In high school, a former girlfriend took her life with a gun.
Two friends of mine, after high school, were murdered in a parking lot, by a gun.

Every day, there is gun violence int he U.S., and no law other than the total restriction of guns is going to change that. So, yeah – I have a pretty good reasons to understand that weapons take lives. I have lost my share, more than my share.

What we need to do is teach the destructive power a gun has and its effects on people who lose someone to this kind of violence. Children should be taught, like I was, what guns can and will do in the hands of the careless, unemotional, and mentally ill. It should not be taught by video games, movies, and/or TV shows.

We won’t be, though.

Hell, we don’t teach our kids anything now, it seems. The entitlement festers like a sore, unattended in this country, and we blame anyone else, other than ourselves; it’s the norm. Kids want to play violent video games, they want to be Stormtroopers, or Jason Bourne. Too many movies to mention, too many video games to un-see. I feel this is where the problem begins. These children are not educated on the meaning of life, what it means to take a life, and the devastating consequences of careless actions anymore. If it truly takes a village, ours is burning to the ground, and we have no one to blame but ourselves.

gunsThe Solution?

So what do we do? How do we solve the endemic problem we are facing in this country without causing an all-out uncivil war? Have politicians hold sit-ins while bickering amongst their egos? Sometimes the solution to a problem is not to overthink it.

What I believe is you have the right to own a firearm, and I am all for you to have what my Grandmother called a “bang a bang”. However, there is nothing in the constitution that says you can have bullets. Nothing. I know, I looked it up. Collect all the high powered shit you want but you don’t get bullets for it.

See where I am going here?

Just like the prohibition days, this would cause a vacuum, so I get that. Let’s make a little money off this deal then require permits for bullets, which are renewed annually along with background checks annually, as well. Criminals are going to get their hands on guns; we already have too many already in this country, and no matter what you think, our borders are too porous. Hell, if they can get drugs or people across the border, think of how lucrative guns could be. However – when we control the actual gun powder, casings, and lead distribution, they will not be very useful, will they? Running bullets in the amounts that would be profit-worthy would be a costly venture for any cartel, since you cannot just grow rounds. They have to be made in a factory and then shipped; this can be accounted for.

Secondly, when you buy a weapon of this magnitude, you should be licensed. You need a license to drive, fish, hunt, own an animal in some states, but any ass-hat can buy a gun? We need to make it mandatory that they do get training, that they understand the depth of what a bullet can do. It’s not the guns, folks; it’s the bullets that do the damage. Proper firearm training is usually offered at any local gun shop, and it should be mandatory. I know many gun owners who agree with me on this point, and it is an easy sell if someone would just sell it. Knowledge is power, folks and having a well-educated group of people is never a bad thing.

The Gun Culture

We live in a gun culture and that, sadly, is not going to change tomorrow. The history in this country is just too vast, and frankly, the world is a scary place, and people want to be safe. Unravelling this is going to be tough but we have to start somewhere, or it is only going to get worse. And after the last few weeks, that scares me more than when I shot my first gun; I never thought that would happen in my lifetime.

#truestory #life.