Thursday, December 3, 2009

Gifts and Gambles

Sooner or later—not just at Christmas time or for some other special holiday—we all end up giving a gift to someone. Now not everyone is as paranoid about gift giving as I am, but let’s just assume that someone else feels nearly as uncertain about what to give to whom and in what manner. Gift giving is NOT easy, despite commercials to the contrary. Expecting a pleased reaction is like gambling on the lottery.

Certain factors affect what can be given to whom and how. For instance, a beach pail with shovel and assorted summer accessories for the beach just doesn’t cut it during winter. Never mind that all those beach things were on sale two months ago when the stores were trying to clear out merchandise! Not many families with small children will be going to a beach during the winter—much less allow the kids to play in the wet sand.

Then there are those leftover boxes of Valentine candy that were on sale right after that holiday. True, Aunt Julie would love the candy, but she might wonder why it is frozen solid and question whether the chocolate Easter bunnies and Cadbury eggs would have stayed good even kept in your deep freeze. Personally, I think the combination of red hearts and colorful eggs would be quite attractive. I can skip the plastic grass easily enough—even if it was cheap.

Our family doctor moves into his new office next week. I have the perfect gift for him if I can just find a nice gold string for a bow. He is a cowboy type who has some carved cacti and spurs in his office waiting room. So my old antique barbed wire should be just about right for an ‘office warming’ present. That wire has been in the family for a long time—so long I can’t remember the last time one of the kids got cut on it. Like I said, it’s the perfect gift for a doctor’s office.

Gifts should be surprises and fun to give or get. I like the song that Rod Stewart sings that asks, “Whose gonna bring you a broken arrow; whose gonna bring you a bottle of rain? Here he comes, walkin’ across the water.” The only one I know who gave the ultimate gift to ALL of us still gives it to us every day. And I am still surprised that He loves us.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Safety Catch

Each weapon I ever saw had at least one safety device to prevent unintentional discharge. We were always taught to treat each weapon as if it were loaded, even if we had just removed all the ammunition. We were taught to respect weapons for what they were—useful, but very dangerous tools.

In the past ten to fifteen years, we learned to use another dangerous tool—the Internet. However, the Internet has a less obvious safety device than any weapon. The first obvious safety device for any tool should be common sense. However, not everyone has or uses common sense. Obviously that is true of those who use the Internet just as much as it is of those who carry weapons.

Privacy on the Internet is a joke. Nothing that can be heard on a cell phone or seen on the Internet can remain hidden or private. This certain knowledge can be regarded as the warning on the carton of ammunition—potentially dangerous and explosive. User is solely responsible for outcome. Even if posted, this warning probably would be ignored by Internet users just as often as it is ignored by those who load weapons.

Whether it is a princess, an athlete, the son of a college dean, or a politician, what is said or written in private is no longer private when it goes to the Internet.

Words and opinions can be dangerous when used irresponsibly. But which is worse? Is irresponsible use of words any worse than the demands of those who feel they have the right to judge what was supposed to be a private message?

Many companies now control their e-mail systems to prevent unfair business practices or other insider damage control. But when did our high schools and universities begin to practice the same type of control? When young people post foolishness on a social Internet site, the foolishness is their problem—not that of the school. When a college student privately posts critical remarks about his school, does that give the school the right to harass the student?

One step further leads us to public words spoken, written, or posted online: does any government entity have the right to judge, condemn, or coerce a person who is critical of our government or any laws passed by our government? The obvious answer sounds like a safety catch—The Patriot Act. No one wants anarchy in our country or even acts or words to incite rebellion. But the Patriot Act can take away our right to express our honest—even though critical—opinions. Restricting freedom of speech is the same as saying that we are too foolish to be responsible citizens. Yet somehow freedom of speech always seemed like a good idea. Just as competition seems to help markets grow, freedom of speech seems to help us develop ideas and learn more about our fellow man. What happens when we remove the safety catch on democracy?

Perhaps it is true: it is the empty weapon which kills.

Not Your Mother’s Washtub

Our lives just seem to become more convenient every day, so it seems a horrible shock when, incredibly, something doesn’t work the way it should. If the TV should lose its signal, we hardly know what to do beyond griping and snorting—especially if we miss a play during the World Series. It is difficult to imagine the days when folks had to listen to sporting events on the radio.

My grandmother thought her life had become almost heavenly when she finally got a ringer washer out on the farm. Our fourth or fifth washer went out the other day, and we went to our local lumber yard the very next day and brought home another one because we consider that appliance essential. It is strange how some things have taken their own positions on our list of priorities. A telephone is one item on that list. Our cell phone isn’t all that technical. I can actually use it to make and receive calls and even have some numbers installed in its memory—which is extra nice now that my memory seems to balk on occasion. Most of the children in our extended family have texting on their cell phones down to a speed system, however. And eventually they will consider their ‘old’ phones too obsolete for use.

We seem somehow to have lost that sense of adventure that came naturally with living in the country. We never knew when we would find a snake in the hen house or an armadillo in the garden, but recently it seemed like a very strange inconvenience to have our dog make the acquaintance of a skunk. When HarleyB returned to the back door reeking of essence of skunk, I was able to access the formula for removal of skunk oil immediately by using the Internet. Using peroxide, baking soda, and soap to clean the dog, we were able to allow him to finish spending the night in the house. It occurred to me that I would not have known what to use to clean him if it had not been for the convenience of instant information from the Internet.

The contrast between what our lives were like 50 or 60 years ago and our lives today may seem silly in a few short years for one reason or another. When contrasted with much of the world, we are so blessed. Our forefathers wrestled with this land during years of drought, floods, storms, and other natural disasters. But the blessings came despite the circumstances. Opportunistic scoundrels or gifted individuals, they gave back to the world what they were given, full measure, shaken down. Giving back became the American way, but it was always with a generous willingness. That may change; and if it does change, the world will be a poorer place both literally and figuratively. I challenge anyone to look at the Copenhagen Climate Treaty.

When our President signs this legally binding treaty, our world as we know it will change drastically. You will never even remember your mother’s washtub and its wonderful convenience.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Heart Healthy

A few days ago Fang wanted vanilla ice cream, chocolate fudge, and nuts. Now that sounds like a good start on a banana split to me. Of course, all the ingredients have to be sugar free and low in carbs. That makes life interesting, but thanks to our country's lifestyle, so many people need sugar-free products that it is much easier to find a good selection of products in almost any store.

While I was picking out Fang's favorite Braum's ice cream, I noticed a man with a rather large protrusion from his chest to his lap. This protrusion reminded me of an article I read about measuring our diabetes risk with a ruler or--as it would have had to be in this man's case--with a yardstick. My thoughts were that the fellow needed to put back something or go for a nice healthy walk.

Now, I would never pick on folks who are overweight--if for no other reason than that I count myself among the many who are. But since Fang just returned from quadruple bypass surgery only this past Wednesday (September 23), I am more aware than ever of our need to control what we put in our bodies and how much exercise we really need. Genetics plays a big part in our tendency to become diabetic or to have heart disease, but we can do so much to help ourselves.

Fang was especially blessed to have a very healthy vascular system--except for four blockages. He has always been active and keeps his mind busy learning things and exploring the richness of being a grandfather. To put it bluntly, he is a happy man. But lack of oxygen to his heart has caused problems this past several months that just seemed to come out of nowhere. And we never suspected that his heart was the problem and would never have known had he not had a simple EKG done in our doctor's office.

The long and short of my thoughts today is that life is too wonderful to throw away or to treat carelessly. Happiness is a choice; to some degree, health is among our choices as well. Take care of yourselves; we need every gripey old man and woman around here to support the doctors who take Medicare.

Friday, September 4, 2009

National Gallery of Writing Badge

Visit the National Gallery of Writing

Sometimes I wonder why I enjoy writing. And then someone or something comes along to remind me. NTCE is one of those organizations that tends to encourage teachers and writers to do what they do best.

Carla Beard has been one person who has been an encouragement along this bumpy road, so shortly she will receive an e-copy of what I hope will be the final draft of my first novel. For some stupid reason, the name for this book has not yet solidified for me. I have thought of Family Connections, yet that doesn't quite do it. Well, time has a way of bringing things to ripeness. We shall see.

Meanwhile, today is our youngest son's 30th birthday: Happy Birthday Hanan!

We were told this past week that our world would be turned upside down for a bit as of next Thursday. We are walking quietly and waiting for the answer to prayers and thinking that life is never certain, to say the least. Maybe the wandering trip by the Mountain Jews in my book is a bit of a symbol for the uncertain destinations that we yearn toward. Sometimes we walk forward--or what we believe might be forward--with a determination that belies our fears and frailities. We try to walk in faith, and we stumble in the darkness of the dread of we know not what. As uncertain as our lives may be, we hold to them and to those we love with a fierceness borne of desperation simply because we cannot imagine a better way. And yet I am reminded lately that it is not MY will, but God's will that will be done.

In this life, nothing is ever finished.

Monday, August 24, 2009


‘No one will ever tell me what I can say or not say or what I can think or not think. I still live in a free country!’ Those had been his words only a few weeks before today. But today he had been to the pharmacy. They could not—would not—fill his prescription for blood pressure medicine. When he had objected that he was paying cash for his medicine instead of using the state program for older persons, he had been told that no medications could be dispensed outside of the guidelines of the program. In other words, he had to subscribe to the state’s program or do without.

He had known the pharmacist for years at this store, but his friend no longer worked in the pharmacy. He had been retired a few weeks earlier because he had objected to the guidelines for dispensing medications. One of the pharmacy clerks caught up with Johnson as he left the store and quickly whispered that his friend the pharmacist had taken some of the final solution. The clerk expressed her disbelief in his acquiescence to its administration. Johnson would not find any information in the state run newspapers since obituaries were no longer permitted.

A few days later, even though his head was pounding, Johnson had decided that he had to go to his favorite all-in-one-stop store to buy a few groceries. This store had the motto ‘As Joe’s Goes, So Goes the Nation.’ Today he would have to walk or ride a bicycle to the store. He could no longer buy fuel for his small vehicle since the state had declared a moratorium on unnecessary travel and fuel consumption due to a sudden loss of markets overseas. Johnson would be able to buy only what he could carry the five miles back to his home.

No vehicles had been in the enormous parking lot at Joe’s. A few bicycles had littered the grass near the islands that floated on the sea of asphalt. A sign on the door of Joe’s had declared that its doors would reopen from 10 a.m. until 12 p.m. on even days. It had been Wednesday at 2 p.m. when he had arrived, exhausted but proud of his vigor at his age. Then he had attempted to look inside the glass doors to see if he could find anyone to talk to him. Only total darkness within the building had convinced him that his trip had been futile. This had been his only hope for food since all other local stores had been closed.

The grass along the highways had not been mown in some time. Somehow Johnson had remembered that his mother had pointed out the salsify plants that had bloomed and produced tiny helicopters when the seed pods were ripe. The roots of the plants were supposed to be edible. Johnson had begun to look for blooms or even the thick stalks that would give away the location of the roots. It had not been the right season.

When Johnson had returned to his home, he had found several new occupants. He had already begun to accept the new ‘Fairness Act’ that provided each individual with one room within the new government housing projects, but he had been totally unaware that ALL homes had been declared part of each area’s projects. Private ownership had been declared unfair to everyone who had not been able to acquire the means for affordable housing. Johnson’s home of 50 years no longer belonged to him. He had been assigned an area to share with another older man.

Johnson’s death had been expected. The mediations he had been taking had been gradually adjusted by the manufacturers so that the older generation had been easy to remove from the government rolls. Nothing he had owned remained, and his ashes had been among the many that had been mixed into a new organic compound used for pavement patches. Now he would truly support his country.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Diogenes Today

Recently some companies decided that they were not being properly represented in the marketplace by sponsoring a nationally syndicated talk show. The host managed to comment in a censorious manner upon the ultimate authorities in America, the President and Congress. He cast aspersions upon what he considered to be corrupt, suspect, or at least unworthy intentions as demonstrated by forthcoming legislation and contradictory utterances that seemed to make a mockery of truth and forthrightness.

His remarks bring to mind—at least to my mind—two questions: What is racist and in what possible contexts can the term be properly used? Race is defined—other than by genetic characteristics—as those united by common history, language, or cultural traits. Racial is defined as pertaining to or characteristic of one race or the races of humankind; or between races: the terms are racial harmony and racial relations. Racism is defined thus: a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one’s own race is superior; or a policy, system of government, etc., based on such a doctrine; hatred or intolerance of another race or other races. One assumes that the racist would be anyone who makes a remark or otherwise indicates that he or she holds the beliefs of racism.

Do any of our countrymen consider themselves superior to John Q. Public or Janice Q. Jones of Jonesville?

The television and the Internet provide a wonderful window on America. How realistic the view might be is another question. But the definition may have to be stretched across the screen or compared to the sites found on the Web: racism is a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement. The teachers who discovered that their students WOULD learn if the expectation was given to them have proven that individual achievement has nothing to do with race. So much for that idea!

Television has presented the entire world with the extreme contrasts between those who have much and those who have little to nothing. Whether it is the ‘star’ of some soap opera, an athlete, or someone who has inherited an insane amount of wealth, the lives of those who have something make a couple of things obvious: wealth can make a difference in the manner one eats and in the manner one goes to jail.

Does the wealthy person fit the definition of racist? Does wealth cause hatred or intolerance of others? It is more likely that the wealthy person never considers those who have no wealth. Of course, no overall judgment can be made about any people: wealthy, healthy, wise, talented, or fumbling. The importance of knowing those who consider themselves above anyone else is the effect on the rest of us. So who makes the laws we must follow? Who consider themselves above those same laws? Who are the racists?

Does Diogenes still speak?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


No intelligent person is without an opinion, or a viewpoint, however warped or skewed either might be. Intelligence has no immunity from stupidity or egotism. But generally the intelligent person has something in common with his fellow man—a sense of right and wrong. Today some of the leaders of our nation have told us that THEY hold the hallmarks or standards of right and wrong—that they alone have the intelligence and common sense understanding to guide the rest of the nation in the best path for the common good.

When a standard applies to ALL, it is truly a standard. When some exempt themselves from the same standard that applies to others, it no longer can be called a standard. Government can be called a standard for those governed, but it MUST apply to all equally. In America, this concept goes back to that one statement with which most are familiar: “all men are created equal.”

Apparently, if what is shown on television and seen or read on the Internet can be considered any indication of the concept of ‘equality,’ NOT every American has been created equal. The average American equals a source of income or self-aggrandizement for those who have bought a position in ‘government.’ Those in government positions are not now, nor conceivably ever have been considered ‘equal’ to the rest of Americans. They are ABOVE the rules and regulations that apply to Joe and Jane Citizen.

Joe and Jane Citizen may or may not have a bank account, a home, a means of transportation, and decent food that must be prepared daily by one of the household members. Of all the ‘things’ that appeal to them as desirable, they generally understand the difference between a desire and a necessity and are willing to forego the pleasure of more ‘things’ until the family budget can accommodate such a purchase. Either one or both of these family members work diligently to fulfill the desires of the rest of the family, sacrificing individual desires for the good of the entire family.

Joe and Jane also have hopes for the future and compassion for those who seem less fortunate than themselves. Joe works and Jane volunteers her time to help build a home or to volunteer in some capacity to serve the community. Neither take for granted that life will give them what they need or desire simply because they exist; they understand that effort is required for whatever they earn. But they are willing to do whatever is necessary to provide for their family and to secure their future as they conceive it.

The ‘government’—those in charge of determining the value applied to the lives of all the Joes and Janes of America—have their own standard of compassion and their own set of hopes for the future. No concept of earning respect or serving exists in the standards of those involved in ‘government’ unless the person has already proven himself or herself to be a servant of those governed. One wonders how many servants currently exist in government. Can a few servants offset the entrenched attitudes of self-importance among those who have come to feel superior to all the Joes and Janes?

What made America great from the very beginning? The servants who were willing to work for the good of all and who realized that they were, indeed, servants made the difference. Individuals were willing to set aside whatever could have created personal comfort to assist in creating security and comfort for all. It was not the ‘government’ they created that made America what it should be; it was the individual who was willing to sacrifice self for others. How much of that sacrifice is left in our government today?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

There Came a Woman of Samaria

Former President Jimmy Carter has declared in an article called “Losing My Religion for Equality” that a group of men called The Elders have determined that women are misused and abused due to tradition and religious viewpoints:

"The justification of discrimination against women and girls on grounds of religion or tradition, as if it were prescribed by a Higher Authority, is unacceptable."

We are calling on all leaders to challenge and change the harmful teachings and practices, no matter how ingrained, which justify discrimination against women. We ask, in particular, that leaders of all religions have the courage to acknowledge and emphasize the positive messages of dignity and equality that all the world's major faiths share.

In order not to confuse religion with faith, let’s clarify that neither Jimmy Carter nor any other person is being asked to disavow his or her faith in God in whichever name one knows Him. Religion is, after all, man’s view of God. Faith is a gift from God that allows us to believe in that which is not seen.

The subject of woman’s image in the eyes of man has taken many convoluted turns throughout the centuries. Only literature, and now other forms of entertainment, can give us an accurate measure of how women are or have been perceived. Literature, especially the Bible, has been instrumental in forging the foundation of men’s opinions about woman’s place in life. One work that had such a strong influence was Dante’s Inferno. Even the Church itself could not have prevented such lively and ingenious images from becoming part of man’s concept of woman and of her place in causing so much sorrow. But not many people read Dante today, so why are the concepts so prevalent?

Ian Fleming wrote some spy thriller books back in the 50s which became movies in the early 60s. About the only name more familiar than James Bond is John Wayne. John Wayne was sure to treat a woman with respect, but the James Bond woman played only an ancillary part to preen the male ego and purpose. Death for a James Bond woman provides realistic, if merely collateral, damage. The same is true in a later movie called The Bourne Supremacy. About the only movie that shows respect between a woman and a man in modern times is the new Walt Disney movie UP.

Most people today who have the luxury of belief, faith, and any concept of a higher power have heard of the Christ. The story of His life and the repetition of the things He said have been the basis for many of the traditions that men have created concerning their place in the world and its order. Two important stories from His life are quite often ignored. During the lifetime of Jesus Christ, the people of Samaria were considered less than illegal aliens and squatters upon the land of Jacob. No Jewish man would even speak to a Samaritan, much less a woman of Samaria. But Christ did. He first revealed Himself to the Gentiles through a woman. He flat out told her that he was the Christ for whom they watched. Oh, the men of the village came to see Him because of her report, but they were quick to tell her that they believed because of HIM, not because of her part in the revelation. They missed the point. HE had shown her respect.

Finally, the woman who loved Jesus was the first to see Him after He arose from the tomb. And it was the women who went by themselves to wrap in spices the body they expected to find in the tomb. No man went with them to help in any way. The women served Him to the bitter end. And it was their voices which brought the good news of His resurrection.

Oh, no one has to believe in one man’s version of the creation or the names of a creator if that belief can be avoided, but we are all the result of an ongoing process of becoming something other than individuals or egos. We share this planet and its destiny. The final result for all lives can be much more than ideas, beliefs, and determinations if we treat each other with dignity and respect.

Monday, July 20, 2009

They Grow Up

By this Thursday, at least two things will have happened. Our youngest grandchild will have her fifth birthday, and our daughter will return for her two boys. It seems so strange that the baby girl has grown up so quickly. Hardly any time at all has gone by since we sat down at Thanksgiving dinner with our son and his family and waited for the blessing to be asked. And then they told us that they were going to be parents to another child. They both seemed a bit shocked by the entire situation--though surely by then they knew the process.

But now the little girl is going to start "real" school this fall. And our oldest grandson will be in seventh grade. Wasn't he just a little boy not too long ago?

Today I asked the boys to be careful with their granddad and watch after him while they went target shooting. He doles out the .22 shells one at a time so he can be sure who is doing what, but I want them to be sure they are listening to him. My own dad KNEW we would listen to him by the time he let us use a gun. But our boys are a bit like the dogs on the new movie UP--squirrel!! Their attention can be totally off a subject in a heartbeat.

We took these boys to see the Walt Disney movie UP and laughed until our sides hurt. Both boys would wait a few minutes between shouts of 'squirrel' before they would start laughing again, but otherwise, they thoroughly enjoyed the ideas behind the movie. I could have cried in a few places, but perhaps it is just as well that the boys kept me laughing. We are all adventurers at heart. But adventures are so much more worthwhile when they are shared. These two boys will share the adventure of growing up together--even if it is ever so fast.

Each child should have a sibling or at least a cousin with whom to share childhood. Oh, we can compare sizes, eye color, hair thickness, and all that other silly stuff, but what really matters is sharing a time in life that only comes once. None of our children or grandchildren will ever be perfect, but they can learn to appreciate family ties. Sharing a grandparent or two helps, but they also need to have experiences together that they can recall when they are grown.

Now I know what some siblings would think: Oh, never again! My brother was a character and a good brother. But that did not keep him from throwing rocks at the hen house while I was in it and scaring the liver out of me. But I remember he also tried to teach me to swim and to drive. I never have been much good at either, but that wasn't his fault. We can all recall some of the things that a sibling did that wasn't the best for us at the time. But we can usually also recall some of the things that made for good times or better understanding.

Whatever life brings to our grandchildren, I hope that they can look back someday and recall that they were loved and appreciated for who they are/were. And perhaps when they get together with cousins, they can share again some of those memories of growing up.

Sunday, July 5, 2009


It has been awhile since last this space was used, but time flies quickly for grandparents who are confused. Summertime is for children and grandparents, not for blogs.


Somewhere in the hall of fame for strange critters, the grandparent must have a place. He or she feels responsible for the little darlins while enjoying the realization that the situation is generally temporary. The hall of fame has several categories of grandparents; so for the edification of those who have yet to experience one of life’s final ironies, the following enumeration of their characteristics is offered.

The all-permissive grandparent may be either male or female, but the entire idea behind being permissive is to allow the grandchild/ren to go home and tell the parents that ANYTHING is permissible at Granddad’s or Grandmother’s house. Candy, late hours, bouncing on the bed in the back bedroom, coffee in the morning with the grandparents, just about anything not allowed at home is allowed by these grandparents. We won’t go into the reasoning behind this kind of grandparenting because some mothers and fathers feel that an insidious—if not vicious—delight is expressed when their children are allowed non-standard child fare or activities.

The “we will buy it for you” grandparents may be about the most dangerous type in existence. Children who inherit this type of grandparent will have considerable difficulty in learning to value doing things the hard way or earning their own treasures. Parents who must deal with the grandparents must find a way to manage their frustrations and their children at the same time. Only if the grandparents can be persuaded to invest in long-term values like education or real properties will the goodness of their intentions have worth to the grandchildren or parents.

The most blessed children are those who have grandparents who will share their stories of growing up and a history of their own family. Children don’t see themselves as their parents do, so a grandparent’s memories can shed insight upon both the child and the grandchild when traditions are involved. The story about the daughter asking her mom why she always cut the roast edges off before putting it all in the pan illustrates one of the funnier traditions. The mother couldn’t tell her daughter why she cut the roast up in that way except that she always had seen HER mother do it that way. The mother called the great grandmother and asked her why she cut the roast up before putting it in the pot. The answer was simple: HER pot was not big enough for the full roast to spread out.

Our parents knew us as children. Their memories bear repeating for all concerned. We had grandchildren before we ever heard of the term ADHD, but now we understand why our parents thought their children were scatter-brained and never still. And believe it or not, we were well-behaved, good children. But the world we lived in had very little resemblance to that of today. We rode real bikes with one speed—whatever our legs would pump up. We rode all over town without our mom worrying about us. The neighbors all knew us and had us run errands for them. Our toys included hop toads, horny toads, grass lizards, and June bugs. We played in the rain, got muddy, got dirty, got hot, and got cold with the seasons. And all the time we had parents and grandparents who loved us and cheered us on. We were so blessed to have both.

If a child has even one grandparent, a certain amount of history will come out about the child’s parent. But the best part about having any kind of grandparent is seeing the continuity of life in a family, from one generation to the next, with love.

Monday, June 15, 2009

So How Does THAT Concern Me?

So many of us today would just like to live our lives in peace without having to fuss with anyone over property boundaries, the volume of the neighbor’s music, the color scheme the neighbor chose for his house and garage, the number of pets or children running amok among our flower beds, the little things like property taxes, the price of fuel, the price of food or medical services. No, those are not the most earth shattering things, but we really would like to be able to just ignore them and enjoy our favorite hobbies or otherwise be able to quietly go about our lives. But such is life that we are constantly brought up short by some ‘problem’ with a capital P.

One neighbor has caused property values to plummet by parking dilapidated cars all over his yard. So we ask the city offices to ‘do something’ about it. Another neighbor has decided to plow up his front yard and plant a garden of cotton, okra, and sunflowers. The neighborhood children have discovered they can hide there and throw things out at people passing on the sidewalks. Oh well. It is HIS yard and kids will be kids.

Some things are just not worth our concern. It is pointless to complain or worry if things will change in three months, a year, or two years. My favorite grandmother used to say that no one would know the difference in a few years anyway. And that is so true of many things that irritate or otherwise grate on our nerves. But some things do actually matter now—and will matter in years to come.

Animal abuse has probably been around in some form since mankind discovered his ability to chain them up or even eat them. But seeing abuse of animals hurts the spirit of those who can make a difference. So, that is one concern that can and should be addressed by everyone. But is child abuse? Our youngest son reminded me of an incident that happened when he was little. He wanted a toy while we were at the grocery store and I said we could not do that. He threw a hissy fit and got an immediate response from me—a paddling right then and there in the grocery aisle. If I had done such a thing today, I might have been arrested for child abuse!

Animals and small children need to be corrected immediately to help them associate the behavior with the response. The response does not have to be terrifically painful, just definitely unpleasant. Just as we give rewards immediately for good behavior, we have to be able to respond to wrong behavior immediately. A good parent doesn’t just ignore bad behavior.

Somehow I feel a bit like a neglectful parent when I see our government running amok among our civil rights. But I will be dipped in kerosene for fleas if I can figure out exactly how to ‘correct’ our government’s behavior. Voting or not voting doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of difference these days—if it ever did. I can remember that our city government planned years ago to build a convention center and events complex. The citizens of our fair city voted it down numerous times, but somehow it managed to slip in there on a ballot and get built anyway. Now a convention center might be a pretty expensive item for a fairly small city like ours, but some of the ‘items’ on our government’s list are so big that they defy imagination. Three commas in a figure just about top my ability to imagine an amount.

Even if the government were not spending as freely as a child who stole his brother’s piggy bank and found his way to the candy store, something about the way things are being done—even in the open and semi-above board—makes me suspect that citizen rights are far from being of first consideration these days. Oh, I have already written to the Texas governor about Bill 1440 that gives Child Protective Services the right to invade and kidnap our children just like a SWAT team on a mission. But what about government agencies that MAKE money off of taking away citizen rights? Whether it is the local drug enforcement people who decide we MIGHT be druggies or CPS who think we are too strict with our children, who gives these people the right to force their way into private homes?

Today we saw that the government has decided to tax 25 percent of the cost of business cell phone use because they have somehow decided that the normal person (?) uses a business phone for personal use about 25 percent of the time. Now, when will the government decide it can tax my playing Farm Town because it is an unnecessary addiction similar to alcoholism? Makes sense to me! Being concerned somehow is just not enough when civil rights violations are so ubiquitous and so idiotic. Some things were never meant to be taxed. Some rights (ownership, privacy, and self-defense) were never meant to be seized.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Unto the Least of These


No, animals are not our brothers in the sense that they are not born of men; but we share this earth with them, and in many respects, share the same fate.  What happens to them eventually happens to us in ways we might not even consider.  If we poison our planet, we poison life that is sustained by the planet.  If we show little regard for the small creatures of this place we call home, can our disregard of life not quickly extend to the lives of people as well? 


Today our neighbor’s daughter took four little kittens to the animal control facility.  When she spoke to me about it, she said that she regretted having to do it, but the kittens were ‘feral’ and unhealthy.  No one had ever taken the time to show any attention to the mother cat, so the kittens’ relationship with humans consisted of staying just out of reach.  The kittens were undoubtedly euthanized this morning shortly after their arrival at animal control.


Each day thousands of kittens, puppies, cats, dogs, and assorted critters are killed one way or the other.  We have agencies that try to prevent cruelty to any animal, but the fact is that the animals are in an overwhelming majority.  Even if every family in America took in two dogs and cats today, thousands would still be out there roaming the streets and alleys.  And the outlook for their survival—much less their healthy existence—is pretty dismal.


Horses were once the treasure and pride of kings.  Today it almost takes a king’s financial backing in order to keep a horse.  So what happens to the thousands that are not in stables and beautiful green pastures?  They die of neglect.  It is just that simple.  An animal that carries its pride in its head and flying mane can become a bedraggled carcass just as quickly as the dogs and cats roaming the streets unless someone cares for it.


Now the little child that roams the streets is no different than an animal—and almost as dangerous.  It may grow up to become a vicious killer.  It needs loving care, attention, and someone to teach it—to tame it.  The child may belong to a neighbor, but we pay attention if we want to reach out to tame a little heart.  We teach by example.  The child sees how we treat our cat, our dog, and our neighbors.  And the child becomes tame.


None of us can prevent abuse or neglect of all the animals.  And none of us will ever overcome the crises of child abuse in this world.  But each of us can take responsibility where we can, in whatever way we can.  One kitten, one old dog, one little boy at a time can be loved.