September 26, 2010
September 26, 2008. Day 114 at the Holliday Inn. 116 miles of walking logged so far, 5,775 sit-ups, and 2,020 pushups. By now, the routine is clear. Up at 6:00 a.m. with my plastic bowl and plastic spoon waiting to hear the familiar rattle of keys. First one door, then another, and finally, one more. And there stands one of Doc Holliday's deputies with morning breakfast; a gallon jug of milk in one hand and a box of cold cereal in the other. Frosted mini-wheats. Every day. Each of us in the "bullpen" stick our little plastic bowls through the "bean hole" to get our breakfast. We sit silently at the steel bench and table and eat, the same place where we play cards, sometimes until 2 in the morning, write letters, or just sit and watch television through the bars. By the way, the TV is suspended from the ceiling with cables out of our reach and we have one remote among us. I've lost count how many fights have erupted over that silly thing by now. Breakfast is over in 5 minutes and all of us return to our steel bunks to sleep some more.
Some days we get out before lunch arrives to exercise, as it were. Our "exercise area" consists of a nearly square concrete slab measuring 27'x24'x27'x24'. That's where I walk, and after allowing for 3 feet on each side, I cover 90 feet in 1 "lap". 60 of those comes to roughly 1 mile. You get the idea. I've got it all journaled. Overhead about 12 feet are steel bars covered with two layers of steel mesh. One wall is common with our living quarters, all concrete, and the other three are steel bars spaced about 4 inches apart embedded in the slab all the way to the roof. No glimpse of the outside world, absolutely none. A basketball goal is mounted right-center on the south wall and has no net. One of my favorite pastimes while I was a guest there was shooting countless baskets with a ball the guards gave us, nearly devoid of any grip but still worthy of bouncing and shooting. The Hispanics use it as a soccer ball when the rest of us aren't shooting.
Lunchtime. Like breakfast, the same thing every day; 2 PBJ's and a small bag of plain Lay's potato chips. That's it. Nothing to drink. We all have our own jail-issued plastic cups that we use to get water from one of 2 steel sinks in the bullpen, 1 for each cell. Each "cell" houses up to 4 inmates, 8 total. Some nights we had as many as 12 "guests", most of them overnight who slept on the concrete floor on a 1 inch mat they were given. The square footage of our entire living quarters in the "bullpen?" 270. That's right, TWO HUNDRED SEVENTY SQUARE FEET. I would guess on average during my 158 day tenure as a guest there, the average number of inmates was 6. That figures out to less than 50 square feet per person. Keep in mind there was ONE shower, TWO toilets, ONE steel bench and table, and ONE television. Keeping one's mouth shut and practicing an extreme amount of patience was paramount in preserving not only one's bodily safety, but most importantly, one's sanity, especially me. After all, I was one of the few who was in there the longest and was one of the oldest by far. One last thing. The television AND the lights were on TWENTY-FOUR hours a day. I'm not kidding.
Fast-forward. September 26, 2010. I've now been in northern San Diego county for a little over 6 months now, arriving from Kansas on March 17th. Started the accelerated paralegal program at the University of California San Diego on March 27th. 12 weeks and 39 credit hours later I graduated on June 18th, after which I began searching for work. Just last week I began training for a position in the insurance industry. I was offered the position in July but, because of "background" issues related to my time in Kansas over 2 years ago, it's taken until now to work its way through the "system." Like two years ago, I've also developed a daily routine. It's funny though how some things don't change. When I shop for groceries, I always make sure to stock up on one of my favorites. Frosted mini-wheats! Although I usually save those for an evening snack these days, substituting my beloved fruit smoothies for breakfast. PBJ's aren't part of my staple any more but one thing is for sure; my "exercise area."
However, unlike two years ago, my "exercise area" isn't confined to that 90' foot concrete slab where I logged almost 150 miles, nearly 9,000 sit-ups, and over 3,000 pushups during my time at the Holliday Inn. Now its nature in all its beauty. Moonlight Beach is only 3 miles away from where I live in Encinitas, CA. and on days when the weather's good, I check the tide charts to see when low tide is. And that's where I go on my "walkabouts." Just me, my trusty music and headphones, sand between my toes, sea gulls over head, children frolicking in the water, and the sun.
FREEDOM. Most people, when they hear that word, think of the freedom they enjoy because they live in America, what their country stands for, and what their armed services protects for that right. Don't get me wrong, I do as well. Obviously though, FREEDOM holds a much greater distinction that is forever embedded in my soul and memory. Never again will I take that right lightly. In truth, it isn't a right. It's a privilege. One that we should all hold sacred and never ever take for granted. I see too many people who do so these days. They think just because they live in America or in "paradise", as the locals here like to call Southern California, they have some sort of God-given RIGHT to do and say as they please. They lack respect for others, respect for themselves, and treat their world in an undignified and unworthy manner. In a sense, I used to as well.
No more. I've been humbled, unlike most people, because of circumstances that were unfortunately of my own accord. Today, I don't take FREEDOM for granted and, in fact, honor and respect it almost as much as life itself. It is my hope then that, through the gift of writing and sharing of my experiences, that people will read what I have to say, take a look at how they live, their families, their loved ones, and ask themselves this question. Am I truly HONORING my freedom? Am I treating it as a privilege and not a right? That, in order to do so, I have to treat others with respect, act humbly, look for the good in others, and am always willing to lend a hand or ear to help my fellow man? What am I willing to give up in return for that privilege?
I've "rambled" long enough. I'll let you think on that one but I'll close and summarize this latest post with this thought. It's all about the Golden Rule, treat others as you would be treated. If everyone did that, and I mean EVERYONE, think of what a wonderful world we would have.
P.S. Almost forgot. That remote and TV business I mentioned? Not a problem in my new world. I have neither the time nor the inclination to watch it these days. I can count on ONE hand the number of hours I've actually sat and watched the "boob tube" since the 17th of March, 2010. Why you may ask? Why should I? I want to LIVE.
September 25, 2010
"Just be yourself." How many times have all of us heard that one? Think of the times you've heard it yourself; a job interview, meeting someone for the first time, a school play, or any time you've had to speak in front of others, regardless of who or how many people are around. I'm sure simply hearing those three words causes stomach knots for some of us. Question is, why? Why do people say that to begin with and why does it bother some of us, while there are others who have no problem with it at all? I think the answer lies not in what others think of us but how we feel about ourselves.
If the foundation of our soul is based on truth, honor, integrity, love, faith, and respect for ourselves and for others, then when we are faced with situations that test the ability to "be ourself" and meet the challenges life throws at us is easy. You already know then what happens if the qualities and values you possess are opposite of those. Failure. Failure to move forward, to succeed, to be a winner.
It's not easy though. I have a good friend from Kansas I grew up with who is also one of my Facebook friends. Shortly after I graduated from the paralegal program at the University of California San Diego, I was headed to my first job interview. I remember what she said on my Facebook wall. "Just be yourself Gus." It was at that MOMENT I had this thought come to mind. If she had said that three years ago, I would have been in panic mode. Why? Because at that time I wasn't who God intended me to be. I was mired in a life full of hiding from the truth, and most of all, hiding from God. But at that moment she said those words, I had complete confidence in myself I would be fine that day. And it wasn't just because of how much my life has changed. It was also because I quit trying long ago to pretend to be anyone else but who I am; a man that values honesty, a positive attitude, humility, and respect for others.
I've seen people live and act the opposite, including friends and family. Having "been there and done that", I can say with absolute certainty what happens when they hear the words "just be yourself." Their minds start playing tricks on them. Deep down inside, they KNOW who they really are but, for whatever reason; peer pressure, personal problems, or whatever, they become conflicted inside. This leads to a lack of confidence and anxiety. Those people are therefore simply unable to meet life's challenges that we all face. For those who are fortunate enough to have the qualities they need to be successful instilled in them when they were young, there's always HOPE.
I've said many times that happiness, serenity, and peace of mind starts within ourselves. If there's something wrong in our world, we need to look into ourselves first and if there's something there that's not right, then we change it. Once we do that, then our "outside world" will change for the better. "Being ourself" is the end result of this process. The one God intended us to be. Each of us are unique souls, each of us are given abilities and attributes unlike anyone else in this world. If we recognize our strengths, play to them, learn from our mistakes, and move forward in a positive way, then "being ourself" is a snap. We come out winners every time!
I'm going to close this post with a text "conversation" I had with my daughter today. I haven't blogged about her much lately but now may be the time. Her story is long, too long to go into all the detail, but I will tell you she made the choice to move to Virginia this past August to finish her senior year of high school because she wasn't happy back in Kansas. Here's the "conversation" in a nutshell…..
"Dad? I'm not happy. I wish you could be here around me to witness all that is happening!! And I wish you could see how much I hurt." I told her I was sorry. She said "I just hope one of us will be happy in the end." I replied: "We all will be. Happiness starts from within ourselves though. I've found other people, places, and possessions don't do it. That's just icing!" She then said, "I don't even care about those things. I just want people around me who truly love and accept me. I just can't FIND that." I went on to tell her she would be shocked at just how many people do care about her, good people. Then I said, "I'm really sorry to hear this. My only advice is be and act like the young girl you used to be. JUST BE YOURSELF. The one God loves. That's all you have to do! He'll do all the rest!"
Her response then was, "I know, I miss you!" Finally, I closed with this comment, "You will be okay. God's taken you this far. Put your life, faith, and trust in Him. He gave us only ONE thing as humans. Free will. The power to choose right over wrong. Good over bad. Choose wisely and His PROMISE then is to never give up on us! So, don't give up and do right!" Her final answer? "Yes, sir!"
I pray you choose wisely as well.
September 18, 2010
I Can't. I can't do that, I can't do this. I can't get all A's, I can't stop eating, I can't stop drinking. Can you stop laughing? Do you WANT to?
If there's two words in the English language when, put together, have more of a negative impact on our lives, these two would be it. But think about the end of that first sentence I just wrote. Ever hear somebody say, "I can't stop laughing!" when they've heard something really funny? Do they WANT to, is the question. Same goes the other way around. Don't say I can't; say I WANT to get A's. I WANT to stop spending so much money. I WANT a happy marriage and I WANT a happy life.
When I was a junior in high school, I spent the summer back in Kansas helping my Dad with the farming. One hot evening after work I was in the pool hall in downtown Tribune when suddenly through the front door walked in two familiar faces. Two of my friends on the Torrey Pines H.S. football team in Southern California were traveling across country that summer and decided to look me up. Next thing I know we jump into my Dad's Ford Bronco and head out "to the country" to a party I'd just been invited to. Where I grew up, the "country" was basically flatlands with gravel roads, no light poles to guide you, just the lights of distant farmsteads. It was no different on this night and it was very dark. Laughing and having a grand old time, I missed the curve on a gravel road just a few miles from our destination. I swerved, the right front side of the Bronco skidded into a freshly-plowed field, and BAM, it rolled, ejecting my two buddies and leaving me sitting there with a death grip on the steering wheel when the pickup miraculously landed right side up. I'd done a full flip. What I didn't know but was about to found out is what we are CAPABLE of doing as human beings when faced with what our minds tell us is a choice of life or death.
I yelled out for my friends and one called out. He'd gone flying about 20 feet or so head first and just before he landed his instincts told him to "roll", sort of what we did on the football field. He told me later he thought that move saved him. For the most part, he was okay. Our other friend wasn't so lucky. We found him partially underneath the right front tire. What happened next I still can't believe to this day and, had it not for my other friend who recounted the story to me later of what he witnessed, I'd have never thought it humanly possible. When I saw our friend with his legs straddling either side of the tire, instincts took over, just like they did for my "rolling" friend. I turned with my back to the pickup, crouched, put both hands under the chassis frame near the front of the tire, and LIFTED the entire front end off the ground, giving at least 4-6 inches clearance between the bottom of the tire and the ground. He was conscious and my other friend pulled him out. Everything was a blur after that. We all lived, though my friend who had been pinned under the pickup never played football again. He'd nearly lost the use of one arm since it had gotten so badly mangled in the accident.
Over 30 years later, I found myself in a similar situation, though this one was much different. It was just me. But the choice I had facing me on "that date" starting June 5th, 2008 was the same one I had as a junior in high school in 1976. Life or death. Fortunately, I chose life. Because if I didn't give up alcohol, I was facing certain death and I knew it. Why? Because I nearly DID die from it and not just once, but THREE times. Three times I suffered seizures from February 2008 until June 2008. Today is September 18th, 2010 and it's been quite a ride this past nearly 2 ½ years now. I'm alive because I said I CAN do this. I WANT to live.
Why is it for most of us that it takes life or death choices for us to say these words? And not just say them but to ACT on them? Why? Is that the way we are designed? Or is it something else? For me, I believe it's a matter of faith. Faith in God and therefore faith in myself. It wasn't that long ago that I thought I was the one who made this choice. As I've written here before, the only CHOICE I made was the only one God gave me. Free will. Right or wrong. Life or death.
Please look at these two stories of my life and then look at your own. The next time you think you CAN'T do something, or someone else says you CAN'T do something, ask yourself this question. Who says so? I'll tell you who. Only you! You're the only one who can make that choice. And the only choice you have is the same one I have or the same as anyone else has as God's children. Free will. Right or wrong. Life or death. It's your choice. Good luck!
September 13, 2010
Greetings. For those who may be visiting here the first time, this blog was created for the purpose of providing another possible source of inspiration for people who may find something, anything, that they might find useful in their own daily lives. It is my hope that more people join and, more importantly, be willing to come forth with their own personal stories and experiences that may be an inspiration to others. It's been said that "God works in mysterious ways" and I'm a firm believer in that phrase. Much of what He has done for me in my life over the past few years continues to amaze me. I've spoken often in the past that things, good things, seem to "just happen" in my life for reasons that are still a little unclear to me. This "spiritual awakening", if you will, is something that began over two years ago and continues to grow brighter each day. I take great comfort in the strength and inspiration God has bestowed upon me during this time and I'm truly humbled by His presence in my life.
Those who know me well though, know I'm not one of those who thump a bible over someone else's head. That's not my style, and though I'm not fully aware of it when it does happen, I know without a doubt the Holy Spirit is working through me in ways I continue to discover on a daily basis. It is my sincere hope then that what you read you do with an open heart and mind. Doing so will be your best method of hearing the messages I try to convey with my own experiences, thoughts, and feelings.
REMEMBER, although I am just one man, I am a man who has chosen to take what some would see as tragic events in life and turn them into something of greater and positive use to myself, my family, and my fellow man. More importantly, I have experienced a number of positive events over the course of this life that far outweigh any of the negatives, and I am convinced this same attitude can be taken by anyone. Taken together, all these events and experiences are merely stepping stones to a greater understanding of this journey we call LIFE. Above all, I am a firm believer in the power of positive thinking and an unwillingness to ever give up on anyone or anything in life. Never say never!
September 11, 2010
You're walking on a sidewalk late at night. It's dark but there are light posts to guide your way. Suddenly, out of the dark, a man comes running towards you. As he passes he screams, "Save me! He's trying to kill me!" You look back and see him rush around a corner near a large trash bin where you think he might try to hide. Then, you wheel around because you hear the second man running towards you out of the dark and he looks menacing, like a street gang member or something. He has a gun. He rushes up to you and demands, "Where did he go?!" What do you say? Do you tell him the truth? Or do you lie?
Like most people, I think your first reaction is to lie. But why? Because your instinct is to protect another human being from harm. Suppose the gunman is wearing a badge, what then? Of course, you tell him the truth, right? On the other hand, if you don't tell him where the first man went, only to find out later that the first man had robbed, beaten, and left for dead the second man's wife, how would you feel? Quite a moral dilemma, isn't it? And that's just the parts of one story I could make up. I'm sure you can think of a number of scenarios where you have to choose between truth or lying.
If you're ever caught in this sort of dilemma, my advice is to ask yourself one question. What would Jesus do? Then go to your Bible, it's full of references about lying, one of the most important of which is this in Proverbs 6:16-19; "There are six things the LORD hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies, and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers." Notice that the word "lie", or a variation thereof, is the only one mentioned twice. I find that astounding. Here's another in Luke 8:17; "For nothing is hidden that will not become evident, nor anything secret that will not be known and come to light." In other words, anything we say or do that conceals the truth will eventually come out and bite us in the butt at some point. Finally, there is one that hits home for me: Luke 16:10; "Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much." I don't think that one needs any explanation.
But you may be asking yourself. "What do these passages have to do with the gunman who is asking me where the first man went?" Perhaps a weblink might shed some light on that and you can reach your own conclusions. Here it is: http://allanturner.com/lying.html.
The link at Allan Turner is where I gleaned the story I recounted in the first paragraph of this latest blog. The link is fairly lengthy but basically it boils down to three positions referred in that article as follows: "Graded Absolutists", "Unqualified Absolutists", or "Conflicting Absolutists." According to the graded absolutist, lying is sometimes right because showing mercy to the innocent is greater than telling the truth. The unqualified absolutist, on the other hand,
believes there are many absolute moral laws, and none of them should ever be broken. In other words, the unqualified absolutist believes one cannot justify lying even when such lying is for the sole purpose of saving the life of another. The one who holds this position believes that lying is always wrong. I think in today's world, most of us would agree this is fairly harsh and extremely difficult to operate and live under in a practical sense. After all, we're human. I don't know about you but my instincts would tell me to lie to the gunman! Finally, there's the conflicting absolutist.
The one who takes this position believes that we inherently live in an evil world where absolute moral laws sometimes run into inevitable conflict. In such cases, the conflicting absolutist believes it is his responsibility to do the "lesser evil." He will break what he considers to be the lesser law (viz., lying) to uphold the greater law (i.e., preserving life). Then, after doing so, he prays for mercy and asks God to forgive him for breaking a lesser commandment that circumstantially conflicted with the "greater good."
So, there you have it. Who are you? Do you believe that sometimes it's okay to lie, that it's not sinful? Are you one who believes lying is always wrong, under any circumstance? Or are you one that believes that sometimes you have to choose between the "lesser of two evils", knowing that you are sinful, then ask for God's forgiveness? If you go back to the story that started this blog, think about what Jesus might do. My guess is he would tell the gunman the truth. But why, knowing to do so might lead to injury or death to the man running from him? In my opinion, because that's what God would want him to do. So therefore, if I am to be Christ-like, I would do the same! After all, it's all God's will on this earth, right? Maybe God has other plans than what might be playing out in your head. Maybe God intends him to scoot around the corner by the trash bin where you told him the runner was hiding, and the runner is in a crouched position with a big-ass steel post ready to whack the gunman silly into unconsciousness!
Recently, I was caught in a lie. To most people, what I did would be what most of us consider in today's world as a "white lie." In other words, by that definition, one that was not intended to inflict harm upon another. But I digress from my words and my actions that led to this post to begin with. I lied. Period. There is no substitute for truth and no justification can be given to compromise that. Truth is truth. I suppose then, one could call me an "unqualified absolutist." I just hope I never get in the same position as I put you in with the story recounted in the first paragraph in this blog.
I'm human and having said that, then that means I make mistakes and errors. I'm not perfect. The key is recognizing when I do lie or make mistakes, I ask God for forgiveness, and ask those that I have harmed for theirs. In a real sense, this latest "Ramblings" about lying and what the Bible has to say about it is a mirror image of a program I've come to know well over the past few years. It's in Step 10: "Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it." I've asked God for His forgiveness and I've asked the friend that I harmed for hers. I know God will forgive as long as my heart is right and it is. I'm not sure if my friend will forgive me, only time will tell and that too, is in God's hands.
September 9, 2010
Shakespeare said, "All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players." He forgot to mention that I was the chief critic. I was always able to see the flaw in every person, every situation. And I was always glad to point it out, because I knew you wanted perfection, just as I did. A.A. and acceptance have taught me that there is a bit of good in the worst of us and a bit of bad in the best of us; that we are all children of God and we each have a right to be here. When I complain about me or about you, I am complaining about God's handiwork. I am saying that I know better than God.
What I just wrote in that first paragraph were not my words, though I live by them in every sense. Every word. That paragraph was taken straight out of page 417, 4th edition, of the book of Alcoholics Anonymous. Powerful words aren't they? When I returned to Elkhart, Kansas May 27, 2009, one of the first things I did was to attend an AA meeting at the local jail. And not just in their "conference room" where we had our weekly 15 minute "visitation" while I was a guest there from June 5th, 2008 until November 10th, 2008. It was INSIDE the bullpen, the 270 square foot concrete and steel "living" quarters I called "home" for 158 days. To refresh your memory, the bullpen housed up to 8 of us at a time and I wrote about it on the blog here on May 5th, 2010. So, on the first Monday of June, 2009, just days shy of a year earlier when I first "checked in" to that facility, I attended their weekly AA meeting at 8 p.m. sharp. I'll never forget what happened next.
When I walked inside the bullpen with one of my local AA comrades, a man who has been sober for over 31 years, we sat down at the table and everyone exchanged pleasantries. What was strange though was seeing 3 people who were still in there when I left, all 3 of which I had come to know oh so well during my stay in mid-2008. I remember one in particular, Lance. Now, here was a psycho if there ever was one. His sister was also present, Katie. They were both in though for different reasons. Just a family thing I suppose! Anyway, Lance looks at me and says "Wow, this has to feel kind of scary for you to be sitting here with us, huh Gus?" I looked at him and said, "No Lance, actually I'm pretty calm. I'm more worried about you than me." And so the meeting began with Katie being the leader that night. Later, they asked me to speak of something they were all reading in the "big book" as we call it in amongst us members. I asked Lance to hand me the book and I looked at the pages they had been reading silently for about 10-15 seconds. Then I closed the book and SLAMMED it face down on that steel table as hard as I possibly could. Everyone seemed stunned of course but what I said next reverberated throughout that little cage.
"People, you may think this book is about how to get sober, how to get clean of drugs, how to overcome any one of countless addictions. And you're right, it is. But there's more to this book than what you see in just trying to overcome your physical or mental problems. This book is about LIFE." I went on to say that people aren't perfect, and that this book is only a guide, one of many tools we have to help us. I told them each of us are unique and not to try and copy me just because I read the silly thing all the time when I was there and they saw and commented on how I was doing so well. Because I'm not perfect. And neither are ANY of us. Each one of you have to find out what it is that works for you and it might take an entire encyclopedia of books, going to AA/NA meetings every day of the week, attending church, or whatever. Point being I told them, simply find out what works for you and stop. Stop right there and run with it. Whatever that "it" that works for YOU, then do it, and don't look back. Most of all, when you do find out what that "it" is, don't interpret another human being's actions and judge on what YOU think they should do. Let them find out for themselves. Live and let live.
My whole thrust and message of this latest blog goes back to what I wrote in the first paragraph: "…….there is a bit of good in the worst of us and a bit of bad in the best of us; that we are all children of God and we each have a right to be here. When I complain about me or about you, I am complaining about God's handiwork. I am saying I know better than God."
The Bible puts it this way, a passage that gets mis-interpreted often. " 1Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."
September 8, 2010
Since I started this blog five months ago, I've talked a lot about personal experiences in hopes of providing a source of inspiration to others. I've also talked of religious topics and how those principles have been applied in my own life. Now I'd like to talk of one that's been on my mind for some time, an economic topic by definition, but one that I think we all experience in our daily lives. In doing so, I'll try to give some real-life examples so you get a sense of what I'm speaking of.
Wikipedia defines "Diminishing Returns" this way: "In economics, diminishing returns (also called diminishing marginal returns) refers to how the marginal production of a factor of production starts to progressively decrease as the factor is increased, in contrast to the increase that would otherwise be normally expected." In other words, it doesn't matter how much more gas we throw on a fire, it won't make any difference in the output of the heat. Another way of looking at it is strictly from an economic standpoint. Take our current economic crisis America is experiencing; massive unemployment, unprecedented spending to boost the economy, bailouts right and left. You get the point, right? We've thrown money at problems for nearly two years now and yet still, we're no better off today than we were then.
Now for some personal examples. I was talking with my 85-year old Aunt recently here in Southern California. She's a retired public school teacher, having taught English and writing for over three decades. Recently, she decided she wanted something to do with her idle time so she approached a local school district to volunteer as a writing instructor for advanced placement English for high school students. However, because of the way our culture has evolved, she had to submit to the "application process" like anyone else would. This meant a background check, drug screens, you name it, and she had to go through it. When she went to get tested for drugs, the people there laughed like, "Are you kidding me? You? An 85-year old widow with over three decades of an unblemished teaching career?" Yep, she had to do it. On top of that, she had to submit to fingerprints. All TEN of them. But, because of her age, her skin has deteriorated to the point that the technician couldn't obtain a decent impression of FOUR of her fingers! The technician said, "Hmm…that's strange. That's never happened before." The result? My aunt's job as a volunteer teacher is on hold because the "system" says so. Why? Whatever happened to common sense? Judgment of character?
So, from a "diminishing returns" perspective, what GOOD does it provide for her, or anyone else similar to her, to have to play by the same rules as everyone else? The system says so and frankly, if you think about it, here's why. Imagine, if you will, they did use their own judgment and hired her based on her credentials, only to find out later that she did drugs. Bam. Lawsuit from parents right and left. And therein is where the problem is with our culture. Everyone is so afraid of being sued for the slightest grievance and, because of one rotten egg in years past, everyone, including 85-year old ladies with spotless records and unparalleled credentials, get thrown in the same pot.
Here's my own example. When I got out of the "Holliday Inn" in Elkhart, KS. in November 2008, I started doing research on jobs as a substitute math teacher. I had hopes, (though very brief as it turns out for several reasons) of returning to my hometown of Tribune to be with my children and was thinking of teaching. But, because Kansas views DUI's differently than other states, and being such a conservative lot by nature, the legislature in their infinite wisdom mandated that people such as myself who were guilty of multiple DUI's were thrown in with the same people who have committed rape, murder, incest, assault, battery, and any other number of "personal" felonies in terms of what professions they could not engage in. And guess what one of those was? You got it. I was deemed such a danger to children that I couldn't even substitute teach 5th grade math in the town where I grew up, total population 1500, and a grand TOTAL of 200 students in grades K-12.
It comes down to this. We've gotten to the point as a society and as a culture that we've reached maximum output when it comes to legislation. And no matter what further bills are passed, there's really no productive value to them. Common sense has gone out the window. For example, when I was researching Kansas statutes in February 2009 as a result of what I found out about my own record, I discovered the Kansas legislative agenda one day online. What I saw stunned me. We had STATE legislators, not national congressmen mind you, having to vote whether a certain height of fence was necessary in Rooks County, Kansas to keep horses properly penned in on public property. Does anyone honestly think a legislator is going to look at that proposed bill? Or even care? No. He/she is simply going to have a bunch of aides say vote yes or no, and not even bother looking at them. That's pathetic.
In summary, our culture has evolved to the point where individual rights, common sense, and a sense of judgment have been lost all because we've made the system so cumbersome. 85-year old ladies with impeccable records and credentials that have to subject themselves to "background checks", drug tests, and fingerprints to be a volunteer teacher. Middle-aged men such as myself who, in spite of breaking the law by drinking and driving, had absolutely NO record, not even a parking ticket, for 25 years prior to 2007 and who, because of a barrage of legislation, couldn't get a job substitute teaching elementary math in the smallest populated county in Kansas and his hometown.
When I was in banking, I was taught the 4 C's of credit; Character, Cash Flow, Capital, and Collateral. In that order. I was taught to use my analytical skills on the last three but had to use my judgment on the most important one; Character. I used to say this; "On a scale of 1-10, with a 10 being excellent, if I scored Cash Flow, Capital (Net worth), and Collateral as all 10's ON PAPER, and judged the potential borrower's Character as a 1 (the worst), I wouldn't loan that guy a dime if he put 9 cents as down payment."
In other words, Character is what matters. Same goes with our legal system.
September 2, 2010
I'm not sure what to call this one so I'll start writing. Maybe it'll come to me. Today, September 2, 2010, has been unlike any day I've experienced in some time. First, it represents the 27th month anniversary of the last time I ingested alcohol into my body. For the record, that's EIGHT HUNDRED-TWENTY DAYS. The reason I capitalize it is this. Each one of those days was taken ONE day at a time. For many who suffer this disease and have been sober for much longer than I, I'm sure they understand my thought process. And though I can appreciate and admire those that have gone 5, 10, 15, or even 30 years without so much as a drop, for me I am still amazed at how long it has been. I'm humbled yet at the same time, I gain great strength from this accomplishment and that strength continues to grow each day, especially in a spiritual sense.
Why spiritual? Here's what I mean. Today, of all days, the 27th month anniversary of sobriety, I received a phone call. It came from my new employer, the one that offered me a position well over a month ago but, because of "background issues" with respect to my record in Kansas, they required me to obtain special permission from the State of California to represent their company. This requirement has been on-going for nearly a month, culminating in having to send the State of CA. all of my court records from Kansas, fingerprints, photographs, and my own personal statement explaining in graphic detail what I did in Kansas over 2 years ago. What I discovered through this process was none of it was necessary. What I did had nothing to do with violating any laws that would lead one to believe that I "breached the public trust" or was involved in a "dishonest" act (Granted, one could argue a third DUI might be considered a "dishonest act" but that's not the point, especially in this instance). Consequently, over the past week, I began digging further and further into this issue, eventually corresponding with a high official at the State of CA. via email arguing my case. Finally, late yesterday afternoon, this official determined that I did NOT need special permission so I forwarded this information to my employer. They, in turn sent it to their home office legal counsel for further review. And then this morning came the phone call. I've been approved by their counsel to proceed without getting State consent.
So, that's two blessings, right? There's more. Late last night I sent a text message to my children. I've been praying for their safety and to have people come into their life that will provide them with a sense of peace and serenity. In other words, people of faith. Here's what my text message said: "I just want you to both know that I'm not perfect, in spite of being TOTALLY alcohol free for 27 months. I still make mistakes and am doing the best I know how to be the father you deserve. You may disagree with my actions but trust me when I tell you this. What I do, I do with my heart, soul, and with prayer. And I pray for your well being, too. In every way you deserve. I love you…..Dad."
My daughter responded this way: "That's so nice!" Then she gave me her new address in Virginia. You see, she left Tribune with her mother over two weeks ago because she was unhappy with her life there. And unhappy with me since I disagreed with her decision and would not support it financially. So unhappy that as recently as a week ago, she refused to tell me her whereabouts. Now I know. That makes THREE blessings I received from God, all just today.
Now to the topic at hand. The power of God and prayer. Think about what I've just written. Today, of all days, the 27th month anniversary of my sobriety, I receive all these blessings. Why? What did I do? Because I've been praying, and praying for a very long time for good things to happen, not just with my life but also for my children, their mother, and many others. More importantly, it reminds me of my FIRST post in this blog. The one written on April 20th, 2010:
Greetings friends. Over the past two years, I have had experiences nothing short of life-changing. It's quite a story, in many ways. I have developed a new life, a new way of living, made many new friendships, and as a result of those friendships, I have been told countless number of times from many people that some of what I speak and write about have been a source of inspiration for them. I've even been told I should write some sort of book, though that has never been something I could see myself doing. The funny thing is, I never intended to be an inspiration to anyone. It just happened. Then again as I look back, many things "just happened" during this time, most of them good in my life. And as I reflect on all those good things that have happened I have asked myself these questions. Why? Why me? Why me of all people? The one who has made so many mistakes in his life? And every time I search for answers there is always one thing that was a common denominator in every answer. Whether I had anything to do with these good things, or if it was just blind luck, the work of God, or whatever you choose to describe it, it still comes back to just one thing that I can't seem to get out of the equation. That's where this story begins and ends and what I've just written is just the start.
Up until today, I used to think that the "one thing that I can't seem to get out of the equation" was not drinking alcohol. In other words, something I did, not something anyone else did for me. But now I realize I had nothing to do with it, other than exercising the one thing God gave me: Free will. The right to choose between right or wrong, good or evil. By choosing right, by choosing good, God has rewarded me over and over again with many blessings. And today, September 2nd, 2010, he bestowed some big ones! There's no one who can tell me that the power of God and that the power of prayer doesn't exist. It's real my friends. My life is living proof and a testament to that statement.