Sunday, January 29, 2012

Sermon Excerpt

Excerpt from a Sermon I did today on dreams -

About a month ago, we celebrated the birth of our Savior Jesus. One of the events surrounding his birth which greatly interests me is the arrival of the 3 Wise Men. According to the Gospel of Matthew, these 3 were led to Jesus by Astronomical signs, the most famous of which is the Star of Bethlehem, which ultimately led them to Jesus. There is a great deal of discussion as to where these 3 came from. In my studies, I have heard such theories as Persia, Arabia, Greece, India, and even from as far away as China.

Regardless of where these Wise Men came from, it is important to point out that they each were traveling for many weeks, or even months before Jesus was born. Imagine traveling in that time period. Travel was predominately by foot or camel in the western Mediterranean. Progress would have been slow, during such a journey. For example, over a thousand years later, when travel throughout Asia was arguably easier, another traveler by the name of Marco Polo took 3 and a half years to travel from Venice, Italy to China.

The point that I am trying to make with this example is that these 3 wise men were following a dream – they had a goal – a goal to meet and honor Jesus. A dream that they had been following for a quite a while. Dreams are important in life. We all want to make a difference in the world, and dreams are an important aspect of achieving that. Imagine the story of Jesus’ birth without the Wise Men – no gifts of Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh. King Herrod also initially learned of Jesus through the Wise Men.

Often, though, when we dream, we say “Well, that’s a nice dream, but I can’t aspire to achieve it because of XYZ reason”. How often have you heard that line? I know I have certainly heard it a fair amount in my life. Apparently, many Christians believe that their dreams are unreachable, even with help from God. They believe that they cannot achieve their dreams because they are not intelligent enough, or eloquent, or rich or whatever.

But let’s take a look at Moses for a moment. Here is a man who, when God came to him, felt that he was unprepared to handle the responsibility of leading God’s people out of Egypt. He says “Who am I?”. Indeed, who was Moses at that point? An orphan? A shepherd? He certainly had to wonder about God’s plan for him, didn’t he? Yet, God reassures him saying” I will be with you”. Ultimately, it was Moses’ Faith and Hope that allowed God’ vision, and Moses’ dream, to come true.

Jesus himself talked about having hope and about never giving up on dreams. In Luke, he related the parable about the woman who would not give up. She continued trying until finally she convinced the judge that she was right. This lesson stresses the importance of persistence and perseverance while striving for our dreams. Jesus never says that the path to reach a dream is easy. In fact, Paul says in his letter to the Romans, that essentially it is the pursuit of goals, and the strivings and sufferings thus, that produce character, and with character, hope.

Recently, we celebrated Martin Luther King, Jr, day, and I think it is fitting to mention his name as well, while discussing reaching for a dream. In his short lifetime, he had been assaulted, dismissed, thrown into jail, and ironically, in his own words “thrown out of jail”, all before his famous 1963 “I have a dream” speech, in which he speaks the immortal words “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed ‘We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal’”. It is Rev. King’s faith in God that gives him strength to pursue his goal, and that strength gives him character which, in turn, gives him hope, hope that gives him strength to continue pursuing his goal. In his “I’ve been to the Mountaintop” speech, Dr. King relates that “He just wants to do God’s will”.

On a lighter note, there is the story of Larry Walters. Larry, like most of us, had a dream. For as long as he could remember, he wanted to fly. As he grew up, he developed some eyesight problems. These problems prevented him from enlisting in the US Air Force, sadly. Many of us probably would have stopped there, and allowed their dreams to die. Larry thought about flying lessons, but sadly could not afford those either. So after many years of pondering, Larry found a solution to his dilemma. One day in 1982, he was soaring with the eagles over Los Angeles – by tying 45 weather balloons to a lawn chair. He soared up to about 15,000 feet in elevation- thus fulfilling his dream of flight.

Robert Fulghum writes in his book “All I ever needed to know I learned in Kindergarten” that “The human race sits in its chair. On the one hand is the message that the human situation is hopeless…and that there is nothing left to do, and no dreams worth dreaming.” One the other hand, there are the Larry Walters’ of the world, busy tying balloons to lawn chairs, directed by dreams and imagination to do their thing.

So as you leave here today, remember to embrace your dream, regardless of what obstacles are set in the way. As Moses and the woman in Jesus’ parable teach us, there is nothing special required to fulfill your dreams, save for God’s love, and some old fashioned perseverance. Dr. King shows us that although sometimes hardships befall us, but we must not lose sight of our dreams, even if it takes years to achieve. We learn that although life may give us obstacles in our path, we can always find a way to fulfill our dreams. Like the 3 wise men, go out and seek your Star of Bethlehem, and reach for it continually, for like Moses, we don’t know what God has planned for us, until He reveals it.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Thanksgiving to be thankful for

“You may never have proof of your importance but you are more important than you think. There are always those who couldn’t do without you. The rub is that you don’t always know who.”
-Robert Fulghum

As opposed to some of my previous blog entries, this one is a bit mellow and introspective. Let's just say it has been an interesting year. Or perhaps I have simply become more passive and less passionate. Time will tell.

The above quote comes from one of my favorite authors, and I was reading this passage about a month ago, and it stuck with me. Have I been important to someone this year? If so, who? Are there others whom I don't think of? Who has been important in my life? Have I let them know this?

Of course not. I would wager that most people do not have the time or the communication ability to let all in their lives know that they are important. It is nearly Thanksgiving now, which makes it a perfect time to do so. This entry is my "thank you" to all those in my life who are important to me. I challenge each of you reading this to find a way to make sure those who are important in your life know this importance.

First off, my wife. Marian is a wonderful person and I am very thankful every day that she is in my life. I have never met a more talented woman, and the fact that she can put up with me makes it even sweeter. The fact that she loves me brings a smile to my face. I don't always express just how much I appreciate her, and the little things that she does, but every night when I fall asleep I do so thinking just how lucky I truly am.

Next come my dogs. Tikka joined our family nearly 3 years ago, and a more faithful loving companion doesn't exist. Tikka is the epitome of a lab - full of energy, kindness, love, and the best natural hunting ability I've ever experienced. Tango was our Jack Russell Terrier, and sadly she passed away in July from complications due to pancreatic cancer. Not a day goes by that I don't think of her. She had personality, with a capital "P". Ok, scratch that. She had PERSONALITY, one hundred pounds of it stuffed in a 17 pound package. I regret that I didn't have the foresight to tell her how special and unique and what a huge part of my life she played. Somehow, I think she knows, just as I know she is chasing mice or balls or both up in heaven. I hope, when my time comes, I have the opportunity to join her once again. We introduced Prita to our family this year as well. She is a lab/terrier mix, and is the sweetest, gentlest dog I have met. She's like the reincarnation of Buddha in dog form. All she wants is to be loved, and reminds me that deep down, that's really all of us truly desire - to be loved.

My family also deserves my thankfulness, and obviously they are all important to me, each and every one. Let's start with my grands - My paternal grands passed away about a decade ago, but each remains an important part of my life. My grandfather gave me my easy-going happy-go-lucky, can't put me down attitude. Every year, when I hunt on "his" land (and those of you who knew Rodney will know what I mean) I feel him walking beside me, telling me his same stories and jokes that he repeated so often. My paternal grandmother showed me that sometimes some deviousness and manipulation can be a good thing, and was renowned for that, within and without the family. Lest I forget though or think that deviousness served some evil purpose, I am reminded by Grange supper signs and historical society events, just how much she did for the community.

My maternal grands are very much alive, and I am very thankful for that. Both of my grands are saints in my book. They taught me to love the outdoors, to hunt, to fish, and also to conserve our natural resources, for they are finite. My grandmother, of good Irish stock, taught me just how sweet a little stubbornness can be. My grandfather shows me every day the value of patience. At ages 78 and 84, respectively, each reminds me how precious each day is every time I visit. They certainly do not make people like that generation presently, and I am thankful that I have had the pleasure of knowing many individuals from the WWII generation.

My father also deserves mention. Many in my family harbor negative feelings towards him, right or wrong (after all, who am I to judge why another feels a particular way - I don't walk in their shoes), yet my father taught me the value of hard work and discipline, aspects which I still appreciate, and learned quite well. He also taught me how to grow things, and first stirred my passions for self-sufficiency. He & my step-mother have taught me that sometimes it is not the quantity of time spent together, but rather the quality.

I am also thankful for my mother. She & I don't always see eye to eye, but her compassion and kindness for others has rubbed off on me. I don't know how she manages to hold it all together, but she does it well, and with a smile on her face. Attributes I strive for. In addition, she has brought Mike (her significant other) back into my life, and I cherish the time I have spent with him, learning skills that others have not been able to teach me.

My older sister Andrea is someone I respect and admire a great deal. Here is a woman who somehow manages to pull off working full time (with an hour commute each way mind you), continuing her education as she can, and raising a wonderful child - all at the same time! Her energy, positive attitude, and overall Guru-like essence of calm amazes me. I marvel at the fact that I am related to all of my sisters, since I view them each as fantastic human beings, but the greatest awe is the one I hold for my older sister.

I honor my sister Alyssa because of what she has gone through in her life. It seems as though nothing has ever been easy for her. Life has been a series of Murphy attacks (from Murphy's Law fame), but yet she continues to persevere, raise two awesome kids, and is nearly done with her college degree. I am also absolutely amazed at the discipline and focus she has shown over the
last year or so dropping some weight (a lot - although I will not say how much - that's for her to disclose). She inspires me daily.

My youngest sister Bekah is another source of inspiration. Here is a woman who, at one point in her life, held two jobs AND went to college, earning her degree without a whole lot of help from anyone. She faced adversity in her life as well, but somehow managed to hold it all together, and is raising two wonderful kids of her own.

Speaking of kids - My 5 nieces and nephews collectively are wonderfully important to me. Each time I see them, I am reminded that one can never be too old to be a kid. Skylar reminds me that one should never be resigned to one's fate. Your response to an event will determine the outcome, not the event itself. Savannah's gift to me is knowing that a little fire can do everyone a bit of good, and toughness is something never to be taken lightly. I will never forget the light in Dylan's eyes when he is exposed to sciences, and I hope that I never outgrow my passion for learning. I am reminded of what a little roguish charm will get you when I look at Kimball. Quinn is simply the princess of the bunch, and she reminds me to always take what life will give you, love it, and make it your own.

Beyond my immediate family, I am thankful for having my extended family in my life. Between the Howes/Stanleys/Seameses/Coles/Roberts, we are a huge clan, and I love discovering new family members at every turn. Each of you are fascinating in your own right, and I have learned much from you all. We rock! :)

Now, I'm going to turn to friends. One major influence in my life has been my best friend, Wayne. I can never tell Wayne how much I have learned from him, and how much his friendship means to me. Wayne has always accepted me as I am, asked nothing from me, and given what he could. I am forever in debt to Wayne and his wife Peg for showing me how a marriage should work - perfectly imperfect as it may be. Wayne constantly amazes me with his strength of character, willpower and generosity. I do not believe a better friend could be found in the multiverse.

I would also like to thank some other friends as well - John, Matt, Clint Rob, Beth, Laura, Kevin and Paxton. John for keeping in touch when I forget and being the amazing person that he is, Matt for introducing me to Marian, Clint for showing me that enthusiasm for hunting is not lost, Rob, Beth, & Laura for showing me that family is not necessarily a matter of blood ties, Kevin for showing me that two individuals who are politically opposite can have a rational debate over an issue, and Paxton for showing me that all one needs to succeed in life is determination. You guys rock!!

I also need to shout out to my international friends - Nora, Steffi, Ivan, Ksenia, Janine, Petra, Beverly, and Tina. Each of you remind me that although the world is a large place, cross cultural exchange can be as simple as writing a letter, or commenting on a Facebook status. Thank you all for the lessons you've taught me about your country, your culture, and you personally. Though I have never met any of you in person, I am honored to call you my friends.

This brings me to work. While from a practical aspect my position does not allow me to become friends with my coworkers, on a daily basis I am continually amazed at what we accomplish. If you can step back for a minute, realize that what we do is, from a technical aspect, done in few shops in the world. In the WORLD. And we do it on a daily basis. It's routine. It is fantastic that our company has managed to collect talent better than professional sports teams. Each of you is a highly talented, intelligent, motivated individual, and it is wonderful from my aspect to sit back and watch my coworkers in action, and it is truly a pleasure and an honor to work with such a distinct and diverse group of individuals. It is also important to me that we all work for a company that has the RIGHT business perspective - excellent pay, benefits, the mindset to give back to the employees, and to the community.

In addition to my coworkers, I am blessed to work with individuals from other companies. As a top player in our market, we of course wish to deal with others who are at the top of theirs. Audra, Tracey, Sue, Marc, and Kelly - you guys are the best and do a great job of helping me meet the needs of "my" guys and gals. You are each a credit to your respective organizations. I especially need to credit Maria, who not only has offered excellent health coaching services to our company, but has also steered me back in right direction when I wander off the beaten path.

Lastly, I would like to express my gratitude to my classmates - all of them throughout the years. I learned much about life from interacting with you, some good, and some bad. But each of you has taught me lessons, and those are more valuable than gold. I would not be the person I am today without your help, spirit, guidance, and camaraderie.

So..there are the important people in my life - what about yours?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Excerpt from a sermon

This is an excerpt from a sermon I gave yesterday, partially as a tribute to our veterans. May we never forget you!

As you know, last Thursday was Veterans Day. Are there veterans here today? If so, would you mind standing up? I’ve asked you to stand up so that I can personally thank you for my freedom to stand up here today. Thank you. Please be seated.

I want to take a moment and reflect on the history of this holiday. Veterans Day, or rather Armistice Day as it was first called, started as a way to recognize veterans who fought in “The Great War”, or as it is commonly known now, World War I. This war was the most horrific in modern history, to that time. Depending on which figures you look at, the war caused 37 million casualties. To put this in perspective, about 2% of the world’s population at the time was killed or injured due to this war. In 1938, on the eve of the second world war, the 11th day of the 11th month, or Armistice Day, was proclaimed a legal holiday, and was to be celebrated in both schools and churches.

Of course, World War II started not long after, and the sacrifice of more blood was necessary to once again stem the tide of evil. This time, about 60 million individuals, nearly double the number of the first war, made the ultimate sacrifice.

As a child, I grew up in a family that had very strong ties to history. My father and two of my uncles have bachelor’s or advanced degrees in history. So as a young child, I listened with rapt attention to the stories of historical events. I read about the campaigns of Alexander, Julius Caesar, George Washington, Napoleon, Grant, Lee, and Pershing. I have to admit that my favorite was that of General George Patton. Often, I would imagine that I was in Patton’s Army as we swept the evil Nazis out of western Europe. Needless to say, I often imagined myself at the forefront of “the good guys” fighting the “bad guys”. Unfortunately, I developed a medical condition that would not let me serve my country, and my God, as these veterans did.

I shared all of this so that you may have some background into what we are going to talk about. In my teenage years, I started reading long passages of the Bible. The apostle Paul, who more or less wrote most books of the New Testament, admonishes his readers that they were locked in a battle. Now Christians in the 1st century were used to conflict of some nature. Many had been persecuted already by Jewish leaders throughout Israel. Of course, there were also conflicts with the Romans as well. But Paul tells them that this is not the struggle that they need to place importance on. There was another struggle out there. And they were warriors in a spiritual battle of good versus evil. It’s a battle that has no middle ground. In this struggle, there are no bystanders. There are no neutral corners. Paul’s words are still true today.

As I grew older, I understood and witnessed that there was still a battle between good and evil, and still a need for warriors. Not just flesh and blood soldiers like those who fought the Kaiser’s men, and later those of Hitler, but also spiritual ones that Paul talked about as well. We each have the capability to become a spiritual warrior, and I want to share that concept with you today.

What does a spiritual warrior do? Well, as the author of Ecclesiastes admonishes us, “the whole of our duty…is keeping God’s commandments”. The author continues saying that all of our actions will be judged, and in Paul’s letter to the Romans this is confirmed. Obviously, keeping to God’s commandments is a large part of being a soldier on the side of good, but the judgment of keeping to those commandments is left to God.

The ultimate spiritual warrior, Jesus, left many lessons on how to fight evil. In John 14, Jesus says that “he who believes in me will also do the works that I do”. Obviously, I could talk for hours about all the actions that Jesus did, and about how each could apply to being a spiritual warrior. However, I would probably soon put everyone here to sleep. I am going to talk briefly about two of these.

The first, and most important, is sacrifice. Jesus sacrificed many things during his short time on Earth. His life itself, of course, comes most often to mind. Most of us will not need to make that same choice. We live in a free society, and aside from our veterans, will not be asked to lay down our lives for our fellow man. We can, however, make small sacrifices. Many Christians miss the small sacrifices Jesus made in his life. For example, Jesus washed the disciples feet the night of the last supper, thus sacrificing his pride in an example of humility. Jesus also taught in Luke that you must sacrifice your hatred for your enemies, which as Jesus taught is very difficult. What else can we sacrifice as spiritual warriors? How about a few dollars to feed someone who is hungry, or clothe someone who is cold? How about a few hours to show someone a marketable skill to get them back onto their feet and into the job market? Modern spiritual warriors can truly fight the evils of the world by making these types of small sacrifices.

Secondly, as Jesus said in Matthew, be a lamp of light for your fellow man. Become a shining example of God’s glory. As Matthew wrote, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works”, and (most importantly) attribute those good works to God. What are these good works? The Bible gives many good examples. For instance, in Luke Jesus taught “But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind”. Jesus is saying to us follow my father’s commandments, make these small sacrifices, and direct the praise to God. Be the respite against the dark forces of the world. For that is truly the path to being a spiritual warrior.

What is the reward of being a spiritual warrior? Obviously, the more warriors on the side of good, the better place that Earth will be. But the ultimate reward is not on Earth but our place in the kingdom of heaven. Be that spiritual warrior, and at the end of your life, you will truly be able to say “I am coming home.”

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Sic transit gloria mundi

The 2010 Election is over. Results are all in, counted, and announced. In this state, we now have the possibility of a casino coming to town soon in Oxford, which is interesting in itself, but not really what I want to discuss at this point. What is more interesting to me is the shift (yet again) in "power" (if you can call it that) from one party to another.
For the first time in most people's lives, we have a Republican governor elect, a Republican house, and a Republican Senate in this state. In fact, nationwide, there was a phenomenal shift from blue to red. Two years ago, the cycle was performed in reverse. Eight years before, the cycle happened once again. Is anyone else out there dizzy?
Why do Americans vote overwhelmingly for one party over the other time and again? Experts all seem to have their theories, so I thought I would add mine. First, some caveats:
1. I'm not a political expert. I'm an average American Joe, with perhaps a slightly better than average level of cynicism.
2. Second, this is my opinion, so please don't take it as gospel. A prophet, seer, oracle, or disciple I am not.

Having said all that, let's take a look at what has happened historically. Historically, business (aka the economy) has done well under Republican presidents/Congress, and social programs tend to suffer. When the Democrats are in "power", the opposite is true. Now before someone starts saying "Wait a minute...", let me remind everyone that, for instance, the economy during Bill Clinton's reign was mostly the work of the Republicans during George Bush I's term, as it takes several years for policy changes to actually effect the economy, despite what some experts claim.
Thus, when Republicans are in power, social programs tend to suffer, which gets Democrats elected. When the Democrats are in power, business suffers, which brings the economy down, which gets Republicans elected. Of course, this is very basic interpretation, and yes both parties occasionally screw up their specialties. A great example is the last few years of the second George Bush's second term. Of course, he was also spending money like a Democrat, so go figure.
My belief is that both philosophies are necessary for the benefit of the country. We need social programs, but just enough to help people up onto their feet, not enough to replace a full time job. On the other hand, we need business growth, but not enough to overwhelm and flood the market. Thus, the reason for the swing in this country. The average person can sense the need for this swing, once they can get by the D vs. R subject line. We need business growth, and when we have business growth, then we can grow social programs.
This brings me to my point, and the title of this entry. "Sic transit gloria mundi" loosely translates as all glory is fleeting. In other words, a warning to those newly elected officials- you are elected on a high. this high, however, does not give you the right to push extremist viewpoints. Listen to your constituents. You were elected because of the economy. Fix it, or better yet, allow it to fix itself. Then start worrying about social programs.

Friday, October 8, 2010

A stint ghostwriting

This letter is a result of a stint of mine ghost writing this morning. I wrote this in about 2 minutes for a coworker of mine who wanted someone a bit more articulate than he, in order to get his point across in a letter to the editor of our local newspaper. Enjoy!

October 8, 2010

In 1789, founding father James Madison introduced a series of legislative articles to the First Congressional Congress of the United States. These articles eventually became what we know as the Bill of Rights. According to Madison, the first, most sacred right that all Americans should share is the “free exercise…of the freedom of speech”. There is a reason why this right became the very first amendment of the newly enacted Constitution.

This “inalienable right” has helped make the United States one of the greatest nations in the history of the world. The First Amendment grants us the right to speak out for the beliefs that each of us holds integral to our being. It is the choice of each person whether or not to listen to those speaking, not whether the individual should be speaking out. That is the magnificent, hidden right behind the First Amendment – we have a choice to listen to others, or not.

Unfortunately, in recent months, in this sleepy little section of the U.S., we have devious individuals at work undermining the work of our forefathers. We have a thief or thieves among our mix. Are they stealing cars? Robbing houses? No, nothing that mild. These insidious thieves are stealing our right to free speech, by stealing political signs from our front yards. You may not agree with what I believe in, and I might not believe in yours, but the system works because we each have the right to express our opinions. However, stealing my voice (by stealing the signs on my lawn) will lead to one group not having a voice. If history has taught us one thing, it is that once one group loses its voice, the others will soon follow. Let’s protect this sacred right by allowing all individuals to practice our First Amendment rights. After all, it is your choice whether to listen to my point of view, not whether I can practice my freedom to express my opinion.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The irritation of the day...

Dear local radio station,
This morning, I woke up at 0345, which is standard for me. In my foggy, half awake state, imagine my surprise this morning when I flicked on the radio, and heard...classic rock? I had expected the only radio show in which I truly listen to...Coast to Coast AM. I do not remember hearing a commercial or station announcement regarding a change of program. I even checked the date, to assure myself that it was not April 1st either.

I am somewhat puzzled as to what happened. Coast to Coast AM is a 4 hour talk show from 1am to 5am each night. It is the singular most popular late night talk show, with some 36 million listeners across the world. Do the right thing, and put it back on. I have no desire to listen to your other programming. I am a conservative, but a middle of the road conservative. I don't need to listen to Lush Bimbo or Baby Jesus spouting that the world will end because a liberal is in the White House. At least Coast to Coast AM was "fair and balanced".

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Say What?

A couple of nights ago, I got called a Fascist for my views on life. Well, technically, that isn't quite correct, so let me show you exactly how the conversation went:
M L-if that was only the way. A lot of people who are fully capable and able to work, choose to sit at home and collect a 'paycheck' and do nothing except whine about when their next paycheck is coming really frustrate me.
E- This status ...message has ABSOLUTELY nothing to do with the hard working men and women in the armed services that put their keesters on the line EVERY DAY so the soulless trash that I am referring to can sit at home and 'collect

L I don't agree about this --I just don't. There are a lot of reasons why people end up on "the dole". #1 in my book is that the public educational system sucks. People need skills and opportunity. If they are stuck in a place that has a cycl...e of poverty, no jobs, and self defeating psycho-social patterns--THEY WILL NOT THRIVE. It's far too easy to say "get a job" or "pick yourself up by the boot straps" but in inner cities, reservations, rural poor communities you have GENERATIONS that have been beaten down, angry, discouraged...un-educated limited resources ----what the fuck do you really think those people are going to do to change everything? It's not enough to say "bee a good little worker bee" It takes intervervention, resources and another generation to make those lasting changes

ME: I disagree. I think that your life is what you make of it. We still live in a country where hard work, and bettering yourself, is rewarded...even in the inner cities. Change needs to come from within...not from elsewhere. It simply does not work otherwise. It provides no motivation, no boost to self esteem, and is a self-defeating idealism. Our history is full of immigrants who traveled to this country with nothing...but yet worked their butts off (we're talking 80-100 hours per week or more) and in two or three generations had built a very nice life for their descendants...through hard work, not through government charity. Yes, the US imported the "Poor Laws" from the English during the colonial years, but there were two very important distinctions. These laws separated individuals into two groups, one for the elderly and those too disabled to work (and the qualifications were strict here) and those who were "unemployed". Those who were unemployed were sent to work in public service. Only starting with Woodrow Wilson's presidency was this tactic changed. Simply accepting that you have a certain lot in life doesn't cut it for me. There are PLENTY of people who have made it out of the "depths into which they were cast". For examples off the top of my head, Jean Michel Basquiat, Jim Carrey, Jewel, John Paul DeJoria (a billionaire now), Benjamin Franklin, Dr. Phil, Don Imus...and those are just the ones I can think of as I write...and I know that there are many, many others. In short, you ALWAYS have choices in can choose to accept state and federal aid while you are picking yourself up off the ground by your bootstraps...or you can make it a way of life. I think the point that M is trying to make is that she is frustrated by those who make it a way of life, and especially those who make it a way of life, and then FLAUNT that fact to those of us who are working hard, but lose nearly 1/2 to 3/4 of our annual pay to the government, who turn around to dole it out to those who are making government charity their career.

M L- When people have skills and are granted an opportunity to use said skills and then REFUSE the opportunity in order to remain at home, collecting a paycheck, is FAR DIFFERENT than accepting the government offerings quietly, with your ...head bowed, and walking away 'embarrassed' or ashamed to accept government help while you get back on your feet. If you use the system for what it is designed, THAT IS FINE. As long as it is a TEMPORARY SOLUTION.
The people who FLAUNT that they can make a lifestyle of staying at home, doing nothing of social consequence, other than sitting on a porch drinking a nice wholesome glass of milk and watching the army of Sumdood create havoc around them, and say "What's da MAN gonna do about it? Who's gonna help me get out of this situation?!, When is my check going to come?!" while they breed more generations of angry, helpless, drug and alcohol addicted soul-suckers are not going to change anything. THESE are the people that anger me.
The opportunities in inner cities exist (The Y, Community Centers, Multicultural Centers, volunteer opportunities, Jobs (though they may not be the ones that make 20/hr, 4-H, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Future Farmers of America, Future Business Leaders of America, etc) . The world is run by the people who SHOW UP. Yes, the school systems suck. But they suck even more now that the government is imposing the "no child left behind" act on all the schools, which encourages social promotion, and why would any child look to better themselves in the classroom when they are only going to be held back by the slower students? I have said since I was in middle school that heterogenous grouping in the classroom was a bad idea, and that the smart kids should be held to a different standard so if someone in the slower class wants to work harder, their efforts will pay off. Everyone has opportunities and skills to offer, and people make choices EVERY DAY that affect their lives, both positive and negative. If you are going to collect any form of government assistance, there should be a TIME LIMIT to how long you can receive it, and you should have to pass a drug and alcohol screening in order to continue receiving benefits.

L I think you are both naive-ly American---and that's OK ;-) I just don't agree ;-) And that's OK! I can tell you, I lived in Washington DC and Philadelphia as a kid when my mum was a Commander in the Navy---both cities have huge populations ...of disadvantaged poor both races, and these people are born of many generations of unhealthy cycles. These sociologic conundrums are really not about whether you are a young whipper snapper that goes to school everyday and plays hoops at the boys and girls club. it's about kids whose parents are addicted to drugs, who disappear and leave kids on their own for a week, no food, sell food stamps for drugs, kids who are offeered a gig selling crack so they have money for clothes, shoes, food and they have power, they have to be given respect if they have a glock. These schools get the worst of everything. Good kids, that start out really wanting to rise above get drowned everyday in the serious serious shit these environments cultivate. There friends get shot in the play ground in front of them. They watch people OD, get beat to a pulp, pimp and prositiutes. Kids told to go stand in the street while there female family members turn tricks thru the night. It is really really hard for people to overcome these psychological "conditionings" In the words of Grand Master Flash" : "it's a jungle out there sometimes I wonder how I keep from going under"------America has a very ugly under belly. and Marian I'm sorry i have to bitch slap you on the future fucking farmers and multicultural center why don't you mjust join girl scouts---I think we know how paralized and un-empowered you felt as a kid despite some very bad goings on ---...sorry to slap you with this but--you deserve it toots. People have to fight really hard to overcome shit, and most times they don't make it. They can't they are in too deep and there are lots of very deep shackles that keep them where they are. You should think about that before you throw stones at others and suggest they pop round to the local community center. There are people who want a free ride in this world---and there are a lot of people who can't see the forest for the trees because it's all they know

M Yup, thanks. But had I NOT been in 4-H, I would not have had A LOT of the experiences, education, and LIFE LESSONS that I got that helped pull me from where I came from. These experiences made sure there were healthy people in my life and... helped me to overcome some of the shit I dealt with and made me a better person. Many of my formed opinions came from the experiences I had with 4-H, so Please, take your personal attacks elsewhere. This is not about you, this is about being angry that people I KNOW and are fully capable of working, are flaunting the fact that they are getting a free ride. My point is there are HEALTHY and POSITIVE alternatives, where people really do give a shit. And I have seen it work. For instance, in the Somali culture, women typically sit at home and breed babies while the men, may or may not, work. There's a LADY at the hospital who works as a CNA and an interpreter for the Somali population. You want to talk about shackles and breaking social norms? There's a great example. She used the system for what it was for! She got out of the situation she was in, and is now a productive member of society. I am FINE with that. And that was in the Dirty Lew, where there are *zomg* multicultural centers, jobs, and *gasp* volunteer opportunities. There are more examples like this that are emerging and have been featured in the news. It's certainly not the highest paying job in the hospital, but hey, she works hard! AND THAT'S FINE. It is possible, and I refuse to accept it when ...people say "Bilking The Government for money is a way of life". And if you're up to 1/8th native american, you get to go to college FOR FREE. All you have to do is SHOW UP to sign the paperwork, and I'm FINE with that. It's about showing people where the opportunities are, it's about providing them the opportunities to improve their self-esteem, and get them out of the situation they are in. Give a man a fish, he'll eat for a day, show a man to fish, he'll eat for a lifetime. And if you read what is going on in the DC school system, there is a principal who has gone in and cleaned up MANY of the schools that had the problems of inner cities (drugs, guns, violence, etc).
As I have repeated over and over, TEMPORARY assistance is FINE. Permanent LIFESTYLE is NOT.

L I've bit my tongue with you for a long time M--and D as well. You're range of life experiences are different, back grounds different, education different. To each their own. I've stepped up and bitch slapped you because I think you can think bigger than this narrow white rural american facist crap. Some day you may see the value in why I've challenged you and your position.

So wow. You readers now have the whole conversation. So, to compare, my and M's point of view to the definition of Fascism, as defined by Wiktionary:

A political regime, having totalitarian aspirations, ideologically based on a relationship between business and the centralized government, business-and-government control of the market place, repression of criticism or opposition, a leader cult and exalting the state and/or religion above individual rights. Originally only applied (usually capitalized) to Benito Mussolini's Italy.

Now, I'm no history major (although definitely a history buff), but I know for a fact that my political and social views are nowhere near fascism. I welcome opinionated debates...until the attacks get personal, and to me, "bitch slapping" me or anyone else for that matter is not what I would consider an opinionated debate. That is a personal attack, especially when you consider someone making the assumption that because I am from rural America, I can't possibly know anything about the "ugly underbelly of America" or that I do not know what hopelessness is.

The fact of the matter is, I do know both of those items, and I understand the position our country is in. The fact of the matter is, I know much more than I ever let on (don't believe me, ask my wife sometime!). Judging me without knowing me is something that really galls me.

And for the record, I am not a "right winger" either. Why don't you learn a few things about me before making that judgment? I sit in the middle of the spectrum, like many other Americans, holding up the tattered remnants of our Constitution and Bill of Rights, trying to watch both right and left wingers, wondering where the next attack is coming from. I guess if that makes me a Fascist then so be it.